The Long Night has a ton of great moments, but it’s not a great episode.
The reason is quite simple: this is a very dark episode. Literally. Whether that’s an artistic choice (to immerse us in the chaos and confusion of war), the result of technical difficulties, or a combination of both, trying to make sense of the episode’s big battle scenes is a real chore. Who’s fighting who? Which dragon am I looking at here? Is he dead or alive? Clarity should never be an issue while watching TV, and The Long Night is an often incomprehensible mess. What’s most unfortunate is that this might be the most pivotal episode in the show’s 8-year history – the climactic war between our heroes and the looming threat that has been building since the pilot. To top it all off, the episode’s action set piece is also the longest battle sequence ever filmed. But could you even see it?
It’s worth mentioning that darkness aside, The Long Night is also shockingly toothless as an episode. Whereas Baelor took out Ned Stark, and The Rains of Castamere slaughtered a handful of key characters, this hour doesn’t feature any particularly shocking deaths. While I appreciate Theon’s journey over the course of the show, I was never really invested in his character so his death didn’t move me in the slightest. Jorah’s was slightly more affecting, but did anybody not see his demise coming after all these years? Had the episode killed off someone more substantial (say Brienne or Jaime), its impact would have been magnified. Here’s hoping Game of Thrones reclaims its ruthlessness in its final three hours.
So where does this episode succeed? Arya Stark primarily. Her character development over eight seasons has been magnificent. It’s incredibly satisfying to see the little girl – who was aching for a fight when the show began – take out the biggest bad in Westeros singlehandedly. Most importantly, it’s a completely believable development knowing everything she’s been through (all the losses, her training in Braavos etc..). Even cooler is the fact that the show has been conditioning us to assume that Jon would be the one to take out The Night King in the end. That makes Arya coming to the rescue to save her little brother all the more refreshing. In addition, it makes her arc even more intriguing in retrospect as she turned out to be “The Prince(ess) that was Promised”. If nothing else, this episode elevated the girl with no name into an all-time great character with one of the coolest moments TV has ever produced. In case you’d like to rewatch it, click here.
Melisandre’s story arc is also a winner. The Red Priestess’ arrival and setting the Dothraki swords on fire is a goosebump-worthy moment that’s beautifully realized (and very much welcome since the fire lit up the horrendously-dim visuals). Her setting the trenches alight is also a wonderful sequence because I was sure it would culminate in her sacrifice. And that’s why her ending is so moving: her story is now complete – she helped Arya realize her purpose and then she simply withered away into the snow in her true form. Just perfect.
So what’s next? The demise of the Night King and his entire army (as well as Viserion) can certainly be seen as anticlimactic, but I’m kind of glad we now get to see the remaining humans battle it out for the Iron Throne. The show has always been about characters after all, and I’m excited to see a return to the show’s signature political dealings and manipulations. Hopefully they’ll take place in the daytime.
Bits & Beheadings
- Probably my favorite shot of the episode: Arya and Sansa’s heads turning as all the Dothraki swords light up before them. Amazing.
- Second favorite shot: the fires getting snuffed out as the Dothraki are annihilated. Oh well.
- So this is what the Unsullied amounted to in the end? How disappointing.
- Seriously the dragon scenes are atrocious this week. Way too many repetitive and hard-to-see mid-air battles amidst fog and snow. I couldn’t even tell if both or one of Dany’s dragons survived. Apparently they both did.
- Goosebumps: Arya using her new weapon and taking out an army of Wights. The music, the badassery – it’s all perfect.
- The sequence with Arya in the library hiding from the White Walkers is beautifully done. The silence and foreboding genuinely make it feel like a horror movie.
- The Hound making an effort to fight for Arya made my heart warm. Ned would be relieved.
- Brilliant: The Night King getting his minions to pile up over the flames to forge their path. #Diposable
- Fun fact: Maisie Williams is right handed but learned to sword-fight with her left hand because that’s how she’s written in the books.
- Goodbye Beric. We won’t miss you but at least we now know why you were always getting revived: your purpose was to save Arya.
- Lyanna Mormont was a badass until the end. Love how she took out the giant with her last breath.
- Does anyone else love the sound of that horn whenever Dany says Dracarys? Naturally the Night King survived her attempts at barbecuing him. His pompous grin was just perfect.
- Absolutely horrifying moment: Dany getting thrown off Drogon who gets overwhelmed by Wights.
- The Night King casually resurrecting everybody (like he did in Hardhome) to get Jon off his back made me laugh.
- Did Jaime and Brienne get like two seconds of screen-time? Unacceptable.
- It’s actually pretty cool to see Dany use a sword!
- I don’t know if it was purposeful, but Jon screaming at Viserion was just ridiculous.
- So where did Bran warg to for such a long period of time?
- Such a beautiful and haunting piece by Ramin Djawidi in those final ten minutes. Listen to it here.
- I kind of wanted the show to utilize Arya’s face swap to get closer to the Night King but obviously that wouldn’t be possible since I doubt she can use a White Walker’s face. There’s still hope she’ll use her bag of tricks in the final stretch of the season.
- Hey look it’s Ghost making another 2-second appearance. Groan.
- Yet another epic callback: Melisandre quotes Arya’s dance teacher / sword fighting instructor Sylvio Forel with the “not today” line.
- The dagger that Arya uses to kill the Night King is the one that Bran gave her in The Spoils of War in the exact same spot. More importantly, it’s the dagger that started it all in season one when an assassin tried to kill Bran and which was later traced back to Littlefinger. Talk about full circle.
- Arya’s dagger trick was also set up in The Spoils of War when she was training with Brienne. How cool is that?
- Callback: Melisandre warned Arya of darkness inside her and of the green/brown/blue eyed people she would kill. Blue is obviously a reference to the Night King.
- Super sweet moment between Sansa and Tyrion in the crypts at the end. Did anyone else want some familiar faces to rise from the dead? One of the Starks perhaps?
- I really wanted this episode to be one of the all-time greats. But it can’t hold a candle to such A+ masterpieces as The Winds of Winter, Battle of the Bastards, and Blackwater.
Kings & Quips
Arya: Take this and go.
Sansa: I don’t know how to use it.
Arya: Stick them with the pointy end.
Tyrion: You might be surprised at the lengths I’d go to avoid joining the Army of the Dead. I could think of no organization less suited to my talents.
Tyrion: Maybe we should have stayed married.
Sansa: You were the best of them.
Tyrion: What a terrifying thought.
Melisandre: What do we say to the God of Death?
Arya: Not today.
It has some spectacular moments, but The Long Night is also underwhelming thanks to its questionable production values and its reluctance to kill regulars.