You’ve maybe seen the video before. A whole bunch of people are gathered in a bar, watching on a big TV the screensaver of a DVD player, willing it to hit just right in one of the corners, a setting you must either be of a certain age or have seen The Office to appreciate. When it hits, bedlam.
The video is not original, but, oh, if it were. It evokes a kind of sensation typically reserved to sporting events, which is why many in the above-linked Reddit thread suggest the video’s original context was of viewing an English soccer match. Other events we watch, like television shows, don’t prompt that kind of out-of-your-seat, throw-your-beer emotional reaction; at least, not normally. There’s never been one in my lifetime that’s brought that out of me, until Game of Thrones‘ “The Long Night,” better known as the battle of Winterfell. There’s never been anything like the episode before, and now that we’ve seen and measured the next-most significant battle of the series’ final season, on King’s Landing in “The Bells,” it’s a safe assumption that there’ll never been anything like it again. After all, Game of Thrones‘ next try couldn’t compare.
Since I first saw the screensaver video randomly on a social media feed, there’ve been several iterations depicting other things on the screen. Following “The Long Night,” a Game of Thrones version, its logo-in-the-corner moment being when Arya Stark kills the Night King in the end.
Of course, the video — what the crowd is actually reacting to — is still not real. However, there were many real reaction videos posted to Twitter the night of the episode that demonstrated the same kind of raucous, celebratory climax that the screensaver video gets a laugh out of. I don’t have a video of my own reaction, so, instead, let these represent mine:
As Michele Steele writes in her caption for the video embedded here first, “I’ve never seen this reaction to an episode of scripted television before.” I don’t know of any other show that triggered this level of reaction to a single moment. The cut-to-black ending to The Sopranos didn’t produce this. Mad Men had nothing remotely comparable. Big television comedies aren’t setup that way. What about the other fantasy fiction, albeit a movie franchise, I so frequently bring into comparisons, Harry Potter? The answer’s still no. The death of Harry Potter‘s Night King, Voldemort, was much slower and stranger than the suddenness and surprise of Game of Thrones‘. HP’s was also the result of several interconnected actions by a handful of contributors (hence, a longer play), rather than one by a single action (the dagger) performed by a single person (Arya). Game of Thrones was also in a unique position for such a surprise because the story in book form hasn’t been finished. The ending of Harry Potter was already written and read.
This was the tweet I published at the conclusion of the episode. My physical and verbal responses in the moment, however, were much more raw, I promise. “The Long Night” was like watching the sports team you bleed most for win a championship, which you’ve never seen them win, on a last-second play. I’ve never screamed or cheered or involuntarily exploded off of my couch like that for a television show, ever. My natural reactions are usually more subdued and delayed for whatever reason, even for sports. But the last anxious moments of this 82-minute episode of TV literally brought me to my feet. I’ll never forget it.