“The dead will come North first. Enjoy dealing with them. We will deal with whatever is left of you.”
Cersei sounded ignorant when she rejected Jon Snow’s entreaties in the Dragonpit at the close of Game of Thrones season 7. You don’t get it, was the implication from Jon, if we don’t band together we’ll all be dead. Three episodes later, and Cersei’s decision to steer clear of the ‘Great War’ starts to look quite shrewd – still cruel and misanthropic, yes, but shrewd nonetheless.
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The Long Night, which in actual fact barely made it to dawn, turned out not to require Lannister forces, Iron Fleets and Golden Companies, but simply a well-placed dagger to the ribs of the army of the dead’s leader. Granted, there might be a good deal more Dothraki still with us had Cersei stood with her fellow humans, but the Battle for Winterfell didn’t claim the lives of nearly as many major and supporting characters as expected. Hell, even Ghost the direwolf somehow escaped the conflict.
As someone who’s always found the scenes involving the living more compelling than those centring around the dead in Game of Thrones, it was an explosive end to the White Walkers, with three total question marks of episodes now stretching out in front of us (and all feature-length).
But while this season’s battle episode provided much-needed closure on the White Walker narrative, in doing so relatively swiftly and incredibly neatly (unless a subsequent bold twist brings them back) it raises question as to what the show is really about.
‘Humans are so narcissistic and obsessed with control over one another that they’re ignorant of larger issues’, was previously the generally accepted overarching theme. The White Walkers were to the Seven Kingdoms what climate change is to Earth, an insidious existential threat that could be stopped if people weren’t distracted by trivial bullshit.
Sunday’s episode has seemingly flipped this on its head, however. The trailer for next week’s instalment sees Daenerys wasting little time mourning the dead, as she declares with near episode synopsis-level brevity: “We have won the great war, now we will win the last war.”
So did the show arc just change to: ‘That time the dead were resurrected into rabid killing machines sucked, but now we can go back to fighting over a chair made out of swords”?
‘The Long Night’ was a staggering technical feat and a thrilling watch, if not quite as beautifully choreographed as previous battle sequences in the show, but it was slightly puzzling. With Cersei vs Daenerys now being the focus as the show heads to its climax, Sam and the Citadel maesters might want to consider renaming their subsequent chronicle of the events of the show ‘A Song of Wine and Fire’.