8:45am PT by Josh Wigler
'Avengers: Endgame' vs. 'Game of Thrones': Who Won the Pop Culture Bloodbath?
As Avengers: Endgame comes in for a landing, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) offers some words of wisdom before disappearing forever: "Part of the journey is the end."
It's a painful reality for fans of both Marvel's sprawling Avengers franchise as well as HBO's Game of Thrones, as the two pop culture behemoths enter varying stages of hibernation, if not an outright conclusion. There will be more movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, of course, but they might not feature Tony Stark or Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as Iron Man and Captain America end Endgame dead and retired, respectively. There may be more stories set in Westeros, based on HBO's plans to film a Game of Thrones successor show pilot this summer, but the pilot may never get off the ground, and even if it does, it will take place thousands of years before Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) were even twinkles in Rhaegar and the Mad King's respective eyes.
Raking in an astonishing $1.2 billion in its opening weekend, Avengers: Endgame has already landed. Clocking in at an exhausting 82 minutes, Game of Thrones' "The Long Night" has finally brought one of the Emmy-winning drama's central conflicts to an end: the war against the White Walkers. Three more Thrones episodes still remain, but several key players are now officially off the board forever — and no one more important than the Night King. Even if it's not exactly comparing two series finales, it's easy to stack the climactic Avengers and Game of Thrones events against one another.
Both Avengers and Game of Thrones featured someone named Stark making incredibly risky moves in service of the living: Tony in the case of Endgame, and Arya (Maisie Williams) in the case of "The Long Night." Only one walked away alive: Arya, still fighting to die another day. Tony, meanwhile, lost his life wielding a makeshift Infinity Gauntlet in order to defeat the Marvel Cinematic Universe's deadliest enemy.
Indeed, both fictional universes lost their respective sources of nightmare fuel: Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Avengers world, and the Night King's entire White Walker army destroyed in Thrones. Who would have expected two of modern pop culture's biggest bad guys to fall in the same weekend, both of them dropped by a Stark?
The two franchises suffered heavy casualties, though in unequal measure. Game of Thrones' "The Long Night" saw the deaths of seven named characters, though their levels of importance to the overall narrative are debatable. Alfie Allen's Theon Greyjoy and Iain Glen's Jorah Mormont were with Thrones from the start, but they hardly carry the same weight as the two serious Avengers casualties: Downey's Tony Stark and Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, killed off with her very own spinoff film still in the earliest days of production. What Avengers lacked in a hefty heroic body count, it more than made up in the seismic power of its deaths.
Fans assumed a litany of deaths walking into both Endgame and "The Long Night," only to walk away without those expected casualties under the belts: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), for instance, was an easy first round draft pick to die among the original Avengers squad, while Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) filled a similar role for Thrones fans. Both of them miraculously survived.
In Avengers' case, Marvel even found a way to further the stories of previously deceased entities like Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), thanks to Quantum Realm loopholes. No such time travel trickery for Game of Thrones, much to the chagrin of fans who insist the Night King is Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) from the future. (He's not.)
Directed by the brothers Joe and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Endgame culminated in one of the most stunning battle sequences ever featured in a superhero film, eleven years in the making. Directed by Miguel Sapochnik, "The Long Night" was described in advance as a battle that would rival Lord of the Rings' Helm's Deep sequence, an event anticipated for decades in the case of those who have read the George R.R. Martin novels on which Thrones is based. Which battle won the day? That's for you to say.