Massive spoilers ahead…
Yesterday HBO dropped the highly anticipated episode of Game of Thrones (Season 8 Episode 3: The Long Night) which saw our heroes take on the army of the dead in the Battle of Winterfell. The episode was intense, brutal and nerve-wracking, with a lot of it shot like a brilliant horror film. And in true Game of Thrones fashion, the ending was something nobody saw coming. Most expected either Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen to take down the Night King, especially considering the Azor Ahai prophecy. Some figured that the good guys would lose the Battle of Winterfell and be forced to retreat elsewhere (the Iron Islands, maybe?). But nobody predicted what actually ended up happening.
In the episode’s most glorious and shocking moment, it is Arya who ended up vanquishing the Night King, putting an end to the long night once and for all. (You can click here to read my in-depth thoughts on it and the episode as a whole.)
In an interview with EW, Maisie Williams said that she was initially reluctant about the big twist, worried that fans would get angry if it was her and Jon Snow that ends up killing the White Walker.
“It was so unbelievably exciting. But I immediately thought that everybody would hate it; that Arya doesn’t deserve it. The hardest thing is in any series is when you build up a villain that’s so impossible to defeat and then you defeat them.
It has to be intelligently done because otherwise, people are like, ‘Well, [the villain] couldn’t have been that bad when some 100-pound girl comes in and stabs him.’ You gotta make it cool. And then I told my boyfriend and he was like, ‘Mmm, should be Jon though really, shouldn’t it?’”
However, the integral scene with the Red Woman Melisandre (Carice van Houten) convinced Williams that it was indeed a great direction to take the story.
“When we did the whole bit with Melisandre, I realized the whole scene with [the Red Woman] brings it back to everything I’ve been working for over these past 6 seasons — 4 if you think about it since [Arya] got to the House of Black and White,” Williams says. “It all comes down to this one very moment. It’s also unexpected and that’s what this show does. So then I was like, ‘F—k you Jon, I get it.’”
What’s great is Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow — the man most thought would kill the Night King — is very happy with this creative decision.
“I was surprised, I thought it was gonna be me!” Harington says. “But I like it. It gives Arya’s training a purpose to have an end goal. It’s much better how she does it the way she does it. I think it will frustrate some in the audience that Jon’s hunting the Night King and you’re expecting this epic fight and it never happens — that’s kind of Thrones. But it’s the right thing for the characters. There’s also something about it not being the person you expect. The young lady sticks it to the man.”
What’s great about Game of Thrones is that it consistently manages to subvert our expectations while also staying true to all the characters. And this was one such incident. Arya killing the Night King during the Battle of Winterfell wasn’t a random twist written simply for shock value. The seeds were planted many, many seasons ago when Arya first meets Melisandre.