Warning: Game of Thrones fans know the night is dark and full of terrors, but this post is bright and filled with spoilers, so proceed with caution.
As much as Samwell Tarly has been a fan favorite in past seasons of Game of Thrones — it's hard not to love Jon Snow's book-smart best friend who cures Jorah Mormont of Greyscale! — there's no doubt that his last-minute decision to join the fight against the Night King's army is questionable at best and lost him some major character points in my book.
The trouble starts after Sam decides to join his friends on the Winterfell battlegrounds rather than stay in the crypt with Gilly and his son, Little Sam, like he's told. Although Sam's decision to face the Night King and the wights with the other men certainly seems noble at first, it becomes clear rather quickly that he is a big liability on the battlefield despite his best intentions to fight courageously.
When we first see Sam in the episode, he's standing among the other soldiers of the North, looking predictably terrified. While we can't blame him for being beyond nervous while waiting for the Night King's army to converge on Winterfell, the bottom line is that he knows better than to be there. Although Sam trains with the Night's Watch and even manages to off a White Walker in season three — which is a big stinkin' deal! — it's no secret that fighting isn't a skill he's best known for. Sam has never been a stupid guy, but like any person, he has strengths and weaknesses. Reading, for example, is one of his great strengths; he was training to be a maester, after all. But fighting among the Dothraki and the Unsullied against an army of zombies? I'm convinced he knows his brain is far more valuable than his brawn.
You know who else isn't required to fight in the Battle of Winterfell? Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys's clever Hand of the King. And despite killing Tywin, fighting in the Battle of Blackwater, and outsmarting dozens of characters throughout eight long seasons, he is also given a pass when it comes to charging the battlefield. Although he isn't thrilled about being told to sit it out, Tyrion obliges and hangs back in the crypt with Sansa. With hindsight being 20/20, it would probably have been for the best if Sam had taken a page from Tyrion's book this time around. It's very possible they'll both be needed if the North takes on the Golden Company later on.
Make no mistake: the Battle of Winterfell is absolutely crazy, even for the seasoned fighters. The Dothraki are all but wiped out mere moments after they charge the enemy's front line. So it's no surprise that once both sides are engaged in hand-to-hand combat, Sam quickly emerges as the weakest link. After getting knocked down by a particularly nasty-looking wight, Sam is within inches of getting a knife to the eye. But fortunately, his buddy Dolorous Edd, the acting commander of the Night's Watch, comes to his rescue. After rolling around on the ground in the fog for what seems like an hour, Sam finally gets up after Edd begins screaming at him. And how exactly does the commander get repaid for his good deed? By taking a sword to the gut. Yikes.
As soon as Sam takes out a wight off the side of the castle, he gets overwhelmed immediately. A particularly upsetting moment crops up when Sam freaks out and practically cowers in fear as Lady Brienne and Jaime Lannister are pinned to the wall fending off at least a half-dozen zombies. At this point, it's confirmed: Sam is in over his head.
But the most emotionally charged moment comes once Jon makes his way back to the castle to take on the undead that the Night King raises again. Despite the fact that Jon sees Sam getting attacked by wights, he actively ignores him to take on Viserion instead, realizing that he may have to sacrifice his best friend to defeat the Night King.
For the first time in his life, Jon leaves Sam to fend for himself because he absolutely has to prioritize the blue-fire-breathing dragon wreaking havoc on the North's troops. Although Sam's fate is up in the air, he manages to emerge from the battle unscathed. The positive outcome certainly begs the question of how important Sam is going to be in last three episodes, since obviously there's more to his story. Will he emerge as the narrator? Or step into a high position if and when the North takes King's Landing once and for all?