‘Game of Thrones’ staged a blowout battleso why did it disappoint?

Warning: This article contains spoilers for the most recent developments episode of Game of Thrones ,” The Long Night .”

After the first two chapters of Game of Thrones threw the spotlight on its personas, the highly anticipated battle occurrence,” The Long Night ,” ramped up the action. Full of scandalizing minutes, smaller poignant asides, and more than enough demise to go around, it was a lot, and it ended with the shocker of a lifetime: Arya Stark killed the Night King with a Valyrian steel dagger.

The stakes and anticipations of” The Long Night” were insurmountable. We knew how long it took to shoot. It had to follow two very good character-driven episodes, one of which is already being lauded as one of Game of Thrones ‘ best. It had Emmy award-winning director Miguel Sapochnik, who’s behind “Hardhome” and” Battle of the Motherfuckers ,” at the helm. After Ned Umber was the only casualty of season 8 to date, demise was practically guaranteed to us.

So why did specific areas of it keep feeling such a letdown?


We get death and carnage; too many dead people to count. We got that win against all odds, leaving Game of Thrones ‘ final three chapters to deal with that fallout and the threat of Cersei Lannister in King’s Landing. Some fall characters got their moments of redemption. We even got a dragon fight mid-air!

Let’s take a look at what went right and wrong–apart from the living’s battle strategies.

The literal darkness of the Battle of Winterfell

One of the biggest ailments that fans had about the occurrence was how dark the episode was. Not from a tonal or thematic standpoint, but literally speaking. There were several moments where you couldn’t see what was going on at all.

Part of that was by design. In the centre of” The Long Night ,” there was so much snow and ice swirling in the air that it was impossible for Daenerys Targaryen to see Ser Davos Seaworth’s signal to set Winterfell’s trenches ablaze. It was so dark that when all three dragons took flight, Jon Snow and Dany had no idea if they were attacking friend or foe up in the air. It’s an improbably powerful instant to see the Dothraki ride against the Army of the Dead–even if it was kind of a dumb move–with flame weapons and see all of those burns extinguished from great distances.

Beric Dondarrion’s used his flaming sword as something akin to a torch for some time now. The threat of the unknown built the tension of the chapter and based off data from our heart monitors, it worked.

Helen Sloan/ HBO

But the use of that darkness merely get you so far.

Game of Thrones has been a darker series from a lighting standpoint for a while, a purposeful decision from all the persons who build the prove to create a more naturalistic look. But the downside to that for observers is that it’s so dark that you can’t even see what’s going on.

Did Ghost and Rhaegal survive? You couldn’t really tell until next week’s preview came around. Is Samwell Tarly dead, or is he merely struggling to summon the strength to get back up?( This happened a couple of times during the episode .) Are those attributes you insure struggling to fend off wights being stabbed or only weighed down by the attacking bodies? And when the dead rise in the graves of Winterfell, who died in that one-sided fight?


And frankly? If your tale is powerful and coherent enough, probabilities are most followers won’t really care if your nighttime duel is improperly lit. Just look at the Battle of Helm’s Deep from The Two Towers , the main cinematic battle that Sapochnik searched to when crafting this occurrence. There’s no way that a battle that took place at night and in the rain should look like that, realistically speaking, but it’s implemented so well that it operates anyway.

The limitations of the carnage

At the end of the working day, we lost eight called characters( seven on the side of the living plus the Night King) amid the chaos of the Battle of Winterfell. Some of those attributes ought to have with us since the very beginning. For others, you might’ve had to Google their identifies. Entire houses of Westeros were wiped out in one battle.( Pour one out for House Mormont .) You can’t say that they didn’t fighting valiantly.

Game of Thrones moved there. It had a huge battle episode and released the flood of death from the edges of Winterfell all the way down the crypts.( Turns out those follower theorists were onto something !) Men, women, and children–including young Lyanna Mormont, who was mashed to extinction by a wight monster but not before she could take him out–were all murder by the Night King or the Army of the Dead. The Dothraki multitude is essentially wiped out.

Helen Sloan/ HBO

But with those character fatalities came another objection: Game of Thrones continues protecting its lead characters with Valyrian steel plot armor while throwing its more minor characters to the wolves. We insured it last-place season after Thoros of Myr and a cluster of nameless redshirt free folk became the only casualties of” Beyond the Wall .” For a show that garnered a reputation for ruthlessly knocking off its leads and traditional heroes, very few of the show’s leads-in or heroes are currently in real and tangible danger of being subjected to actually dying( and remaining that course) for some time.

I’m of the opinion that” Beyond the Wall” could’ve used at least one more death–maybe Tormund Giantsbane–to raise the stakes. It’s even clearer now who’s important to the endgame.( Perhaps fighters like Davos or Tormund, or even Podrick Payne, could’ve added to the heartbreak .)

Beric Dondarrion did right by Arya, and in saving her, he finally fulfilled his purpose. Ser Jorah Mormont went out saving the woman he desired as he fought alongside her. Eddison Tollett helped save his fellow brother. After doing her part in the battle, Melisandre took off her pendant, and after hundreds of years, ultimately laid herself to rest. And Theon Greyjoy demonstrated himself the very best all of them.( More on him in a bit .)

Helen Sloan/ HBO

But we likewise be a few of those quieter minutes along the way. Everything that happened in the crypts–from Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister’s speeches to their quiet resolve to not go down without a fight formerly the Stark corpses started to attack all of the nameless extras–was wonderful to watch. Seeing attributes save each other, time and time again, to continue fighting like Jaime Lannister and the newly knighted Brienne of Tarth, gave us emotional bets that were missing from much of the episode. And then there was everything with Bran and Theon.

” The lone wolf dies, but the jam-pack subsists “

From the moment that Theon volunteered to protect Bran Stark in the godswood against the Night King, “its easy to” to guess that he was a goner. And while that proved to be true, the present likewise cemented the final blockings of Theon’s redemption.

At the start of season 8, Theon rescued his sister Yara from their uncle and pledged to fight for Winterfell. He got welcomed home with open arms by the Starks, who have now forgiven him for his actions from several seasons ago. But Bran, who had already waved away Jaime’s attempts to apologize to him, told Theon that none of it mattered because he’s where he’s supposed to be. Theon Greyjoy might not be a Stark by blood or by identify, but “hes one” in spirit.

” Everything you did “ve brought you” where you are now ,” Bran told him.” Where you belong. Home .”

Helen Sloan/ HBO

Once his extremity became inevitable, Bran passed him one more reassurance.

” You’re a good man ,” Bran said.” Thank you .”

The Theon Greyjoy at the start of the series might’ve run away from certain fatality, and no matter whether he charged or endure his soil, death was all but certain for Theon. But this changed and redeemed Theon as he satisfied extinction head-on.

And then comes in Arya. The lone wolf of House Stark if there ever was one, a young woman who had–unbeknownst to her–spent years training for this moment. In her first true duel, she killed wights with the knowledge of a ex-serviceman boxer and snuck around a library full of wights with the majority of them being unaware. She had saviors in her corner with both the Hound and Beric willing to risk their own lives for her, and Melisandre to remind her of the role she would play in this war. Most importantly, Arya had the weapon to take out the Night King and the skillset to do it.

Helen Sloan/ HBO

Arya is a character who had the skill to kill the Night King, but with very little connection to the Night King, you can argue that it’s a random selection by the creators given that both Jon and Dany have more personal reasons to want to kill him. But it wasn’t a decision induced gently; in agreement with the Game of Thrones showrunners, they planned to have Arya kill the Night King for three years.

With the bodies on the field, the living have to pick up the articles along the way. With the Army of the Dead gone for good, that will certainly be a lot less daunting.


How linguist David J. Peterson made the Dothraki and Valyrian languages for Game of Thrones

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