We live in a pop culture world where stars are made simply by appearing on reality shows or going viral in a YouTube video. It’s a world where fans no longer distinguish between the actor and the character played on television or in a movie. It is highly doubtful Mr. and Mrs. Downey named their son Tony Stark or Mr. and Mrs. Williams named their daughter Arya Stark. Now that most of fandom no longer separates the actor from the role a critique on the character is viewed as an insult against the person.
If we take fandom’s logic to its inevitable conclusion anyone who has ever played Adolf Hitler should be tried for war crimes and anyone who has played Jesus Christ should be canonized a saint. These may be extreme examples and we are in no way suggesting Jim Caviezel should join the ranks of sainthood. However, the examples illustrate the absurdity some fans will go to protect what they feel they have a claim to and to proclaim what they own as a heroic.
We have become accustom to a certain type of heroic characters who show neither fear nor doubt. Although challenges may be posed to these characters there is never any doubt their goals will be reached. Arya Stark has been set up from the moment we saw her landing bullseyes as the heroic character of Game of Thrones. There are some who will mention her time with the Faceless Men and her journey with the Hound as anything but easy. Though this may be true it was never in doubt she would regain her sight and survive the Hound. Now Arya has been set up as the character who will kill everything in her way.
We enjoy characters like Arya and many fans have embraced her as a fully realized human. “The Long Night” showed most of the characters in the series are indeed imbued with human qualities. They’re filled with doubts and fears. Like humans, very few of the characters have remained static over the past eight seasons. It’s an aspect of the series most people, even the fandom, don’t or won’t discuss.
For most of the series The Hound has been portrayed as a character who is seriously lacking in morals. He would kill a man over chicken than let him speak another word. His allegiance at the beginning of the series was to the Lannisters. It may have been an allegiance based on treaties and other political ballyhoo, but his involvement in Ned Stark’s death landed him on Arya’s kill list.
The Hound may have been completely written out the series after his battle with Brienne, but his interactions with Arya made a fan favorite. Even before he kidnapped Arya the harsh exterior he had spent a lifetime building up was being chiseled. More than once he protected Sansa from Joffrey’s vile whims. Perhaps what was left of the old Hound was gone after Brother Ray’s death and when he joined the Brotherhood without Banners.
By the time “The Long Night” aired no one wanted to see the Hound die. Fans who were use to see his hard exterior were treated to a side of the Hound they had never seen. As the hordes of the undead breached Winterfell’s walls the Hound was hiding; The Hound showed fear. It didn’t last and he would go on to save Arya, but for a brief moment the Hound was human.
Over the course of the series Melisandre has bounced from one allegiance to another. Mostly at the whim of the Lord of Light. First, she was convinced Stannis Baratheon was the one to get everything done. After he died she turned to Jon Snow. When Jon Snow died she…brought him back to life. Melisandre, to say the least, was a creepy witch women who many fans didn’t like.
In “The Long Night” Melisandre was still creepy with her prophecies and speech to Arya. She even foreshadows her won death to Davos Seaworth. But underneath all that creepiness and cryptic talk was someone who was very much human. When arrows couldn’t light the trench surrounding Winterfell Melisandre stepped up to work her magic fire. When it looked like the trench was going to catch fire it didn’t.
It wasn’t the ice encased pikes, shown to us in an extreme close up so we could see how much ice, preventing her from lighting the trench surrounding Winterfell. On a normal night she could have lighted the whole ditch without breaking a sweat. The Battle of Winterfell was not a normal night. Fear had crept into the woman who had killed a child and resurrected the dead. She looks to her left, to her right, and sees only the dead all around her. The woman who had killed a child and resurrected the dead was afraid.
Even timid and often afraid Sam Tarly stepped up during the Battle of Winterfell. As an audience, we expect heroes like Jamie or Brienne to jump into the fray. A character like Sam Tar on the other hand is expected to stay in the library or in the crypt uttering nonsense like Bran is the memory of man. We don’t expect a character like Sam to be a hero.
During The Battle of Winterfell Sam became a hero. His initial fear may have cost Eddison Tollett his life, but afterwards he was fighting with the rest of the “heroes.” Last Sunday’s “The Last of the Starks” may be the last we see of Sam, but for one brief shining moment he was indeed a member of the Night’s Watch. For the record, we know Sam killed a White Walker but it wasn’t by design. It was basically an accident and he was mortal terror the whole time.
There’s a disclaimer at the very end of credits stating the viewed work was a work of fiction and any similarity to actual persons living or dead is coincidental. The characters in Game of Thrones are fictitious. You shouldn’t get them confused with actual flesh and blood people living or dead, but a lot of these characters feel human so maybe it’s okay for some people to feel offended when their favorite character is criticized or called out for making a foolish move against another character.
Come back for Part II (coming soon) as we discuss more characters in Game of Thrones.