Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Long Night is the Worst Episode of Game of Thrones

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The moment we have been building up to for eight seasons has finally come. The Great War that this show has spent countless hours and years working to came to life on our screens last night in what was surely an epic of an episode running at an hour and twenty-two minutes. Or so we thought.

It was over and out in one episode—this ultimate fight for humanity that the series opened with, and all that came from it, was over an hour spent trying to figure out what that splotch of brown or blue moving on my screen was. Episode Three of the ultimate season entitled “The Long Night” just further proved how Benioff and Weiss either grossly misread the story they were self-tasked with adapting, or how incompetent their writing and understanding of basic story structure has become. I’m not sure which was worse but this mammoth of an episode probably ranks amongst the worst episodes of the entire show for me. It failed on a character front, a plot front, and even on the battlefront as I could barely see what I was watching. There was no duality, layers, or textures to the “war” against death.

How I felt this whole episode, plus maybe some more squinting to see

There’s honestly not much to recap. We open with the preparations for the arrival of the Army of the Dead, showing how truly nervous everyone is for the unknown that is approaching. I didn’t dislike this as a lead-up, but after having an entire episode of lead-up last week, it felt like a way to add runtime instead of a purposeful choice of story structure and development.

Ready for battle, Melisandre arrives out of nowhere…literally nowhere. She just rides up on a horse, presumably right between the Night King’s army and Winterfell with the casualness of coming home after a long day of work and lights the Dothraki arakh’s on fire. With these newfound flaming weapons, the Dothraki charge headfirst into the Army of the Dead on their own and the rest of the living watch as their lights extinguish in the distance. The Dothraki were essentially arrow fodder, but even worse, pointless arrow fodder.

What was the point of this plan? What were they supposed to do charging straight into the dark unknown and how would that help the rest of the battle? They would have been so much more helpful riding around on their horses with dragon glass arrows in the thick of battle. But alas, they’re dead. ALL OF THE DOTHRAKI. It’s so intensely frustrating watching this massive army of people of color thrown to their deaths for no reason with the amount of plot armor on our secondary and tertiary white characters are surrounded with to get out of the most ridiculous scenarios this episode. 

Dany actually feels for this army of people she just lead to slaughter at least and hops on her dragon too early to start attacking. Jon tries to stop her but follows her anyway and thus begins the continuous dragons flying through the clouds that I could not see a lick of. Also, what did Dany think would happen sending them in first? Why was this even a surprise? It just further highlights how bad this plan was.

In the crypts, Sansa sits with Varys, Tyrion, and Missandei. She has some infuriating conversations with Tyrion about how he was the best husband she had, and instead of choosing an optimal time to parallel an earlier season and earlier battle (Blackwater), we just get this. Where is the Sansa we know and love trying to boost her people’s morale in a time of peril? It would have been a perfect callback and said something about Sansa’s character. Instead, we get another St. Tyrion jerk-off session. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the show refusing to allow her to feel actual anger and hatred towards this man and all his family has done to hers, always needing to pat him on the back for not raping or physically abusing her, as if that should be a gold star standard or something.

The wights start overloading Winterfell, quickly getting through the trenches and over the walls (their tactics seem so much better this episode than the “Beyond the Wall” episode). Ed dies after saving Sam, people fight and I can’t tell if they are main characters or red shirts. This whole battle is foggier than a Transformers fight. It made it hard to feel anything, not even stress or tension because I legitimately could barely see and the super fast up close cuts did not help. It was completely incoherent and also consistently flat. It started at 100 in terms of the threat of the wights and continued at that level. The other thing I can’t wrap my head around was the lack of White Walker fighting in the battle against their army. There was none. The rest of the White Walkers stayed back with the Night King until he went to kill Bran. So instead of adding some dimension to this battle and having some actual combat go along with the zombie stabbing, we just got an hour of the same over an over again. Not to mention so many of our main characters were on the front line but almost none of them died. #plotarmor

While the White Walkers have always lacked complexity on the show (and I guess now will continue to forever), at least there was some sentience there to up the threat and add some multi-level intensity to the fighting. But we just got a really long Walking Dead battle instead.

The Sansa Tyrion love story we all wanted

The crypts eventually get overrun, not in the way anyone would have thought and Sansa and Tyrion hide together, Arya and the Hound escape a horde of wights inside but lose Beric, and Theon apologizes to Bran while they wait near the heart tree. Melisandre reminds Arya she has blue eyes to still shut forever and that’s when she knows.

Theon’s men are surrounded and all go down one by one until it is only Theon left. The Night King and the Others approach and Bran tells Theon he’s a good man, accepting his apology and thanking him. Theon, knowing there is no hope, runs at the Night King to try and kill him but the Night King is too fast and takes down Theon. RIP Alfie Allen’s insanely-too-good-for-this-show acting. You will be missed. The Night King slowly walks over to Bran and as he’s about to reach for his sword, Arya flies in from out of nowhere. Literally out of nowhere. Where was she? They were surrounded. He grabs her by the throat before she can sink the dagger into his chest, but purposefully drops it into her other free hand and kills the Night King. That’s it. The Long Night is over. The Great War is over. We’re good. Just like that.

I definitely thought Dany used him as a shield for a moment when I first saw this

It’s the epitome of the issue with naming the show “Game of Thrones” instead of “A Song of Ice and Fire”. They completely missed the point.

This threat greater than humanity, perhaps even caused by humanity, is the Great War. Everything else, all this high-class political squabble is meaningless in the wake of an army of the dead and beings that want to wipe summer from the land forever. But with it looking like the rest of the season will be dealing with the Cersei sell-sword army of Kings Landing, I just can’t understand how they read the same books I did. This whole threat was wrapped up in one single episode. We spent more time on the attack on the Wall than this. Wheres the gravity. That’s the whole point. The fight for the throne doesn’t mean anything, but when your final season puts that as the climax instead of the war for the living, it just breaks all storytelling logic.

How are we supposed to feel any stakes in the battle against Cersei when they just won the battle against magical beings and zombies, losing very few main characters in the process.

It’s just all so nonsensical. Jon barely did anything this episode and he’s been the main character fighting this threat since the beginning of this show. What is his storyline even going to be going forward? His claim to the Throne? Something they’ve established he doesn’t care about. Dany also gets to have her cake and eat it too, supporting all the talk about her throne that she’s been spouting in wake of the great threat. And the fact that Arya was the one to kill the Night King just felt so unearned in the process. Other than the actual in world ridiculousness of her surprising the Night King in that setting, the fact that her storyline leads to this moment is so cheap. We’ve had no indication the last two seasons of this coming, nor did it hold any weight.

In other news, Jorah dies protecting Dany, a scene that I didn’t really feel, but kudos to Emilia Clarke’s acting. Lyanna Mormont dies killing a wight giant in an intensely stupid scene, but all our other favorites including Ghost who was literally in the middle of the battle, survive.

Oh and Mel just decides it’s time to die, and walks out onto the field after the army of the dead fall, takes off her necklace and dies. I’m glad that character really went somewhere.

This episode was a big mess. They leaned so heavy on Ramin Djawadi’s score in the climax of this episode because they knew they had nothing and it is so heavy-handed. Beautiful music, but all things that would have been harder felt should they not have needed dictating with a score.

Next week we are back to our big bads: Cersei and Euron, and I’ll be spending this week just sitting here in awe of how these two so completely missed the point of the source material and how they are high-level showrunners. We knew on a character level they did, we knew in a thematic level they did, but they have literally even written into their own show how huge of a threat the army of the dead wast but failed to let it actually hold that weight in favor of the game of thrones. I feel bad even throwing theories of the northern army being attacked from both sides and retreating out there or a wight resurrection in the crypts, it would have been better.

Oh well, maybe we will at least have some fun with Cersei and her floor map in the last episodes of this intense high brow fantasy epic!

Images courtesy of HBO

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