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The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones delivered one of the most highly-anticipated events of the whole saga: the Battle of Winterfell. The episode, called "The Long Night," was finally going to pit the forces of the living against the army of the dead, and all hands were on deck. Arya Stark was celebrated by fans everywhere for her role in taking down the Night King, and Jon Snow got credit for giving the battle his all, but one Stark sib got the short end of the stick: Sansa, and a deleted scene proves that wasn't necessary.
But first, some background on why Sansa was criticized for the Battle of Winterfell.
For some viewers, Sansa sitting out the battle in the crypts along with Tyrion and all the other non-fighters unlucky enough to be at Winterfell when the army of the dead approached meant that she was a coward, or unworthy as a leader when the likes of Jon and Dany were in the thick of the fighting. Others argued that she should have been rallying the spirits in the crypts. For me, Sansa's behavior was fitting for the situation, and she was smart to stay out of the action rather than causing more harm than good as an unskilled fighter.
So, what is this deleted scene, and why should it have remained in the final cut of the episode for Sansa's sake? Well, it turns out that Game of Thrones filmed what should have been a key scene set down in the crypts, after the dead Starks started to rise from their resting places and attack the people hiding down there. In the episode as it aired, Sansa and Tyrion shared a moment of terror together before drawing blades, seemingly to defend themselves or make a last stand. But that never happened on screen.
In the scene that was cut (via EW), Sansa and Tyrion used their weapons to get up and fight the wights in the crypts, even saving Missandei, Gilly, and little Sam when they were on the verge of being killed by the reanimated corpses. This scene, which runs for about two minutes, could have showcased Sansa and Tyrion as well as just how bad things got down in the crypt.
Given that the six episodes of Game of Thrones Season 8 ran for as long as necessary rather fitting exactly into 60 minutes of footage, surely the show could have added a minute or two to one of the most important episodes of the entire series to give Sansa and Tyrion their due credit? If none of the big characters, with the arguable exceptions of second-tier Ser Jorah Mormont and Theon Greyjoy, were going to die, why not show what the unconventional heroes did to help the people of Winterfell survive?
Admittedly, Sansa's actions in "The Long Night" aren't all that left fans complaining, as many were seriously upset about how dark the whole Battle of Winterfell was. For me, "The Long Night" was the last really good episode of Game of Thrones before the final season's writing went off the rails in the last three episodes, and I would have loved to see more of Sansa's actions.
So what if I had to squint to see what happened in a lot of the episode and I'm still not 100% sure how Rhaegal survived the battle against Viserion? If only Sansa had gotten to prove her mettle as much as her siblings! (Yes, I still count Jon as a Stark sib.) I believe it was a solid episode either way, and in the grand scheme of regrets about Game of Thrones Season 8, the omission of this deleted scene doesn't crack the top five. It just really could have been included, if the only issue was that it added another two minutes to the run time.
The legacy of Game of Thrones will live on despite the dark Battle of Winterfell and divisive final three episodes, and not just because the coffee cup conflict rages on. A spinoff has received a series order that promises a whole lot more dragons (and incest), and the sixth book in George R.R. Martin's saga will apparently still release someday! If you're in the market for some TV options sooner rather than later, however, you can find plenty on our 2020 winter and spring premiere schedule.