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‘Game of Thrones’ recap: Decisive, often murky battle rages in ‘The Long Night’

Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Jon (Kit Harington) watch the action on Sunday's episode of "Game of Thrones." | HBO

Spoiler alert! The following contains details from “Game of Thrones” Season 8 Episode 3, “The Long Night.” Read our recap of Season 8, Episode 2 here.

It was all supposed to come down to this. One final battle. Good and light on one side, evil and darkness on the other. The living vs. the dead. Ice versus fire.

And now, it’s over.

With three episodes remaining in its eighth and final season, “Game of Thrones” has defeated its most powerful and threatening villain, the Night King. The war against him was supposed to be the “Great War,” but it ended up as mostly one long battle in one long episode. It was as grand and almost as fatal as we all predicted, sure, but it also ended the White Walker threat forever with one tidy blow.

There was beauty and brilliance in “The Long Night,” from the fire motif to Sansa and Tyrion’s moments to its exceptional score. But it was also disappointing. The scenes were often so dark that it was impossible to see the action unless it happened to include fire (thanks a bunch, Drogon and Melisandre). The editing was sloppy at times, and it was hard to tell who was where and how they got there. And despite the high death count, most of our major characters still made it out alive, an illogical outcome considering the enemy.

And now it’s time to just move on. As the teaser scenes from next week’s episode showed, the greatest evil of the series is defeated so now, I guess, it’s time to get back to petty fighting over the Iron Throne?

In many ways this makes sense for the series — especially since the Night King was such a boring, simple villain — to pivot back to a battle for the Iron Throne in the end. Like the Tyrells and the High Septon before him, the Night King was wiped out so the series could focus on what really matters. It would just feel less jarring if we hadn’t spent so many seasons being told that the White Walker threat was the one that really mattered.

Perhaps the most difficult thing about wrapping up a series as expansive and dense as “Thrones” is figuring out what the show is actually about, and what its legacy will be. It would have been a shame for a series as complex and thought-provoking as “Thrones” to be reduced to a battle between plain good and plain evil. But the real battle that the writers unfurl in the final three episodes has to outshine frozen zombies and blue fire-breathing dragons. Good luck.