It should go without saying, but this will spoil anything in Game of Thrones up to and including the current episode, (Which would be Season 8, Episode 3, for those reading this in the distant future, as it is inevitably passed down through the generations).
For whatever reason, my level of general annoyance and malaise at the trajectory Game of Thrones has taken over the past season and change has led me to actually write down “thoughts.” Yes, I know, the web has become an utter vomitorium of opinions, hot takes, and memes on Game of Thrones, especially as the show heads into this, the very lastest of seasons. And though everyone and their dog is scrawling their opinions upon the bathroom stall of the internet, I ask you to bear with me, because there is one important difference between this opinion piece and all the others: I wrote this one.
Game of Thrones has, over its 8 year stint since April 2011, become one of the best written television shows in recent memory and–despite the general high quality of storytelling–also one of the most popular shows in history. Being equally baffled by the shows success, executives at HBO set about, somewhere after the finale of the sixth season to sabotage the show in ways both subtle and obvious, and for reasons that I can only describe as: “to personally annoy me.”
I will preface my list of grievances with the caveat that I do, in fact, understand that HBO has undergone a leadership change, having been acquired by that most creative of companies, AT&T (which was formerly a telephone company, if you can believe it). I also recognize that many Hollywood television productions only contract their actors for a maximum of 7 seasons, and it goes without saying that it would be much more expensive to sign Daenerys Targaryen’s wig for 3 more seasons of Game of Thrones in 2019 than it was to sign Sean Bean (perhaps the show’s most famous actor at the time) for anything in 2011.
So, I understand the reasons why, instead of finishing out the show properly, with several dozen more episodes slowly building up to what is sure to be a disappointing finale, they instead chose to produce one season’s worth of episodes, cram the entire rest of the story into it, and then release it over two years.
With that said, let’s complain about it.
Game of Thrones has always been at it’s best when it’s slow. Long strings of episodes where nothing apparently happens, punctuated by extreme violence, death, and desolation. So, it’s no surprise that season 8 starts well. Heck, the premiere of season 7 impressed me. They are both episodes which meticulously set out dominoes, which will inevitably be knocked down like so many giant ice walls.
My biggest issue with Season 7, was not the dominoes which were chosen, but more the way in which they were toppled. The overall plot points would have perhaps been fine, were they executed in a less sloppy and more deliberate manner.
In no particular order, here are some examples of where the dominoes were toppled strangely:
- Sam somehow remembering that Rhaegar Targaryan had been secretly wedded, despite us seeing him very clearly ignore Gilly when she low-key drops this bombshell. This disconnect could’ve been explained perhaps with one more scene in which Gilly actually communicates this information to someone else, but don’t worry about that, there’s no time to explain anything this season.
- Daeny flame-broiling 2/3rds of Sam’s entire family while her closest friends and allies stand by doing nothing. She might as well have cackled maniacally to herself, but for some reason we are expected to believe that not even Tyrion raises an eyebrow and questions her sanity? In fact, they all continue to say and do nothing for two more episodes, at which point, they discuss it quietly amongst themselves but never mention anything to Daenerys herself. Perhaps they are terrified that she’ll flame-broil them too? Who knows, no time to explain. Moving on.
- Jon Snow takes a small scrappy group to go capture a White Walker. This is surely a death trap, and we expect to see many of our favorite characters brought back in body bags (were body bags invented yet). Thankfully Jon has smuggled about a dozen unnamed characters in his left coat pocket, and anytime he might be in danger, he tosses one out so they can get killed instead of him or anyone we care about. (Yes I know that they kill Thoros of Myr, Benjen and one Dragon. But Thoros freezes to death, which makes the proceding lack of real casualties to the horde of undead seem a bit odd in contrast. Benjen literally dies five seconds after showing up, when we already thought he was dead.) And…
- Killing the dragon could have almost been enough to make up for not having killed any characters we care about. This could have been quite a sad affair, possibly taking a whole episode to actually mourn the loss of the dragon. Instead the show waits somewhere around five minutes before turning him into a Zombie Dragon, which breathes blue fire, or ice or something? This kinda overshadows the whole death scene.
- The entire Littlefinger betrayal via Arya/Sansa/Bran story line. This could’ve worked, were it made explicitly clear that these events are only ever shown through the eyes of Littlefinger. However, because there’s really not enough time to split things off into their own distinct threads, and not having reunion scenes for our major characters would be a disappointment, instead we’re left with a strange mish-mash where the only reason we are surprised by Littlefinger’s death is not because he has been lied to, but because we have been lied to, as the audience.
- That gratuitously detailed White Walker cave painting which looks completely unlike all the other paintings in the cave, and appears to be CG. Seriously, it looked so out of place that there was a half-serious theory that Jon Snow drew them himself just to con Daenerys Targaryan into his little obsession with White Walkers.
- Perhaps the cheapest cliffhanger of the entire series, wherein Jaime seems to sink to the bottom of a deep lake, only for Bronn to seemingly have no trouble at all at the very start of the next episode dragging him, his full suit of armor, and cast metal hand back ashore. Either the water wasn’t nearly as deep as they showed it at the end of the prior episode, or Bronn is secretly the strongest man in the entire seven kingdoms, and very buoyant.
So with all these nitpicks, we come to the real plot twist. That I seem to be in the minority of people who think that Season 8 isn’t an utter dumpster fire and that “The Long Night” is, in fact, one of the better episodes of the series.
This discrepancy could be chalked up to the basic fact that anyone who disagrees with me is an idiot. However, it might be useful for me to at least do the diligence of outlining why the complaints that many people have are of no relevance to me.
Complaint #1: The Episode is Too Dark.
Okay, so right away we’ve got three things going on here. One is the actual level of brightness that the creators of the show intended. The second is whatever compression fuckery was caused by the garbage streaming service you choose to use (They are all garbage, so no elitism intended here). And the third is that you’ve clearly not setup your television correctly. You can find the appropriate options under the color menu, you’ve probably got your TV on the mode labeled “Shit” , you might want to switch it to one of the other ones. Preferably one where you can see this episode.
The correct answer: The episode looks perfect, just as the creators intended. However, streaming services are fucking you and you just now realized it.
Complaint #2: Their Battle Strategy was Terrible.
The two “generals” in charge here, such as they are, are Daenerys and Jon. I don’t know if you recall, but Daenerys’s battle strategy thus far in the series has always been “I will make them love me, and then I will get them to kill the ones who don’t love me.” She has almost always throughout her rise to power had the benefit of overwhelming (and dedicated) numbers, and thus required little strategy other than just “mow them all down.” In this scenario, she vastly underestimates the numbers of the undead, as they have grown significantly even since the last time she saw them.
As for our second generallette, Jon Snow is a moron. He has always been a moron. Do you not recall for like 5 seasons where a wildling savage woman constantly reminded him he was an idiot? Or did you just think “You know nothing, Jon Snow” was cute pillow talk?
(As a side note, Daenerys must not be too bright either, because neither her nor Jon realized that he was a Targaryan when he was riding a fucking dragon.)
The smartest person in this whole lot at Winterfell is Tyrion Lannister, a drunkard who thinks he is smarter than he actually is, and has been relegated by Daeny to a rather sidelined role after a series of mistakes that nobody should have made. (P.S. Tyrion is a Targaryan as well, the bastard of the Mad King raping Joanna Lannister, or have you not been paying attention?)
The smartest strategist here was Cersei, who decided to gather power while the rest of the world was off losing a battle to zombies. She has always been the smartest person in the entire show. Don’t you remember when she blew up half the cast at the end of season 6?
The correct answer: Their battle strategy is exactly as poor as we should expect from these characters.
Complaint #3: But Seriously, Why Would They Put the Cavalry on the Other Side of the Trench?
The correct answer: Read the previous section again, because you are clearly a moron of the highest order.
Complaint #4: Too Much Plot Armor, Nobody of Any Importance Died.
Oh my word, we’ve made it to the first legitimate complaint. I 100% agree with you, although you seem to be confusing this episode, in which seven named characters die, for Episode Six of last season, “Beyond The Wall”, in which a small scrappy group heads north to capture a White Walker and somehow spontaneously generates several un-named, and previously un-seen, characters who die just to give us the illusion of the stakes really being high. (And yes, I remember that a Dragon died seven seconds before becoming a zombie dragon)
No, “The Long Night” does not feature the deaths of Jon, Daenerys, Tyrion, Jaime, Brienne, Sam, Little Sam, Gilly, Bran, Arya, Sansa, The Hound, Greyworm, Missandei, or for that matter Cersei Lannister, or anyone in King’s Landing. However, this single episode does kill seven named characters (only four less than the eleven characters killed in the entire 7th season!), and if you need a reminder of who died this long night, here’s a good recap.
The Correct Answer: They’ll kill everyone next week, so why does it matter?
Complaint #5: Arya Killing the Night King Was Such a Deus Ex Machina.
Okay, I don’t know if you noticed, but Brandon Stark has literally become an omniscient being. If the trees saw it, he knows it happened. If you do recall, last season he passed along a dagger to Arya, a dagger which she later used to gank the Night King. It’s clear that Bran knew what would happen, and is really the defeater of the Night King, and Arya is simply “the one who doeth the stabby”.
Perhaps you don’t like predestination paradoxes. Well, at least Brandon wasn’t The Night King himself (although they sure bear a passing resemblance), imagine trying to unravel that one.
Still, defeating the Night King was never going to be about overwhelming force. He has the power to resurrect the dead, no matter how long they’ve been that way, so killing his underlings only gets you so far. Jon and Daeny’s battle plan was going to fail no matter what.
The only way to defeat The Night King’s army, is to assassinate The Night King. And as we’ve learned, Arya is best assassin in the entire world. She assassinated all of the other assassins in a whole guild of them, if you recall. So if anyone was going to gank the Night King, it was going to be Arya Stark, the world’s best ganker. And, well, with a bit of luck, and a bit of supernatural help in the form of the god called Brandon Stark…
He done got gunk son.
The Correct Answer: Yes, Brandon Stark is a god. The correct term is Brandon-Ex Machina.
So, in conclusion. “The Long Night” is an episode of a TV series. It’s not flawless, however it doesn’t deserve the level of criticism it has received.
I hope you will join me for next week’s episode, which will certainly ruin the series for me. Until then, Good Night King, and Good Luck.
Also, Avenger’s Endgame is for children.