After every episode of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, staff members at The Ringer will gather at the nearest weirwood to discuss the most interesting moments, developments, and theories. Without further ado, here’s the exit survey for the third episode, “The Long Night.”
1. What is your tweet-length review of “The Long Night”?
Danny Heifetz: “And what do we say to the god of death?”
Kate Knibbs: Winter finished awfully quickly for something allegedly coming for so long.
Miles Surrey: The Night King blew a 3-1 lead.
Andrew Gruttadaro: Do you know how it feels to fear a bad guy and anticipate a battle for more than seven years and then he dies and it ends because his bodyguards fell asleep at the wheel?
Dragons Are A Waste of Time and Eat Too Much: My Column— alyssa bereznak (@alyssabereznak) April 29, 2019
Ben Lindbergh: We want Game of Thrones to surprise us, and on Sunday it did—just not always in welcome ways. Disappointment is also a sort of surprise.
Katie Baker: The great news is that climate change is a hoax!!!
2. What was the best moment of the episode?
Gruttadaro: Each and every moment involving Arya, from taking down wights with ease to the brief, high-tension horror movie scene to when she Air Jordan’ed and did the Rey knife drop from The Last Jedi and ended the Night King. That last one feels a little deflating in hindsight, but it was awesome in the moment.
Knibbs: Tyrion’s gripping Sansa’s hand. A compelling, coherent human moment in an episode heavy on nonsense spectacle.
Lindbergh: The moment we learned that the series will end with three Theon-less episodes was up there, but it can’t top the charge of the Dothraki light brigade. I didn’t share the common complaint that the battle scenes were too dark or chaotic—they were just dark enough to remind me that the night was full of terrors, and chaotic only when the characters they featured were supposed to be bewildered, which was partly a product of the White Walkers’ literal fog of war. But no other sequence combined the clarity, suspense, and stunning visuals of the doomed Dothraki attack.
Heifetz: When the Red Woman lit the Dothraki swords on fire, my jaw dropped and I drooled on the person next to me so hard that you would’ve thought Arya had stabbed me in the face like she did that wight in the library.
Bereznak: Arya psyching out the Night King and stabbing him in his ice gut was an MVP move for the ages, and would’ve made Syrio Forel weep with pride. Not only did she rid Westeros of its one true existential threat, but she also succeeded where Dany failed. That seems relevant given the forthcoming power struggle between the North and the Dragon Queen with the serious dragon mismanagement problem.
Baker: Melisandre making all the Dothraki swords burst into flames before the fight was a genuinely moving scene that had me ready to bust through a crypt wall! (We’ll just set aside that it basically led to an ill-fated Winterfell version of the Charge of the Light Brigade. And let’s hope there are no Dothraki left over to seek everlasting revenge on their Khaleesi?!)
Surrey: SER DAVOS’S NOT DYING DESPITE THE FACT HE HAS NO COMBAT ABILITY WHATSOEVER.
3. What was the most frustrating part of the episode?
Bereznak: Whether purposeful or not, the general darkness of the episode—like, quite literally the pitch-blackness of it—was occasionally disorienting! I frequently felt like I was in a low-visibility snow storm of death, and it made me very anxious.
Knibbs: The battle logistics made no sense. If the dead could take the entire Dothraki people out nearly instantaneously, why were they attempting to breach the walls of Winterfell for like 45 minutes? Why were some of the wights just bumbling around the library while others were like rapacious hell beasts? How in the fuck are Brienne, Pod, Tormund, Jaime, Sam, Gilly, BABY SAM, Missandei, and Grey Worm all still alive?
Gruttadaro: It was just so easy. The living ended “The Long Night” (extremely sarcastic air quotes here) in … less than one night. And no one who’s spoken more than 50 lines on the show died. I’m not bloodthirsty, I’m just realistic.
Lindbergh: See questions 7 and 8! Also, the crypt scene was sort of a dud. I would have liked to have seen Sansa stick some reanimated ancestors with the pointy end. And where was zombie Rickon?
Surrey: That the way the battle was structured (to say nothing of the awful lighting) gave us little indication as to where important characters were for huge chunks of time. I wouldn’t give up Arya killing the Night King for anything in the world, but I have no idea how she got from the halls of Winterfell to the godswood—let alone how she snuck by all the wights and White Walkers to deliver the humanity-saving blow.
Heifetz: Jon huffing and puffing at this ice dragon like he was the big bad white wolf:
Baker: I hate to say it, but I was kind of bummed that more important characters didn’t die! For such a big, bonkers battle it just didn’t feel like it had the sort of agonizing stakes that make those sorts of scenes so effective. The Lyanna Mormont death was too perfect to feel truly sad, and the dead-rising-in-the-crypt scene didn’t scare me as much as it should have because no one major seemed to actually be in peril. There should have been a scene where a character was forced to do one-on-one battle with the undead version of a loved one, you know? (Clearly this show has created quite the sociopath, and I’m not talking Ramsay.)
4. Before anything else, let’s talk about that ending, shall we?
Gruttadaro: Putting aside all of my gripes, I’m really just so happy for Arya. What a crowning achievement.
Lindbergh: I’ll say this for the ending: While I didn’t want the Night King to bow out so soon or so unceremoniously, I’m glad that Arya got to be both a badass and a hero, and I appreciated the history embedded in the maneuver (which she debuted against Brienne in Season 7) and the murder weapon (which goes all the way back to the second attempt to kill Bran in Season 1). What’s more, I didn’t see it coming any more than the Night King did. That’s the most impressive part of the climax: As obsessively as we speculated about what would happen Sunday, I didn’t suspect that the big bad would be beaten and that the threat that’s been building for seven-plus seasons would be wiped away with three supersized episodes to go.
Surrey: Arya smashed with a hot blacksmith and hours later destroyed the embodiment of death. What did you do at 18?
Bereznak: Theon’s death was extremely on brand. First, it appears that he brought only a single bucket of arrows to the battle against the Night King. What? Second, the moment before he charges the Night King, Bran returns from wherever it is that he warged to say some generic words of encouragement that nonetheless inspire Theon. This guy is so broken that “You’re a good man” is enough to get him feeling all weepy and sacrificial. Finally, Theon charges at the Night King and is dead within seconds. He did his best, and his best was absolutely terrible. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t remind me of a few of my high school soccer games.
As for Arya’s tricking the Night King, I’m still shocked it was that easy. This dude was supposed to be the living embodiment of death! Yet, for some reason, he takes the same flawed approach of a Bond villain in eliminating his one true obstacle to victory. The guy is a magical ice lord who commands a zombie army of millions. I was never under the impression that he had feelings, let alone the capacity to preemptively savor a moment of triumph. And it’s still wild that, despite being an Olympic-level javelin thrower, the Night King did not anticipate a little knife trickery. Obviously I was glad to see that while Jon and Dany fucked around in Dragontown, Arya kept her eye on the prize. I just never expected his death to be so humanly dumb.
Anyway, in conclusion, the Night King is a fraud, Arya remains a nimble and capable assassin, and Theon probably could’ve survived if he had just stood his ground for five more minutes.
Heifetz: The ending was great. The people who didn’t love it have dragonglass in their chests instead of hearts.
Knibbs: I can’t even talk about the ending because I am still hung up on the fact that a widdle baby toddler somehow survived the alleged battle to end all battles.
5. What did you think of the living’s battle plan?
Lindbergh: The plan wasn’t terrible, but the execution could have been better. I know no plan (and evidently, no Dothraki) survives contact with the enemy, but Dany deviated from her intention to lie in wait for the Night King in five minutes flat. Honestly, it would have been out of character if she and Jon hadn’t done something stupid. I just think the non-undead dragons should have done more damage than that.
Surrey: It was the best you could’ve hoped for given the insurmountable odds. But if I were the Dothraki and had been informed my entire group would be the first to charge against the wights while everyone else chilled from a distance, I’d have issued a few grievances.
Bereznak: It had some flaws. Whoever was in charge of the fire stuff really let us down. If Melisandre hadn’t shown up at the last moment to arm the Dothraki with flaming weapons and then light the trenches with magic, Winterfell probably wouldn’t have held as long. Separately, it seems like Dany and Jon should’ve directed their dragon flamethrowers at the onslaught of wights before the wights slaughtered a significant portion of their army. I dunno, just a suggestion!
Gruttadaro: Feel like the dragons could’ve breathed fire on more hordes of wights rather than [checks notes] flying through the clouds?
Baker: Well, in particular I did REALLY relate to Jon Snow’s strategy of bumbling around all confused-looking, trying to look busy (I used to do a version of this when I worked in a restaurant and felt overwhelmed during my shift) and then straight up just roaring at the ice dragon, baby Simba style. He probably went to bed all proud that his wimpy-ass vocals saved the day.
Heifetz: In the words of Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan till they get hit with dead people in a formation twice as tall as they anticipated.
6. Whose death crushed you most?
Knibbs: Sweet Jorah, gone to the great friend zone in the sky. But seriously, I joke because Jorah’s going out swinging to protect his queen really was a wrenching and sad ending, made even more tragic because we’d already witnessed the future of House Mormont die.
Bereznak: It was very hard to see a character as handsome as Jorah die. Almost as hard as watching Sam treat his greyscale.
Lindbergh: On the good-guy side, Jorah’s, even though I was expecting it as soon as Sam gave him Heartsbane. But at least Jorah’s arc resolved itself in a satisfying way. I can’t say the same for the Night King, whose death dashed my hopes of finding out more about who the White Walkers were, what they wanted, and why. A single scene in the previous episode was not nearly enough exposition for me.
Heifetz: Lyanna Mormont’s death was literally crushing.
Surrey: This probably speaks more to the fact that very few characters of consequence actually died, but … could it be … Theon Greyjoy? Maybe my mind has been warped from writing about the guy for two consecutive weeks, but the reassurance from Bran—who’s rarely displayed emotion since becoming the Three-Eyed Raven—that he was a good person warmed my heart. Theon walked so Arya could run (and stab the Night King with a Valyrian steel dagger).
Baker: [Lowers voice to a whisper.] It might be … the Night King? He managed to have the classic villain mastermind death—where the character slowly explains their entire scheme, to their own peril—without saying a word. I’m gonna miss that creepy guy and his increasingly Jim Halpert wryface vibes. (It does make a lot of sense that the resting bitch face of “death incarnate” is basically the same expression you make when you pass a coworker in the hallway for like the fourth time in one morning but still feel obligated to head-nod a what’s-up.)
7. Where was Bran warging to the entire battle?
my dude just flew on some crows the whole time— Andrew Gruttadaro (@andrewgrutt) April 29, 2019
Surrey: He was checking out the latest episode of Billions.
Bereznak: Nowhere in particular! I’m guessing he just really didn’t want to make awkward small talk with Theon.
Lindbergh: So much for Bran flying something bigger than a bird. Look, we’ve all wished we could warg away from Theon—my eyes rolled back in my head for most of those Season 3 torture scenes, just for my mental well-being—but if Bran was really in spectator mode for most of the episode, I’m going to be bummed. Granted, he gave Arya the dagger in Season 7—in almost the same spot where she shattered the Night King—so he played an important part in the outcome, but I don’t love the idea that the future was fated all along.
Baker: I have watched every episode of this series and listened to so many podcasts and read so many Reddits and yet whenever it comes to explaining anything related to Bran and warging I just … I need to go now. [Eyes roll back into head and a few minutes later some random bird slams full speed into a plate glass window in a screeching cloud of feathers.]
8. So … the White Walkers are just gone?
Heifetz: Yes. It’s fine.
Bereznak: … yes? I hope so? I don’t know, man, after eight seasons I still barely even understand how they work.
Knibbs: I guess, even though the White Walkers completely disappearing after one very blurry battle would make them one of the most overhyped fictional enemies ever. What happened to the wee baby White Walker from Season 4? Was he toddling around somewhere near Winterfell? I suppose he would’ve died with the Night King, but imagine a really surly baby Walker growing increasingly agitated in its ice crib.
Lindbergh: I’m going to give Game of Thrones an “incomplete” here, because that can’t be it, can it? Surely we’re going to get more about Bran and the Night King and time travel? If we don’t, I’ll hope even harder that the books will one day be finished, because I can’t believe George R.R. Martin would do away with some of the show’s most compelling plotlines as abruptly and inelegantly as the show evidently did.
Surrey: Yes, and we never got to see those ice spiders as big as hounds. Can I get a refund?
Baker: What is dead may never die! They’ve just gone and started an extremely metal band featuring some guest licks from the Doof Warrior.
9. What happens now?
Heifetz: A three-episode miniseries exploring the micro- and macroeconomic nuances of the Westerosi grain economy.
Surrey: We can finally go back to the stuff everybody secretly loves the most about Thrones: characters having great conversations in elegant rooms.
Knibbs: It looks like they’re heading toward King’s Landing. I honestly like the idea of Cersei as the real big bad—Game of Thrones is at its finest as a political intrigue show. I like the people-in-rooms stuff. But, again, I really hope we get some more coherent explanation for the whole “army of the dead” situation … it’d be extremely weird for the threat built up as a potentially annihilating force to end up being only slightly more scary than Ramsay Bolton.
Bereznak: Sansa will stay and rule Winterfell. Bran will take up a permanent residence underneath that tree, or in a flock of ravens, or inside a gravity bong. Tormund and Brienne will settle down and have beautiful, giant babies. (Hey, I can dream.)
And after a period of so much feel-good cooperation, we’re going to return to some familiar political drama. At King’s Landing, it’ll be Cersei v. Jaime, Bronn v. Tyrion, and Cleganebowl. Jon and Dany are probably doomed, and might even face off on those useless dragons. Honestly, I welcome any drama that does not involve a one-dimensional, mute villain. And especially if it takes place in warmer (visually lighter) climates.
Gruttadaro: Daenerys looked extremely confident in the teaser for next episode—“We have won the Great War, now we will win the Last War”—but honestly, who can blame her? They just beat a supernatural army numbered in the hundreds of thousands; Cersei sort of seems like light work now.
Lindbergh: I wanted the show to develop a better backstory for the Night King, but if he was bound to be Thanos without the dialogue—and in fairness to the showrunners, they warned us that was so—maybe it’s for the best that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss cleared the decks of the undead with so much time to spare, allowing us to focus on characters with something to say. The only problem is that I like the living Lannisters much more than the Starks and Targaryens, and at least two of them are probably about to be toast.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.