The Final Chapter: The Long Night

Zachary Bahar, Assistant News Editor

For 23 years fans have waited patiently for the battle between the living and the dead, between ice and fire; in this episode, that battle (finally) arrives.

Without getting into too many details, “The Long Night” is one of the most cinematic episodes the show has aired since “Blackwater.” The battle, as usual, is beautifully filmed with incredible cinematography. The amount of tension that the director Miguel Sapochnik was able to create through the use of visual and aural clues is awe inspiring, and reminded me a lot of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk which implements similar techniques, and like Dunkirk, I was on the edge of my seat the whole episode.

The most visually astonishing scenes is the first scene of the battle, where the Dothraki, armed with flaming arakhs, charge against the army of the dead… only to be exterminated by the hoarde.

The incredible cinematography serves to highlight the scenes of greatest importance, the deaths of many secondary characters including Beric Dondarrion, Melisandre, Jorah and Lyanna Mormont and Theon Greyjoy. Theon’s death in particular is touching, with Bran ordering him to charge to his death against the Night King.

The interaction between Sansa and Tyrion as they reflect on their time together in the crypts is also a great scene. While neither of them are perfect, they were good to each other which is shown beautifully as they spend time hiding from the dead.

The emphasis that the episode places on the destiny that each one of us has is also a great choice, and Melisandre’s death does this in a great way. She saw that her purpose was done, she did the bidding of the Lord of Light and with that, her purpose in this world is over.  

However, despite the many good qualities about this episode, there are many things that are lacking, most notably in the episode’s conclusion.

Before I get to the ending, there were so many poor choices in the writing of this episode. First of all, why aren’t the living using the dragons? You know what a dragon is good for? Exterminating an army of flammable ice zombies, not waiting for one person! I realize that Dany and Jon ultimately do use dragons to burn the wights, but not until they realized that people were dying, something that might not have been a big deal if they only had been using them earlier.

Secondly, what is Bran doing the entire episode? He is one of the most powerful people in the show, capable of taking over any creature at will, why isn’t he using that ability? He could summon an army of wolves or ravens from the surroundings and use them in battle, but instead he just sits, waiting to be saved. Maybe he did have a plan, but if so, it’s not obvious enough to matter.

Finally, Arya. I’ve talked to lots of people about this topic, and most people seem to disagree with me, but it needs to be said. Arya had no right to kill the Night King! I understand that she’s a fan favorite, but that makes no difference. I get that people like her, I do too, but that doesn’t mean you should degrade the story for fan service. For the majority of the show Arya has been on the opposite side of the world, with no interaction with the White Walkers before this episode, so allowing one of the seminal events of the show to be given to someone with no relation to them is simply absurd.

The biggest issue with this choice is that in the books there are detailed prophecies regarding the Prince Who Was Promised, Azor Ahai, who would save the world and be “the light that brings the dawn” ending the Long Night. Arya fits none of these requirements.

Many fans and critics alike would claim that the show is about subverting expectations, but this isn’t subverting any expectations. If anything, it is ruining them. The show establishes a set of rules in the first season, rules that explain that there are consequences for actions. Ned told Cersei his plan and died because of it. Rob broke a pact and had his entire family massacred. These are the rules established by George R. R. Martin, after he left the show in Season 5, these rules slowly fell apart, something best shown with Arya throughout her storyline. She somehow gains superpowers, including being able to survive seven stabs to the gut, despite training less than many other characters who fare far worse in battle.

The only expectations subverted here are the rules that make the show consistent, that ensure that there are stakes. Arya, and many of the other characters, no longer have any stakes, they have so much plot armor around them and the writers are simply giving the audience what they want to see.

And look, I’m fine with the White Walkers being beaten in this episode. The show is ultimately about the “human heart in conflict with itself,”  and Cersei exemplifies this evil and the conflict between humanity and the evil within ourselves. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a good choice to give the kill to a mid-tier character.

Maybe Jon didn’t deserve the kill, but that doesn’t mean that Arya does.

I can’t believe that this is what Martin actually has in store for his characters and I look forward to seeing where he’s going to take his plot from here, as I can’t imagine that, after everything that he has written, this is how it will end.

The cinematics in the episode pull my score up substantially, it is one of the most stunning battles of the show after all, but that doesn’t redeem it. There is a story to be told and the fact that they chose to spend time doing fan service rather than following plots that make sense in the story really ruins the reality of the show as a whole.

Overall, I give “The Long Night” 7.5 Flaming Arakhs out of 10.