'Game of Thrones' pulled a lot of punches during the epic Battle of Winterfell, and fans can't decide if they're relieved or disappointed

HBOArya Stark played a big role in the Battle of Winterfell.
  • Warning: Major spoilers ahead for HBO’s “Game of Thrones” season eight, episode four, “The Long Night.”
  • The Battle of Winterfell took out some major characters, but also left a surprisingly large number alive.
  • Many fans are weirdly disappointed and believe it didn’t make sense to allow so many fan favourites to live, especially when it comes to characters who aren’t trained warriors.
  • Others are relieved that characters survived when they were previously thought to be doomed.

A surprising number of characters survived the most recent episode of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” – especially considering many fans were fully prepared to watch their favourite characters die in the bloody, brutal Battle of Winterfell.

The third episode from the final season, titled “The Long Night,” did see a number of major characters killed by the Army of the Dead. Jorah Mormont, Edd, and Theon Greyjoy had been featured on the show since the first season. Lyanna Mormont was a huge fan favourite, and Beric Dondarrion heroically sacrificed himself for Arya.

But every other major character, aside from the Night King himself, emerged from the battle unscathed.

Brienne of Tarth, Podrick Payne, and Tormund were presumed by many fans to be all but doomed. Ser Davos has acknowledged, numerous times, that he’s not much of a fighter. Samwell Tarly nearly died every time he was onscreen.

For a popular TV show, it’s not unusual to preserve major characters against odds. But the Night King showdown has been teased as the single most deadly event in the show’s history, literally since the “Game of Thrones” series premiere.

This turn of events was particularly surprising given the show’s history with killing beloved characters, ruthlessly and unsentimentally.


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Ned Stark, who was arguably the primary protagonist at the show’s outset, was murdered on the first season. Most of the Starks have subsequently died, all three of Cersei’s children were killed, and some of Westeros’ most powerful families have been wiped out completely.

Many fans are disappointed the show has seemingly ‘lost its nerve’

“‘Game of Thrones’ biggest claim to fame is its gritty realism and willingness to kill off main characters. The fact that this was an unwinnable battle meant everyone went into it expecting a massacre of characters we love,” one person wrote on Twitter.

“And yet,” they continued, “so few main main characters died. And all the deaths were heroic. There was no just seeing characters cut down in the battle. Their deaths were typical fantasy deaths, and not the ‘realistic/gritty’ stuff people expect.”

“Game of Thrones has gone soft,” another person wrote. “Too scared to kill off major characters.”

Others, however, are satisfied with the death toll

Many fans noted that some of the unlucky characters had been around for a long time, which gave their deaths more emotion and gravity.

Others pointed out that six major characters died – including Melisandre, who wasn’t killed but appeared to meet her end – which is quite a lot for just one episode.

“What #GameofThrones has always done so well is subvert expectations,” one person wrote. “Major characters died when you least expected it, so it shouldn’t be surprising that major characters DIDN’T die when you MOST expected it.”

It also seems important to note that our heroes still need to defeat Cersei Lannister, who sits on the Iron Throne and commands a fearsome army known as the Golden Company.

There are still three episodes left – plenty of time for more characters to bite the dust.

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