The Long Night (Game of Thrones)
|"The Long Night"|
|Game of Thrones episode|
|Episode no.||Season 8|
|Directed by||Miguel Sapochnik|
|Written by||David Benioff|
D. B. Weiss
|Featured music||Ramin Djawadi|
|Cinematography by||Fabian Wagner|
|Editing by||Tim Porter|
|Original air date||April 28, 2019|
|Running time||82 minutes|
"The Long Night" is the third episode of the eighth season of HBO's fantasy television series Game of Thrones, and the 70th overall. It was written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, and directed by Miguel Sapochnik. It aired on April 28, 2019. It is the longest episode of the series, with a run time of 82 minutes.
"The Long Night" takes place entirely at Winterfell and depicts the final battle between the Army of the Dead and the combined armies of the living, ending one of the series' primary storylines. The episode's title refers to the prolonged winter that occurred thousands of years earlier, in which the White Walkers first descended upon Westeros.
The episode received mixed reviews. Critics praised the visual grandeur and scale of the battle and Arya Stark's personal storyline as its highlights. However, many criticized the resolution of the battle, the abrupt conclusion of the White Walker storyline, the battle tactics used, and the dark lighting.
The Armies of the Living and of the Dead meet; the Dothraki charge after Melisandre summons fire into their blades, but are quickly overwhelmed by the wights. Eddison Tollett dies after saving Samwell Tarly. Bran Stark, guarded by Theon Greyjoy and the Ironborn, waits in the godswood to lure the Night King; indeed, the Night King, atop undead Viserion, notices that Bran has warged into flying ravens. The living retreat into Winterfell while Melisandre invokes her god and ignites the trench around it.
Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen engage the Night King with their dragons. Wights walk into the trench, their bodies serving as a bridge for other wights to cross and storm the castle. Lyanna Mormont stabs a wight giant in the eye, destroying him while he crushes her to death.
Beric Dondarrion sacrifices his final life to save Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane from wights. They find Melisandre, who says Beric was resurrected for a purpose now served, and repeats a prophecy she previously told Arya ("The Climb"); that she would "shut many eyes forever", emphasizing "blue eyes".
The Night King is dismounted and caught in Drogon's fire, but he is immune to it. He raises the dead Winterfell defenders and the Starks buried in the crypts. Jon is knocked off Rhaegal, as is Daenerys from Drogon. Daenerys fights wights alongside Jorah Mormont, who eventually succumbs to his wounds after the battle. Jon heads for the godswood but is blocked by Viserion.
The Night King arrives at the godswood for Bran and kills a charging Theon. Arya suddenly leaps at the Night King; he grabs her by the throat and dagger-wielding hand, but she drops her Valyrian steel dagger to her free hand and stabs him, destroying him and obliterating his army.
Melisandre, her purpose served, walks into the snow at dawn, removes her magical choker, and dies of old age as Davos watches.
The episode was directed by Miguel Sapochnik. It was filmed in 55 night shoots over 11 weeks, and during harsh weather, at sets in Moneyglass, Saintfield and Belfast, Northern Ireland. Cinematographer Fabian Wagner described the shoot as "physically exhausting... they say don't work with animals or kids. We had everything times 100." Sapochnik studied the siege of Helm's Deep in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers to stage the battle scenes in a way "to not have an audience feel battle fatigue", claiming that "the less fighting you can have in a sequence, the better". He also shifted the moods from scene to scene to convey suspense, horror, action, and drama. He described the battle as "survival horror" comparable to Assault on Precinct 13 in its focus on a group besieged by outsiders.
Country singer Chris Stapleton has a cameo appearance as a wight alongside his bass player and tour manager. Stapleton said his management contacted the show asking if he could be considered for a bit part in an episode and the producers invited him to fly to Belfast to film his scenes.
The episode was viewed by 12.02 million viewers on its initial live broadcast on HBO, and an additional 5.78 million viewers on streaming platforms, for a total 17.8 million viewers.
The episode received a mixed reception; on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 74%, based on 104 reviews, but an average rating of 9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Winter has come and gone and Arya Stark may officially be the baddest woman in the land, but despite delivering some epic and emotional moments 'The Long Night' leaves a few things to be desired (lighting, anyone?) heading into the final stretch".
There was praise for the direction and cinematography, with James Hibberd for Entertainment Weekly describing it as "an action epic that manages to weave character-driven stories through clear and comprehensible battle...GoT continues to make every fight unique, compelling and grounded". Arya's unexpected defeat of the Night King was also praised. Alison Herman wrote for The Ringer: "That Arya was the one to seal the deal is heartening, at least...it was the woman who learned to master death and, ultimately, reject it, wielding the very weapon that caused her family so much grief". Myles McNutt wrote for The A.V. Club: "What was pitched by the fandom around the show as an episode rife for death pooling became an episode about a girl who has lost her entire adolescence training for this moment facing the realization that she was not as prepared as she thought, before gaining the confidence—foreknowledge?—to strike the winning blow”, allowing “the final moment to land despite an unavoidable feeling of anti-climax".
However, many criticized the handling of the White Walker mythology, the lack of catharsis, and the use of dark production lighting which was seen as gratuitous, artistically unnecessary and disorienting. Caroline Fromke of Variety wrote: "After years of underlining just how huge and terrifying and all-consuming the threat of White Walker destruction would be, plunging back into 'who gets to sit on that pointy chair' will feel very silly." Zach Kram of The Ringer called it "a strangely unsatisfying conclusion to a story line that has sustained the show from the very beginning... it seems like those most central questions will remain forever unanswered." Some critics also noted that the episode seemingly concluded the Azor Ahai prophecy arc without resolving it, as they expected Azor Ahai to kill the Night King, yet Arya Stark does not meet the prophecy's other requirements.
The conclusion of the White Walker storyline and its significance to the ending of the show caused debate among commentators. Erik Kain of Forbes argued that it was a perfect ending to what was ultimately a secondary storyline to Game of Thrones, writing, "The Night King (who isn't really in the books) is pretty one-dimensional and uninteresting. More to the point, he isn't really what these stories have ever been about ... Cersei is far, far more interesting and compelling, because she's a real person with real motivations and fears and love and hate and everything in-between." On the contrary, Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post called the ending an "intellectual letdown, where a big episode of Game of Thrones felt like badly shot and edited fan service rather than a genuine revelation."
Beric Dondarrion's saving of Arya and subsequent death scene were generally well-received. Jolie Lash of Collider called it "an emotional and courageous ending", and said by opening his eye after death instead of closing it, the "character remained intriguing". In interviews with actor Richard Dormer, Josh Wigler of The Hollywood Reporter and Leigh Blickley of The Huffington Post noted the barricade of the hallway (which some fans have named the "Bericade") was reminiscent of Hodor's iconic death, both selflessly suffering to defend the greater good; Dormer agreed and added it was also "almost Christ-like". Jack Shepherd of The Independent felt the death was "grisly, but purposeful" and gave the performance a 4/5 rating.
Ryan Grauer, an associate professor of international affairs told Vox that "the tension between good military tactics and good television came into conflict" in this episode. Mick Cook, an Afghanistan war veteran, agreed that the army of the living incorrectly placed its infantry, catapults and trench, and ineffectively used its wall defenses and light cavalry (Dothraki).
Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter called the polarized reaction a demonstration of the impossibility of pleasing an entire audience of a television show with the scope of Game of Thrones, comparing it to the reception of the final seasons of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Sopranos, and The Wire. He wrote, "Fans (of television) are a combination of knowing exactly what they want from you and the story, not knowing what they want but willing to turn on you instantly if they don't get it, and some weird combination of happy but disappointed or let down, but also unwilling to trade the experience for anything [...] A consolation is that memory (and opinion) fades, and you're going into the magical, mythical Hall of Fame no matter what."
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