After years waiting for the confrontation, sifting through subplots and intrigue, following characters rising and falling in their roles and enduring an endless build up, the most anticipated battle finally arrived.
That is effectively the description of “The Long Night,” one of the most polarizing episodes in the final season from Game of Thrones aired last year.
It is also a perfect descriptor for what many people across the country experienced in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.
Politicos and engaged citizens alike altered schedules to count down to the close of polls on the East Coast on Tuesday night. They were eager with anticipation, and the actual results began tumbling in quickly.
Obvious states were slotted into columns for President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden almost from the outset. Depending on the channel my surfing thumb landed on, states like New York or Alabama or Connecticut or Indiana were called before even a single precinct reported.
But the big, early prizes portended the back and forth to come. Virginia originally looked like a shock upset for Trump until Fairfax County swung it definitively into Biden’s camp several hours later. Ohio, which processed mail ballots for more than a week before Election Day, raised hopes among Biden supporters before methodically draining it away as day-of votes were tallied in favor of Trump.
The biggest early prize – Florida, always Florida – could have ended the fight after the first real incursion. Had Biden won Florida, something many polls predicted, the pathway to re-election for Trump would have been all but foreclosed.
When Biden jumped out early based on better-than-expected results in central counties, the excitement among his supporters quickly rose. It seemed a little like when the Red Witch set the swords of the Dothraki Horde aflame before they rode into the darkness.
It did not end well for the Dothraki nor Biden in Florida. His gains were swamped by Trump’s massive increase over his 2016 performance in Miami-Dade. Buoyed by significant Cuban-American supporters worried about Biden’s liberal base, Trump quickly took control and never relinquished the state.
To the north, Trump seemed to have swept over the fabled Blue Wall just as he did in 2016. Built as an unbreachable obstacle to Republican electoral hopes, the long-time Democratic states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin pushed Trump into the White House four years ago.
Because each counted in-person Election Day votes before mail ballots, the early returns looked dismal for Biden. Coming on the heels of the Florida loss, Trump’s large, early leads had the same chilling effect of the Night King astride an undead dragon burning The Wall down again. Biden’s supporters seemed more terrified than the people fleeing to the Winterfell crypts.
But in the long election night that stretched over multiple days, legally cast absentee ballots were processed and counted in the Rust Belt states and hope returned. First Wisconsin and then Michigan came back to Biden. And Pennsylvania moved in his direction.
The final daggers to Trump were the home states of icons Trump mocked during his presidency. Biden took a commanding lead in the late Sen. John McCain’s Arizona that Trump could not whittle down.
And in the heart of the Deep South, at 2:45 a.m. on Friday, the home county of the recently passed civil rights giant Rep. John Lewis delivered Biden a lead in Georgia.
Georgia’s 16 electoral votes denied Trump any path to an outright election victory. The moment had Arya Stark coming out of nowhere to kill the Night King written all over it.
Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday-Friday may have been the longest night many Biden supporters have ever experienced. Certainly many were glued to their televisions the entire time, even more enraptured than so many were by HBO’s blockbuster series.
But in this Game of Thrones, it was Biden the builder who appears to have won.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care, and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq