Well the Battle for Winterfell is finally here, and I'd say we got off easy. I was honestly expecting way more character deaths. I'm seeing online that some people are upset that more characters didn't die, but I'm personally okay with it. That's because, while I'm expecting most of the remaining cast to perish, I don't want them to. I LIKE these characters. That said, the episode did feel a bit lacking in places. Now I realize how odd that sounds considering this is the biggest battle sequence ever put on film, and congratulations to the cast and crew for pulling that off. However, "The Long Night" follows what was one of the best written episodes of the show, and arguably television, ever. I would contend that it hurt the big battle episode to have an episode that good immediately before it.
Overall, as an extended battle sequence, this episode worked really well. The entire episode was fraught with tension, and I found myself afraid for every character. At various points I thought Jamie, Brienne, Sansa, Tyrion, Grey Worm and Gendry were going to die. I also expected either Jon or Daenerys to die this episode. Now? Well maybe they will both make it to the end.
For me personally, the best moment of the episode was when Arya killed the Night King. I was worried when he grabbed her by the neck, but I cheered when she dropped the dagger, caught it and plunged it into his side. This was well set up. In the first episode of this season, Jon asks Arya how she snuck up on him in the Godswood. She dodges the question by asking how he survived a knife to the heart. This scene also reminded me of Eowyn killing the Witch-King. They thought no one could kill the Night King, and "no one" did. Arya, MVP of the night.
Apparently, a lot of people did not like this, they felt "cheated" or something because they wanted Jon Snow to kill the Night King in a one-on-one fight. Here's the problem with that; it's what everyone expected (even I fell into the trap of expecting it to an extent), which is why it was never going to happen. Since when has George R.R. Martin EVER followed standard fantasy conventions? That's one of the main things Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire for book readers) is known for, why it's so good, and why it's such a breath of fresh air. It does not go for the standard tropes. It completely subverts normal fantasy conventions. Having Jon kill the Night King would be completely out of tone with the series. Furthermore, I'd argue it HAD to be Arya. There's no way a normal person could take the Night King in a genuine fight. Tt absolutely had to be a sneak attack in order to succeed, something the Night King didn't see coming. It's actually rather Tolkienesque in a way. Sauron wasn't defeated by Aragorn in a one-on-one epic duel for the fate of Middle-Earth. Sauron was defeated when the One Ring fell into Mt. Doom because of a hobbit, something Sauron didn't see coming. Like Sauron's defeat, the Night King's downfall was his own arrogance in believing he couldn't be defeated, so he didn't take an assassin, or probably even just a woman, into consideration.