‘Game of Thrones’ 8×03 Roundtable: “The Long Night”

Well, THAT happened. And by that, we mean, of course, the thing with Arya stabbing the Night King and ending the Long Night, but also absolutely every other second of this episode. Because love it or hate it, I think we can all agree this was top-notch entertainment.

But then again, Game of Thrones always is.

So, without any more intro, we’re going to go into discussing an episode that a lot of people will be talking about for a long time. Joining me this week are Raquel, Jasmine, Michelle, Gillian, Ashley and McKenzie. So let’s talk Game of Thrones!

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On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate “The Battle of Winterfell”? Did the episode live up to your expectations? What was your favorite moment

Lizzie: I’ll give it a 9, ONLY because I didn’t think the battle needed to be as long as it was, and it dragged a bit at the end, though to be honest, on re-watch, I’m not sure what I would have cut, and also because it was too damn dark, and yes, I know, realism and shit, but this show has dragons, do we really care that much about realism?

Jasmine: On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say the episode was an 8. Did it live up to my expectations? I’d say yes. The Night Kings army was a difficult one to defeat so I knew it would be a very long and arduous battle for everyone involved. The payoff was definitely worth it though. My favorite moment in the episode? ARYA MOTHERFUCKING STARK killing the Night King!!!!!

Michelle: The episode is a 10, for sure. The only expectation I had going in was enjoying an epic battle. I didn’t expect the many scenes and heart-stopping moments that I experienced, but then again, this show is great at surprising an audience. And my favorite moment? Definitely when the Queen, ARYA STARK did what she does best and killed the Night King. Not today!

Gillian: I didn’t like the episode much at all so I’m giving it a 6. It was way too dark. There were too many moments where people were walking slowly that easily could have been cut to a normal sized episode. There was only one real exciting moment (Arya) but the rest did nothing for me. I don’t remember how I felt after The Battle of the Bastards so maybe I’m not a fan of these battle episodes, preferring the smaller, character-driven episodes.

Ashley: I’ll go 8/10 for me on this one. I appreciated the frenetic pace of the episode and liked the way it was shot. Miguel Sapochnik is excellent at capturing the intensity of battle in GoT. It was stunning to watch, even if you have to adjust your TV settings to be able to see everything well. The twist at the end was definitely a surprise for me. My watch party broke out in a huge uproar, which was quite fun to witness! However, I think a fair criticism of the episode is that the show seems to have disregarded the Azor Ahai storyline that began with Stannis. This also doesn’t answer the question of the spiral symbols left by the army of the dead and the cave art on Dragonstone. I’m hopeful that these things will come to some sort of resolution in the last half of the season.

McKenzie: This episode was probably an 8 for me.  Shockingly I could see everything, but I watched in a pitch black room when I saw how dark it was. The battle itself was a little long for my taste and I feel like we could have used some more dialogue to break it up a bit more.  However, that twist, was everything. Arya. Fucking. Stark. I was not expecting it at all and watching behind the scenes set up with Dave and Dan, it makes sense.

Raquel: The episode was a great 9 for me. I think it was almost perfect, although the truth is that I expected something else from Dany, Jon and the dragons. I expected more prominence from them, it seemed that it was going to be their battle (especially Jon), and it was not. And it was a surprise, for me, Arya. But I think they transmitted perfectly the anguish, the pain, the desperation, the panic, the disorder, the fear, even the desire to die … and the real possibility that there was no good end for the living. Even the darkness of battle and of the night, which has been so criticized, was completely real.

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Well, the Night King is dead, and Arya Stark was the one to take him out. How do you feel about this development? Did it come out of nowhere? Does it feel earned?

Lizzie: I feel thrilled. I let out a good, long scream of happiness. It was one of those rare moments on TV that absolutely makes sense, and when you think back on it, it tracks and it feels earned, but at the same time, it was surprising because we still expected Jon to be the one to do it. So yeah, men of the internet, you can take your Mary Sue crap and shove it where the sun don’t shine. Arya absolutely earned this moment.

Jasmine: I am very happy Arya killed the Night King.  It was so unexpected when she popped up but it was so awesome! I do think it feels earned. Arya, just like her siblings has gone through a lot, and I know there are people who probably wanted Jon to kill the Night King. I understand Arya being the one who did it though because, if you think back to her training to be a Faceless man, she learned how to use faces to infiltrate many places in order to kill her enemies. It only makes sense that she would be the one to accomplish killing the Night King. I truly believe she infiltrated the Night Kings army as one of the White Walkers, and that’s how she was able to get so close. Others don’t think this is a possibility and that she was just really that sneaky. I just don’t see us spending so much time watching her learn how to be a Faceless man only to have it just disappear for season 8. What would have been the point? Everything that everyone has gone through has led to something. Why should Arya be any different? Arya is a great fighter and her years of training is what led her to that moment, that was her purpose.

Michelle: I am really happy with how this all panned out. One, I never suspected it (great job, showrunners at the Jon Snow misdirect), but also really appreciate all of the foreshadowing that has happened to lead up to this moment. Looking back now, I see the clear trail. But before this episode? I had no idea. Arya was the perfect character to kill the Night King. I feel that the progression of her character, the trials and tribulations that she has had, and the fact that this is her nature. She is all about protecting family, she is all about protecting the North, and she is all about facing Death head on.

Gillian: This was the only highlight of the episode for me. It was entirely earned. Her arc has pretty much led exactly to this. She never wanted to be a lady, she always wanted to learn to fight like her brothers. And she did. And she became an assassin. I can’t believe people are angry about this. If it had been Sansa or Bran, then yes, that’s ridiculous but Arya was the only option at that point. But I didn’t expect the Night King to die so soon.

Ashley: I was so shocked when that happened! I thought it was exceptionally poetic that the same dagger that was meant to kill Bran was used to save his life. I also loved the call back to 7×04 where she uses nearly the same move that she used in her sparring match with Brienne. I’m curious to see if the show runners will want to explain how Arya is Azor Ahai. I think that’s my only real hang-up with her offing the Night King–as I understand it, whoever Azor Ahai is was supposed to do that. I’m okay with Arya being Azor Ahai, I just need to see how she fits into the prophecy.

McKenzie: I was so shocked, and I’m still in a state of shock days later.  It was a complete surprise that makes total sense. She deserves it, though. Her development throughout the course of the last 8 seasons makes perfect sense as to why she should be the one to do. She was made for more than just revenge. She’s earned her place.

Raquel: I have mixed feelings with this great turn of the episode. I love Arya, I really love her. That said, on the one hand, I think that from the beginning, they had built the story around Jon so that he would beat the Night King. I think many fans have been waiting for that final fight between the two for years. And suddenly it’s Arya who has killed the Night King, so suddenly that it feels as if they have ignored everything they have been building for years just for the sake of surprise.

On the other hand, after reflecting and taking a look at the past, the goal and destiny of Arya in relation to the  Night King was there, from the beginning … only hidden. Too hidden for my taste. I think Jon’s path to defeat the him was obvious and Arya’s was too hidden … what has made Arya’s revelation and destiny, despite being there, felt totally disconnected from what we have seen over these years in regard to this plot. Not to mention that Arya’s training and others could be justified by the fate of enforcing her list and her revenge.

So, considering all this, the good and the bad about this plot twist, I think that, in fairness, it should have been Jon who will end the Night King for good.

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How do you feel in general about the fact that we still have three episodes and they will certainly focus on the fight for the Iron Throne? Is that what you were expecting to happen?

Lizzie: I can’t say I’m shocked, this seems like the GRRM way, after all. He always wanted to explore the politics of it all, and then the white walkers ended up taking prominence because, you know, existential threat and all of that.  But this frees up the show for a lot of character moments we’d spent years and years waiting for, so in that regard I’m excited about what could come in the next three episodes.

Jasmine: Well, the show is called Game of Thrones so obviously it has to end with someone sitting on that throne.  That’s been the reason for all this fighting since season one. I expected it for sure. I mean we can’t just end the show without them all going after the Throne. The Battle of Winterfell wasn’t their initial main objective. It was to get that seat on the Iron Throne. They all agreed (except that fake ass bitch Cersei) to have a truce until the battle was done. Once it was accomplished they made it clear, they’d all be coming for that spot. I’m anxious to see who takes it and that fight will no doubt be a bloody one.

Michelle: I wasn’t expecting the fight for the Iron Throne to have so many episodes. But now I understand the need for the length of episodes. There are so many loose ends to tie off, so many characters to kill, and so many political aspects of this kingdom to right or destroy. This show has always been great about giving us a high-intensity when it comes to the middle of the season, and with The Battle of Winterfell, they definitely did. Now, I’m ready for this show to unravel loyalties and reveal unknown strength.

Gillian: I didn’t have many expectations for this season. But as stated above, I enjoy the less flashy episodes more than the battles. The fact that it’s going to likely be more intrigue and politics in at least the next two episodes should be interesting. I’m mostly just waiting for more death.

Ashley: Actually, yes. You’ve got 3 episodes each to handle these two story-lines that have had conflicting roles of importance across the entire series. I’m glad that they’ll both be given equal screen time to be resolved.

McKenzie: While the Night King has always been an important story line I personally have always been more drawn to the Iron Throne.  I’m excited to see what they do with the next three episodes and how it will all be resolved. I have my suspicions but I doubt any of those will come true.  

Raquel: Yes! I believe that this series raised two main battles: that of the dead against the living and the battle for the throne. Once the first one has already been resolved, it is time to focus on the second, the war that started everything … it’s time to know who wins the game of thrones.

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Theon Greyjoy’s redemption arc hasn’t been perfect, but it was incredibly satisfying to see him standing in front of Bran, defending his family, for all intents and purposes. How do you feel about the man Theon became and his journey up to this point?

Lizzie: Surprisingly proud. It’s taken me a lot to forgive Theon, even if the reasons he did what he did have always been sorta understandable, and I think the show made some parts of his journey too clear cut, so as to not spend too much time on him, but Alfie Allen really brought it in those final moments, and I found myself feeling really just …proud of the man he has become, proud of him standing up to defend the same brother he once tried to kill. Just proud.

Jasmine: I hate the things that Theon did before but he truly did redeem himself.  I had a lot of respect for him in the end because he recognized and acknowledged all of his mistakes. He was willing to do whatever it took to get even an ounce of trust back from his family. He died trying to save Bran who he wronged all those years ago and if that’s not a show of redemption, then I don’t know what is.

Michelle: Theon’s character arc is definitely a perfect case of redemption. It’s such a prime example of how the showrunners have and can surprise us, in a very multi-faceted way. Theon’s storyline, leading up to this episode, has definitely helped build the structure of many important plot lines. Where he started as a flat character, moving towards a negative variation, and now into a hero has really shown Theon with varying levels of conquest. As Bran says, his character was integral to so many outcomes, and yet, here he is protecting his brother in arms. Theon’s tenacity in the end of this episode, as well as his loyalty that was shown in the previous episode, shows what a great character Theon has become.

Gillian: I still don’t really like Theon but his end was justified. I really disliked what he did to Bran and Rickon (or what he thought he did with no remorse) and personally don’t care about the Greyjoys much anyway. His scenes with Ramsay Bolton were so uncomfortable but I still couldn’t fully be on his side. Since all my issues with his character stem from his treatment of Bran, it was a nice bookend that he died protecting him. But I still don’t like him.

Ashley: One of things I think Game of Thrones does well is that it tries to consider how we as humans can grow, learn, and change (for good or ill). Theon is interesting because he recognizes that he did wrong, but we also have a good understanding of his motives, knowing that they are complex (trying to please his biological father, but also wrestling with the fact that he was betraying his surrogate family, even though technically he was a hostage in their home. It’s complicated). I think Theon more than got his retribution for his sins via Ramsey. His death was an honorable one and perhaps the bravest way he could have died. “Stark or Greyjoy. You don’t have to choose.” He didn’t. He just chose to do what was right, defend his brother in the only way that he could. Something that both the books and the show do is put characters in impossible situations and ask them to make a choice. Those choices aren’t always clear cut, which is what I think makes the story so interesting.

McKenzie: I never liked Theon until season 6 when he got a huge humility lesson after the whole Ramsay debacle and saving Sansa.  He slowly grew on me. He was always confused about who he was and how he fit into two very different families. They all had different expectations of him and I think we can all relate to that a little bit.  Then watching him die defending Bran, he knew it was going to happen, but he did it anyway. The old Theon would never have done that. He has come full circle and really grown.

Raquel: Proud. Tremendously proud of the man Theon has become. We knew him as someone capable of betraying those who were really his family, his father, only because of the possibility of more power and of wanting to get the approval of that horrible man who was his biological father, a man he didn’t even feel was his father. We have seen him being tortured and letting himself be carried away by what that torture to the point of leaving the only people he loved.

But we have also seen him become himself again, rise up again to defend his real family, his sister and the Starks and he has died saving one of his brothers, hearing from his mouth what he has always wanted, what has been strived so much for: he is a good man. Also, his brother has granted him what he desperately needed, forgiveness for all the mistakes he has made. Theon knew he was going to die and, even so, he has not hesitated a second to charge the Night King to protect Bran to the ultimate consequences, just as he had promised. Its evolution is one of the best in the whole series.

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The episode does a good job of not just subverting our expectations of who the ultimate hero would end up being, but also of making us feel like we’re in the middle of an actual battle. What did you think of the 82 minutes in general? Was it too much? Did it strike the right tone?

Lizzie: I think the point was for us to think it was too much, to get exhausted, just when the characters were starting to feel it too, and for it to be super confusing. I’m not sure that translates as well for everyone, but I do think they did exactly what they intended to do.

Jasmine: It was EXHAUSTING!! seriously, THE longest battle ever! Honestly, it was not too much because they were fighting the dead. The Night King had the power to keep resurrecting anyone who died so it made sense that it would never end until he was killed.  It’s actually quite a metaphor that we can’t outrun death. No matter what anyone did, the Wight Walkers just kept coming. The darkness of the episode was an issue for most but for me, I understood it. They wanted us to feel that disorientation like everyone else fighting. They wanted us to have that moment of panic when the torches went out and they could no longer see their enemies. It definitely struck the right tone in my opinion, because it made me feel like I was right there in the moment.

Michelle: Overall, the episode did it’s due diligence of telling the story of a battle from the beginning to the end. Within this episode, it had all the right beats of the three acts. And the best part? We mostly followed the viewpoint of the Starks. I enjoyed that at all times, each plot catalyst grew in intensity. I thought that as the beginning of the episode began with the battle on the field, it set the tone for the rest of the episode. By 20 minutes in, my heart was racing and I was intensely committed. The episode also did a great job of showcasing so many characters, highlighting subplots, and joining characters to provide additional depth. Not once did I think any scene or portrayal was too much. The battle against the Night King is the culmination for the Starks in the North. There was no way that a quick battle would have been viewed as ‘easy,’ and that would have been unrealistic and unbelievable. I felt that the depth of the scenes, the emotions the characters portrayed, and the energy (anxiety!) and excitement that led up to the end were very much the right tone.

Gillian: As stated above, it was too long in my opinion. There were definitely some parts they could have cut as they didn’t have any action or character development. Like the Night King walking as slow as possible. Why did that need to be so long? At least when there’s fighting going on, I’m engaged. Watching that (even with the great score) took away from everything else for me.

Ashley: I always want more when it comes to Game of Thrones, so I’m never upset about an episode running long. Heck, I wouldn’t be mad if the last 3 episodes were over 2 hours. This episode was so crazy, that even though it ran long, it flew by. One of the things D&D pointed out was that by shifting perspectives from different points in battle and to those down in the crypts, it allowed the viewer to not get so battle-fatigued. I agree with their assessment, but that didn’t stop me from holding my replica of Oathkeeper in a death grip for the duration of the episode.

McKenzie: I think they did a very good job telling the story throughout the battle. That said, I was exhausted.  It was a little to long and there was some stuff they could have cut or at least made shorter.

Raquel: I think it was the perfect duration and it made us feel everything that was felt on the battlefield. The terror, the desire to vomit, the panic, the desire to fight, the desperation, the hope, the pain … and all the feelings that are in between. Bravo!

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Let’s talk about who died – and who didn’t. Are you surprised at those we lost? Surprised we didn’t lose someone? With this battle over – what’s your prediction for what’s coming next: who, if anyone else, are we going to lose?

Lizzie: I’m still shocked we didn’t lose Brienne or Jaime. Like legitimately in shock. I’d done such a good job of preparing to lose my favorites that I’m still having trouble comprehending the fact that I didn’t. As for those who did die, I’d called Theon since he came back, so that was no shock, and Jorah was also a no-brainer. Lyanna hurt, but it also wasn’t really, you know, surprising? The only actual surprise was Arya doing what she did, not who died.

As for later, I’m just…maybe my favorites can ACTUALLY make it out of this show. I’m shook. I have to reevaluate all I believe in. Though I’m still a little worried about Brienne, I don’t think Cersei likes her too much.

Jasmine: I’m not surprised at all by who we lost. In a way, the characters that did die gave us small inklings in the previous episodes that made us say “hmm, they might die” Ser Jorah had a long run and many brushes with death. He vowed to serve Daenerys until his dying day and he did just that. When Theon volunteered to stay with Bran during the battle, I’m pretty sure we all knew he was definitely going. Lady Lyanna was a hard one for me because she was so young. She was definitely wise beyond her years and did not back down from a fight. She went out like a boss and it was awesome.  As far as who we may lose over the next coming episodes? I don’t know!! I don’t really want to lose anyone but that’s not how GOT works. If I really think about it though, I feel like Jamie and maybe Sansa. Cersei for sure because she has so many enemies and they all want to take her down. They better not touch my Arya, Tyrion, Dany, or Jon!!

Michelle: The only surprise I had for the deaths is that we didn’t have more main characters killed off. For the scope of death portrayed in this episode, and with so many deaths throughout, I thought there would be more. I know that there were many main characters that would be protected by the plot shields. Characters like The Hound, Greyworm, Tormund, Podrick, and Gendry? I thought they wouldn’t last the night. I don’t know if there will be many deaths next episode, but I think the next  set of characters in question are the Lannisters and those revolving them: Jamie, Tyrion, and Brienne.

Gillian: I was definitely expecting more death. I am DEVASTATED about my precious Lyanna as she was always my second choice for the Iron Throne. The little badass. It was hard to tell who died at parts because of the terrible lighting situation but I’m not mad at who did. I knew Jorah would die sooner or later and his death actually makes Dany’s path a little more unpredictable. Since we’re going to see Cersei again, I’m predicting some Lannister deaths in the near future.

Ashley: The only two deaths I felt certain of in this episode were Jorah and Podrick. I am perfectly happy to be wrong about Podrick and I’m sorry to be right about Jorah. I honestly wasn’t surprised that there weren’t more main characters killed off because everyone that’s still alive has all suffered tremendous loss in one way or another. I really think we’re going to have more survivors in the end than deaths.

McKenzie: I’m very surprised at how we didn’t lose any main characters.  I was preparing myself all week for this blow and it never came I almost didn’t know how to cope. For those that did die, I think they were all very true to character and went out the right way.  After this episode I honestly don’t know what to expect in terms of death. Everything I thought I knew was proved wrong.

Raquel: The deaths that happened were really painful (especially Theon and Jorah’s), especially the way they died … I could not help but cry. But the truth is that I expected some death of a character more central than those who have died. Although I don’t complain, with Game of Thrones you never know … and none of the characters is safe, so you have to enjoy while they’re still alive.

I think that in the next battle we will lose Gendry, The Hound and, perhaps, Tyrion, Sam and Tormund (although I hope I’m wrong) and I hope we don’t lose Davos, any Starks, Brienne or Jamie. Fingers crossed!

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Finally, once again, now that it’s time to worry about this: who will sit on the Iron Throne at the end of the season?

Lizzie: No one? I think there will be no Iron Throne, per se. Westeros is going to become a democracy! What? Stranger things have happened.

Jasmine: I feel like it’s going to be someone we don’t expect again. My money’s on Arya right now.

Michelle: I still stand by Sansa. I think that she is the current underdog, and I think she is the smartest and best fit ruler of them all.

Gillian: Like Michelle, Sansa is my number one choice. She clearly has the knowledge and the right kind of attitude to be a good leader.

Ashley: I still stand by the idea that there won’t be an Iron Throne at the end of the series. If there is, Jaime will be the one to sit it and Brienne will rule equally with him.

McKenzie: I have always been stuck with the idea that there will be no Iron Throne, so we will see.

Raquel: I think Jon and Dany will be the future kings of Westeros and, if he doesn’t die, Tyrion will be their hand.

Agree? Disagree? Share with us in the comments below!

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.

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