Another Sunday means another episode has run of the precious total of six for the final season of “Game of Thrones,” HBO’s most prominent money-maker for this past decade. Viewers who followed the show whether from its 2011 premiere or from its literary basis of the unfinished novel series by George R.R. Martin, tend to love it for brutally subverting storyline narratives like ruining the “good guys” while villains thrived. This eighth and final season has built up an existential zombie apocalypse hanging over the competing factions for the Iron Throne, which only sets up a major subversion once the episode “The Long Night” finishes.
For background, the so-called Long Night is the legendary battle from the dawn of civilization on Westeros where ancient men and Children of the Forest fought against the ice-humanoid White Walkers and their army of undead wights. It was supposed to be the reason the ice-made Wall was built afterwards. The White Walkers have indeed returned (as seen in the later seasons) and they destroyed the Wall in the finale of the penultimate season. Now the cold invasion is doing a number in the North, where the largest concentration of forces hostile to the Mad Queen Cersei have gathered, forcing them to deal with it.
Following the build-up from the premiere and episode 2, “The Long Night” sees happening what is probably the biggest large-scale battle ever choreographed on “Game of Thrones” production history. While experts on medieval battle tactics may cringe on how the engagement is carried out, the dramatic elements manage to pay off, and again reminds viewers that this is the fantasy show where people die in droves. Several characters major and minor die here in battle against an army of Death itself. It turns out their sacrifices are not in vain.
While Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke’s Jon Snow and Daenerys expectedly take the fight straight against the Night King, they and their dragons against him and his dragon-wight, what happens on the ground tugs on the heartstrings some. The many-resurrected Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) dies for the last time here. Death also claims Stark allies Lyanna Mormont and Edd, both of whom are turned against their companions when the Night King raises their corpses as wights. Daenerys and Jon are thrown off their dragons, the former surviving only through the sacrifice of her loyal protector Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen). The living would have indeed been slaughtered if not for Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) appearing where she foresees she will die.
It cannot be surprising that Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) is creeped out at both fighting the White Walker army and by the copious amounts of fire being conjured to fight them (his phobia after all). He gathers himself thanks to the fearless example of Arya Stark, whose actress Maisie Williams finally gets to showcase some mass melee fighting skills. When the Night King seeks out Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) on his decoy position in Winterfell’s Godswood, killing his protector Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), Arya does the incredible. When Jon and Daenerys are stick in the thick of the fighting with most of the major warriors, she wins the battle.
This is the biggest subversion of the series yet. Arya defeating the Night King (and destroying his fellow White Walkers and wights with his death) pretty much ends the existential threat to the setting of “Game of Thrones.” Once the fallout ends, it will now be back to the political warfare as attention shifts back to the Iron Throne, its ruler Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), her new hatchet-man Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) and her Golden Company mercenaries. Ultimately, rule of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros seemingly remains the series’ endgame.
Only three episodes are left in the final season of “Game of Thrones,” to air Sundays of May on HBO.
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