When 12 year old me first picked up my dad’s dog eared copy of A Game of Thrones, the first novel in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, I assumed that the story was all leading up to the Ice and Fire bit. After all, the prologue of the first book and the first scene in the pilot of the television adaption were an introduction to the White Walkers. The silent ice demons with a knack for necromancy are established as the ultimate threat from the very beginning, and as the series progressed we were browbeaten with a simple message; all of the cut throat politics and squabbling for the throne has been meaningless, the dead are coming, and we need to be ready. This message got louder and louder, and by the time we got around to the back half of the series, it seemed that Jon Snow and his quest to fight climate change was the central story of the series. I mean, it’s literally in the title. It’s ice vs. fire. Death vs. life. Apparently, that has never been the case.
As a fan of both books and the show, Sunday’s installment of Game of Thrones, “The Long Night” was quite possibly the most disappointing episodes of television I’ve ever seen. I say this as someone who caught the finales for both Dexter and True Blood as they originally aired. It was anticlimactic, atrociously filmed, nonsensical, and utterly infuriating on a narrative level.
Why Couldn’t I See Anything?
As many have pointed out, “The Long Night” was dark. Like, really f**king dark. I get what they were going for with that, look at the episode title, but when you’re watching something isn’t it important to be able to see what’s going on? It’s not like this was even the first battle sequence that they’ve filmed at night. “Blackwater” and “Watchers on the Wall” both took place after dark, and were both crystal clear visually. This was not the case with for what was apparently the most important battle in the series. It was incoherent, with the contents on screen looking like an amorphous blob of black. When that blob wasn’t gracing our screens we were given seemingly identical shadow people striking at each other. You couldn’t tell who was alive or dead. Every now and then I could make out one of our familiar characters. There’s Sam laying on a mattress of zombies whilst being eaten. Oh look, Brienne is backed up against a wall with about 20 of them mauling her at once. Is that Tormund? Wait, no, that’s still Sam lying on his undead mattress.
It seemed like we were watching the same characters being killed over and over again for the sake of cool visuals. Just how long were Jaime and Pod up against that wall being eaten? How many times did Sam’s mattress try to eat him? And, for the love of God, why was the Dothraki cavalry sent out like that? Half of Deanerys’ army is wiped out just for the sake of a single shot. Granted, it was a pretty cool shot.
Well That Was Anticlimactic
There were so many things in the episode, big and little, that came off as anticlimactic. Why didn’t we see any of the actual White Walkers fight? They seemed to be there just to look cool and intimidating without serving any purpose. Can you imagine how much more satisfying it would’ve been to see Jorah and Theon make their last stands against the snow men from hell rather than rank and file zombies? And what about the fact that the episode didn’t have any room for big moments for anyone in the episode but the people that died or Arya? Think back to previous battle on the show; Tormund biting Small Jon Umber’s throat out Rick Grimes style in “Battle of the Bastards”, Tyrion’s heroic speech in “Blackwater”, or Jon beating the shit out of Ramsey Bolton. There were no epic confrontations here, aside from one for side character Lyanna Mormont.
What makes these omissions even worse is that it would’ve been so easy to have worked moments like this into the episode. Someone could’ve fought a few actual White Walkers. Sansa could’ve used that knife in the crypts. Jon could’ve channeled his inner Dennis Quaid and killed that zombie dragon. The Night King never even took that sword off his back and gave us a final showdown. And he’s played by Vladimir Furdik, by all means, go down the YouTube hole and watch that dude do some sword fighting. It’s mesmerizing. Rather than have any kind of confrontation, he got shanked by a character he had never even laid eyes on before. Speaking of that…
Has Jon Ever Even Had A Purpose
Contrary to some narratives popping up online, Arya Stark is not, nor will she ever be a Mary Sue. She’s been broken, beaten, and scarred throughout the series. The events of Arya’s journey have rendered her a borderline sociopath, with a deep love for her family being the only thing keeping her from going completely off the edge. She’s one of my favorite characters, but her killing the Night King was a god awful choice for the writers to make. Not because she’s a woman or so called Mary Sue, as some needle dick Incels have been screeching on Reddit and Twitter. But because her story has never been about the White Walkers in the first place.
At some point in the next three episodes, Daenerys is finally going to take the Iron Throne. Whether you think she’s the right person for it or not, there’s not arguing that it has been the entire point of her journey. Now, if you will, imagine that just as she is about to take it, Davos comes up from behind and pushes her out of the way before being declared queen. Now, as amazing as Queen Davos sounds, it pisses all over Daenerys and her entire story arc. Having Arya, someone who’s heard of the White Walkers all of two episodes before, be the one to defeat them more or less makes Jon and Bran the most redundant characters in their own stories. As both of the remaining Stark boys’ (Jon is a Stark. Rhaeagar might’ve been his father, but he wasn’t his daddy. Miss you, Ned.) entire story arcs were tied to the Night King and his army.
It’s literally been Jon’s only goal for the since the very beginning. It’s why Bran lost his humanity to become the Three Eyed Raven. And neither of them did a damn thing or served any purpose the entire episode. Jon, who’s been preparing for this fight for years, spent the episode aimlessly flying around on a dragon whilst Bran was apparently pirating Endgame through the Weirwood Net. What’s been the point of either of their journeys if both of them are absolutely useless by the end of it? Why did Jon and the Night King have multiple epic stare downs if the two of them were never going to have any kind of confrontation at all? Hell, why bring Jon back from the dead if Arya has been the one destined to be defeat the White Walkers?
A Twist For The Sake Of Having A Twist
David Benioff and Dan Weiss, GoT’s showrunners have confirmed that this has been the plan for around 3 years for the White Walkers. Solely because it’s unpredictable. It’s certainly subversive, I’ll give them that. Having that tenacity to subvert expectations has been part of the reason why the show has been so successful in the first place. But that trick only works if it makes sense within the confines of the narrative and pays off. The Red Wedding happened because Robb Stark executed one of his allies and broke a promise. But the Army of the Dead, which is supposed to be the overarching plot thread of the show, is swiftly dealt with in one episode because of a throwaway line about eye color 6 years ago? It’s a lazy twist for the sake of a twist that not only was unsatisfying, but made Jon and Bran’s entire story arcs meaningless.
The White Walkers and their plot will go down as one of the most pointless storylines in the history of television. 8 years of buildup and mystery all thrown in the trash in a single episode. It invalidates the entire message of the series. All that stuff about the Throne being meaningless because of the White Walkers was stupid, let’s get back to some of that sweet squabbling! The final battle with Wine Drunk Incest Queen and Pirate Bam Margera is gonna be tight as hell. All jokes aside, I’m well aware that there are still three episodes left of the show. Anything could happen. But honestly, I’ve just got no interest in what that might be after this. And of every sin “The Long Night” committed, despite the confusing action sequences and terrible writing, that’s the worst thing it could have done.