There is a whole lot riding on the next three Sundays.
Now that the Night King is dead and presumably gone for good, Game of Thrones has to get back down to the very premise of its title and figure out how to tell us who wins the game of thrones. Either that, or there's got to be a twist coming up that's so good that no one's figured it out yet, and it's going to blow our minds.
Unfortunately, so far, this season has been unexpectedly and puzzlingly slow.
The premiere was mostly a lot of reunions and first meetings and characters reestablishing where they are and what they're doing. The second episode was a whole lot of inevitable and emotional (and admittedly delightful) character moments that happened while they all sat around and waited for the battle. Then the battle, which the internet spent the past couple years theorizing over, turned out to be pretty straightforward.
All things considered, very few people died (unless you count the mostly ignored but now entirely dead Dothraki), and while Arya's badass dagger moment is one we'll never forget, the fact that the Night King just so easily died with no explanation of anything he ever did made it all feel strangely pointless by the end. Was he really just there to be intimidating and then die? Sure, that Bran-is-the-Night-King theory was a far reach, but was it really so far that there was no twist at all?
Show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Thursday and Kimmel's first question about what's coming up in the final season was: Are we for sure done with the white walkers?
"We're not gonna answer that," Benioff said.
"Did Bran know that Arya was going to kill the Night King?" Kimmel asked.
"Possibly," Weiss said.
"Will someone take the Iron Throne?" Kimmel asked.
"Possibly," Weiss said again.
Hopefully, these non-answers—particularly that first one—mean we're in for some serious twists and an actual explanation for the plot that literally began the series. Because if not, what we're in for is some disappointment.
Here's what would help make these final three episodes worth the wait:
A Night King Explanation
Please, what was the point? This whole Night King/white walker situation has been part of the show since the very first moments of the pilot, and the payoff so far has been questionable. If the Night King wanted to turn everyone into a white walker, what was he gonna do then? If killing Bran was so important, what would have happened if he succeeded? If Bran dies with no new Three Eyed Raven to take his place, do "humanity's memories" really die with him? Does any of this have anything to do with the fight over who takes the throne or was it just a big inconvenience?
And what was the point of bringing Jon Snow back from the dead with creepy black magic if not to give him some advantage against the dead?
Benioff's "We're not gonna answer that," along with the fact that the Night King has been such a big deal over the course of the series, makes us think this really isn't over. Remember when he turned Craster's babies (like Gilly's) into what appeared to be white walkers, but he didn't even have to kill them first? Where are those white walker babies now? There's just too much of this whole "winter is coming" thing left unexplained for that to have been the end of that.
A Mad Queen Showdown
The idea of Aerys Targaryen as the Mad King, slayed by Jaime Lannister and succeeded as King by Robert Baratheon, is one that has haunted the series since the beginning. His madness was partly caused by the longstanding Targaryen tradition of inbreeding—which Daenerys is also a product of (and likely continuing with Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen)—but no doubt also a result of just how much power he had. Dany's his power-hungry daughter, and madness feels inevitable.
Cersei, meanwhile, has certainly done some inbreeding of her own, and has already shown some serious signs of going mad…like how she took advantage of Aerys' insane plan to blow everything up with wildfire to actually blow up the sept with wildfire.
Both Daenerys and Cersei tend to be paranoid and extremely ready to simply get rid of (and often burn, just like Aerys) the people who stand in their way. Everything had been leading to them facing off, but everything has also been leading to them going a little mad before they do it. If this fight ends up being very reasonable and not at all mad, we'll be left feeling a little unsatisfied.
The show is called Game of Thrones. Someone has to win it, or maybe everybody has to lose, but we're just currently not here for some peace-keeping division of the kingdoms after everything everybody has done to get to that throne. If this show has gotten all the way to the end of eight brutal seasons to just chicken out and give everybody a prize, then what the hell were all those bloodbaths for?
Speaking of which…
Death and Twists
Listen, we don't necessarily like to say goodbye to our favorite characters, and we don't like to watch them die, but here in these final episodes, we need to. Death has been such a major part of the show, and we've been promised the bloodiest season yet, but somehow only a small handful of major characters perished in the biggest battle the show has ever seen. That's what makes us think and hope the twists, major moments, and major deaths are still to come, especially considering this quote from Miguel Sapochnik, who directed episode three, "The Long Night," along with episode five.
"What I really like about three, four, and five is they're a complete piece with a beginning, middle, and end," he told EW. "I try to approach all these like they're one. Like in season six, [episodes nine and ten] were to me one thing."
Those season six episodes are "Battle of the Bastards" and "Winds of Winter," which were both pretty big deals for the entire series. Jon and Sansa took Winterfell back from Ramsay Bolton, Arya got revenge on Walder Frey, Cersei blew up the Sept on the day of her trial and then was crowned Queen, Theon, Yara, Tyrion and Varys officially allied themselves with Daenerys, and then the whole crew finally started heading towards Westeros.
Not only were those two episodes jam-packed with plot-moving moments, they worked to set up pretty much everything about the final two seasons. Now, we've got three episodes that could either set up the very end or be the very end, with the final episode serving as the sort of quieter epilogue, as the last episode of Game of Thrones seasons often does.
Either way, if "The Long Night" is just the start of a three-parter, then that's one hell of a way to start, and likely only indicates that everything is just going to get much, much worse before it's all over. And that's really all we're asking for, weirdly.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.