On "The Long Night," the third episode of Game of Thrones' final season, an unknowable number of soldiers perished at the hands of the Night King and his army of the undead. In addition to ever-loyal knight Jorah Mormont, rough-hewn Night's Watchman Dolorous Edd Tollett, pint-sized leader Lyanna Mormont, fire-sword wielder Beric Dondarrion, and redeemed warrior Theon Greyjoy, countless nameless characters, including a legion of Dothraki fighters, were slaughtered in the Battle of Winterfell. By almost any measurement, the conflict was a bloody massacre.
Despite the carnage on display, after the episode finished a very specific line of criticism began to emerge, which is perhaps best personified by this tweet from Vox co-founder and political journalist Ezra Klein: "Plot armor is more protective against the undead than I expected."
Even outside of the world of policy wonks, the concept has taken hold, and over the last few days, the "plot armor" critique has spread like the green flames of wildfire during the Battle of Blackwater. While some fans on Reddit argued that the amount of plot armor in the episode was "utterly ridiculous," critics at publications like Slate and The Ringer argued that the core characters had "acquired plot armor" and that it "only seemed to thicken" during "The Long Night," which failed to kill off one of the main protagonists of the story, like Jon Snow, Daenerys, Arya, Tyrion, or Sansa. Meanwhile, in a rush to create even more content about the episode, combat veterans and military historians were called in to level their assessments of the battle strategy of the living, with the consensus being "it makes no sense at all."
Picking apart the specifics of a battle plan is hardly a new pastime on the internet, particularly when it comes to popular genre shows and movies, and accusations of "plot armor" have dogged Game of Thrones for ages, intensifying after Jon Snow was brought back from the dead in Season 6. As defined by TV Tropes, a site that catalogs terms like this, plot armor is "when a main character's life and health are safeguarded by the fact that he's the one person who can't be removed from the story." The thinking goes that Jon Snow, despite going one-on-one against a blue-fire breathing dragon, simply can't die anymore because he's essential to the show's endgame. On one level, there's very little to argue with here: obviously, Jon Snow wasn't going to die in "The Long Night," and he won't die in the next episode either. He's going to be around for a little while, and so will Jaime, Tyrion, Cersei, Daenerys, Arya, and Sansa. They're the main characters.