Show of hands: who still hasn’t calmed the hell down after last night’s episode of Game of Thrones? “The Long Night” was an absolute pummeling, even if the death count included far fewer important deaths than fans anticipated. Many of our heroes dropped the ball in huge ways — Jon, ever the brave dummy; Dany, prioritizing the throne above all else; Sam, forcing himself onto a battlefield where he was only a liability — but there were plenty who truly stepped up and earned the mantle of Greatest Of All Time.
While brave men like Jorah Mormont and Theon Greyjoy found redemption in death, the Battle of Winterfell might as well have been called the Battle of the Bad Bitches. If you really wanted examples of getting the job done no matter of cost, look no further than Lyanna G*dd*mn Mormont and Arya F*cking Stark. While they have both proven themselves time and time again over the course of Game of Thrones, these two showed without a shadow of a doubt that the future is female.
As a character that could cause the highest degree of emotional damage while not affecting the larger narrative, Lyanna Mormont went into the episode with a target on her back. She did not have the plot armor that the Stark children had, but there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that she would go out like a total G. That said, I don’t think anyone anticipated exactly how hard she was willing to go in order to bring glory to House Mormont (RIP).
The lady of Bear Island and her faithful band of warriors made their last stand against a horrifying zombie giant, with our ferocious cub being the last one standing. As she is scooped up by the monster and just before the air is crushed from her lungs, Lyanna makes one last power move: stabbing him in the damn eye with her dragonglass sword.
Ever since Lyanna swaggered onto the screen in season six with her penchant for shaming grown men’s cowardice and her dedication to the survival of the North, she has been a fan favorite. Game of Thrones isn’t always particularly kind to its female characters, but Lyanna Mormont has been awarded dignity since day one and luckily she maintained that power to the death. As devastating as that death was, seeing her take out a G I A N T in the process was as triumphant an end as we could have hoped for. I choked out a sobbing “oh my god, I love her” as she brought one last enemy down, and that feeling was rippling throughout the fandom. It’s not often that girls are encouraged to show their strength, and Lyanna Mormont’s entire MO was giving a middle finger to that idea.
However, No One was the true MVP of the night. After training as an assassin for years, Arya Stark proved that every boring minute of washing dead bodies and getting beaten up by the Waif was more than worth it. It seemed like a bygone conclusion that one of the important men on the show would get to deliver the killing blow to the Night King (My favorite theory that I saw was Jaime doing the deed and redeeming the title of Kingslayer), but as soon as she stabbed him in the belly, it all felt perfect.
Arya Stark has gone through absolute hell over the course of the series, and one side effect of that trauma was strengthening her resolve to get her vengeance for her house. After dedicating her self to gaining the skills to pass through life unseen and dealing out justice, it should have occurred to us all that she would have such a massive role to play. Dany’s dragon fire wasn’t the answer, and neither was Theon’s well-meaning but doomed straight forward attack. No, Arya’s cunning and quick thinking was the shuffling menace’s undoing, proving yet again that to underestimate A Girl is a grave mistake.
If you spare even a cursory glance at the Game of Thrones discourse on Twitter, you will see plenty of people (read: men) moaning about the lack of build-up to Arya’s victory, except that it has been broadcast for seasons. Between Melisandre’s prophecy that she will close blue eyes and the fact that all of Arya’s hard-earned skills have made her the perfect person to take out the Night King, this is not some out of left field, unearned decision. Just because it doesn’t fit into the traditional male hero narrative doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make sense. It just means that we’ve been conditioned to expect other things.
While the early part of the season did an excellent job of showing how well Sansa had handled her position leading the North, Arya’s moment of glory showed that there is more than one kind of cunning woman on Game of Thrones. With Sansa’s mind for ruling and Arya’s skill with the blade, the Stark women are the ones calling the shots. Just let them rule the Seven Kingdoms together already.
Say what you will about how women have been written on Game of Thrones (and there are PLENTY of qualms to raise there), the final season continues to prove that women and girls are the ones who hold the true power in Westeros. No matter how often they are underestimated by those around them, the brave girls of the Battle of Winterfell will continue to fight until their last breath. Pour one out for Lyanna Mormont, a total badass to the bitter end, and light a prayer candle for Arya Stark, who keeps throwing herself into the thick of it with no fear of death and three episodes to go. They are truly the sheroes that we deserve.