Arya Stark Is the One True King

When ur sport coach tells u to “hit from the paint”
When ur sport coach tells u to “hit from the paint”
Screenshot: Game of Thrones (HBO)

You ever think about how, since this show started, Arya hasn’t gotten a day off? Sure, maybe that day at Hot Pie’s restaurant last season, but that was more of a lunch break; even her entire time back at Winterfell—her first jaunt home in nine years—has been spent scheming and unraveling schemes and slicing necks. Since she was a murderous squirt running around Westeros with the Hound, it’s been relentless, which has to be some sort of child labor issue, even though child labor laws have not yet been invented in Westeros due to feudalism and survival and shit. My point is, after “The Long Night,” Arya needs to go on vacation, and I hope it involves a lot of resort-boning in Dorne with her new mans, Gendry. Get this young woman a cocktail!

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There were a lot of problems with “The Long Night” plot—the main one being that Benioff and Weiss, who wrote this ish, need to call up Shonda Rhimes and let her explain the important storytelling function of a cliffhanger episode*—but first I want to point out what I loved about it, because visually, it was fucking stunning. Miguel Sapochnik has long been the best director in the Thrones universe—he directed “Hardhome” and “Battle of the Bastards,” among others—and “The Long Night” was artful battle direction at its most beautiful, suspenseful, and terrifying, at least during the on-the-ground parts. (I still don’t know what the hell was happening with the dragons and the snow tornado—can someone turn the lights up in this piece?) The pacing and tension alone as the episode opened was worth an Emmy nod or like, a high-five: Legions of warriors, each their own faction—Dothraki, Wildlings, Unsullied, Ser Brienne’s road cru, and Ghost riding with Ser Jorah for some unexplained reason—lined up with the fierceness of people ready to fight their final fight, staring into the dark night, listening to the wind whir, waiting for some animated corpses to come eat their faces.

Fucking psych! It’s just Melisandre, my number one Fire Bitch in full effect, rolling up in some Valentino couture, looking like she just slathered her thousand-year-old skin in Good Genes and La Mer. The notion that main Dothraki guy would allow her to touch his sword and say some nonsensical shit in High Valyrian just because Ser Jorah said so was a little confusing, but we’re suspending a lot of previously established boundaries here, so let’s roll with it. Melisandre, in her swan song, was the second-most-interesting person in this episode, running around dropping cryptic/psychic knowledge jewels on everyone, not as creepy as Bran but definitely witchy and admirably rude. Honestly, if a fire lady who predicted her own death gave you knowing eye contact just before some undead motherfuckers were about to arrive, wouldn’t you freak out? We know he fine, but why did she keep giving Grey Worm the eye like that? Was she really trying to let him know that in the near future We will work together? Shout out to cooperation, but she really got to relax on that shit.

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Her interactions with Arya, the number one king of my heart, were far more interesting. When Melisandre told her that she was going to kill people, pointedly, with “blue eyes,” it seemed like foreshadowing for Arya’s big battle with some Nordic-looking White Walkers, but I suppose Arya’s Not Today, Satan resolve about dying should have let us know that the Long Night was actually going to be a Long Hour-and-a-Half. What earned this moment was Arya’s scary trip through the library, hiding from wights stuttering around like she was Brad Pitt creeping through the CDC in World War Z. (Much of this episode echoed World War Z visuals, including the wights piling atop each other to scale the Winterfell walls, letting us know definitively that they are freaking zombies of the classical sort.)

Me at 6 a.m. after the rave
Me at 6 a.m. after the rave

I could have watched young Arya stab wights in the neck for the whole rest of the season, while generations of dead Starks were going ballistic in the crypt; you’ve got to hand it to Maisie Williams and her fight training, which she has mastered deftly over the last decade. The writers wanted us to believe, as well, that murking out the number one ice motherfucker was also the culmination of Arya’s fight training, that this was what it was leading up to. While the moment she stabbed the Night King with the Dagger That Started It All was thrilling—I screamed, I cried, I accidentally bumped my cat in the face with my gesticulation—and it was deeply satisfying that Jon Snow didn’t do it as seemed preordained, the big question is where the show even goes at this point, considering we’ve had seven seasons of foreshadowing to that very moment and it was done in an instant, and there are still three more episodes left. I guess maybe the cliffhanger is wondering what the fuck Arya’s going to say to stony-ass Bran after she destroyed that dude, or maybe explaining to us whether Bran knew this was going to happen or if it was one outcome alongside any number of variable parallel outcomes. Maybe the cliffhanger is Daenerys telling us how she kept her Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy (in my mind) fur so clean among so much blood and mud? I’d pay extra for that.

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Here’s my theory about what happens next: Arya and Gendry fuck some more, scandalizing the Men of Internet, and then they take over the Iron Throne after Jon and Dany die together in a four-alarm dragon collision. Sansa and Tyrion get married again because they’re best friends. Jaime kills Cersei after Cersei kills Brienne, and also when he realizes he was NOT the fatherrrrr!!! because the baby was a ruse to get an open seat on the train. Everyone hugs.

Me when the DJ rewinds my fave track in the club
Me when the DJ rewinds my fave track in the club
Screenshot: Game of Thrones (HBO)
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Deaths: Eddison Tollett of Night’s Watch loyalty fame. Lyanna Mormont, valiantly, though in a pretty reductive and banal point on the part of the writers. Beric, Jesus-like, for his final adios. The main Dothraki guy, and nearly all the Dothraki, which is boring for future episodes. Possibly Ghost, because it’s just too expensive to keep showing direwolves onscreen. Fire Bitch, doing her thing. And Theon, my mans from the club, in a final act of redemption for stealing Winterfell from Bran and then faking Bran’s killing and betraying Robb and weaseling out on his much tougher sister and being too twisted in the damn club. RIP, my mans Theon from the club.

Boners: Me, for Miguel Sapochnik’s directing!

*Thanks to my friend Mo for making this point!

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DISCUSSION

doit2julia
doit2julia!

So apparently when Melisandre prophesized the blue eyes that Arya would shut forever, she was talking about the Night King. I did not see that coming! I’m wondering, given the extent to which GRRM likes to draw from historical references, if the Night King’s army is intended as a metaphorical representation of the Black Plague, a wave of indiscriminate death that wipes out half the population, to ultimately usher in an end to feudalism. To break the wheel, as it were. It would fall in line with GRRM’s assertion that NK is intended more as a force of nature than as a villain with clear motivations and characterization. Still, I’m left just a little disappointed that the treat was dispatched so quickly and with so many questions surrounding him still left unanswered. This whole time, “the Long Night” sounded like an ominous metaphor but turned out to be literal AF.

I loved the moments between Sansa and Tyrion, when they reminisced about their marriage and later hid behind the tomb. Their respect and affection for each other renewed my theory that we’ll get a War of the Roses ending after all, and the two will remarry.

I’d predicted devastating losses for Dany’s army, that Dothraki would get annihilated, the Unsullied would take major casualties, and she’d lose either Grey Worm or Jorah or both, which wasn’t too far off. But I also predicted that all of this would unleash the Mad Queen within because halfcocked rage tends to be her reaction to devastating loss, yet she seems pretty upbeat in the next episode preview. The surviving Northmen and knights of the Vale are perhaps more inclined to fight for her now that she’s come to their aid, but how many survived? Surely not enough to replace the troops she lost, and Cersei’s got Lannister troops, the Greyjoy naval fleet, and the Golden Company.

Let’s pour one out for the deaths I predicted —Theon, Jorah, Beric, Edd, Lyanna, Viserion, and all the Dothraki. And for the ones I didn’t quite see coming this episode —Melisandre and the Night King. But let’s call shenanigans on my predicted deaths that didn’t happen —Brienne and Grey Worm. On the one hand, it means that last episode wasn’t quite so trope-y after all, but on the other hand, it’s kinda bullshit there weren’t more significant character deaths in all this carnage, but we had about the same number of named characters die in the Battle at Castle Black. (Side note: It did not make sense that the Dothraki, long established as superstitious and distrusting of witchcraft, would go charging into the night after a supernatural force after some spooky lady casts a magic spell on their weapons, but I guess D & D were committed to let Westeros have their Operation Get Behind Darkie moment, so c’est la vie.)