Now that we’ve emerged from the darkness (both literally and figuratively) of “The Long Night” and the great Battle for Winterfell, lets collect ourselves and look forward. Because one spin around the internet of opinions and you’ll see reactions to this episode ranging from good to bad, “that was awesome!” to “that was terrible!” There are fine arguments on either side, I suppose, but the battle is over, leaving a fallout that determines the fate of Westeros. But if you want my opinion real quick, well… that was awesome!
As expected, there are a lot of implications from a battle like this, though granted, there aren’t quite as many as I thought I’d be talking about this week. For instance, Brienne and Greyworm are among the head scratching survivors for me. Yet the war against death has been won and Westeros is at peace and all warm and fuzzy now right? Oh wait… there’s that whole Iron Throne thing. What does this victory mean moving forward then? Much like in life, I think the conclusion will be affected by the experiences that have come before.
Let’s gush on Arya for a second, though. Her character arc was cool enough already: displaced by war, captured then escaped, traveled with the murderous Hound, ended up across the narrow sea to become a silent assassin, came back and got her revenge on her family’s murderer. No one would argue it wasn’t a satisfying journey. Yet now we learn that all along she was the fulfillment of prophecies sent from the Lord of Light to save mankind from eternal darkness? Is she not the coolest fantasy character of all time now? When someone tries to argue otherwise, what do we say to them? “Not today.”
It was a series-defining moment for me when she saved Bran (and humanity) by sticking the Night King with the pointy end of a dagger once meant for Bran. This is a season meant for these types of satisfying resolutions, and this is chief of the lot. Yet it leaves a little too much mystery left to explore in the final three episodes. Will we get to know the truth behind the Night King now? Will we know what Bran was up to sitting there, warged into a bunch of ravens? I hope we get answers to these things and they help better illuminate this battle (pun sortof intended. It was quite a dimly lit spectacle, after all).
Whether we understand the magic behind it all or not, another battle looms. After Jon and Dany’s army has been totally decimated, the odds seem completely stacked against them. Cersei sits high on the throne with the Golden Company and the Iron Fleet. But our crew just faced similar odds and won. And if they are to prevail again, it is more than simple luck that will lead them to do so. Their greatest weapon is not dragons or Valyrian steel swords. It is the fact that they faced their greatest fears and defeated them.
It’s easy to fear death. Like the rolling tide of a zombie hoard coming at your defenses in the deep dark of night, it feels menacing, scary, and inevitable. It is a great unknown even to the strongest of faith. But when I fear death, I remember the words in 2 Timothy that God has not given us a spirit of fear. I remember Jesus calming the storm and wondering why the disciples even doubted him in the first place. A lack of fear equates to power over death. I often wonder what we could do if we really, truly lived without paying the spirit of fear any mind.
This story has long focused on the game. The rules are: you win, or you die. But what happens after you conquer death? Perhaps the rules are nullified, and the game is over. At least we can say that without a fear of death, our players have an edge in the game. So, it would seem that anyone still playing solely for a throne would be at a disadvantage. Someone CC Cersei on this. Or don’t, we don’t want her to win.
Ultimately, I think the Song of Ice and Fire is a story about two forces coming together that should not be able to work together at all. A reaching across the aisle, to put it in political terms. When the dividing lines are eroded, community is born and that’s when life thrives. So, the game is really about life versus death, not thrones and territories. And now with fear conquered, death defeated, and ice and fire working as one, there may finally come a peace in Westeros that can last for even the longest night.