It's been a long night

There are spoilers for Episode 3 of Season 8 of Game of Thrones. If you care about that kind of thing, don’t keep reading.

(As an aside, I don’t personally care much about spoilers, as long as the execution of the idea is done well. I’m about to argue that it both is and isn’t)

The episode (1) builds a lot of tension until the climax of Arya killing the Night King. It’s a massive moment, an emotional release that caused myself and a lot of others to exult and cheer. It’s a magnificent piece of television. Every part of that scene works to build the tension I was feeling to a head and then to give release. Even listening to Ramin Djawadi’s background music for the scene gives me a frission when it hits the section when Arya first appears. We need to celebrate the moments that Game of Thrones gives something back after taking so much from us because it happens so rarely.

I love that scene and I appreciate the work that went into getting to it, but it’s the end of a flawed resolution. Because why even does Bran matter? I’ve been waiting years for Bran’s storyline to pay off and…it doesn’t. He is the Three Eyed Crow just so the Night King can try and kill him…because he is the Three Eyed Crow? Really? He’s warging so he can check where the Night King is…and then sit there warging some more? What? I have issues with the renlentless, sapping violence and brutality of the show that apply equally to this episode. What leaves me empty though is that in the end Bran is entirely meaningless and could be replaced with a MacGuffin. ‘The Stark’s Weirwood is special and the Night King needs to get to it’ is an explanation that could replace Bran’s entire Three Eyed Crow arc without any impact.

I mean, even if they just had Bran be able to block the Night King’s ability to raise the dead. It would have given a better reason for the Night King to expose himself to risk before the castle was completely overrun. It would have made the deaths of the defenders meaningful.

The show is not the books. The medium of television is ill-suited to internal thoughts of characters. Maybe the books will have more ability and space to show that Bran really is doing something. And I don’t discount the possibility that the point of Bran isn’t part of the Night King arc. That just as Arya leaps out of completely different arc to close out the Night King, Bran wraps up a different story line. (2) OR even that the Night King arc isn’t actually over, because what about the Azor Ahai thing. On the other hand, Melisandre was constantly wrong about everything else, why not that as well? And more prosaically. maybe the compact nature of the season just means they had to sacrifice the full Bran and Night King arc and we are just left with this. I find that hard to believe, they had 3+ hours and could have done something more than warging into some crows to buzz the tower, but it’s not impossible.

It does look an awful lot like we’re left with three episodes of Opposite Day Medea (3) and Euron the Mustache Twirler.

  1. Or episodes, I suppose. The first three episodes of Season 8 are basiclaly a three hour movie that are the culmination of an entire multi-season story arc.
  2. There are three episodes to go. Bran is a little brother. Perhaps the preternatural calm is a ploy to let him get close to Cersei.
  3. I am sympathetic to Cersei. She’s not the worst monster in the story and most of the people she turned into hogs kind of had it coming.