Welcome back to Battle of Thrones, io9's weekly breakdown of an important moment of conflict in the latest Game of Thrones episode. Last week, James and I talked about Jaime Lannister’s tense arrival at Winterfell, but this week’s “The Long Night” was pretty much an important moment of conflict from start to finish. Here to hash it out with me is Germain, without further ado!
Cheryl Eddy: What did you think? Was it the all killer, no filler experience we were promised?
Germain Lussier: No. Definitely not. After waiting almost a decade to see the White Walkers fight humanity, I felt like the episode was very good, but not great. It just dragged a bit, struggled to give everyone their own time to shine, and had literally no shine with the dark cinematography. That I had less of a problem with than most but, I got it. So no, overall, I don’t think it lived up to the hype, but it was a solid episode. What about you?
Cheryl: I was prepared for it to look too dark, and that was certainly the case, though I can kind of see why they chose to do that, trying to capture the confusion of the battle. It was still frustrating though. I will say that in the moment, I was completely engrossed, and I definitely shrieked when Arya Did The Thing. (It was only later that I started wondering, “So, that’s done...what are they gonna do with the rest of the series?”) Were you surprised that it ended up being Arya who took out the Night King?
Germain: Yes and no. Yes, because it so obviously over the past few seasons had been set up for Jon Snow to do it. He showed down with him last season and gave up his throne because he knew just how powerful the King and his Walkers were. So we all expected it to be him and the episode even acknowledged that a bit with a few teases.
On the other hand, no, I wasn’t surprised, because as much as the show set up Jon as the ultimate hero, it has set up Arya as an incredible assassin and fighter. She has been training for years to be a stone-cold killer and, short of killing Cersei, which I guess she could still do, how else do you make that pay off? Killing the Night King is pretty good. She also got a good chunk of the story leading up to that ending, with that whole sneaking around the library bit, and inspiring a few other people to keep fighting.
Cheryl: Seeing her creeping around the library, that whole horror-movie element, was my favorite part of the episode I think. I was also a fan of the Melisandre scenes. We were definitely expecting a lot of people to die in this episode, but the way they handled her return and final exit was pretty great.
She was such a flawed character, but in the end she did the right thing (finally).
Germain: I agree, the Melisandre scenes were excellent. She got a huge story—and yet, that juxtaposition represents one of the bigger problems I have with the episode, and that’s that it really underserved a lot of characters. Tormund, Brianne, Jamie even, lots of the major characters who were on the front lines of the battle looked like they were about to die time and time again, being completely covered in Walkers, and yet, they survived and would be fighting again in the next scene.
I get that the previous episode really gave us a lot of great moments for these characters, and the episode was only (haha, only) 90 minutes-ish, but I would’ve loved to see some of the great warriors of Westeros have stories that were a bit more defined. And yet, maybe that madness was kind of the point? Everyone is just a speck of sand on a beach? I don’t know.
Did you think the episode underserved anyone, or am I crazy?
Cheryl: I think they definitely tried to give everyone their own little moment (suddenly I keep flashing to Avengers: Endgame for some reason, can’t imagine why), but it did feel a bit rushed. Sometimes it worked, like when Lyanna Mormont got her heroic death, and subsequent horrifying but brief return. Or when Bran is forgiving Theon and, basically, setting him free to die an honorable death. (I was kind of hoping for a little more Bran-Night King interaction after all that build-up, but I guess that’s not happening.) But then, like, what was Samwell doing? Did Dany and Jon have any kind of dragon strategy other than “torch zombies any time you can see the ground”?
Germain: Or “stay away from the fight cause we can’t see a damn thing?” But seriously, yeah, I would have liked to see the dragons get a bit more use. They had some fun scenes and the Night King did bring that blizzard to throw them off but, this was truly the battle of Ice and Fire and though Fire won, ultimately, the Ice felt way more dominant.
Also I’m glad you mentioned Lyanna. That was just so great. She’s a perfect character that Game of Thrones could kill, because we don’t have a huge connection to her, but is a fan favorite so she was given that great moment of crunch and stab. Not many people have defeated giants, but one powerful young woman has.
Cheryl: Over eight seasons, Game of Thrones has had several massive literal battles—in conjunction with its hefty amounts of psychological warfare, too—that’ve come to define the show. The Battle of Winterfell was obviously one we’ve been waiting for (and have mixed feelings about), but do you have a favorite from over the years? The Battle of the Bastards is a great one, and also the Loot Train attack, the Battle of Blackwater...but I think for sheer spookiness I have to go Hardhome.
Germain: Wow—when you lay them all out like that, you get a sense of just how epic this show has been over the years. Just next level stuff. I truly enjoyed all of those and I think, I enjoyed them all more than the Battle of Winterfell. But if I had to pick just one, I think I go Loot Train. Blackwater had that amazing green fire moment, Bastards was visceral and powerful, but the Loot Train was cathartic. It was, for me, one of the most satisfying moments in the series to date, finally seeing Daenerys’ dragon just go full blast against some of our most hated villains in the Lannisters. We’d been waiting for the dragons to really open things up and it was handled beautifully.
Watching that moment straight up gave me goosebumps and I’ll never forget it. Nothing in the Battle of Winterfell came close for me, unfortunately. And yet, maybe Thrones has set its battle bar too high over the years. Maybe the battles have been too good and it was impossible to meet our exceed our expectations.
Cheryl: With the Night King out of the way, there’s (presumably) another battle looming in King’s Landing. In the spirit of Battle of Thrones, which conflicts do you hope the show will manage to dig into and maybe even resolve, other answering the obvious question of who’ll get to take the Iron Throne? Fans might riot if there’s no Cleganebowl... also I feel like Yara and Euron have to face off. At least I hope we haven’t seen the last of her.
Germain: Those are both good ones. The Cleganebowl for sure. I’d love to see all the Lannisters reunited again and see how that would go down too. Honestly though, maybe it’s because its freshest on my mind right now, but more than anything I’m curious about Daenerys and Jon. He’s the rightful king and she’s more than a worthy ruler too. The fact they love and respect each other, but also have this inherent conflict, is the main thing I’m looking forward to now. Will she step down? Will he? Will they fight over it? Will it even matter? I’m dying to find out. And, maybe, see the Stark girls get some revenge on Cersei. But really, who doesn’t want revenge on Cersei at this point?
Game of Thrones airs Sundays on HBO.
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