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This week’s episode proved that Game of Thrones has been quietly gaslighting us all for years.

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8 episode 3. If you’re not caught up on the latest episode, bookmark us and come back once you’re ready to properly debrief.

We’ve always known that being in a relationship with a show like Game of Thrones is addictive, exhilarating and in many cases completely soul destroying.

But with the arrival of this week’s long-awaited battle-centric episode it has also become evident that not only has Game of Thrones caused us all to weep quietly into our pillows each night, it has also actively been misleading us and gaslighting us when it comes to what the show’s real stakes and endgame are all about.

If you cast your mind all the way back to the Game of Thrones premiere episode, you’ll remember it opened with a vaguely terrifying introduction to White Walkers and wights, effectively positioning them as the true looming threat to the characters living within this world. As the series progressed the question of who would sit on the Iron Throne was always an overarching one, but with each new story twist that brought the characters on the Game of Thrones chessboard closer together, the one main objective of the series began to become crystal clear.

The real endgame for the show became less about ‘who will sit on the throne’ and more about ‘who will protect the realm’.

Until this week, of course.

In a brilliant twist to season eight’s third episode, The Long Night, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) killed The Night King, effectively decimating his entire army with one deadly swipe and bringing an end to the raging battle between the living and the dead.

Which is all well and good, especially considering so many of our favourite characters made it out of the fray in one piece (RIP Jorah Mormon, you poor friend-zoned b*stard) but what it also did was take away the main threat that the show had been building up for close to a decade.

Catch up on what went down in the latest episode of Game of Thrones. 

Effectively, Game of Thrones spent its last few seasons gaslighting its viewers into believing that our own fevered conversations and theories around who should and will rule the Seven Kingdoms and sit on the Iron Throne was very much a secondary concern to the threat of The Night King.

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To paraphrase Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen from Game of Thrones season seven “The same thing is coming for all of us. There’s only one war that matters: the great war, and it is here.”

Except that it wasn’t so great and now its outcome has thrown the stakes for the final season mightily out of whack.

The real change in building up to the show’s finale started when the series moved past the original story laid out in the books, and began to focus more on the threats beyond the wall and less about throne-swapping antics in King’s Landing. As these storylines were still being guided by the hand of George R.R. Martin, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility for fans to believe that the focus would and should be on the all-consuming threat of the White Walker army and destruction they were sure to cause.

Now that this particular threat has been effectively vanquished and that overarching storyline wrapped up in a neat little bow, I cannot help but feel like fans will suffer some form of storytelling whiplash now that we’ve all been forced to jerk our heads back toward the South and accept that Cersei Lannister  (Lena Headey), while a brilliant character, is actually the show’s ultimate and last standing big bad?

At this point in the show, when we were led to believe that Game of Thrones was building up to a much more epic and unexpected conclusion, it really does feel like a bit of a letdown that instead of  watching our heroes cleverly fend off the apocalypse, it’s instead all boiled back down to a smaller scale battle over a frankly very uncomfortable looking throne.

Now, with the biggest battle in TV history behind us and only three episodes left in Game of Throne’s epic run left to wrap up the story, let’s hope the ending to this saga makes up for taking out their main villain in such a casual fashion and anticlimactic fashion.

Rest well, Night King, you deserved so much better than a poorly lit and early send-off.

Catch up on all our Game of Thrones recaps, right here:

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