Discrepancies in the Smoke, Blood, Ice and Fire of ‘The Long Night’
The Dothraki crossed the poisoned water of the Narrow sea for this?
The third episode of Game Of Thrones’ (GOT) eighth season can be best described as the release of a breath long held. The Night King, who was originally created to protect the children of the forest from the first men, met his end at the hands of the promised prince, nay Stark – Arya Stark. The Great War witnessed the defeat of the white walkers, the extinction of the Dothraki, the decimation of the Unsullied, the devastation of Winterfell and the narrow survival of the North. The clang of metal echoed on bone and biting growls tore away at flesh as the cries of the fallen were interrupted by the gurgle of blood and the unearthly sound that escaped the mouths of the dead. Oh, and there were dragons – duh.
The magic of fiction is that you can get away with discrepancies but that you can also ponder over questions that the experience might have left you with. “The Long Night,” directed by Miguel Sapochnik and written by David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Gursimran Sandhu and Ethan J. Antonucci was an overwhelmingly memorable episode, featuring the longest filmed continuous battle sequence in film and television history (at 78 minutes). The division of the episode into three arcs sated the anticipation and expectations of viewers who have been following the story for over seven seasons. However, there were a few inconsistencies in how the battle unfolded which demanded justice if not critique and given luck, even explanations in the next episode.
1. The sacrifice of the Dothraki and the Unsullied on the battlefield
It took Daenerys Targaryen six seasons to cement the loyalty of the Dothraki to her and another season to get them to cross the Narrow sea and fight for their Queen. And all it took to erase them from GOT history was a failed sleight of weak or rather, decisively null strategy. While this was infuriating enough, the Unsullied, aka the warriors from Astapor who formed a part of Daenerys’ army since season three, not only bore the brunt of the Night King’s opening attack but also formed the line of defense to “protect the retreat” as the Northerners backed away from the onslaught, seeking refuge behind the walls of Winterfell. There was no inherent logic to the positioning of the army’s arguably strongest assets and their deployment in the field. More than Bran Stark, it was these warriors who were dangled as bait before the enemy. Given the history of the show with its treatment and representation of cultures that are not Westerosi, we have to ask the question: why were the “outsiders” sacrificed?
2. The lack of strategy and weapons employed in manning Winterfell’s walls
One response that has been drilled into the psyche of the Westerosi, particularly the Northerners, is to protect and man the wall. At the infamous Battle of Blackwater and the legendary Battle of Castle Black, we saw creative defense tactics being employed to fend off the assault of Stannis Baratheon and Mance Rayder, respectively. Tyrion Lannister emerged as the strategist extraordinaire when he subverted Baratheon’s army which couldn’t even breach the walls of Kings Landing, thanks to the boulders, arrows and wildfire being rained down on the enemy from the ramparts. Speaking of an epic battle, who can forget how the men of the Night’s Watch defended the wall against their misunderstood future allies? The giant anvil drop, the barrels of explosives and the flaming arrows made for a formidable death wave to the free folk. And then there was Winterfell. Archers aside, the soldiers wielded nothing but handheld weapons to demolish the ascending horde of wights. With Jon Snow (Aegon Targaryen) helming the plan of defense – owing to his cumulative experience in killing threats from beyond the wall – and Tyrion’s applied brains in addition to the experience that the war council collectively brought to the table, can viewers be expected to buy the fact that none of these past and present commanders accounted for lethal tricks to man the wall, the very boundary that lay between them and imminent death? Not today.
3. The characters who should not have survived
The Great War saw Tormund Giantsbane, Grey Worm, Jaime Lannister, Brienne of Tarth, Podrick Payne and Samwell Tarly face the bulk and wrath of the Night King’s forces – and survive. Not only were these characters on the frontlines of the battlefield, but they also cheated death, repeatedly, when the wights surged into Winterfell. Grey Worm, in particular, even emerged breathing after clashing with the first massive onslaught of the dead. While Brienne, Jamie and Podrick were still in somewhat close quarters of each other, Tormund was a fierce solo act. The benefit of the doubt could still be extended till the point when the Night King landed on the battlefield, but once he raised his hands and with them the newly dead, how in the world did these characters survive the final enormous wave of animated corpses? The mountain of dead below their feet should’ve definitively given way to their ends. Two words: plot armor.
4. Leaving the crypt people defenseless
The crypt holding the remains of the Stark ancestors is the safest place in Winterfell – until you account for the dead buried in it. While Arya Stark vests a dragonglass blade in the hands of her sister Sansa Stark, the rest of the people in the crypt are left defenseless. There is a lack of realization on Jon Snow’s part that is inconsistent with his history and experience, given that he has witnessed the Night King raise the dead before. Of all the people in the crypt, Sansa could’ve accounted for the buried and set people to stand guard with weapons in hand. Fewer casualties might have joined the list of the dead during “The Long Night” then.
5. Arya jumping out of nowhere to kill the Night King
Arya Stark was undoubtedly the savior of Winterfell and with it the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Her trick maneuver to kill the Night King was the singular moment that will define pop culture for years to come. But her emergence left viewers with one burning question – where in seven hells did she come from? The Night King’s white walkers and wights formed a circle of defense around the Godswood, making a sneak attack impossible to not detect. And Arya did not drop or attack from the direction of the weirwood tree, which could’ve served as a hiding place. She jumped, out of nowhere, at the Night King – in full view of the defense. Unless one accounts for the farfetched fan theory of Bran warging into multiple ravens and sneakily carrying Arya to the scene, her emergence does not make sense.
Even the storm of ash and snow during the “The Long Night” couldn’t mask the above plot holes. Elaborate twists can only do so much to distract the gaze from the obvious, given the familiarity that fans bear with the characters. The direction, cinematography, acting and scoring in the long-awaited episode was nothing short of epic but the writing left much to be bemoaned. Viewers can expect a few of these discrepancies to be explained in the forthcoming episodes but with the series drawing to an end, it’s a good bet that even after eight long years, we’ll be left with some unanswered questions.