It would be remiss of me, as an enormous Game of Thrones fan, to let the final season go by without sharing some thoughts week on week.
I’m conscious, however, that full and in-depth critical analysis won’t truly be possible until the finale has aired, at which point I’ll be going back and starting to tackle Season 2 and working back toward the end. I have already deep dived Season 1, as you may remember, and they will probably get a polish once the entire show is completed.
My plan then, in the spirit of George R. R. Martin’s books, is to write up thoughts on each character journey and use them as a prism to explore each episode. With a show like this, built heavily on theory, escalation and payoff, this feels like one of the best ‘in the moment’ methods of reviewing the show – indeed I did just that for Season 6 in my days writing for Flickering Myth.
Right then! Grab a flaming sword, head to the ramparts, and let’s face the inevitable… while BEWARING HEAVY SPOILERS!
Of course we need to start with the Girl who is No One. Arya Stark or, as the legends will now sing, the (Night) King Slayer.
How did we not really see this coming over the years? Arya’s entire arc, aside from becoming a skilled assassin, has been about Death and more specifically facing Death. She rejected becoming no one, becoming a true Faceless Man (Woman), because she still felt the Stark blood and honour in her veins. It makes complete sense that Arya would be ‘the princess who was promised’, which tracks with GoT’s larger message of female empowerment and transformation of Westeros. We’ve all been blindsided wondering about Jon or Dondarrion or Daenerys that we’ve missed the obvious. Of *course* it was always Arya.
It also provides some meaning to what otherwise could have been some cool but aimless scenes of Arya in Winterfell in stealth mode, which recalled the kitchen scene from the original Jurassic Park in places. The point was for Beric Dondarrion to fulfill his destiny, what the Lord of Light kept bringing him back for… to save Arya and enable Melisandre to put her in play to fulfill prophecy. It’s perhaps slightly anticlimactic for Dondarrion but for that final shock of Arya leaping out of the darkness at the Night King? I’d say it’s worth it.
The night was dark and full of terrors for GoT’s biggest and best tart, Melisandre the Red Woman, who popped back to Winterfell—despite being excommunicated on pain of death at the end of The Winds of Winter—to fulfil prophecy and destiny.
In some respects, Melisandre by the end was less a character, more a plot point to wrap up really. She had always foreseen these events in the fire but she, for some reason, just kept getting the Night King Slayer wrong – first Stannis, then Jon, and you wonder quite why she didn’t seem to know it was Arya way back in Season 3 when she promised they would meet again (unless she did, and resurrecting Jon was all part of a larger plan to make sure Arya could be in the right place at the right time). It’s probably best we not look too deeply into it and simply enjoy Mel for some cool moments here – the best perhaps being the tension of almost not powering up the wall of fire before the dead rampage.
A fitting end to a character that, in many ways, always remained a big mystery. I like that about her.
Let’s talk about Jon then because, despite all the build up and his magical resurrection, it turns out he’s *not* the Christ-like saviour destined to kill the Night King. Which most of us probably had half guessed by now really.
It was too obvious, wasn’t it? The whole Azor Ahai legend ends up, in many ways, being just that – legend. Story. Embellishment. The dude who *did* have the powered up magic sword dies protecting a young girl. The army horde who are given a fiery power up rampage to their immediate deaths. Having Jon not strike the killing blow prevents him having a cleaner heroes journey but it could end up allowing him more of a complex ending as a character, given he’s now going to have to stop being the earnest, brave, selfless hero and start figuring out if he needs to be a King.
Jon has some cool stuff in this episode, mind – battling hordes, Dragon fights in the sky etc… although you do wonder why he didn’t just take cover toward the end instead of repeatedly almost being flayed alive by Viserion’s icy breath!
Much like Jon, she doesn’t have a fat lot to actually *do* in many ways, bar ride around on Drogon getting very lost in the Night King’s distraction weather.
What becomes apparent really is just how insulated Dany has been from war, really up close. Everything has been one sided so far in her Westerosi invasion, at least up close – the Field of Fire near Highgarden was a rout and with two big armies at her back, plus two dragons, she was still odds on favourite to beat Cersei. This episode shows her vulnerable and having to literally defend herself and the truth is, without Jorah she’d be all wight on the night! Poor Ser Jorah though – dying to save his Dragon Queen; mind you it’s as fitting a death as you could imagine for him. If Jorah had whispered “I love you, Khaleesi” as he died, we’d all just be puddles in the corner by now.
In fairness, Dany does shows among the rawest emotion we’ve ever seen her display after Jorah dies, and you wonder how she’ll cope without him by her side, especially with some thorny problems to untangle…
When the apocalypse is at your door, and your are bait for the literal icy personification of death, what would you do? Well if you’re Bran Stark, warg out and quietly go sky surfing with your team of ravens, that’s what!
To be fair, what else *could* Bran have done here? A fair few people were expecting him to bust out some kind of superpower but in reality, Bran is a human Citadel, not an X-Man; he’s seen all of this happen, hence why he gave Arya the dagger he was given by Littlefinger, the dagger that directly led to Ned Stark’s demise. It’s all wonderfully cyclical (and it means Bran was totally dicking about with Jaime when he said “what makes you think there is an afterwards?”). Bran was so chill when faced down by the Night King because he knew Arya would swoop in, though you do wonder if he could have suggested to Theon that he *didnt* need to race into the jaws of death given his sister would be along to stick ‘im with the pointy end in a minute. Oh well. Theon gets the redemption arc we expected, so that makes it worth it.
What happens to Bran now though? Can he function in the realms of men? Or will he head back up north to his magic tree?
SANSA & TYRION
Are these two going to end up happy ever after as Lord and Lady of Winterfell? Maybe.
Sansa and Tyrion certainly both seemed to reaffirm a bond in the perfectly safe, nothing bad going to happen down here and no mistake Winterfell crypts. Sure, it was in the face of certain death from the wights bursting out of the tombs of dead Starks (honestly this didn’t end up nearly as cool on screen as it sounds on the page), but all marriages have to start somewhere. And these two *are* technically still married remember? Maybe Sansa, who is by now so regal and sexually damaged you can’t imagine her with a normal Westerosi man, will recognise a very human union built more of friendship with Tyrion, and once the evil Lannister is dead, Tyrion and Sansa will fully bring these two families together. Stranger things have happened.
It is a shame more didn’t go down in the crypts of note though, it feels a slightly wasted opportunity. Though we do get the mirroring of Sansa with Cersei when she hid during the Battle of the Blackwater, as if to underscore the point she is the good side of a really horrible coin.
BRIENNE AND JAIME
They didn’t die. Oh, thank fuck.
How they didn’t die, I have no idea. Sam Tarly looked pretty buggered at one point; Grey Worm surely must die now battling the Golden Company because it’s way too much of a fluke him surviving this (and Melisandre remember did pointedly say “all men must die” to him, which isn’t a great omen is it?); Gilly seems to have come close to the reaper at one point; and the Hound thankfully overcame his crippling fear of fire to once again help come to Arya’s rescue.
In other words, they’re all super lucky people who should absolutely be dead as doornails by now.
The Great War may be over, but the last war has begun, or words to that effect as Daenerys says in the trailer.
Episode four I imagine will be all about everyone taking stock, doing a bit of celebrating, and then re-focusing for the Cersei-shaped task ahead. She’s going to be sitting pretty having escaped doing any dead-centric battling so I suspect we’ll spend a fair bit of time in King’s Landing next week. Oh and calling this now – Arya and the Hound decide to team up for the double-kill of Cersei and the Mountain.
Cleganebowl is coming, folks. Oh it’s coming…
In terms of The Long Night, it’s likely to be one of the most talked about, debated, polarising episodes of not just Game of Thrones but television at large. Wherever you fall on the fence of its quality (and truly I need some distance and critical rewatching to find some kind of true judgement), this was a truly groundbreaking moment for television – nothing on this scale has ever been seen on the small screen before.
Maybe we need to stop calling it that now, actually…
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