A little over a week ago I saw an article with the headline that last week’s episode of Game of Thrones would feature the longest battle ever filmed, and be more epic than Helm’s Deep from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I knew immediately I’d be writing about an episode with such lofty claims. Helm’s Deep is my measuring stick for battles. Game of Thrones has done some pretty epic stuff, but nothing that could compare to that. I figured even if it didn’t live up to its assertions it would probably still be pretty fucking great. As soon as I knew I’d absolutely be writing about The Long Night I messaged Dave to tell him so. Then, just a few days ago, he told me he was writing about this episode too. And posting it a day before I post. I’m certainly not going to change my plans for him so this week you get two views of the same show. If there’s some redundancy you can blame him for taking my thing this week. You certainly can’t blame me for spoilers though since I’m warning you now. I checked his this morning just to make sure there wasn’t too much overlap between what we thought. There really isn’t so please feel free to read both, and get every opinion ever.
Did this highly anticipated episode live up to my expectations? For the most part, yes. It was huge, horrifying, and heart-wrenching. I pretty much only had one real problem with the entire 90 minute episode. We’ll save that for the end though. There was so much that was great about The Long Night that it’s really hard to sum it all up quickly or break it all down without going scene by scene. I’m going to try and come out somewhere in the middle. I’m sure standing at the edge of a battle is terrifying. I’m sure it’s even worse when you know that anyone on your side who dies could wake up and join the enemy. It was all the more frightening given how damn dark and full of terrors this night was. The dragon fire helped to provide some illumination, but why did Jon and Dany wait until their people started dying to light shit up? They knew the enemy was at their doorstep so why not just fly out and start burning everything? Even if they didn’t know exactly where the army of the dead was if you set a big enough chunk of the forest on fire you’d figure out where they were pretty quickly. The Night King was coming for Bran either way. My logic would have saved us some very cool stuff to look at though. The Dothraki having their swords set on fire was visually stunning. Watching as the fire swept down their ranks, and then the flames just as quickly winking out as they were slaughtered was chilling. When the wights hit the front lines all the pretty leaves the picture as pure carnage ensues. I get that Edd wasn’t as important a character as Sam, but he didn’t deserve to die saving the life of someone who’s fat ass should have been in the crypts where he belonged. A better friend or leader would have told him that he’d just get himself or someone else killed out there in the thick of things. I really thought Grey Worm was done for a few times, but I guess that’s what they wanted us to think. When Melisandre said “Valar Morghulis” to him I thought for sure he was toast. I thought it again when they did a close up of him guarding the retreat. Television has taught me that spending too much camera time on a character means they’ll die. That’s kind of why I thought Brienne was a goner this episode too. No one on this show gets to be as happy as she was at the end of A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms and live for long. Plus she also saved Sam, and we all know how that worked out for Edd. I’m still thinking she might die, and this makes me sad because I’d originally bet on her to live. Also, I just really like her. I did find Melisandre’s death a bit disappointing because I thought it would have been cooler for her to die lighting the trench from using too much power or something. But then she wouldn’t have been around to give Arya that last little push she needed. So far no one I’d picked to live through the season has died, but there’s still time.
I did appreciate the breaks we got from the battle too though. Sansa and Tyrion have some nice moments together. Bran made Theon feel like less of a douche in his own special 1000 yard stare kind of way. Bran could have been more useful if he’d warged into something a little tougher than birds though. How about trying to get into zombie Viserion, or getting Rhaegal back into the fight, or even Drogon when Daenerys let him get swarmed by wights? Any of that would have been super helpful, but bait isn’t known for being the most helpful thing. We don’t get too many or even very long breaks though because during this downtime everyone else is still out there getting killed.
The two years Arya spent at ninja school in Braavos might have dragged at times, but they were well worth it since she’s a fucking bad-ass. And the Hound really does love her (awww) since he overcame his fear of fire, and dying to try and help her. Despite the amount of ass she kicked Arya wouldn’t have made it without the Hound and Beric Dondarrion. But how did she get from the room with hundreds of wights blocking the door to the weirwood grove? Why would they deny us more time watching her be a super ninja? And speaking of girls kicking ass: we finally got to see Lyanna Mormont’s deeds live up to her big mouth. I have a huge mouth, but if a zombie giant came at me I’d wet myself and…well whatever Sam would do probably. With Jorah dead too (we all knew he’d die protecting his queen at some point soon) are the Mormonts just as wiped out as the Tyrells? If Bronn does make it through this thing he’s going to have a shit ton of castles to choose from. Greyjoys seem to be heading down that same path. Perhaps Theon might have stood a better chance against the Night King if he hadn’t telegraphed his attack from like a quarter of a mile away. Sorry Theon, but at least you got that redemption. And Arya got so much time, energy, and focus put on her this episode I’m wondering if she’s going to live now too. If it’s cool to die once you’ve done whatever it was that the Lord of Light was keeping you around for that might be bad for her.
So what’s my problem with The Long Night? Basically, that it’s over too soon. I know it was 90 minutes, but there are three episodes left. I thought that the battle against the Night King and the dead would take up two of the last four episodes. Little Arya quick-kill made sure that the survivors will be able to leave Winterfell by the end of episode four and start for King’s Landing. Where we’ll get a Cleganebowl, and far too many confrontations, and fan service all the way. Likely we’ll get some more dumb shit like the corpses coming back to life in the crypts of Winterfell too (most of them would have been fucking skeletons! If the Night King had the power to raise skeletons he would have been able to overrun the Seven Kingdoms years ago). I wanted an epic episode-spanning battle of literally life versus death followed by the relatively minor bickering over the Iron Throne. After what Jon and Daenerys have just lived through I just don’t understand why who gets to sit in the big chair would even matter anymore. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still here for all of it, but I just don’t see how anything else this season will match up to The Long Night.