Disclaimer: This review is dark and full of spoilers.
BEIRUT: Ever since this season began, it has been quite clear that the showrunners and everyone on the production team has poured their heart and soul into the final six episodes that the series will ever gift its audience.
Though many have already criticized and downright hated on the episode with some claiming it was too dark, while others nitpicking on the narrative arcs, and how unsatisfying the conclusion was, this episode not only answers many questions, but pays off threads long set up within earlier seasons of the series.
Sure, one might complain that the show is requiring too much of its audience, yet is that really the case or has on-demand and all access culture rendered audiences spoiled?
This battle is one of many battles in a war that has been going on for seven seasons, this is its conclusion, and it was the perfect conclusion. Narratively, the episode delivers some nail-biting moments. Sure, none of the true main players fell, but if audiences are simply watching the show to see characters die, they’re watching for the wrong reasons, and they need a hug.
Tonally, the episode delivers three different genres in one: thriller, horror, and action. The episode is a powerful achievement in television and cinematic history for not only did it have to balance narrative and the epic nature of the battle, but it also had to balance all the technical aspects of the event’s production.
Filmed over the course of fifty-five nights, The Battle of Winterfell brings together all of our beloved characters and places them at odds with the Night King. As for the battle itself, the darkness, chaos, and confusion were there for a reason - and the reason is experience.
The confusion one felt while watching the episode, the fear and the tension were all there due to the director, the showrunners, et al. wanted the audience to experience what it must be like for all those who are actually there. This is death, this is the end of the world - it’s not pretty, it’s not paradise, it is chaos.
THE LONG NIGHT being this season’s midpoint, closes off multiple narrative arcs that needed to end so that the narrative could refocus on the series’ main story - the Game of Thrones.
Starting with Melissandre, who shows up at the episode’s opening, she completes her purpose, a purpose she spoke about two seasons prior with Varys atop the hills at Winterfell.
Audiences should have expected her to return, as she said she would in order to complete her life’s purpose and die in the North, and that is exactly what she does. She returns, she musters whatever magic she has left as well as give a young assassin the right push in order to save mankind. Theon’s arc also concludes at the battle as he sacrifices himself, as part of his redemption, saving Bran, who in his own way forgives Theon.
Beric Dondarion, following Theon’s footsteps, sacrifices himself to save Arya dying one last time. The final two arcs closed off, though one is not completely closed, would have to be the Night King and Arya’s arcs.
Many are disappointed that we didn’t know more about the Night King, who he was, where he came from, seemingly forgetting that in episode five of the series’ sixth season, we were told that the children of the forest created the night king by stabbing him with dragon glass at a weirwood tree - his purpose at the time was to protect the children of the forest from the world of men.
This is a clear allegory for weapons of mass destruction or even artificial intelligence that are created to protect but ultimately kill and destroy those who created them. How does one kill everything it hates and what is the Night King’s goal?
The answer to that was stated in the second episode of this season when Sam stated, “That's what death is, isn't it? Forgetting, and being forgotten. If we forget where we've been and what we've done, we're not men anymore. We're just animals. Your memories don't come from books. Your stories aren't just stories. If I wanted to erase the world of men, I'd start with [Bran].”
Kill Bran. Not Jon Snow, Bran. The Night King’s squabble with Jon Snow is more out of self-preservation than anything else, Bran was the main target all along.
When the Night King murdered the Three-Eyed Raven in episode five of the sixth season, Bran had already downloaded all that the Three-Eyed Raven had, hence Bran’s catatonic-esque state, and memory lived on, thus making Bran the new target, which brings us to the episode’s final moments, and the demise of the Night King.
Arya Stark’s arc, all her training with the faceless men, her hardships from witnessing the death of her father to Gendry’s kidnapping, and her life lessons have led to this moment.
It all paid off. Melissandre told us this in the series’ second season when she said, “I see a darkness in you. And in that darkness, eyes staring back at me. Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes sealed shut forever. We will meet again.”
The events in this episode bring all that together, and Arya being the one to rid the world of this great evil was some of the most cathartic experience from a television series, one even stronger than a particular endgame. If one thing is certain, it’s that Game of Thrones still has three episodes left, and the door is wide open for anything to happen.
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