Game of Thrones – “The Long Night”: The night is dark and full of terrors
Season 8, Episode 3
Aired: April 28, 2019
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Writers: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss
Well, that was certainly something.
The Night King and his army of the undead have been a looming threat since the very first episode of Game of Thrones. And, well, now that threat is no more.
Perhaps the bar was incredibly high (and perhaps it did this episode no favors to come out the same weekend as Avengers: Endgame), but I have to say that overall, I was underwhelmed. There were moments that I loved, but this episode as a whole was too dark, too choppy in its editing and didn’t really feel like a satisfying payoff to the Night King plotline.
In a show with a long history of moments like Ned Stark being beheaded and many other Starks being slaughter in the “Red Wedding,” it feels like a cop out that every major character somehow survived this battle. Sure, we saw some beloved reoccurring characters like Jorah and Theon die, but it felt like someone bigger should have died to really drive home the stakes. (As I mentioned last week, I think that person should have been Brienne.)
Sure, a handful of memorable people went down. But even characters who feel like they shouldn’t have made it survived. Grey Worm lived despite his “One week from retirement” moment on last week’s show. Sam, Gendry and Pod all made it despite being underwhelming fighters. Every major character in the crypts survived. Tormund, The Hound and Davos all survived, which is nice since they’re all fan favorites, but why not have one or two of them die tragically, too, to really hammer in the stakes? Instead, the army of the undead somehow seemed massive and overwhelming, and yet, they didn’t seem to really be very good at killing people.
Speaking of not making the stakes big enough, I was also disappointed that there wasn’t really a payoff to the Night King raising the slaughtered members of the Winterfell army. Once Edd came back to life, why not have Jon or Sam have to kill him? Or have Jorah have to kill Lady Mormont. It’s basic zombie movie rules that some member of the living should have to kill an undead loved one. Why show us their eyes turning blue if you weren’t going to deliver on that?
Then there was that final battle. I liked they way they had Theon die heroically (and had Bran give him the validation he was seeking) and I love that Arya came in to make the save, but I wish it was a little less … ridiculous. The way Arya springboarded into the shot and the whole chokehold/her dropping the dagger into her other hand bit was too over the top. It felt out of place in the world of Game of Thrones. Why not just have the Night King reach for his weapon to kill Bran, then have a blade burst through his chest and reveal Arya standing behind him? It feels like they overthought it.
I also was left with the sense that the whole Night King story arc just doesn’t make a lot of sense. It felt like it was pitched as this massive, looming threat to Westeros, but now that it’s over, was it that big of a threat? Maybe Cersi was right to sit the whole thing out. You just have to stab one guy in the chest to make the whole problem go away. And that guy just wants to kill Bran. Maybe they could have avoided a lot of casualties by taking Bran somewhere far away from Winterfell and having Arya lying in wait to kill the Night King when he shows.
Then, of course, there were the issues with the way the episode was shot and edited. I imagine, even with the inflated budget of this final season, that a lot of the reason why the episode was so dark and so choppy in its editing was to save money on what was likely a very expensive battle. Still, it was often difficult to tell what was happening, either because everything was too dark or because the camera was shaky and the editing was frenzied.
There were things I liked. My favorite moment of the whole episode was Lady Mormont taking out the giant. It felt like a heartbreaking death, but also a really impactful one. It was a great way for that character to go out and the giant itself was a really wonderful way to elevate the threat to our heroes. Just a perfect moment all around.
I also really enjoyed the opening moments. The pacing was really great in the first ten minutes as the characters braced for battle. I also loved the way the Dothrakis, with their flaming swords (which, itself, was a fantastic choice) slowly disappeared one by one as they were overwhelmed by the undead. The way the flames extinguished off in the distance was visually stunning.
Still, overall, I’m just left with this feeling that the show promised this epic battle and it just didn’t deliver. The stakes weren’t high enough and the episode itself was too dark and too badly edited. The Night King has been a really striking character who felt like a truly imposing threat, but the payoff just wasn’t really there.
Goodnight, sweet Night King. You were a master of saucy glares and cocky arm waving. You’ll be missed.
Written by Joel Murphy. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact Joel firstname.lastname@example.org