Spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3 follow below.
The episode many fans have been waiting for since Game of Thrones began aired last night: the long-awaited showdown between the heroes of Westeros and the Night King and his Army of the Dead. The final stand played out at Winterfell and resulted in a few casualties, but all eyes were on how the episode would end. This is a show that killed off its lead character in Season 1, and continued killing off beloved characters as laid out in George R.R. Martin’s source material. But as the show has expanded beyond the source material, it’s laid off the whole “upending tropes” idea a bit. So would the Night King battle end surprisingly, with a Night King win of some sort? Or would it take the traditional route, with our hero Jon Snow (Kit Harington) saving the day? As it turns out, the answer was neither.
While the episode seemed to be heading towards another showdown between Jon Snow and the Night King, it was actually Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) who saved the day, stabbing the Night King with the dagger Bran gave her—the same one that kicked off a series of unfortunate events back in Season 1.
Speaking with EW, Williams admits she was initially reluctant about this big twist, worrying that fans would be angry that Jon Snow didn’t land the final blow:
“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?’”
But it was filming a key scene with Melisandre (Carice van Houten) that gave Williams more confidence that Arya saving the day made total sense:
“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.’”
Harington even admits to EW that he was surprised Jon Snow didn’t save the day:
“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.”
Indeed, that feeling you got that we were heading towards an inevitable showdown between Jon Snow and the Night King? That was intentional on the part of director Miguel Sapochnik, as he explained to EW that he wanted to subvert audience expectations:
“I thought, ‘Hmm, if I see Arya running then I know she’s going to do something.’” Sapochnik says. “So it’s about almost losing her from the story and then have her come in as a surprise and pinning all our hopes on Jon being the guy going to do it — because Jon’s always the guy. So we follow Jon in a continuous shot I want the audience to think: ‘Jon’s gonna do it, Jon’s gonna do it…’ and then he fails. He fails at the very last minute. So I’m hoping that’s a nice switch that no one sees coming.”
I don’t think many did see that switch coming, so they certainly pulled off the surprise.
For much more on Game of Thrones, be sure to get caught up on our recent write-ups provided at the links below, and stay tuned for our continuing coverage:
- ‘Game of Thrones’ Battle of Winterfell Explained in 40-Minute Behind-the-Scenes Video
- ‘Game of Thrones’: Go Inside “The Long Night” with a New Featurette
- ‘Game of Thrones’: Trailer for Next Week’s Episode Teases the Aftermath
- ‘Game of Thrones’ Director on the Battle of Winterfell: “This Is Survival Horror”