Game of Thrones S8E3 'The Long Night' RECAP
The Great War was here… and then it wasn't.
The Long Night was perhaps the most highly anticipated single episode of television ever. It was the longest battle sequence in TV or movie history. We heard tales about the 55-night shoot in the freezing cold and rain of Belfast, Ireland. We had been awaiting death’s march on the realms of men for 7 and a half seasons. Everything we had been watching for the past 8 years had led up to this. But when the dust settled and the smoke cleared and our heroes stood tall over hundreds of thousands of no longer reanimated corpses, many fans were disappointed.
These past few days have been crazy for me. Immediately right after the episode, I took to Twitter to express my love for what I had just seen. I thought the episode was AMAZING. How they seemingly combined three different genres (suspense, action, horror) into a frenetic, chaotic, beautiful mess had me on the edge of my seat or even standing up for most of its runtime. The shocking, heart attack inducing ending had my grown ass screaming in the middle of a bar. People were calling me as soon as the episode ended congratulating me as if my team had won the Super Bowl. Because WE DID! We beat the army of the dead! As a Game of Thrones fan who prefers the shows quieter moments to the massive pitched battles, I figured there was no possible way that everyone from diehards to casuals didn’t love this episode.
And then I checked Twitter...
What a godforsaken hellscape of a website smh.
Over the next couple of days, I drowned myself in content. Podcasts, recaps, reviews, tweets, Reddit threads, Facebook groups, anything I could find to try and make sense of the backlash I was seeing. Was I tripping? I couldn’t be, that was 10/10 television, right? People whose television opinions I value and respect had similar feelings of disappointment and I just didn’t get it. It hurt me that the response to something I thought was so overwhelmingly great was so overwhelmingly bad.
So this post is going to be a little different.
Instead of the usual scene by scene breakdown, this is my Jon Snow at the Battle of the Bastards moment. Sword drawn, awaiting the charge of a thousand horses by my gotdamn self. I’ll be answering some of the questions people have asked and responding to the statements people have told me about the episode to the best of my ability and YOU WILL appreciate The Long Night for the work of art it is if it’s the last thing I do.
And now my watch begins.
"That Arya shit was the wig and you know it. You’re a stan so you can’t see that it was clearly some bullshit."
First of all, shut your bitchass up.
Arya is the greatest of all time and her killing the Night King was the only logical way to win the Great War.
A lot of my friends were disappointed in the ending of The Long Night and feel as if there should’ve been more 1v1 combat between our heroes and the White Walkers.
Let me tell you why that doesn’t make sense.
Put yourself in the Night King’s shoes.
- You have a recyclable army 100k strong
- You know the opposition has 2 dragons
- You know the opposition has Valyrian steel and dragon glass
- You know that the opposition knows that killing a Walker leads to mass wight casualties
Why would you expose yourself or any of your lieutenants to that danger and jeopardize your 8000-year mission?
There was only one way the Great War was going to end, killing the Night King, and there was only one way to kill him.
BY SNEAKING UP ON HIM.
He’s had his eye on Jon since Hardhome, he saw him kill one of his Walkers himself. There was no way he was going to let him get the chance, which is why he ducked the fade when Jon was running after him.
The Night King fully expected to hang back and let his wights roll over Winterfell while he took out Bran.
Jaime himself said the Night King wouldn’t expose himself because of the risk, but Bran said he would if he thought he could get to Bran. That’s why he didn’t want Jon there.
If only our heroes had someone armed with a Valyrian steel weapon who had been training for YEARS in the art of sneaking up on people without detection to kill them.
The Night King is a smug bastard, we’ve seen it time and time again. He didn’t know Arya even existed, she was the least of his worries. It only could’ve been her, and even when she did attack, HE CAUGHT HER BY THE THROAT IN MIDAIR. He just wasn’t ready for the switcheroo.
Would it have been really cool to see an Avengers-style battle with all our Valyrian steel armed heroes going toe to toe with White Walkers around Bran in the Godswood? Hell fucking yeah. Would it have made narrative sense? No.
Remember in episode 1 when Jon and Arya reunited in the Godswood?
“How’d you sneak up on me?”
"How'd you survive a knife to the heart?"
IN THE SAME EXACT SPOT.
Get that hate out your heart.
“But didn’t The Great War ultimately feel a bit shallow? No significant deaths, no dead dragons, no great White Walker motivations. Feels like the show built up a great villain for a decade, then ultimately fell flat.”
I respect this take, but I don’t all the way agree.
I was prepared to lose more characters than we did, so I do feel like not enough of an emotional price was paid. If Sam, Brienne or even Grey Worm dies we get a “we won, but at what cost?” kind of feel that would’ve made the end of the Night King arc feel a little heavier.
I’ll admit that.
That being said, I’m glad none of these characters are dead and they clearly have more to do over the next three episodes, so let’s wait and see. I feel like a lot of people are acting like this was the series finale. There’s a whole ass Cersei left to be dealt with, not to mention the internal conflicts between the people up North that seem to still be very much there according to Sansa and Missandei’s interaction in the crypts.
Personally, I was never really a fan of the Night King as a villain. Sure he was scary, but that’s about it. We never really got much background information on him so I think people went and looked for it themselves, which I admire, but it kind of raised their expectations too much.
It’s important to remember that the Night King from the show and the 13th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, Night’s King, from the books are not the same people.
The Night King is completely a show invention. I think that in all the intense theorizing that happens, people started to conflate the two backstories and you ended up with all the speculation that maybe the Night King was a Stark and that he wanted to turn Jon into a White Walker and all of these ulterior motives that the show never addressed. We learned what the Night King wanted in the 2nd episode of Season 8. There was no pact to be made, no sacrifices to be had, he was just pure evil. Is that great character building? Not really, but do you know what is? The rest of the human characters on this show who we have three super episodes left to deal with.
I think we should face the fact that the Night King was never as cool as we wanted him to be. He gave us some great moments, but he never spoke. You can only go so far with a mute villain. All we knew about his backstory is that the Children of the Forest created him with dragonglass to help them fight the First Men, and their creation turned on them and started killing everything. The Children of the Forest and the First Men had to band together to defeat the White Walkers in the first Long Night. He was evil incarnate and a threat to the world as we knew it. All of that was covered in the show and anything else was just fan theorizing and speculation.
I respect the devotion to the Night King’s cause, but the fault here is in his development, not his demise.
"Is the Night King a Targaryen?"
He’s a super-powered ice zombie who can only be defeated with dragonglass or Valyrian steel. What makes Valyrian steel so special? We don’t know. The secrets of forging Valyrian steel were lost in the Doom of Valyria centuries ago. Maybe we’ll learn more in the prequel that’s coming. This feels like a good time to note that only Dany is immune to fire. Viserys was as Targaryen as it gets and he died from molten gold being poured on his head. Jon is the blood of the dragon and his hand was burned when he threw a lantern at the first wight he saw at Castle Black while defending Lord Commander Mormont. The fire trick is Dany’s thing, and it only happens once in the books, the first time.
"What’s up with the crypts though? That was pretty underwhelming, right?"
Yeah, I’ll admit I was looking for more from the crypts.
They technically were the safest place, which kinda stinks. I would’ve loved to see some more chaos down there, but I don’t think we’re done. There’s been way too much promotional material featuring the crypts front and center to let this be the last we see of them. I mean they put them in the damn intro. I still feel like something big is going to happen down there. But if it doesn’t, that’s where Dany and Jon both found out about Jon’s true heritage. That’s pretty big, right?
"What about the the prophecies? I feel like this just shitted on the whole lore behind Azor Ahai because they can't handle the fantasy elements of the show."
Prophecies can be tricky. I mean, they’re guesses. Azor Ahai is supposed to be the hero who would bring the dawn against the forces of darkness. The Prince/Princess Who Was Promised. The last time we heard Melisandre speak of this prophecy, she was telling Dany that she and the then King in the North, Jon Snow, both had a role to play in fulfilling it. That already opens the possibility of this being a team effort prophecy. We then see the reason why the Lord of Light brought Berric back so many times. To save Arya. Does that mean that Arya is the Prince/Princess Who Was Promised? No, but she obviously had a role to play, as did Melisandre.
We know that the Night King took a special interest in Jon. Could it be that he thought that Jon could potentially be Azor Ahai? Probably. That’s why he went to such great lengths to avoid him. The Night King wasn’t gonna get caught slipping by the one man prophesied to end him. Prophecies never work out like that. You can still be the Prince/Princess Who Was Promised and have a little help along the way.
"Was there anything you didn’t like about the episode?"
I thought it was about as good as you could’ve hoped for all things considered, but sure there were some flaws. The battle plan was kind of ill-conceived. I’m no expert in medieval combat, but people are saying the Dothraki should’ve been used to flank after waiting for the army of the dead to charge.
I thought charging at people was the Dothraki’s whole thing. Hate to see them go, but that visual of the flaming arahks going out one by one in the distance was incredible. I’ve read that it doesn’t make much sense to have a trench behind your army or have your catapults and trebuchets out in front. But then again, I don’t care too much because I don’t own plate armor. If the battle plan is your main gripe with the episode, you’re a hater. Jon’s had some dumb plans in battle, but he’s undefeated. What are you gonna do?
Like I said earlier, I was prepared for more consequential character deaths. In that last montage of everything going to shit while the Night King walks towards Bran, I thought we’d see somebody else bite it, but I’m not exactly pressed about it. I don’t understand how people are mad at characters not dying. That’s kinda weird to me.
Other than that I really thought this episode was a wonderfully-executed masterpiece. I honestly feel bad if you were disappointed because nobody deserves that after all this time. But I really don’t know what to tell you other than to reserve judgment for until after you see these last three episodes. I’m sure people were disappointed when Ned died so abruptly, or after the Red Wedding. A lot of the time, episodes like this take time to be appreciated and I feel like this is one of those cases. We’ll see though.
Keep your heads up Dovaogēdys, the Lord of Light isn’t finished with you yet.
Also, I appeared on a podcast this week with some good friends and talked about The Long Night for like an hour and a half. It's a good listen and we break down the episode scene by scene like I normally do on here. If you're looking for some extra insight on what you just watched, PLEASE go check it out wherever you get your podcasts from. I'll post the Apple link below.
Thanks y'all. See you next week.