Battlefield Escapism in ‘Avengers: Endgame’ & ‘Game of Thrones’ S8E3: “The Long Night”

The past weekend, 26th & 27th April 2019, saw the climactic fights between good and evil in the Marvel universe with the superheroes up against the villainous Thanos, and Jon Snow’s crew at Winterfell fight off the Night King and his army of the Undead. The two fictional worlds have only now reached this moment in their histories after years of build-up and, aside from the emotional rollercoaster of character deaths along the way, the storylines both managed attract record breaking numbers of viewers and global success.

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SPOILERS AHEAD  (HBO, 2019)

Avengers: Endgame (2019, USA, Russo & Russo)

Since Avengers: Infinity War last year, the Marvel characters have been in limbo, unable to grasp the enormity and complex implications of what Thanos (Josh Brolin) did when he snapped his fingers with the metal glove decorated with infinity stones. Through his powers from the glove, he annihilated half of earth’s population and some beloved characters turned to dust before our eyes. (Including my favourite, Groot).

Finally, with huge anticipation, Avengers: Endgame is here, and with it, the end of the line for some of the original members of the superhero gang. In interviews ahead of the film’s release, the actors were steeped in mystery and sworn to secrecy, which only added to the suspense and fans’ high expectations for the end of “Phase 3” of the Marvel universe’s tale. However, contracts have now ended for Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and (the rather expensive) Robert Downey Jr, so in various ways their characters have to take their final bow in this three hour installment.

When Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) arrives back home from the Quantum realm five years after Thanos’ infamous finger snap, he convinces Captain America (Evans) and the others that time travel could be the answer to the reversal of the disappearances. Tracking the infinity stones in their timelines, they recruit a hesitant Iron Man (Downey Jr) to assist and in teams, they jump back to different points in time.

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The Avengers ready to time travel (Marvel Studios, 2019)

When everyone seems to forget that Nebula (Karen Gillan), the being-turned-robot daughter of Thanos, might be linked to Thanos’ server, he discovers their plot to undo his handiwork in the future through her memories. Through a certain amount of time travel scheming, the Nebula from the past, who is still on Thanos’ side, jumps forward in our Nebula’s place. She brings Thanos into the future and a giant fight for survival ensues.

The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) takes one for the team and places the stones on his hand for the reversal snapping of fingers. This is immediately followed by complete chaos as Thanos’ giant spaceship, looming overhead, destroys the Avengers’ base. When all seems lost, and a beaten-up Captain America stands defiantly facing the incoming battle, orange circles open up in the air, and from these portals, out pour all of the ‘disappeared’ superheroes and fighters. A fierce battle then follows.

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Captain America during the battle against Thanos’ army (Marvel Studios, 2019)

When push comes to shove, and Thanos almost gets another finger snap underway, Iron Man saves the day, putting aside his narcissism once and for all. He takes the stones into his metal suit and snaps Thanos away, along with his entire army. The force of the stones is too much for his human body, and he dies while Spider-Man (Tom Holland) reassures him that they won.

We later say farewell to Captain America who time travels to return the stones to their original locations in time, and he remains in the past, finally getting that dance with Peggy (Hayley Atwell). The elderly Steve Rogers passes the Captain America shield to his buddy Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and the “Infinity Saga” comes to an emotional end.

Game of Thrones S8E3 (2019, USA, Sapochnik)

Where Avengers seems predictable in its conclusive and semi-happy ending, Game of Thrones throws continuous curve-balls and keeps its viewers on edge for the entirety of the episode. With two previous installments in Season 8 introducing the dynamics between the central characters and their possible battle tactics at Winterfell, all eyes were on “The Long Night” over the weekend, with over 17 million viewers tuning in to catch the action.

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The Dothraki accompanied by Ser Jorah (HBO, 2019)

While Ser Jorah (Iain Glen) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), leading the Dothraki and the Unsullied, stand guard outside Winterfell, the unseen enemy lurks in the dark near the forest. After Melisandre the witch (Carice van Houten) ignites the Dothraki fighters’ swords, for some unknown reason, they charge towards the unseen undead. Slowly but surely their flames extinguish in the distance as the wights wipe out nearly their entire army. A few make it back to Winterfell, as does Ser Jorah, and all are slightly traumatised by the sheer idiocy of that battle tactic.

It does not take long for the wights to begin their attack on the Unsullied next, and after a few waves of chaotic fighting, a retreat is bellowed out. Hundreds race back to the safety of Winterfell’s walls, and Arya (Maisie Williams) watches in horror as the undead fighters slowly kill off each line of defense. A fire-filled trench is not enough to keep them at bay either and they are soon clambering up the walls and into the castle.

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Arya fights for Winterfell (HBO, 2019)

Meanwhile Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) have started riding the two remaining dragons, who breathe fire down onto some of the enemy fighters. The Night King eventually appears on the blue-eyed Viserion and an epic dragon fight occurs mid-air in some stormy conditions.

Elsewhere Arya is reminded by Melisandre that we tell death “not today” when it comes knocking, and the next time we see her, she is screaming in mid-air, charging at the Night King, brandishing a knife, fulfilling her destined role to kill him through her trickery and mastery, dropping the blade from her left hand down to her right, and stabbing him in the chest.

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Jorah dies in Daenerys’ arms (HBO, 2019)

For many protagonists, this assassination was just in the nick of time, as Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), and Pod (Daniel Portman) had been trapped against a wall, with zombies swarming around them, Jon was facing off with Viserion, and Sansa (Sophie Turner) and co. were about to be killed off by Starks raised from the dead in the crypts. Ser Jorah had been busy protecting his queen after Daenerys had fallen off Drogon’s back, and as soon as the wights perish, he too collapses after their attacks fatally wounded him.

Overall it was a hectic and busy hour and twenty minutes of TV, with the action jumping from the front lines, to the castle’s interior, from the chaos in the crypts, into the library, up in the cloudy sky, and back down to the godswood, where Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) had successfully been used to lure over the Night King.

Endgame of Thrones

All of the action described above is the fruit of a decade of onscreen storytelling and many beloved characters arrived at their final destination. The goodies are triumphant over their enemies and save the day(s), with several unfortunate casualties along the way. For their audiences, the battle scenes present exciting victories and the characters’ success has been felt by millions of viewers globally. In reality, any “goodies” are unable to win in this way over whatever negative forces may exist in their lives, and it is only through characters like Arya, Iron Man, and their fellow warriors that audiences can celebrate the finality of evil’s actual demise.

We won’t have to wait too long for the conclusion in Westeros, as the last three episodes of Game of Thrones will air in May, but it might be another decade or so before Marvel’s overarching series comes to a complete end.

 

Episode 4 of Game of Thrones will air on Sunday 5th May in North America/Monday 6th May in the UK. 

Spiderman: Far From Home will be the next Marvel film, out in July 2019. 

 

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