The Long Night (Game of Thrones) – In Its Defense

The most epic battle in GoT, and seemingly the most controversial. Seems more people are hating it than loving it. Frankly, I liked it more than not.

I’ve always wondered what the Night King’s motivation is, besides killing everything. I’ve always wondered why the White Walkers suddenly reappeared after 8,000 years. I’ve always wondered if the Night King had all the same powers as Bran, including foresight, and that alone would make him unstoppable (seriously, predicting the future is the ultimate superpower).

Well, this episode decimated all my hopes of getting satisfying answers to those intrigues.

Or, did it?

Game of Thrones, and the Song of Ice and Fire novels, are famous for being complicated, and for showing that everyone is complicated, even the most perceived-evil and perceived-good among us. The author himself has stated that nobody in the story is completely good or completely evil. Well, according to the show, Ned Stark was completely good (he wasn’t the real father of the bastard Jon Snow), and the Night King was completely evil. The fans should know that the books still haven’t even gotten past Season 5 of the show, so maybe we will get more nuance about both those characters still.

As for the show…

Ned Stark never cheated on Catelyn, BUT in being virtuous toward his sister, keeping his promise, he still submitted his wife to years and years of grief by keeping his promise. Basically, one action on his part was both good and evil. So, there’s the nuance I see there.

As for the Night King… We have seen his origins. He was created by the Children of the Forest to resist the invasion of the Andals thousands of years ago, and their creation got out of control. They created something to solve all their problems. It’s just like what humans are going to do with Artificial Intelligence. And, just like AI, their intent to wipe us out can be simple and nuanced at the same time. Yes, what I’m saying is, I don’t mind that the Night King simply wanted to kill everybody. Think about why AI would want to kill us all. They would be their own entity – their own ‘species’ so-to-speak – and we humans are just getting in the way. With the Night King in Game of Thrones, he may want his species to rule all the land in place of humans. Humans do want the same thing, you know.

Remember Crastor? Remember how the White Walkers left Crastor alone because he sacrificed his sons to them? Clearly the White Walkers can’t reproduce on their own, and they need humans to transform. Do they have a society or something? Do the White Walkers have love for each other and such? Who the hell knows why they would feel the need to increase their population. Maybe the Night King and the White Walkers in general actually did have a society of some kind. All we know for sure is: They wanted to increase in number, and they needed humans to do it.

There’s another possibility. Maybe the White Walkers are just as mindless as the wights they control? Maybe the Night King is the only sentient member of his race. Even then, this makes his “kill everybody” motivation sensible. The guy is clearly alone. He’s the only member of his race that’s actually alive. Maybe for thousands of years he was locked up and escaped, or maybe it took him thousands of years to become angry enough to seek revenge on the rest of the world. Maybe the White Walkers were actually wiped out and they can somehow come back into existence after thousands of years?

There’s a good chance the Night King just simply wanted to kill everybody because he was angry for being transformed. MAYBE he’s not sentient at all and is just as mindless and single-minded as all the others? After all, he was forced to become what he is by the Children of the Forest, and they transformed him to have a single purpose. Maybe he’s just as mindless as the rest, but just simply more powerful, or maybe he functions as the central intelligence for all the other mindless wights and White Walkers. Purpose-driven, but more sophisticated.

I’m not saying I know all the answers, but what I am saying is that the Night King having a single purpose of just destroying everything can have legitimate explanations, even in a story full of so much complexity and nuance. The Night King could essentially just be a really intelligent nuclear bomb that the Children lost control of. The nuance could come from the Children, and the White Walkers are just simply weapons. Weapons can have singular purposes. Weapons usually do have singular purposes. The Children were just trying to defend themselves, and they made a mistake.

Why did the Night King show up to the battle himself when he could have easily conquered everything from a distance, letting his army do all the hard work for him? I think the answer is possibly: Overconfidence combined with the fact he can’t see the future. Or, I think it’s more likely that the wights cannot strategize without him there. I don’t think he can see through their eyes, the way Bran can warg into the minds of animals. I think the Night King needed to be present to see the battle himself and strategize accordingly. We did see him directly command the wights to lay on top of themselves to bridge over the fiery trenches… Would they have done that without him present? Most likely not.

And there’s also the TWO other dragons. Drogon and Rhaegal could have easily fucked up his entire campaign by just standing on the front lines and burning all the wights.

The Night King needed to be present to strategize, and to personally take out Dany’s dragons.

There’s one more thing I want to address, and that is all the people who think the whole series was supposed to be about everybody fighting the White Walkers. No. If that’s what you think, then YOU haven’t been paying attention. The whole series, which is character-driven and complex should not have been all about fighting some big evil force. It was never about the White Walkers, even if the Night King just wanted to be friends this whole time. In fact, this is even more reason for me to think the White Walkers should have had one simple goal of destruction.

The White Walkers were clearly meant to bring people together. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. We spent so many hours watching our characters have petty conflicts and hold grudges because THAT’S what the story is about! The story is about ending all these stupid, pointless fights with each other and living in peaceful coexistence. The White Walkers were most likely meant, by the author himself, to force everybody to work together.

The White Walkers were the biggest threat, but they were not the real test. The test comes after the hard part.

Now that everyone has been united, and now that everyone has fought side-by-side, it’s absolutely fitting that the story concludes with the question of: Will everybody remember the lessons they’ve learned, or will they go back to all their petty squabbling about who should be king, and ‘you killed somebody I love,’ and blah blah blah?

The White Walkers were the lesson. They were a blessing in disguise. Now, everybody has to put those lessons in practice. And who’s the least likely to have learned anything from all this? Cersei. The one who refused to work together, at her own risk. The one who did not take the opportunity to work together like she should have.

So, do I hate this most recent episode? No. For the most part, I was satisfied. Were there some problems? Absolutely, but the overall premise and conclusion don’t bother me.

(We especially have to see if Dany learned her lesson. She clearly wants to be supreme ruler at any cost………)

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