Warning: Spoilers ahead, duh! On Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones, after years of buildup, the living finally faced off against the Army of the Dead in the Battle of Winterfell. The episode was undoubtedly impressive — it was the longest Game of Thones episode ever, and the longest battle sequence in film or TV history — but, in my opinion, it had one major flaw: not enough people died.
Look, I have been watching this mess of a show for two years now (I started late), and from the beginning, the parameters of our relationship were clear to me — or so I thought. As soon as I saw Ned Stark’s ruggedly, righteously handsome head pop off his body in season one, I understood that this was a show that did not care about my feelings. It was a show that would kill or horribly maim of all of my darlings, that would serve up gratuitous gore, and violence, and nonconsensual sex, and more incest than I could keep up with. And still, despite the constant onslaught of disrespect, I kept watching, because it also treated me to a cast of, conservatively, 7,000 characters, cool fight scenes, Hallmark channel original-movie-level drama, and some rad shots of dragons. This was the delicate, gruesome balance to which I had agreed.
So, as I prepared to watch this week’s long-anticipated showdown with the snow zombies, I braced myself for carnage. Jaime Lannister? Bye. Samwell Tarly? See ya. Gendry? Come on … you don’t have awesome candlelit crypt sex with Arya and then walk away from the next episode unscathed, not in Westeros. Brienne of Tarth was just knighted, her dream come true — the Game of Thrones I know would not let her, or us, enjoy that for long. And YET … all of them survive! What ABC Family sitcom is this?
Don’t get me wrong, we lost some heavy hitters —Dolorous Edd, who, full disclosure, I did not remember existed; Lyanna Mormont, the coolest teen to ever exist on this side of the Narrow Sea; Beric Donadarrion, who had an awesome eye patch; Theon Greyjoy, who sucked less at the end; Jorah Mormont, who never got to make out with Daenerys; Melisandre, who finally succumbed to old age; and of course, the Night King, slain by a tiny, flying Arya.
But for the most part, our A team is intact. Jon Snow, Daenerys, Arya, Sansa, Bran, Tyrion, Jaime, Brienne … I could go on and on and on, because basically everyone’s alive. Even freaking Gilly is alive! This season increasingly feels like a piece of Game of Thrones fanfic written by someone who loves all of the characters too much to kill them off. I get it, I enjoy these characters too. But I do not watch Game of Thrones to see the characters I enjoy grow and thrive and eventually retire peacefully to a small cottage where they start planting an herb garden. I watch Game of Thrones to see chaos reign, to have all viewing norms rudely upended, to have a show grab me by the shoulders and boldly say, “I see what you want, and I will give you the opposite.”
There are only three episodes to go now. These fictional characters that I love so dearly better not all make it out alive.