SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES AND AVENGERS ENDGAME
Well, it’s official, Game Of Thrones has gone from being the smartest show on television to one of the dumbest. ‘The Long Night’ will surely be a satisfying spectacle for mainstream audiences – it had epic scale, a stunning score, and some beautiful shots – but it’s a disappointment for the book fans who’ve been investing in this story since 1996.
After almost a decade of putting the pieces into place on the show, it turned out the pieces didn’t matter. ‘The Prince That Was Promised’, the flaming spirals, the powers of the Weirwood trees, the various myths and legends that felt like they were foreshadowing The Night King’s ultimate plan… All for nothing.
But perhaps the largest disappointment of all was that victory came at no real cost. Sure, we lost people, but no main characters (sorry Theon, sorry Jorah, sorry Beric), which is the biggest betrayal of George RR Martin’s source material. The show ultimately slipped into the kind of cliched fantasy that Martin appeared to be parodying with his series of novels where no-one was safe, everyone was flawed, and tropes were constantly being inverted.
Here, Melisandre was somehow able to appear out of nowhere with a bunch of random new powers, all to protect Arya, who gained the ability to teleport through the sky (apparently), coming out of nowhere to kill the Night King. The episode passes off a lot of narrative conveniences as ‘destiny.’
Perhaps the defeat of the Night King would have carried more weight if Arya had sacrificed her life to take him down, but no – she survived, as did everyone else that matters. Though, looking back, this is a show that stabbed Ayra multiple times in the stomach in season 6 with no consequences, so maybe we should have expected her to be protected by plot armour.
SERIOUSLY, WE MEAN IT, MAJOR SPOILERS FOR ENDGAME.
Thanos’ defeat came at the ultimate cost, we lost Tony Stark. It was a sacrifice that seemed inevitable looking back, which is what made it so emotional, and satisfying. Tony Stark’s death paid off eleven years of foreshadowing, across 22 movies. We were given rules – the Infinity Glove can’t be wielded by an ordinary person without fatal consequences – and they were followed. Arguably the lead character of the entire series was killed in the process.
But, if you had told book fans Tony would be the only Stark to die this weekend, we’d have assumed you were drunker than Ser Dontos. George RR Martin has made it clear in his books that victory comes at a price – valar morghulis. Not today.
And it’s not just Tony, every major character’s journey in Endgame was satisfying – whether it was Steve getting his dance, or Black Widow clearing her ledger. The MCU’s pay-off made you feel that every single thing from basically every major movie mattered.
‘The Long Night’, meanwhile, made you realise that nothing did. So much for Jon’s assertion that the only thing that was important was the fight against the Night King, we’ve got three episodes to go and he’s been dusted. Now what?
Well, now we go back to the fight for the Iron Throne, which has potential to bring back the complex politics, layered character development, and shock deaths that made us all fall in love with the show in the first place. If ‘The Long Night’ had been the final episode, we’d be really worried – but there’s still time to bring back the brilliant writing the show built its reputation on.
Read more: The Long Night recap: Who survived!?
But, as the Night King crumbled into ice and snow, so did a billion fan theories – because, ultimately, this was the most unsatisfying possible way to end the big bad’s journey. As it turned out, he really was just the personification of death (compare his motivation to Thanos’ intelligent plan), and Bran’s powers didn’t matter, outside of his ability to warg into ravens – for reasons that weren’t completely clear.
So, no Bran is the Night King, no travelling back in time to affect the past, no using the Weirwood trees as weapons, just a bunch of birds getting a better view of the battle. This is what ‘You will never walk, but you will fly’ meant?!
The episode had some stunning sequences – the Dothraki’s arakh lighting on fire, the dragons soaring above the clouds, Theon’s final redemption – but ultimately it was as anti-climatic as Melisandre walking into the snow. And it contained moments that were dumber than an ice giant deciding to randomly pick up a little girl to get a better look at her (seriously, wtf?)
Still, we can’t say they didn’t warn us. “You have to do a conclusion in six episodes. Not every person is going to be happy with the conclusion of something so big,” Kit Harington said before the season started.
He continued: “The whole nature of the speed of the [story] has to be different from earlier seasons. I think if you watch it all back to back years later [fans will] think it went so quick.”
There’s three episodes left to match the majesty of those early seasons, and that magnificent source material. Let’s hope they’re good, or this show’s legacy could crumble and collapse as easily as a Chitauri fleet led by Loki.