Game of Thrones Moment of the Week: “The Long Night”

The Moment: Arya Stark Kills the Night King

Setting the Scene: Just as all hope seems lost for the living in Winterfell and with the Night King seemingly about to draw his sword against Bran, Arya jumps out of the darkness and fulfills her destiny to close blue eyes forever.

Why It’s Awesome: I’ll be honest: I didn’t love “The Long Night.” Last week’s “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” is much more my style of storytelling and provided far more of what I want from Game of Thrones. However, this episode delivered when it counted, with a moment that had me leaping off my couch in shock and will forever be immortalized in reaction videos that bring tears to my eyes when I watch them.

This is what fandom is all about. It’s what entertainment is all about. It’s about these kinds of moments—ones that make us hold our breath and then explode with emotion, ones that make us want to talk to everyone we know about how it made us feel, and ones that bring us together in shared excitement.

Arya killing the Night King was unexpected in the moment. It seemed like it was Jon’s destiny—or maybe even Bran’s. And then, as the episode neared its end and the fates of all the main characters looked pretty grim, I actually started to worry if maybe the Night King would actually win. But that wasn’t the subversion the writers were going for. Instead, it was the subversion of our expectations of whose hero’s journey we’re actually on when it comes to this story. After Arya stabbed the Night King, I had the best kind of reaction imaginable to a piece of media—I immediately thought about going back and rewatching the entire show with this knowledge in mind, because I knew that I’d see everything differently now. This was a moment that changed not just the future of the show, but how I will now view its previous episodes, too. Because, in her own twisted way, Arya was on a hero’s journey. She had to travel far from home, encounter monsters of all kinds, let her old self die, survive hell, and return home with new knowledge that could be used to create a better future. It doesn’t get more quintessentially Joseph Campbell than that.

I love that Arya’s journey had a real purpose. I struggled for a long time with her story because it felt like a depressing tale of a haunted girl learning to become a soulless killer for revenge. And that kind of story is never interesting to me. But now it all makes sense. She had to become intimately familiar with death in order to kill its greatest agent and symbol. She had to know death to destroy death. All of her training led her to that moment of sticking death itself with the pointy end to defend her brother and her home. When you look at who Arya is and what she was fighting for, there was no better way for this part of the story to end. It managed to be both surprising and satisfying, which doesn’t happen very often on television.

I have no idea where this story is going to go now, but I’m ready to move on from the Night King and get back to the interpersonal, human dramas that have made this show so compelling from the pilot onward. And if this moment taught me anything, it’s that satisfying surprises are still lurking around every corner.

Honorable Mentions: Tyrion kissing Sansa’s hand, Bran telling Theon he’s a good man, Arya giving Sansa a dagger, and literally any of the approximately 800 times Jaime and Brienne saved each other

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