"The Long Night" falls in line with Game of Thrones' biggest and sometimes best battle episodes: "Blackwater," "The Watchers on the Wall," "Hardhome," and "Battle of the Bastards," in which story is told to take the day off and cameramen shaking cameras and PAs hauling buckets of red corn syrup get paid overtime. I'm not going to say this was the biggest battle of them all -- I stopped counting the dying extras after I got to 1,526 -- but it was a doozy!
But was it the best? There is a debate going on online about whether this was the most disappointing episode of Game of Thrones ever or just the second-most disappointing episode ever (and a few are even saying it was the BEST episode ever!). Mondays are full of overreactions, selective amnesia, and tired takes, so here is the definitive reaction to "The Long Night": It was OK!
I love Game of Thrones, and I love loving Game of Thrones, and I even love hating Game of Thrones, so maybe I'm not the person to ask, but I enjoyed this more than the Sand Snakes but not as much as "Hardhome." There were amazing parts and there were unamazing parts, and there are things to overthink and things to not think enough about. This is pretty much what Game of Thrones has been since about Season 3 or so, when it became a victim of its own spectacle while also becoming an unstoppable force because of that spectacle. I was on my phone during the final episode of True Detective, but for "The Long Night," I put my phone in a bag of rocks and threw it in the river. Even if it didn't live up to the billing of a great episode, it sure lived up to the billing of an expensive episode. If you for one second said you were bored watching "The Long Night," then you, sir/ma'am, are a big, fat liar.
However, if you said you were blind, I wouldn't argue. This episode was D-A-R-K. It is my personal opinion that great action pieces are better when you can tell what is going on, but I guess that's why director Miguel Sapochnik is the Emmy nominee wearing night-vision goggles, and I'm here just putting words on pictures. After several bone-chilling minutes of mood-setting doom (is it possible that Sapochnik's best work was all pre-battle stuff?), the battle was ready to begin, and thankfully MA GIRL Melisandre (Carice van Houten) showed up out of nowhere to fix all that darkness with some fire magik and Lord of Light nonsense.
I literally -- in the actual sense of the word literally, not Rob Lowe from Parks and Recreation literally or any reality show contestant saying literally -- stood up and clapped when Mel lit up those Dothraki Arakhs with her spooky wiccan fire. It was a great visual, just as the visual of all their fiery weapons getting extinguished as they were decimated by wights was. But then things started to slide. My issue with this episode was that as I was watching, I was repeatedly saying to my cat, "That wasn't very smart."
I haven't led an army on the battlefield, but I have played plenty of Bloons TD5 on my phone, so I think I know a thing or two about military tactics. Someone who really wanted all the Dothraki to die obviously planned that first part of the battle. "OK, first thing we do is send all the Dothraki in by themselves, before we even see the bad guys. Just run them way far out there -- all of them -- far enough where they are totally on their own and we can't help at all, but we can keep a good eye on them. It's important that it's all of them! Every last one! And don't bother giving them dragonglass weapons. And when they're finally out there, let's throw a bunch of giant boulders at them. And the boulders are on fire! Yeah, that's good." They all died. Fast. Great plan, you racist anti-Dothraki jerk!
So that wasn't a good idea. With so many soldiers at their disposal, sending in the Dothraki by themselves is like when a bunch of goons attack Jackie Chan, but do it one at a time like morons. Maybe this whole thing wasn't so well-thought-out. Why would you put your catapults at the front of the line where they will become useless once the front line breaks (not to mention they only got off one shot each)? Why not dig some more of those fire trenches or set the walls of Winterfell on fire? Why not, I don't know, blast through the wights while they were standing still outside the fire trench? Why not use the dragons A LOT MORE? In addition to dealing with the darkness and choppy editing, you don't really want the distraction of questioning the positions of trebuchets when watching what's supposed to be the greatest battle ever to hit the TV. (I was really hung up on the catapults and trebuchets for some reason.)
It all went to heck very fast, and in the mess, we had our first major casualty: Dolorous Edd (Ben Crompton)! And like everyone else who died tonight, he perished saving someone who was more important than he was, because pecking order is very important to this now. You're welcome, Sam!
I think there have been three or four times in the show that I thought he was already dead, but I was still gutted to see him go. Mostly because he died in that manner: stabbed in the back by a nobody. This was THE battle we've been waiting for, I say give him a truly honorable and memorable death like becoming a hand puppet for a giant or getting beaten to death with his own dismembered leg. Look, Game of Thrones, if we can handle our favorite character getting his head cut off in the ninth episode of the series, we can handle Edd getting sliced down the middle like a sausage about to go on the grill. Deep down inside, I think we all want to see these characters we've spent years learning to love suffer a brutal, disgusting, and memorable death. Is that too much to ask?
Edd's death took a while, but there was an even longer wait for the next major death. It got to the point where whenever I saw one of my favorites on screen, I got very uncomfortable because I knew they could join Ser Pounce across the Rainbow Bridge. Usually you perk up when a favorite gets a scene; here, I was cursing the show any time the Hound (Rory McCann) appeared on my TV. "Don't you do it, show," I shouted at my TV like a nervous lunatic!
But the major deaths in "The Long Night" did happen, and so many of them were... pedestrian. Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) was stabbed in the back, Ser Jorah of House Friendzone (Iain Glen) was stabbed in the side, and Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) was stabbed in the front -- that's two of the most handsome men in the world and Lily Allen's brother gone in a matter of minutes. Even the Night King -- spoiler, he died -- exploded into ice cubes from a stabbin'. It was Downton Stabby up in here. Let's go through their deaths.
Beric probably had the worst death of them all, though he went out saving Arya (Maisie Williams), which would prove to be kind of a big deal. Still, for a man who has died several times, he was probably very disappointed in his final death. "Stabbed? That's it?" he thought to himself as the familiar embrace of nothingness enveloped him for the last time. Cute that the guy who has been repeatedly resurrected got to say goodbye with some blunt symbolism.
Now Jorah, that guy PIMPED out of existence. You know this lovesick puppy spent the entire episode hiding behind corpses while stalking Dany (Emilia Clarke) so he could save her life at the right moment, and boy did he deliver. Jorah loved Dany like a lonely weeaboo loves his anime pillow; he didn't need anything back from her; he just needed to be near her. When Dany was in deep doo-doo, he stepped in front of a couple dozen swords to protect her. This was really sad and effective, and pretty much the only way his arc could have ended. I give his death a thumbs-up. Nice dying, Jorah!
By now you know my thoughts on Theon. Good riddance, Theon. You aren't fooling me with your hollow apologies! You betrayed the only family who ever loved you, you twit. Go get stuffed inside Davy Jones' locker, wimp of the sea. And he went out in typical Theon fashion -- by being reckless and dumb! Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) forgave Theon and gave him the OK to be dead now, and the squid prince obliged and got skewered right through the barnacle by the Night King. See ya, mate!
That set up the grand finale, the heavyweight matchup between the two weirdest weirdos on the show,
Bran The Three-Eyed Raven and the Night King, because the Night King wants the Three-Eyed Raven dead because he, uhhh, because the... errr. It will be the conclusion of the Night King's plan to... hmmm. What even is going on here? Who is the Three-Eyed Raven? Where did the Night King really come from? Why does the Night King need him dead? Who are the Children of the Forest and the First Men? Who knows? Only George R.R. Martin that one night he was drunk and came up with all of this, but trust me it was (probably) IMPORTANT.
Then this happened, because why not?
The Night King exploded, the White Walkers turned into shaved ice, the wights all fell down, and Viserion collapsed. That was it! The Night King, the deadliest threat to mankind and TV's great metaphor for climate change, was defeated by a teenage girl and a stabbin'! We still don't really understand the White Walkers' motives, what they really wanted to do, or how they worked. But they were BAD, and that's all I need to know. These eight seasons of complex mythology led up to a stabbin'. The good guys won, the bad guys lost, and though 99 percent of the human defenders died, all of the major characters miraculously survived even though every scene they were in they were getting piled on by the army of the undead. What are the odds?
We're almost at the end here, and I haven't even mentioned Jon Snow (Kit Harington) yet. Why? Because he was one of many useless characters in this episode. Jon was constantly on the cusp of doing something important, but really only ran around Winterfell or flew a dragon into the sky where there was no fighting. After taking center stage in "Hardhome" and "The Battle of the Bastards," Jon was just a guy looking for something to do in "The Long Night."
Bran, well, he pretty much tuned out the whole fight by warging into a raven while he waited for the Night King to show up. I guess I don't totally blame him since he knew exactly what was going to happen thanks to his third eye, and the only thing he really needed to do was pay Theon some fan service.
Sam (John Bradley), Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) spent the episode on their backs or swinging swords, and everyone in the crypt sort of sat there, even when the bones of creepy Uncle Stark began crawling out of their tombs. Maybe it's just me, but I thought there might be more stuff for everyone to do here.
Humans 1, Dead Weirdos 0! We won! But there was one more death to be had. With Winterfell safe and the next task wheelbarrowing 10,000 corpses off the premises, Melisandre noped out of there, took off her magical necklace, and assumed her true age. And since her true age is 402 years old and it was sunrise, I'm pretty sure she left to find an early bird special somewhere.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO, and if you don't watch it immediately, you will be spoiled so plan accordingly.
More Photo Recaps:
Episode 1: Weird Bran Stole the Game of Thrones Premiere
Episode 2: Arya Gets It on Despite Having Zero Game
Episode 4: Drunk With Power and Just Plain Drunk
Episode 5: Give Drogon a Spin-Off Already
Episode 6: Is This Really How We're Picking Kings Now?