For a while I was certain Game of Thrones would easily end up being the greatest show of all time. Unfortunately, the damage done by season 8 shattered any hope of that.
There is a lot I would change about season 8 of Game of Thrones if I could. In the past, I’ve posted about the changes I’d make to specific episodes, including this one on episode 5. To fix it all though would be to re-write the entire thing from what was aired, outside of Brienne’s knighting by Jamie.
Now, I could and would happily do that if there was some indication time could be turned back and the script swapped out. And who knows? Maybe one day Bill Nye will quit his acting profession to pursue engineering and he’ll build such a time machine. I won’t be holding my breath though. So until then, what if we could just change one thing to have the most impact possible? What if we could save the entire series with this one plot shift?
YouTube Critic Channels
Before I call out the “One Change,” I must give credit where credit is due. This idea was not something I spontaneously came up with on my own. Being as engrossed in TV shows and movies as I am, I’ve come to follow several YouTube critic channels. These are people who dig into the plot and character points as much as I do while I’m watching a show. Many of them are also very entertaining in their review styles. Watching their reviews can even end up being more entertaining than watching the film itself at times. Here are some of my favorite channels:
- MauLer for long form, detailed reviews
- The Critical Drinker for short form, entertaining reviews
- Doomcock for inside info and reviews
The One Change though came from a new channel I stumbled upon called MoneyMedia in a review on Game of Thrones season 8, episodes 1-3. It was an idea tossed out so casually in the video, that it took me a minute or two of reflection to truly grasp how genius it would have been for the season and series as a whole. Once I did, I decided to make a few clarifications and build out a scene around it, which I will get to at the end of this post.
The Objective: Save the Night King, Save the Series
This may seem obvious because everyone’s biggest gripe was the lackluster death of the Night King. The question though is how to save the Night King. It could be a one-on-one face off with Jon Snow, sure. This would be epic if the entirety of The Long Night episode was fixed for their faceoff to make more sense logistically.
But as we could clearly tell from every decision the writers made in season 8, their goal was to subvert expectations. So I won’t even fight their need to do so here. MoneyMedia and I will fulfill their wishes and the wishes of every single other fan involved in one fell swoop. So… who will kill the Night King? Drum roll, please!
The One Change: Baric Dondarrion Kills the Night King
Now, you may not even remember the name Baric Dondarrion. I didn’t when I first heard it. Baric Dondarrion is the man with the eye patch who was brought back to life many times by the “Lord of Light.”
The entire storyline of the Lord of Light was lost on me throughout the series. In no way did I connect the actions of this god with an intent to counter the Night King. Even when Melisandre tells Arya that Baric died and was brought back to save her, I remained confused. Arya hadn’t even killed the Night King yet and it remained too absurd of an outcome to think she would. Also, in my opinion, the abilities of the followers of the Lord of Light were inconsistent and unclear throughout the series. They seemed to be nothing more than the most obvious type of Deus Ex Machina to advance the plot in any way the writers needed it to advance. Considering the ending, Jon’s resurrection seemed especially pointless. Did the Lord of Light just want to create the “muh queen” meme the whole time?
Joking aside, this storyline wouldn’t have been much of a problem at all if it was made crystal clear that the Lord of Light’s goal/intention was to put the specific pieces in place needed to counter the Night King. In that case there would be a more apparent set of limitations on what this god would grant abilities to do. Baric’s many resurrections would suddenly have an obvious and direct purpose. This is the man who must be brought back because he is the man destined to kill the Night King. So how does it happen?
The Scene that Saves the Series
Baric killing the Night King was the tweak recommended by MoneyMedia for the reasons I mentioned above. With that little piece of brilliance to work with, I will now craft one set up to make everything else right.
The Mother of Dragons
The Night King, Daenerys, and Jon have the same big battle on their dragons. The Night King is again knocked off his dragon, Viserion, after scrapping with Jon and his dragon, Rhaegal. Also as in the show, Rhaegal is badly injured and crashes to the earth, taking it out of the fight and leaving it unconscious. This leaves Dany and her dragon, Drogon, to have to deal with a now-raging Viserion. This conflict will be impactful because she will now have to more directly deal with the emotional struggle of having to fight off and potentially kill one of the dragons she raised. The focus here will be a more face-to-face battle with her zombified “child.”
The King in the North
Now on the ground, Jon finds himself in the field before the castle. The army of the dead by this point are beginning to breach the castle walls (not fight the army of the living in front of the walls… ugh), after a long struggle to do so. Amidst the chaos, Northmen scouts on the walls see their king fall and the blue-eyed silhouettes of White Walkers closing in on him. They call out to their comrades that the King in the North is in danger. A group of Northmen assemble in the castle on horseback.
For the King!
It is for these men Melisandre uses her fire powers. Rather than lighting a fire moat Jon could have easily lit with Rhaegal in the show, she lights their swords here. “For the King!” they shout. As they cheer and rally each other, Melisandre gives Baric Dondarrion a knowing look. He smiles and nods. A proud tear rolls down his good eye as he lights his sword, knowing it will be for the last time.
Finally, we see Jon’s best friend from the Night’s Watch, Samwell Tarly. In this version of the show Samwell does not give his Valyrian steel sword to Jorah. As much as this might have felt nice as a type of Jorah redemption, it is Sam’s father’s sword. Sam is a character whose arc has been that of a bumbling coward who is progressively hardened by the Night’s Watch throughout the show. By this point there have been battles where he’s exhibited genuine bravery and I’m pretty sure he also was the first person to ever kill a White Walker. To now go face them head on in defense of the friend who defend him so many times before, using the sword his embarrassed father swore Sam would never inherit, would be the ultimate climax for his character.
In an act of heroism, Baric, Samwell, and the Northmen race out through the gates on horseback, barreling through the dead, to save Jon.
The Long Night
Finally, the stage is set for the battle everyone was actually waiting 8 seasons for. Fire against ice. Life against death.
The Northmen complete a fierce cavalry charge through the dead army. Some of the dead chase after them on foot as the siege of the castle continues. The men surround Jon and together, they fight off the approaching White Walkers and Night King. Many Northmen fall, but as Sam slices through the first White Walker, many of the chasing dead fall with it.
With the bulk of his minions off attacking the castle, the Night King is now in a more desperate situation. He slays the Northmen attempting to swing at him while Jon, Baric, and Sam try to fight their way past the Walkers and toward him. When the chance comes he raises all the fallen from what was once the army of the living. However, by this point, two more White Walkers have been slain by Jon’s own Valyrian steel sword and we can see the castle beginning to clear of combatants.
The Night’s End
At this point the Night King motions to Sam. The majority of the dead and Walkers in the fight focus their efforts on Sam and the men near him. This presents an opening for Jon and Baric to go straight for the Night King. However, Jon must struggle with the difficult choice of having to leave Sam for certain death.
The Night King and two of his remaining Walkers have begun turning back north. Their dead horses can be seen storming toward them in the distance. With desperate convincing from Baric, Jon leaves Sam behind. The two go off to have their final standoff with the Night King, who Jon fights while Baric takes on the two Walkers. At one point, Jon is knocked to his feet. The Night King rears back to finish him, but when he comes down, Baric blocks his swinging blade. Baric is then stabbed through his gut by one of the Walker spears, only for Jon to slice off the head of the Night King, ending the Long Night.
What? You Thought I Wasn’t Gonna Subvert Your Expectations?
Obviously Jon has to be the one to kill the Night King! Baric Dondarrion having a direct, key role in the Night King’s death is what saves the show, sure. But they were both brought back by the Lord of Light. There needs to be a clear reason they were both brought back and this is it. Their teaming up to complete this task was the aim and now, thanks to me, they achieved it. You’re welcome, Lord of Light.
Anyway, Samwell Tarly dies in honor while wielding his family sword. He does not get saved from death by cut scenes. Jon was given a choice. He made that choice and that choice comes with its consequences.
As for Dany, Viserion still dies to end the battle and Rhaegal still lives. Personally, I’d probably make it so she has to kill Viserion directly. Unfortunately though, I only get to make “one” change and I chose the nature of the death of the Night King. I have to accept the rest of the ending for what it is for the sake of this post. However, even with the rest of the ending, this change provides the best possible conclusion for the most important thread of the show. No matter what Jon Snow does from here, he now achieved what he was literally destined by the will of a god to achieve. And if we at least had that one thing, I think the rest would be somewhat easier to shake off.
Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts!