Game of Thrones 8.03: “The Long Night”

These first three episodes of Game of Thrones have been like a big Valentine’s Day date. Episode 1 was the dinner, setting the table and our expectations for the night. The meat was perfectly cooked, the wine was flowing, and we all left the table satisfied that everything was only about to get better.

And then Episode 2 arrived in all its foreplay glory. At first, we were a bit annoyed, wanting to jump right into the good stuff. But now, looking back, it’s clear we were selling this foreplay short. It was heartfelt, steamy, and nuanced. It was pretty damn perfect, in short. If we could choose only one of these episodes to relive for the rest of our lives, we’d likely pick this one.

And that brings us to “The Long Night”—our 90-minute-long romp. Perhaps due to all of the wine, or maybe because of uneven and rushed writing, this portion of our date found itself full of a few memorable highs, a fair amount of unfortunate lows, and a few moments where, thanks to the insistence that we keep the lights off the entire time, we weren’t quite sure what was being done to us.

So where does that leave us? Well, it’s now the next morning and while there may have been a few things that occurred during that very long night that we’re not all too thrilled with, there were also many moments that we won’t soon forget. And because it’s Thrones, we’ll overlook some of the bad. We’ll relish the badass. And we’ll make sure to frantically refresh HBO Go at 9 pm on the dot next week. Because those are the things we do for love.

* * *

“Fine. I’ll do it myself.”

Riser of the Week: Arya Stark

Pre-destined sacrifice was a rampant theme in this episode. Edd existed to save Sam’s life. Jorah died so that Daenerys could live. Theon kept Bran breathing. And most glaringly, Beric sacrificed himself so Arya would not only survive, but save the lives of everyone we hold dear. I won’t lie, I think the Night King’s death was more than a bit underwhelming, but that’s for a different paragraph. Right now we’re celebrating Arya, and damn, what a celebration it should be. While Jon was busy trying to 1v1 a dragon, Daenerys was using Jorah as a meat shield, and Sansa and Tyrion were trembling in the crypts, Arya went right for Night King. (How she was able to get from the depths of Winterfell to the Godswood without the undead army noticing her is a question better pondered another day.) And unlike Theon, who pulled a Rickon and ran straight (literally) to his death, Arya was calculated and cool under pressure. She may have once been a girl with no name, but the history books will now long remember the name Arya Stark.

Honorable Mention: Cersei Lannister—she has a fully rested team and home court advantage. Hard not to like her chances.

“How did I not see that coming?”

Faller of the Week: The Night King

I saw a lot of people making fun of the Night King on Twitter and likening him to the Atlanta Falcons and their 27-3 blown lead. But I don’t think that’s exactly right. In that game, the entire Atlanta team was responsible for the loss, with both the offense and defense doing their parts to implode. But in the Battle at Winterfell, it wasn’t a team-wide meltdown that led to the undead’s defeat. Instead, it was one royal fuck-up by the guy in charge. This was John Starks going 2-18 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Or Scott Norwood kicking it wide right. Or Buckner letting it get through his legs.

And man, what an underwhelming finish to the Night King’s storyline. I fear that we’ll never learn why the Night King was marching south and what motivated him. And it’s exactly that sort of theorizing that makes Thrones so enjoyable. So as someone who’s spent more time theorizing about the show that he’d like to admit, let’s hope the rest of the show’s mysteries get answered, otherwise we’re going to have another Lost on our hands, and I am still waiting to find out what those numbers mean.

Honorable Riser: House Mormont. Honorable deaths are still deaths, and House Mormont lost two of the best in Jorah and Lyanna. I’m going to miss these two.

This week, I’m nixing the sections on Backstory and the Item of Power, as there were no obvious choices for them, and instead, I’ll spend more time mulling over what happened below.

Maester’s Musings:

  • What surprised me most about this episode was how it portrayed all of the characters who are top contenders to wind up on the throne at the end. Daenerys and Jon were unable to use their two-on-one dragon advantage properly. As a result, Daenerys found herself fighting for her life on the ground and Jon found himself unable to beat the ice dragon’s full court press. Both are lucky just to be alive. Similarly, Sansa and Tyrion—both popular choices for the throne—were shown hiding out rather than trying to save the other people in the crypt. I’m not saying they were wrong for hiding, but what I am saying is that it’s telling that the showrunners didn’t use that time to paint one of them heroically. Altogether, our throne frontrunners weren’t all too impressive this week.
  • Speaking of heroically, there were more than a few characters who were given noble deaths. Beric, Edd, Theon, Lyanna, Melisandre, and Jorah. Even though I was preparing to lose more, it doesn’t hurt any less. From slaying a giant to defending their friends, they all went down being a badasses.
  • Jorah’s death hurt me the most. I’ve always loved how he carried himself, and if he had to go, I’m glad it happened while protecting Daenerys, the woman he always loved. Here she stands… because of you.
  • You could also argue that Daenerys was one of the biggest losers of the week. Both her Dothraki and her Unsullied armies were completely erased, and now she’s also lost Jorah. It also looked like her dragon abandoned her to go rescue Jon, though I might be reading too much into that. All of this, paired with the revelation of Jon’s parentage, should make for some intense power struggles next week. Can they unite forces to take on Cersei?
  • I think it’s a damn shame we didn’t get to see the Dothraki army fight. We’ve heard that no one can beat a herd of Dothraki screamers in the field, but the detector has proven that to be a lie.
  • On one hand, I’m pleasantly surprised at how many fan-favorite characters survived the battle. On the other hand, I’m now terrified that they all survived just to be killed by each other in the fight for King’s Landing.
  • With the Night King dead, I am left thinking that the snowy throne room that Daenerys saw in her vision from early in the show is now a metaphor for Jon Snow.
  • A big shout-out goes out to Carice van Houten who plays Melisandre. Her acting when trying to convince the Lord of Light to set flame to the trench was arguably the best of the episode. Kudos.
  • And another shout-out to Ramin Djawadi, the show’s composer. The music, especially in the build-up to the Night King’s death, was beautiful. I was mesmerized.
  • In the After the Episode clip from HBO, the showrunners admitted that they’ve known for three years that Arya would be the one to kill the Night King and that it would be with Valyrian Steel in the same spot that the Children of the Forest sliced into him with dragonglass. While watching live, I didn’t realize that Arya’s dagger hit the same spot, but it makes sense. Though I wonder if she got lucky or if she knew to aim there. How could she? Also, if they’ve known for three years, does that mean GRRM told them that this was his plan, or did they choose her on their own? Should we ever get those books, I have a feeling there will be a fair amount of vastly different plot points.
  • I think I’m still digesting this episode. It felt a bit too jumpy to me, and the dark scenes didn’t help, but I also have to remember that there are three more episodes left. Which means three more chances for my questions to be answered and for my mind to be blown. But I won’t lie, I’m worried. For a long time now the show has felt like fan-service, and last night’s battle was no exception. Thrones is popular today because of how ruthless it was in the past. I only hope that it remembers its roots.
  • So thanks again for reading, and I’ll see you all again next week. (Except for you, Ghost.)

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