Game of Thrones: The Longest Night

Samuel L Houston

Samuel is a Game of Thrones fan, reporting from law school.

Related Post Roulette

27 Responses

  1. pillsy says:

    Welcome to the blog dude!

    (It’s @DucksForDuckGod.)Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    Yeah, Arya should have had the face of a zombie when she killed him. And then had it flicker away to show her face.

    That would have run with stuff from before.

    What I’m irritated about is not even that they did stuff wrong. It’s that a 1 second change here, a changed facial expression there, a camera cut to seeing someone run across rooftops there…

    We’re talking minimal changes to make the product measurably better.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Jaybird says:

      Yes, but how could the directors and cameramen have made all those better scenes when they couldn’t even see where the actors were? We’re lucky they managed to get Team Dead and Team Alive to run into each other.

      There’s a very entertaining look at the battle at Slate: Professional analysis of the battle from someone at the US Army War College

      But back to the main point, the major hurdle for the episode was that nobody has ever made an interesting battle scene that went on that long. Maintaining the viewer’s attention without over saturation was probably the primary driver of everything they showed, so they had to divide the action up into very discrete and very different aspects and periods so it wasn’t just slash, slash, and slash some more.

      Having Arya do her typical faceless attack probably have been too predictable because we’ve all seen it before. Having her continue to defeat all the undead she encountered in open battle would have turned into a boring Mary Sue meets Alita: Battle Angel production. Having Bran use a crossbow would have been both anti-climactic and something we’d think the Night King would have foreseen, which would also apply to a variety of clever tricks or booby traps such as having Bran’s wheelchair parked on a pole rising up from the bottom of a Burmese tiger trap filled with Valerian steel spikes. Falling for such a trick would make the Night King less formidable and competent, and thus the victory less heroic.

      Letting the war drag on for years might seem like a good idea, but it has a major flaw for storytelling, in that the foe has no personality. The Army of the Dead exists, and the White Walkers and the Night King exist, but not as interesting characters in their own right. They don’t argue over strategy or even talk, or plot against each other, or have any kind of complex plans, logistics challenges, or internal dynamics. The only thing they eat is screen time.

      The difference in Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis illustrates this problem. For most of its run, SG-1’s villains were the Go’uld, who were very complex and well-developed characters who fought among each other like a bitter, dysfunctional family. They were probably more interesting than the good guys. In contrast, Stargate Atlantis’s foe was a race of vampire creatures with a hive mind and virtually no personality or internal dynamics at all, and the result was about as interesting as watching an Orkin man fight termites. Battling the Army of the Dead would have been similar. The threat is vast, but it’s also like fighting Ebola, cancer, or killer bees. There’s no real story there. It would just devolve into a boring chronicle of marches, retreats, and supply problems until all the viewers fall asleep.

      So we could view the whole Night King/White Walker story line as a simple plot device, somewhat like a MacGuffin. There’s some bigger threat that requires the characters to forge alliances they wouldn’t have otherwise needed, and to unify behind a particular set of leaders to fight for a goal other than simply squabbling over who sits in the big chair. Once that new structure is established, there’s no need to maintain a continued thread about the spooky army of undead, which, if continued, would actually detract from the central plot.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to George Turner says:

        I was not impressed by the “Professional analysis” tendered on Slate by Mr. Farley; but thanks for the link.Report

        • George Turner in reply to Marchmaine says:

          Generally the Army War College or the DoD folks do much better shredding Star Wars operations, which are generally awful by any standards.

          One thing I’d comment on is that flaming arrows are actually pretty useless for anything except sending a signal. The tiny bit of fire doesn’t seem to do anything to the undead, as the killing is done by the obsidian arrowhead. All the fire does is keep the archer from being able to see his target in the dark because he’s got a big burning flame right in his sight line that blinds him to everything.

          Another piece of bad writing was having to use a witch to light a fire in a trench that was meant to be lit on fire, while flames and torches were in open abundance all around the trench. Just holler down at somebody. “Hey, Unsullied guy in the helmet! Yes, you! Would you mind lighting that trench for us? Thank you.” You think that would’ve been part of the whole prepared plan of falling back behind the walls, but somehow nobody thought of mentioning it to anyone.

          Another problem is that since the Night King turns out to be vulnerable to conventional weapons, arrows would’ve worked fine against him as he waltzed through the castle. Anybody could have taken him out.Report

          • Marchmaine in reply to George Turner says:

            The analysis fell apart in two strokes… the dead don’t have to attack, and the Cavalry charge doesn’t require a counter attack nor would it in any inspire one under ordinary circumstances, these are not ordinary circumstances, see phrase #1.

            Admittedly… a siege of Winterfell would be an impossible plot to envision… but then they had to build a plot that introduces some sort of urgency on the Winter King.

            A simple example would have been Bran having some sort of long weirwood ritual that could counter the army of the dead… which would have switched the urgency from the besieged to the besiegers… Thus also exposing Bran… with the gamble being worth the risk… and the (shhh) secret plan of luring the Night King to the Weirwood and away from his army. There… almost no extra scenes.

            And, no unsupported shock cavalry charge in the dark against unshockable undead infantry.Report

            • North in reply to Marchmaine says:

              Yeah I was wondering that on the analysis. Why charge into the dead? Just scythe in.. chop chop a bit then ride away-repeat. The Dothraki in the books weren’t even shock cavalry to begin with; they were mongol/hunnic style harassers and mounted archers.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to North says:

                Before carrying on, it would be churlish of me not to acknowledge that no matter how stupid the Dothraki charge might have been, it was beautifully filmed and scored. So much so, that I’m rather sure the idea of the cinematography is what drove the battle plan.

                And part of me thinks that’s a pretty good way to devise a hopeless order of battle, by making sound aesthetic decisions.Report

            • George Turner in reply to Marchmaine says:

              I agree, they should have built in a reason why the Night King had to adhere to some sort of tight schedule or why he had to take Winterfell quickly, as opposed to besieging it for weeks while they ran out of food. Earlier episodes had already touched on the winter food rations in Winterfell, but there was no corresponding reason given for the Night King to be hurried or desperate. Their winter last years, so he could afford to be patient.

              Adding such an element would have been trivial. “He has to acquire the +3 Raybans of Coolness buried in crypt before the new moon rises or he gets hit with an enormous tax penalty for the prior fiscal year, so he has to attack tonight.”Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

      Face time on screen. Final season and the budget only stretches to six episodes (reportedly, Ep3 required 55 nights of shooting — not cheap). So, no masks or helmets for the major characters this year. The other big consequence… could only afford one episode finishing off most of the existential threats to Westeros — the Night King, the Dothraki, and the Unsullied are all off the board.

      Are we still doing predictions? The dragons are not decisive, the odds at the moment are too lopsided, so the game gets “won” by trickery, treachery, and tragedy. My money’s still on Tyrion getting stuck with the throne.Report

  3. North says:

    I’ve read about the Sansa/Tyrion scenes and for some reason they really rankle me. Her telling him he was the best husband she had? I mean talk about rubbing salt in the wounds film makers. Admissibly the bar on Sansa’s husbands is so love you’d need to excavate to go under it but frankly I’d have liked it better if she’d shot him with a crossbow.Report

    • George Turner in reply to North says:

      Tyrion has matured and mellowed a whole lot since she ran off on him. They’d make a wonderful couple now. It’s not like there are many eligible bachelors left after the Battle of Winterfell, and she’s not getting any younger.Report

      • North in reply to George Turner says:

        I think he’d need to start offering some winning advice sometime soon and be willing to agree to a matrilineal marriage before she should even consider the possibility.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to North says:

      Why would Sansa want to shoot him with a crossbow? Its been so long since the books and season two that perhaps I’m forgetting some depravity… but my recollection is that he forbore his marital obligations owing to her age and sensitivities as well as providing some bulwark against the mechinations of Cersei until she absconded with Littlefinger in the confusion of the Purple Wedding. Perhaps as a Proxy for all things Lanister? But at this point in the story its hard to fathom Tyrion as a Lanister in anything but heredity

      Unless the great reveal when Tyrion becomes King is that he’s the third Targaryen and assumes the throne after Jon (Aegon) and Danaery’s (heroic?) deaths. In which case, he marries Sansa and she becomes Queen just as she always wanted from episode #1. Full circle, fade to black.

      Like any good epic poem we have to have death pairs… my guesses as of now are:

      Jon kills Danaerys kills Jon
      Jaime kills Cersei
      Ser Brienne kills Mountain kills Hound (the big surprise, like the Dornish Prince)
      Gendry kills Ser Ilyn Paine (last on Arya’s list) marries Arya and revives house Baratheon.Report

      • North in reply to Marchmaine says:

        Well for one thing it’d free her up to marry someone else. Also, since- as I understand it- Tyrion hasn’t provided any useful council for something like four seasons, offing him wouldn’t cost her much.
        I grant that as Lannisters go he’s the most decent one in the bunch which is much like saying he’s the least rabid rat in the rabid rat pack. That’s still not much of a reason to take him as a husband.

        Finally, if she wants her house to survive- which clearly she does- Sansa needs to find a tolerable younger non-inheriting son who’s family is willing to wed him off matrilineal otherwise the Starks will be defunct. Rickon and Rob are dead; Jon is either a Snow or a Tagaryen; Bran is… ummm.. not fathering any kids and Arya patently won’t give a damn.

        Admiteddly I just also am contrary. I never was deeply fond of Tyrion as a PoV character because Martin was so overweeningly fond of him (like Arya and Jon) but at least book Tyrion was funny and clever whereas TV Tyrion seems to be only mopey and incompetent. Frankly I think my gal Sansa should try to do better.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to North says:

          Thanks, I just wanted to make you type “I hate Tyrion Lanister.”

          Though if I think seriously for a moment about what might be “better” for Sansa, I confess that I’m not sure we’ve met such a character who could help heal her wounds… I go back and forth between wanting her to have a fairy tale ending and wondering when she murders everyone in their sleep.Report

      • North in reply to Marchmaine says:

        On death pairs, I’m rootin for Dany and Jon to somehow die and Westeros turns back into seven Kingdoms again.

        Or better yet! Something so Hollywood horrible that Martin goes “Holy Hell! I can’t let this ending stand! I have to finish my books to correct this abomination!! To the typewriter!!!”Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to North says:

          I know broadly how I’d end it from where the writers have put us. Dany and Jon definitely have to go. Brienne is the only one who winds up happy.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to North says:

          Heh, GRRM cannot believe how fucking lucky he got that we’re all going to blame the shitty ending on the TV show and in our mind palaces construct a fantasy where he figured out how not to crash the landing.

          This is the most meta deus ex machina ever.Report

          • North in reply to Marchmaine says:

            You know what? You might be right about that. “I don’t know how to bring this spruce goose in for a coherent landing… wait, I just sell the whole thing to HBO and then the fans will blame them for crashing it! And I get rich!!”

            Viewed from that angle it’s rather brilliant!Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to North says:

          Amen… Seven Kingdoms for reelz this time.

          Oh wait, wrong thread.Report

      • George Turner in reply to Marchmaine says:

        In other news, Sophie Turner just married Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers in the Las Vegas Elvis wedding chapel. (Daily Mail story)
        Priyanka Chopra, married to Nick Jonas last year, was her maid of honor.Report

        • North in reply to George Turner says:

          Well good for her! Getting to play Jean Grey and marrying a Jonas brother? My geeky gay social circles would agree that’s a good years work.Report

        • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

          It also lets us freely speculate that it was an arranged dynastic marriage, uniting the movie industries of the United States and India with that of the United Kingdom, undoubtedly as part of some grand scheme.

          Will Priyanka contribute tens of thousands of Bollywood back up dancers to the army of House Jonas and lay siege to Hollywood? Is Sophie already plotting to marry her firstborn daughter to Prince George of England?Report

  4. Maribou says:

    I loved this episode, disagree with most of your analysis, and yet I relished your post enormously.

    So, agreed re the joys of enjoying AND nitpicking.Report