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Even Jon Snow was surprised at how Game of Thrones’ Night King face off went down

By Benjamin Bullard
Kit Harrington as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones

Well, the cleanup of all battlefield cleanups can finally begin. In the wake of all the carnage — and the loss — from Game of Thronesepic third episode in a high-stakes final season, even the GoT cast is still processing that climactic moment when one of our favorite characters came eye to eye with the Night King.

**Spoiler Warning: There’s a major spoiler for the ending of Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 3 (“The Long Night”) below.**

Not even Jon Snow (Kit Harington) expected his little sis to land the killing blow just as the long winter threatened to grip Winterfell forever. But watching Arya emerge from the darkness to pull off that superhero hand-switching move to snatch defeat from the White Walkers’ jaws of victory — all while Bran Stark waited helplessly for the end to come — turned out to be one of the series’ most satisfying payoffs, Harington told Entertainment Weekly.

“I was surprised, I thought it was gonna be me!” Harington joked, alluding to his (and many fans’) pre-season expectation that Jon would be the one to end the Night King’s reign of terror, after facing off against the Walkers in the frozen north all the way back in Season 5. “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.”

All that training for Arya (Maisie Williams) pays off big, with Arya leaping out of the shadows for the mother of all GoT assassinations — only to find her throat, for a heart-stopping second, in the Night King's merciless clutches. But with her dagger hand unusable, Arya does a killer knife-dropping switcheroo, catching the falling weapon in her free hand and driving the pointy end home.

It’s a full-circle moment for her character, and it surprised Williams in early script readings just as much as it did Harington. But, she says, it’s a huge defining moment that vindicates all of Arya’s preparation, as well as everything she’s endured.

“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 six seasons — four, if you think about it, since [Arya] got to the House of Black and White,” Williams said. “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 [to do] it.’”

Even though Jon had a very personal score to settle with the Night King, Harington says it actually makes sense, when you think about it, to let Jon go toe to toe with an undead dragon while letting Arya save the day.

“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,” he said. “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.”

The Battle of Winterfell definitely has us sticking around to see how the final countdown will play out. With Cersei still scheming far away in King’s Landing, Jon and Arya better catch their breath while they can. Episode 4 is just around the corner this Sunday on HBO.