Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Game of Thrones.
Extra warning: I’m really serious.
Double-extra warning: Come on.
*Looks around nervously* One last paragraph break to be sure and then that should do it.
Okay so: Despite fears that the battle against the army of the dead wouldn’t quite get wrapped up in one episode, no matter how super-sized, Game of Thrones really did it. In an episode that gave us slightly fewer major character deaths than expected, we still got one big one: Just as the Night King seemingly had Bran Stark in his clutches, Arya came flying in from behind to save the day, using every skill she mastered in two seasons’ worth of Braavos training montages to stab him with her Valyrian steel dagger — the same dagger introduced in the hands of another guy who tried unsuccessfully to kill Bran in Winterfell in the show’s second-ever episode. Talk about setup!
So yes, the Night King is dead, and with him the looming threat that has been lingering over everything else in the series since its opening sequence. (Whether this makes Arya Azor Ahai is a question for another day.) I didn’t think this could all be wrapped up so quickly, but apparently, it can! Or can it? As anyone who read Tony Judt’s Postwar knows, stuff doesn’t just stop happening once the good guys win the war. We’ve got three episodes left of Thrones, and with each of them clocking in at 80 minutes, that’s about four hours of denouement before the Westeros Weather Gang signs off for good. How will they fill it?
Despite “The Long Night” tying up its central battle in a nice blue-eyed bow, there’s still plenty of plot left to fill before Game of Thrones ends for good. Cersei remains on the Iron Throne, and if the trailer for episode four is to be believed, rather than holing up in the North and resting on their laurels, our heroes look like they’re about to take the fight down south to her. You can quibble with the story logic somewhat — after years of the show telling us the game of thrones was less important than the fight against the army of the dead, it’s going to be hard for this next part to not feel like an anticlimax — but Cersei at least has the advantages of being a slightly more nuanced villain than the Night King, who really only raised the dead and stared impassively at Jon Snow.
And as our own history often proves, no sooner does a coalition achieve a great victory than that coalition splinters off into its own warring factions. Even facing down certain death, Sansa couldn’t resist getting snippy about Daenerys within earshot of Missandei, Winterfell’s own Gretchen Weiners. (That’s why her hair’s so big, it’s full of secrets.) While winning can solve a lot of problems, it might not be able to paper over the fundamental issues dividing Daenerys and the Starks. Indeed, the events of the battle might have made them worse: With Team Stark being able to claim the direwolf’s share of the credit for the victory, and Dany’s Dothraki and Unsullied almost entirely wiped out, the Mother of Dragons’ position as the good guys’ chief executive might be on shaky ground.
Apart from the epic throne-y matters, there are plenty of other smaller character issues that need to be resolved. The Lannister siblings need to come to some sort of reckoning: Jaime seems prophesied to kill Cersei, while the King’s Landing gig economy just handed Bronn a particularly tough job. Jon and Dany need to figure out what sort of relationship they want to have — romantic, materteral, or both. And Euron needs to … well, who knows what the point of Euron is. But the point is, he’s still kicking around, too!
And, ultimately, we’ve got to find out what the future of Westeros looks like. Is it a restoration of the Targaryen monarchy, still with dragons, yes, but also kinder and gentler? Is it Jon and Dany ruling jointly, in love? Is it Daenerys proving she can do what Jon did and sacrifice herself for the good of her people? Is it King’s Landing blowing up due to the wildfire, and the Seven Kingdoms reverting back to independent kingdoms with shared cultural bonds? Will George R.R. Martin finally make good on his promise to write an interesting storyline about tax policy? Now that the Night King’s dead, almost anything is possible. Except for the “everyone will die” prediction. Like Bran, that one’s out the window.