And — and — on broader thematic/lore level, we are no closer to truly understanding the Night King’s deal, or the Prince that was Promised, or the Lord of Light’s intentions, or just what Bran does, exactly, or many of the show’s bigger prophetic underpinnings. No one wants the Night King to start monologuing there at the end, (though it would have been hilarious), but Bran seems to have told all he knows, and that’s seems to be all we’re going to get on that score — a blow to fans who have been looking for answers to the show’s headier mysteries, and especially to Jon’s assumed “Chosen One” status. The Night King actually smiles at one point in the episode, which implies that he actually has feelings and isn’t just an Ice Terminator (he all but brushes off his shoulder like Luke Skywalker after withstanding Drogon’s blast), but we’ll never get to know what they were, and that bums me out a little. As fist-pumping as it was to watch Arya tell the god of Death “Not today,” it smacks of a decision made by writers debating what would be cool, not following a predetermined arc.
I would love to be wrong, and learn this was always the plan, and that’s why we had to watch Arya in Braavos forever, and I should shut up. I would love that. We are now moving on to the show’s real climax, which is about how human beings will never run out of reasons to fight with each other regardless of the supernatural shenanigans going on around them. I don’t even find that underwhelming — it’s true to the spirt of the show’s realpolitik-heavy early seasons, as well as Martin’s own inspiration in Tolkien’s “The Scouring of the Shire.”
See, I’m doing a “compliment sandwich.” Start with the BIG WOW, and then go but really, and now I can go back to just talking about what I loved, which was honestly a lot. As messy and bewildering as “The Long Night” frequently was, it was also the biggest and most insane thing I’ve ever seen on TV, and like a certain other billion-dollar blockbuster, much of the joy was in seeing these characters we love fighting side-by-side for the first time. Jamie saving Brienne. Edd saving Sam. Theon saving Bran. Brienne saving Jamie. Jorah saving Sam. Beric saving Arya. Jon saving Dany. Dany saving Jon. Jorah saving Dany. Arya saving everyone. It was glorious and heroic and, yes, affirming, to watch everything still good about humanity standing together against impossible odds. That’s a story we’ll never get tired of, because we always need to hear it.
I loved the stuff with Tyrion and Sansa, who I am improbably shipping again. With both of them banished to the crypts for their own safety (LOLOLOL) and her ex-husband itching to get involved, Sansa shoots straight: “There’s nothing you can do…that’s why we’re down here, none of us can do anything.” “Maybe we should have stayed married,” sighs Tyrion. “You were the best of them,” replies Sansa, a trace of a smile around her lips. Later, once her ancestors come to life and she and Tyrion are pinned down behind a statue, the pair of them lock eyes for several heartbeats; then they hold hands. He kisses hers. It’s an astonishingly powerful moment for both Peter Dinklage and Sophie Turner, an ocean of history laid bare. Is this a thing? I’m completely fine with that; he’s as close as she’ll get to an intellectual equal in this godsforsaken country, but more importantly, there just aren’t many decent men left.
I loved the interlude of Arya’s “raptors in the kitchen” scene, the soundtrack going almost completely silent as she flits from shelf to shelf, her head on a swivel. As inscrutable as I frequently found the episode’s visuals, it was an aural masterpiece, with another bow deserved for composer Ramin Djawadi’s heartbeat-pulse underscore, and especially his new piano composition in the final minutes. But for that Arya moment, at least, the show’s army of mixers and sound editors stood tall in a way this alternately loud and talky series has rarely utilized.
I loved Theon’s redemption, for that’s what it was. His has always seemed far less likely than the others; what do you do with a character that has had chance after chance to do the right thing, the courageous thing, and consistently failed? You wait for him to realize where his true home has been all along, his true family. Like Jaime, he tries to apologize to Bran in the godswood, and like with Jaime, Bran tells him that “Everything you did brought you to where you are now.” Once again, the fates — or the gods, or whatever, pick your arbiter of destiny — have given Theon this final chance for a singular purpose, and for once, he doesn’t waste it. Neither does Alfie Allen, who had never been better on screen.
And even if it was partially the grind and adrenaline bursts of the multi-week shoot, seeing all of these actors together allowed them raise each other’s game. Maisie Williams was sensational; Iain Glen was strong and noble; Gwendoline Christie and little Bella Ramsey were ferocious; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was once again excellent in limited run; and on and on. Kit Harington, from his kamikaze charge at the Night King to his final desperate stand against Ice Viserion, didn’t flinch at the enormity of the moment. The genuine grief on Emilia Clarke’s face was palpable and heartbreaking. I’ve already mentioned Dinklage and Turner. It’s been a privilege to watch them work, really. Underneath all of the special effects and plot machinations these are still human beings giving their all for our entertainment, and I salute them.
We still have three episodes to go. The Night King and his goth rock band have fallen; the threat that has loomed over the series since its very first scene is no more. The Wall is irrelevant. Winter itself has been defeated. Everything is going to be different now…once they take care of Cersei, the Saruman of our story, who is unchanged and unmoved, and proud of it. Jon and Dany still have to look their truths in the face. The human stakes may not be higher, but they’ve always been the more compelling. We’re in the endgame now.
Next week: Who’s gonna move all those bodies?