Two of the biggest pop culture franchises end this year in a way. We are, of course, talking about Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones, the biggest movie and TV drama of the decade, respectively. I said “in a way” because both franchises, due to their potentially limitless profitability, will continue in some form or another. But a major storyline within those franchises is ending.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe already has several films in its future slate, and Game of Thrones has sprouted no less than 5 prequel spinoff series. Also, Game of Thrones’ ongoing final season still has three more episodes to go.
But before all that happens, let’s take a look at how the two wrapped up their chief storylines. While Avengers: Endgame is set in a world like ours albeit with superheroes, gods and magic, Game of Thrones has a setting which is akin to medieval England, and yet geographically, it is totally different from our earth. It also has dragons, direwolves, zombies and so on.
From the first episode itself, we were introduced to the threat of the White Walkers in Game of Thrones. Although Thanos did not appear until 2012’s The Avengers, the reason why the Avengers came into existence was because of Thanos and other intergalactic threats like him.
Even as the game of thrones was played, with all its intrigue, machinations, betrayal, murder and whatnot, the presence of the Night King remained in the periphery. Similarly, Thanos continued to pull the strings and did not himself attack earth until last year’s Avengers: Infinity War.
The Night King was an epitome of death, nature’s retribution and perhaps climate change as well. He was clearly meant to be a natural force of evil which history forgot. The people of Westeros had faced him before, but that was thousands of years ago, and nobody remembered him now.
Thanos also had a similar reputation in MCU. He had a Malthusian goal of reducing the universe’s population by half so the remaining half will be left with more resources. He saw that as a kindness. He also saw himself as a divine being tasked with this huge responsibility of committing a “dispassionate genocide.”
Jon Snow and Tony Stark were two leaders who foresaw this threat.
So how was the threat dealt with? How was the story wrapped up? And more importantly, which one did it better?
The answer to the final question, according to us, is Avengers: Endgame.
Game of Thrones’ The Long Night mostly consisted of this huge battle against the Night King and the Army of the Dead. The Night King was as always unstoppable, evading everything he was attacked with easily. Even a full-fledged fire blast by Drogon did not hurt him. And then, out of nowhere, he was assassinated by a human.
Was it great to watch? Yes, the visual of Arya’s trick and the nice way it was set up, and the subsequent destruction of other White Walkers was stunning, as was most of the episode preceding it (for the most part, the darker colour tone of the episode did not bother me). For instance, the way Dothraki’s curved swords were set on fire by Melisandre was awe-inspiring. The extinguishing of those swords as the wights overwhelmed them (and made them their own) was also a remarkably eerie visual.
But did it fit in the larger scheme of things? No. You see, the Night King was said to embody death itself. He was like a natural force from whose spear, even the dragons, the most powerful beings on earth, shied away. Then how could Arya, who was still a human, kill him?
In comparison, the way Thanos was taken down in Endgame was appropriately epic and it also made sense in the context of the entire MCU. Else, why build up a bad guy so much, only to be so ludicrously anti-climactic? The three biggest superheroes — Tony Stark, Steve Rogers and Thor — fought Thanos off so they could keep the gauntlet away from him. After that, nearly the entire MCU came together to take on Thanos and his army. Was it fan service and even a little cliched? Yes. But at least it was a fitting ending to a storyline of such mammoth proportions.
One could say since the show is called Game of Thrones, the major conflict will always be the struggle for the Iron Throne. But then why was the Night King set up as such a primal dark god like figure, only to be stabbed to death?