Coming into the third episode of Game of Thrones season eight, directed by Miguel Sapochnik, I was very excited to see what would surely be the first epic battle with the Night King (Vladimir Furdik) and his army of the dead in the final season.
Only for it to be the last as well as the first.
That’s right, the Night King and his entire army are killed off this episode in one of the most anticlimactic deaths I have ever seen.
Arya (Maisie Williams) just leaps out of literally nowhere, right at the end of the episode, and stabs him with the Catspaw dagger, killing him and his entire army because their existence is tied to him.
Game of Thrones has been setting up the threat of the White Walkers from the very beginning of the series.
They were the entire focus of the seventh season, and they have posed such a threat that the fight for the Iron Throne seemed inconsequential.
As Jon (Kit Harrington) puts it in the first episode of the season, “you want to worry about who holds what title. I’m telling you, it doesn’t matter.”
Well, apparently it does matter now because the greatest threat of the entire series, the Night King, has been killed off three episodes before the series’ conclusion.
I just want to say that the death itself is not completely terrible.
It is well shot and executed, and looking back there was a tone of buildup to this moment.
However, Arya has had absolutely no interactions with the Night King, unlike Jon, and the Night King himself has not been explored in any meaningful way.
We know his origins but nothing more than that.
We have no idea why he wanted to destroy the world.
He was just a mustache twirling villain, but without the mustache, and this goes against everything Game of Thrones stands for.
The bad guys of the series’ motivations are all explored and even characters that are completely evil like Ramsay and Joffrey, are realistically evil, basically being serial killers put into positions of power.
The Night King is just some monster that is evil for no reason.
And I will say it again: they just killed off what has been hyped up to be the main threat of the series, leaving the last three episodes to cover who gets the Iron Throne, which I have stated has been made to feel inconsequential.
This is not the only thing about the episode that is disappointing.
The predicted crypt scene happens here but nothing special comes from it and sometimes the scenes are so dark you cannot tell what is happening.
Plus, by killing the Night King, it feels like all of those prophecies about “the prince that was promised” are being thrown away.
On top of this, many characters felt pointless in this battle.
Seriously, what was the point of Jamie (Nickolaj Coster-Waldau) switching sides at the end of season seven?
Other than a brief scene where he saves Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), he made literally no difference in the battle with the dead.
Then there is Melisandre (Carice van Houten), who is one of the big deus ex machinas of the episode because, with no build up at all, she just shows up to help in the fight.
All of this said, there are some good things about the episode.
The opening minutes do a great job of building up suspense and, with the exception of the Night King, many of the deaths are tragic and bring an end to the characters’ arcs well.
Theon (Alfie Allen) gets the redemption he deserves before dying, Jorah (Iain Glen) dies protecting Dany (Emilia Clarke), and Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) goes out like the little badass she is, killing a giant.
I even felt sad about Edd’s (Ben Compton) death, with him trying to protect Sam (John Bradley) only to be stabbed from behind.
These are some genuinely good and tragic moments in an episode that was a large disappointment.
I feel like a lot of the great build up of the last two episodes was squandered.
Sadly, this has been happening a lot in the last few seasons of Game of Thrones.
Ever since the series started diverging from George R.R. Martin’s source material the series has been slowly declining.
Where the show once felt realistic in its portrayal of war and death, everything now feels very reliant on tropes, something that Martin definitely wanted to avoid when writing the series, and many characters have been dumbed down, especially Tyrion (Peter Dinklage).
Speaking of him though, Bran (Isaac Wright) definitely knows something about him right?
Bran keeps staring at him so Tyrion is probably going to do something important soon.
Hopefully this will make him an interesting character again.
Overall though, “The Long Night” is a disappointing episode that concludes a storyline built up right from the first episode of the series very poorly.
I will say though, my opinion of “The Long Night” may change depending on how Game of Thrones concludes.
If the writers manage to pull off a good ending without the Night King and his army, I will certainly be more forgiving of the episode.
However, if they do not, this will always be one of the most disappointing things about the series for me.