Spoilers follow! You have been warned.
It’s the showdown we’ve all been waiting for: The Army of the Dead vs The Living. But, does it live up to expectations? Well, in my opinion, yes and no. Whilst you can’t deny how epic this episode is, equally, I believe there are a lot of decisions and moments that occur which will divide the fanbase. This could well end up being The Last Jedi of the Game of Thrones universe.
Why do I say that? Well, it’s mainly due to the fact that a large majority of the fanbase have had a vast array of theories regarding the events of this episode, theories that in a lot of cases, never came to fruition. This may lead to disappointment for many, something which has been humorously mocked by Rian Johnson himself on Twitter, comparing the reception to this episode to the reception he received for some of his decisions regarding his Star Wars film.
I may as well just get straight into the main revelation from this episode, and that is, quite simply, that this was it. No big twists, no turns, this was a lot more straightforward than I expected it to be… The Night King is defeated, The Living win. He’s not on his dragon about to sack King’s Landing, there’s nothing that delves more into his history or true identity, as many have been suspecting; he arrives, he almost succeeds, then he’s killed. I’m not going to criticise anyone who doesn’t enjoy this, because I can understand totally why this may annoy some people, it does feel rather anti-climactic.
I think there was this widespread belief that this episode couldn’t possibly wrap up the whole Army of the Dead storyline, after so many year’s of build up, surely there is going to be more to it? Well, looks like there wasn’t any more to it and it looks like this storyline has been dealt with in quick fashion. In a series that has shocked us on a number of occasions over the past few years, I didn’t expect arguably the biggest episode in the show’s history to be so simple. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I think the reality of The Long Night is not going to live up to the fantasies and expectations that many fans will have.
There was another thing that definitely surprised me about this episode, and that’s the death count. Yes, we do get a few deaths, that was to be expected. However, I was astounded by just how many characters actually survived this battle, and sometimes I found myself slightly frustrated by just how thick some plot armour was. Obviously, I don’t know what’s still to come and I’m sure many characters are still going to meet their maker, but when you consider that this show became famous for not being afraid to kill off characters, it’s a little annoying when you see some of them being completely overwhelmed by the Dead, only to be fine in their next scene seemingly unharmed. Perhaps this was poor editing, perhaps it was too damn dark to tell what was really going on, but considering the stakes of this episode and how one-sided the battle was portrayed for the majority of it, I really think too many people survived it. It sounds sadistic, I know, but after the brilliant last episode, which really tried to hit the message home that this could be the end for a lot of them, it seems that last week has been somewhat cheapened by the fact most of them are still alive, when really, they should be dead. (There’s one moment in particular where you see Jaime and Brienne pinned up against a wall, with a ridiculous amount of Dead around them, how they both got out of that, I’ll never know. It probably won’t bug many people, but it bugged me.)
As far as the battle itself went, it was pretty damn good, but I’m just going to say it, it’s not as good as Hardhome or Battle of the Bastards. For one, at least you could see what was going on in those battles! Even with the brightness of my TV upped a bit, it was hard to see at times. However, I can’t deny the sheer scale and enormity of this fight, and the amount of effort that went into it must be commended. You can tell for the first time in this series why they’ve shortened the number of episodes, because I imagine a good chunk of the budget went into this episode alone, if only I could have seen a bit more of it!
I feel like I’m going to come across as very critical of this episode, which might not be fair and it’s not to say I didn’t like it, because I did enjoy it! But I think the hype and expectations weren’t necessarily lived up to and that’s why I’m analysing and criticising it a lot more. But, let’s look at the positives: Theon got to go out like a champion, in what was the best character moment in the episode, there weren’t many understandably, but the sheer power of his redemption arc was enough. Same goes for Jorah, who leaves us after 8 seasons, dying for the woman he loves, a fitting end. His cousin got to go out in style too, taking a giant with her, good old Lyanna. Beric has been alive all this time as a means to keep Arya alive, with his purpose fulfilled, and the Red Woman around to help her discover her purpose, we get to see Arya save the day in an incredibly satisfying moment, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but nobody will be able to deny it was cool. I have a feeling she’s destined to kill Cersei now, after the Red Woman’s “green eyes” prophecy. But, best of all, is the musical score, because it is absolutely mesmerising again in this episode. Ramin Djawadi has saved his best work until last.
But, with everything considered, I still can’t help but fear this will disappoint quite a few people. With this episode, any hopes of a complex end to the season have been quashed and it looks like we are headed for a straight-forward showdown for the Iron Throne now. I feel many fans (myself included) may have wanted this Army of the Dead stuff to carry on and weave into the final story, as there’s been so much build up, but alas, this isn’t the way things have gone and I feel many may not like this somewhat anti-climactic ending to the Night King and his story.
Fan theories and speculation can be dangerous, but if you strip away those expectations and look at the episode as a whole, it’s still bloody good and it’s on a scale that is unprecedented on television. I did have my problems with it, namely the lighting and the plot armour that saved too many characters, I know it’s a fantasy show, but Game of Thrones never used to be afraid to kill off people, but at times here it seemed like it was terrified to do so. Had the episode been edited better I could accept that, but at times survival looked impossible, and that is still bugging me.
Nevertheless, I think many people are going to absolutely adore this episode, and I think many will have their issues with it. I’m looking forward to seeing how people react to this, and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.
I give The Long Night a 7.5/10.