My Musings on Game of Thrones: The Long Night (Season 8, Episode 3)
April 29 was an intense day on social media. As soon as the Long Night (Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3) finished, social media accounts were caught in a frenzy, posting (and virtually screaming) all sorts of reactions: from status messages without context, to memes, to downright spoilers. Blood pressures went up and friendships were lost (because of spoilers), but now we’re left with the question: Was it worth all the hype? I can’t speak for everyone, but…
The #Beardict: As the most ambitious episode/battle sequence Game of Thrones has released to date, The Long Night (Battle of Winterfell) tries to live up to the very high expectations through its non-stop action and suspense, but ultimately ends up lacking in storytelling. Although it does give us with the greatest assembly of Game of Thrones characters ever, fitting farewells to the characters we’ve come to love since Day 1, and a sense of direction moving forward, I can’t help but feel that a very important part of the show was closed abruptly, leaving a lot of questions unanswered.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s impossible to please everyone, and we should just be happy that we’re alive to witness such a great moment on television. Be that as it may, being a loyal fan doesn’t mean we should not provide criticism when it’s due. Let’s get into our points, shall we?
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Many things didn’t make sense, and characters made very poor decisions. The Dothraki were the very first victims of this episode. This is what happens when your group is not represented properly when battle plans are made the night before. Haha. Whose bright idea was it to make them run into the dark when they’re not winter folk? The scene spit on Khal Drogo’s grave. I also get why Jorah Mormont was with them, semi-leading, but why was Ghost even in their faction?
Daenerys didn’t use Drogon enough to help her soldiers on the ground. She saved Jon Snow when he was surrounded by wights, but for some reason, decided not to fly again, allowing Drogon to get super mobbed. Jorah basically died because Dany froze. Her case to be queen of Westeros just went out the window (Side note: It’s possible that there’s a deeper reason why Jorah was killed off this early in the season—without her stalwart sentry, traitors have a more open line to Dany *cough” Varys *cough*).
Additional questions: How did Sam and Davos survive even if they don’t really know how to fight? Why did Bran warg into crows and do nothing else? Was he taunting the Night King or recording history? Why was the crypt emphasized even though all the main characters were miraculously unharmed by the end of the ordeal?
The Lord of Light is real, but the Azor Ahai isn’t? During the trench scene, Melisandre had her most vulnerable moment in Game of Thrones as she was not sure if the Lord of Light would heed her call and provide fire to keep the wights at bay. Thankfully, he did—visible proof that he is real. If that is the case, then why does it seem like the Azor Ahai prophecy is fake? Throughout the series, Melisandre has been going on and on about the “one who was promised” by the Lord of Light, someone who would defeat the forces of darkness (presumably, the Night King) and save everyone in the realm. At first, she thought the reincarnation was Stannis (let’s face it, everyone was way ahead of Melisandre on this one and figured he’s not the Azor Ahai) but changed her mind when she saw Jon Snow. Steady in her newfound belief, she even goes to the extent of resurrecting Jon when he dies at the hands of traitorous Night’s Watch folks. In The Long Night, since Arya ends up being responsible for shattering the Night King into a thousand pieces, then why was Jon resurrected in the first place? Did he fulfill his destiny by bringing everyone together to fight the Night King? Was there really a coming of an Azor Ahai, or was Melissandre just busting our collective balls the entire time?
Arya’s Destiny: Did Arya need to be the one to kill the Night King? Okay, since we just discussed the Azor Ahai prophecy—did Melisandre change her mind yet again and thought Arya was the one who was promised? She reveals that Beric Dondarion can now rest (he was resurrected by Thoros multiple times in the series) since he’s finally fulfilled his purpose—saving Arya from wights in this battle. However, Arya would be an odd choice to be the Lord of Light’s champion because she, in a way, believes in the Many-Faced God (this is the reason why she can wear many faces).
Anyway, before this episode, there was no indication that she was going to be the one to get rid of the Night King. Until recently, she didn’t even know about the looming threat of the White Walkers. You can say that the surprise is the beauty of it, but it disrespects the revenge list that Arya herself promised to finish. Her entire badass character growth was hinged on that list, and the Night King is such a deviation to her otherwise calculated plans.
Melisandre mentioned brown eyes, green eyes, and blue eyes—did this mean Walder Frey, Cersei, and the Night King? Or Meryn Trant, Littlefinger, and the Night King? People now have many combinations for Arya’s list of actual and potential victims, and although many fans are predicting a Cersei death under Arya’s capable hands—I don’t think this will happen anymore. Her contributions to the Battle of Winterfell have already propelled her to the top GoT characters tier (so much so that expecting mothers are planning to name their daughters Arya), and it will be quite unfair to the story/unbelievable if she ends up killing Cersei as well. My fearless forecast is that Cersei will be the one to kill Arya to make the finale really sting.
The Night King went down like a punk without enough backstory. We know that to defend themselves from the First Men, the Children of the Forest did some nasty experiments and led to the creation of the Night King. Although it has been reported that his origin may be fleshed out in the planned Game of Thrones sequel, it’s quite sad that the Night King is now gone (after he was hyped season after season) but the questions still remain. Bran says the Night King wants “an endless night” to devour the world, but why? Who is he, really, and why can he smile but not talk? When Daenerys used Dracarys on him, he was quite smug about it because he knew he would not die. Since he was not affected by dragon fire, does that make him a Targaryen, or just an illogical ice being? While we’re on the subject of the Night King, let’s mention how he was so easily dispatched by Arya. She’s an assassin and all, but she’s still human, and he is not (Side note: You know why that Arya move is so familiar? Think Rey and that Last Jedi fight scene with Kylo Ren and the Praetorian Guards of Snoke).
“You did nothing, Jon Snow.” A lot of memes are going around saying that Jon Snow was basically useless in the Long Night. After watching the episode twice and thinking about what Jon did, I can indeed say that he was, unfortunately, near useless. This started because Jon chose to ride Rhaegal and do How To Train Your Dragon adventures with Daenerys (as my girlfriend called to it) while all hell was breaking loose down below. As he’s not experienced with a dragon, he should have just remained on the ground with Ghost and did damage there. He could have joined Lyanna Mormont and her men in defending the opening, or helped out Theon in protecting Bran, or stayed with Daenerys so he and Jorah could team up to save the woman they love the most. Instead, he ended up running around aimlessly, lost on what to do. At one point, he saw Sam getting mobbed by wights and he didn’t even attempt to help his best friend. Before Arya struck the Night King with a dragon glass blade, he was seen screaming in front of Viserion, ready for his suffering to end (I thought Viserion would try to engulf him with blue fire but he’d survive because he’s a Targaryen). Fans suggest that he was actually distracting the ice dragon so Arya can head past them undetected, but I highly doubt that’s what the episode was going for.
To be fair, we did see that Jon was feared by the Night King and his generals. When he was swerving with Rhaegal to attack the White Walkers below, a mysterious shroud intervened and pushed him away. When the Night King saw that Jon was only a few meters away from him, he rose an army of wights to come between them (it seemed he did not want to fight Jon one-on-one, because he might lose—he already saw Jon take care of White Walkers beyond the wall). It’s kind of like when NBA teams play the Golden State Warriors – they concentrate their efforts in locking down Steph Curry, forcing him to have a bad game but freeing his teammates to do the work and attack the opposing team. This was a bad episode for Jon (even MVPs have bad days I suppose), but he did succeed in making the Night King lower his guard when he got taken out of the picture, leaving the path free for Arya to take advantage of. It’s just sad that what Jon set out to do from Season 1 was to protect Westeros from those beyond the Wall, and it’s not even him who gets to take the final blow.
Will Jon get to take the Iron Throne? No. Does he even want it? Not really. Will he help Dany take it? Most likely! Will they succeed? I don’t think so. Whatever happens, let’s all hope Jon Snow’s character is given justice and closure. He deserves at least that.
Cersei as the big bad of Game of Thrones? When you progress in video games, you usually fight lesser bosses first before going up against the big boss at the end. The enemies you triumph against serve as stepping stones for the final showdown. Although Game of Thrones is not a video game, is it essentially saying that Cersei is a bigger bad than the Night King? It’s certainly anti-climactic given the Night King was described as the greatest threat the entire world has ever known. I’m under the belief that if the first scene of the show is about White Walkers, then one of the last scenes should be about them as well. However, the showrunners are probably reeling us towards the fact that at the heart of Game of Thrones is politics and warfare (Remember the War of the Five Kings?). Season 8 Episode 5 has been teased to even have a bigger battle than that of Winterfell, so I’m keeping my hopes up.
Bonus: The dark cinematography – was it necessary? This is a controversial topic among fans, but in case you didn’t notice, The Long Night was unusually dark, bordering on pitch black already during some scenes. I joked that the only times the screen was visible (aside from the fire scenes) were when the clouds and subtitles were shown (The night is dark and full of darkness. Haha). The Internet complained and declared that the Battle of Helm’s Deep (from the Lord of The Rings: Two Towers) is still the best medieval-fantasy battle scene more than 15 years after its release. However, a lot of people were also quick to defend how the Battle of Winterfell was shot—that the show wanted us to feel how it was like being there: stressful and full of desperation. They also pointed out that this is why TVs have the brightness function. According to a Mashable report, the cinematographer Fabian Wagner blames “HBO’s video compression which he claims added pixilation and dark colors.” My stand here? HBO should have already told viewers in advance that the Long Night is meant to be dark, and that people can adjust the brightness if they become uncomfortable and can’t see anything anymore.
Thank God the Episode 4 preview already shows us some sun. Haha. Can’t wait for it!
Photos courtesy of HBO. Game of Thrones returns on HBO on May 6, Monday (SST 9AM).