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A Proposed Counterargument

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, May 4, 2019
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THERE WILL BE SPOILERS, ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK

I was amazed and surprised to see that I wasn't the only one that had an idea to talk about setup and payoff and Game of Thrones this week! The lovely Emma Clare did it ahead of me, and she presented a strong position about how the “Long Night” and the battle (and resolution regarding the Night King) was underwhelming and unfit for the long setup leading up to the climax.

I am not here to refute it.

(Plot twist?)

I certainly see her point. I can understand how expectations can be set up in such a way that when an unexpected event steers the entire plot and narrative to a different direction, the audience rebels and rejects the development.

For me, when the audience reacts in such a way, it speaks for the high level of engagement and quality of the plot that has been unravelling (take the verb as you like) up to now. It tells me that the creators have spun a tale that has managed to make audiences have strong emotions about it, and as a result, strong expectations.

That doesn't mean the expectations have to be correct.

I haven't read the GoT books- that's on purpose. I plan to read them after the series ends. And my reasoning behind this is that I will get to enjoy both much more if I wait to read the source material (that I expect will be superior) after the adaptation is done.

So what I'm about to say relies ONLY on having watched the series through, and nothing more.

I didn't find the Long Night episode underwhelming. On the contrary, I found it viscerally exciting and an excellent payoff for everything the show has been building up. And ironically, it might be for the exact reasons that Emma (and a lot of others) validly have found it to be the exact opposite.

The battle was hard to see, chaotic and consisted of a plan that was arguably stupid and also collapsed ten minutes into the fight.

I LOVED it.

Because in real life, that's often how things go. The plan isn't suited for the enemy it's supposed to handle, mostly because none of these people have much experience facing an army of the dead. They are ill prepared, they are overwhelmed and they are afraid of them. They are panicking and they are spooked and when people are in this headspace, they make mistakes. Grave mistakes.

Besides, in the Battle of the Bastards, we got a taste of the (lack) of strategy one of the key leaders has, and Daenerys hasn't been too strategic about battle plans either (relying on her dragons too much, and also relying on her Dothraki as if they were another dragon).

For me, this total shambles of a battle was absolutely realistic regarding who we had in the leadership.


The Night King died without an epic fight with Jon Snow, taken out quickly essentially by the graduate of the Faceless Men School of Efficient Mission Impossible Killers.

And that is also great.

For millenia, the Night King has only had to face armies coming to him head on. He's been comfortable in his own superiority, and I doubt he drew his sword at all for say, the last few centuries of activity. He's simply that powerful, and like Daenerys, he relies on his army of the undead to do the dirty work for him. He's had no need for strategy or for alertness for things that go bump in the night.

Even so, when Arya attacks him, he does catch her, breaking that attack. But he's not used to assassins, and he's not used to entertaining the idea he can be injured, let alone killed. So of course he doesn't see her trick coming, and of course he's ended by her.

To me, the Long Night manages to masterfully display how both sides were undone by their own preconceptions and weaknesses. I really liked the way it was shot, I really liked to see the characters unable to efficiently deal with the Night King.

And now, for the setup and payoff.

What is Game of Thrones? Is it like Lord of the Rings, where everything hinges on destroying Sauron? Is the biggest problem in Westeros the Night King and the White Walkers and the wights? Who is the biggest enemy, the biggest vice against which every single character has to be measured?

In my opinion and in the way the show at least is set up, the biggest threat for Westeros is the Game of Thrones. This is the vice that has destroyed so many. This is what has propelled and motivated everyone so far to commit acts, and still others to react to them.

So the Night King couldn't have been the big bad, and wouldn't be killed in the very end. Either he'd be killed off at the first battle and be done with it, or he wouldn't be killed off at all, and he'd end up destroying Westeros and all of the humans. There couldn't be a third option in my eyes, because what GoT is exploring is how much the quest for power can destroy humans as groups and as individuals.

And as for Arya and her capacities- everything in her story arc culminates to this: being the ultimate assassin. And in a battle, you might expect to be killed, but you don't expect to be assassinated.

Will she be able to continue beyond this? I doubt it. Her deed is too great for her to remain Faceless.

And what about the Azor Ahai and the missed opportunity for the prophecy to be actualized? I don't think the Azor Ahai this time has come to defeat the darkness of the Night King who wasn't the Great Other's as far as I know. I think he's going to be up against the darkness of King's Landing and the Great Other.

And what now, from now on?

From now on, it's the game of thrones that we're up against, and that might end up being the one thing everyone falls to.

I'm all for watching to see what happens.

Now, is my interpretation, and what the setup (and payoff) was for me right or wrong? It's neither. It's what I've taken from this entire show and this entire premise as it develops. And how about Emma's? About the same :)

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comment

anonymous?

Abt_Nihil at 5:24AM, May 6, 2019

Faceless Efficient Men of the Impossible NIght School Murderers!

dpat57 at 4:14AM, May 6, 2019

(cont'd) Still applauding the scope of the project though. lol that's me finished now.

dpat57 at 4:14AM, May 6, 2019

(cont'd) sensing but not seeing something nearby (as Arya silently moves in for her gung ho attack). Useless extras. Earlier, Arya gave Sansa a dagger, did she use it? Nope, not Sansa, that would require spunk, she doesn't do that, she's more about speeches. After all his moaning about not being able to do something heroic, did Tyrion run out and stab an undead in the leg and shout "For the Shire!" Nope, they just hid themselves and let others die horribly. Before this, at no point did anyone pause and think, wait, family crypt, dead things, is it even safe to shelter here? And the big drama fail -- everything just stops when the Night King shatters, that was groanworthy. The wight captains at least could have lived on, commanding pockets of undead, until Valyrian steel cut them to pieces. So yeah, a few little niggles with ep3, maybe none of them matter except to me, but tinkering with these elements could have delivered a much more satisfying viewing experience. (cont'd)

dpat57 at 4:13AM, May 6, 2019

Late to the party, ep4 is out now, I haven't watched it yet but it occurred to me at the end of ep3 that Bran is the only one who knows Arya did the biz. Hell yeah, there was a lot to like about ep3 (and a lot to admire in how the writers got us here, it's an amazing project with huge scope, round of applause for all they've done). At the micro level however, I found many little things to be niggly about, and which left me feeling unsatisfied. Not least of which was everyone's strategical ineptitude. We can't even see the enemy never mind estimate their numbers, let's not light things up with a dragon breath fly-past, nope we'll open with the charge of the light brigade and get our cavalry slaughtered in the darkness. How many Valyrian swords were present? None were used dramatically, against the wight captains for example, who just shuffled around after their boss like martinets and had no individual actions or perceptions to offer. None of them paused and looked around, (cont'd)

zenia at 7:47AM, May 5, 2019

I for one, LOVED episode 3. I love that the Night King was taken out (especially by Arya) only halfway through this season. It was a nice twist that he and his army was not the "big bag" after all (as I suspected) but that rather, it is Cercei who is the main villain all along.

bravo1102 at 3:50AM, May 5, 2019

It was just so well done. Not with a bang but a whimper. And Arya in the best SAS/SBS Royal Marine Commando style "Who Dares Wins" & "Not by Strength but by Guile".

Gunwallace at 8:23PM, May 4, 2019

There's been so much 'fan service' in the series I just don't trust the makers to give us a gritty ending in which the undead are outdone by humans as the real evil. I really hope that's what they do, but I just don't see it happening.

Banes at 11:30AM, May 4, 2019

I'm years behind of GoT, but have heard some of the disgruntled reactions to the new episode - then when I hung out with a friend the other day he brought it up and raved about how great it was. He's more a casual fan, but he was quite enthusiastic! Ya never know...

Genejoke at 4:42AM, May 4, 2019

Yup, the series has been about subverting expectations all the way. The honour bound heroes honour gets him killed. The good looking evil man isn't really that evil,despite his actions. It was never really about the night king, that was just a large side quest.

bravo1102 at 2:55AM, May 4, 2019

Right on the money. Precisely what I had been thinking but not quite able to say. Like Marvin Martian said "where's the kah-boom, there's supposed to be a big kah-boom here." But foiled by someone more clever. And as creators ourselves at some visceral level we hate that.


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