Spoiler Warning for the Season 8, Episode 3 of “Game of Thrones,” as well as all previous episodes of the series.
“What do we say to the God of Death? Not today.”
It has all been building up to this. The first episode teased the power and mystery of the White Walkers, but this episode culminates their threat into one epic battle that will define the scale of this series forever. Problems are present, but this is an episode for the ages.
Fear. That’s the general feeling in Winterfell as the fighters prepare for what very may be their final battle. Sam’s hands shake as he walks into the center of the bustling town. Unsullied march and those not fighting head down to the Crypt. Lady Mormont orders her men into their positions as Theon pushes Bran’s wheelchair toward the godswood. Davos, Arya and Sansa stand ready at the battlements, looking toward the horizon for the approaching army. Drogon and Rhagael fly overhead with Daenerys and Jon riding them away from Winterfell as part of their plan. The Dothraki are on the front lines with trebuchets lined behind them, and the Unsullied following suit. Brienne leads the flank with Podrick, Jaime and many others under her command. Tormund, Beric, The Hound, Gendry, Edd and Sam stand on the frontlines of another flank; Jorah and Ghost stand alongside the Dothraki. A mysterious horseback rider crosses the no man’s land and approaches the Winterfell front line. It is none other than Melisandre, who approaches Jorah and asks him to order the Dothraki to raise their swords. Stepping forward to one Dothraki rider, Melisandre places her hands around his sword and recites a spell. This causes the swords of the Dothraki fighters to ignite in a wave of flames that lights up the battleground. Melisandre then enters the gates of Winterfell and reunites with Davos, telling him that there is no need to carry out his promise to execute her seeing as how she will be dead by dawn. The intensity and feeling of dread present in these opening minutes is nothing short of incredible. This is a series that is no stranger to battle sequences, but these first few minutes are proof that this will be no ordinary battle.
There’s no going back at all. The Dothraki charge forward onto the battlefield, their lighted swords and battle cries breaking through the darkness. From atop a ridge, Jon and Dany watch as a vast swarm of light sweeps across the field before colliding with a force of darkness. Those remaining at Winterfell see a truly eerie sight as the lighted swords die out one by one on the horizon until there is nothing but darkness and silence. A handful of surviving horses and fighters charge back, including Jorah. The terrifying moans and screeches of the wights can be heard as they charge forward toward the new frontline. A literal wave of undead collide with the Unsullied and the two flanks, leaving all of the soldiers overwhelmed and many dead. Brienne is tackled to the ground, but Jaime manages to kill the wights stacked on her as a flood of fire envelopes across the screen. It’s Drogon and Dany unleashing hellfire on the Army of the Dead. Jon and Rhaegal do the same, creating a chaotic mess of death and fire. Jon and Rhaegal charge toward the opposite end of the battlefield where the White Walkers stand, attempting to wipe out the command. A gigantic blizzard tears in from the treeline, leaving Jon and his dragon lost in the wind and snow. This also creates problems for Dany and her dragon, and Arya notices this. She orders a reluctant Sansa down to the Crypt, handing over a dragonglass dagger and telling her to “stick ’em with the pointy end.” The blizzard overtakes the battle on the ground, creating visibility problems for those fighting, but not the dead obviously. This was all part of their plan.
This episode is chaotic in the sense that there is literally so much happening at once that it is almost impossible to recap it all. Jorah is tackled from his horse by a pair of wights, but he doesn’t miss any beats as he continues fighting. There are numerous characters also being tackled, including Sam who is saved at the last minute by Edd. Sadly, a knife of a wight plunges right through Edd’s throat and mouth. The insanity above ground is juxtaposed by the relative calm in the Crypt as Sansa joins those trying to ride out the storm. She doesn’t need to say anything at all. Everyone knows how hopeless things are. Tyrion chugs wine, feeling that his life is about to come to an end. Things are also hectic in the air as Jon and Rhaegal struggle to fly through the blizzard, eventually colliding with Dany and Drogon. Back on the ground, orders are given for the fighters to retreat back inside Winterfell and Lady Mormont commands that the gate be opened. A flood of terrified soldiers rush into the center of Wintefell as Grey Worm and the Unsullied protect the retreat. Once the retreat is completed, Grey Worm and a small number of Unsullied retreat also, but most stand their ground. It is here that Grey Worm gives the order to light the trench, prompting Davos to signal for Dany. With almost no visibility, Dany doesn’t see the signal, so Davos orders the archers to fire their burning arrows to light the trench. This is completely unsuccessful, so a plan is hatched that includes the Unsullied creating a path for Melisandre to step forward to the trench. The Red Woman recites her spell, but it doesn’t seem to be working and as the undead grow closer, she becomes visibly worried that the Lord of Light will not come through. Suddenly, the trench engulfs in flames, surrounding Winterfell entirely and keeping the Army of the Dead from reaching the castle walls. Melisandre did THAT.
This isn’t really a respite from the battle, but the dead are kept back for a moment; their blue eyes stare down those in Winterfell from across the burning trench. As the last few retreat inside, those in the Crypt are left totally in the dark as to what’s happening. Tyrion wishes to be upstairs helping in the fight, but both Sansa and Varys posit that he would be dead if that were the case. Sansa notes that everyone in the Crypt is there because they would be a liability in the fight. Tyrion gets nostalgic and points out that perhaps he and Sansa should have remained married. She points out that Tyrion was certainly the best of her relationships, but that it wouldn’t have worked out between them because of his allegiance to Daenerys. Missandei pipes in and states that Dany is the reason they’re all not dead already. In the godswood, Theon attempts to apologize for all the things he did to Bran, but the Three-Eye Raven states that “everything you did, brought you to where you are now…where you belong, home.” If that isn’t the perfect line to encapsulate the arc of Theon and the overall story itself. Bran then lets Theon know it is time for him to go, and he wargs into some ravens that fly over the mess unfolding at Winterfell. Bran finds the Night King and Viserion hovering high up in the sky. The brief break in battle comes to an end as the Night King raises his hand and silently commands his army. One by one, a few lone wights throw themselves onto a single spot on the lighted trench, creating a bridge of sorts as the fire dies down. This rare phenomenon where wights interact with fire occurs all along the trench, allowing the army to flood over and reach the walls. And just like that, the Battle of Winterfell returns to chaos.
With Winterfell having the high ground, it would seem that they would have the advantage, but the wights are relentless. Evoking a feel similar to “World War Z” and “The Walking Dead,” the wights slam against the wall and begin climbing. Those positioned on the wall must slice and dice, knocking bodies back down into the climbing horde. Once a few wights make it through the line of defense, everything falls apart. Brienne comes to the rescue of Jaime, who is being overwhelmed by undead, giving the two the advantage to fight back to back. Arya swings into battle mode with her handy new weapon, and slices and stabs invaders. While trying to flee away from a cluster, Arya slams her head against a doorpost. A dead giant storms through the gate and slams Lady Mormont with his hand. In a final act of heroism, Lady Mormont stands, raises her weapon and charges straight for the giant, letting out a battle cry. The giant picks the young warrior up and squeezes her, crushing her bones, but Lady Mormont isn’t done fighting; she plunges her weapon straight in the eye of the giant, killing it before the behemoth drops to the ground. Hiding behind a wall, the Hound freezes up as he realizes how hopeless the situation is. Beric tries to rally him to continue fighting, pointing at Arya as a lead they should be following. Above the clouds, Jon, Dany and the dragons hover as they try to get a sense of their location. Viserion’s blue flame sparks a dizzying aerial battle that catches the living dragons off guard completely. There is seriously so much happening that mini battles break out in various locations, adding to the overall scale.
Through and through, this is Arya Stark’s defining hour. Managing to make her way inside, Arya silently creeps through the halls of Winterfell before finding her way into the library. A number of docile wights wander around, leaving Arya to maneuver around shelves in a scene that feels reminiscent to “The Last of Us” and other zombie video games. Using her quick thinking and ingenuity, Arya manages to escape the library, but finds herself on the run from an entirely different collective of wights. Down below in the Crypt, those hiding can hear the scattering of undead and men just above. Some of the soldiers desperately try to enter the Crypt, but that just isn’t going to happen. The Hound and Beric wander the halls and eventually cross paths with Arya being attacked by numerous wights. Beric throws his sword to save Arya, but is stabbed multiple times. Knowing his time is likely running out, Beric throws himself at a handful of wights and is stabbed more times as he fights to give Arya an opening to get away. The Hound has to pick Arya up and pull her away, knowing that Beric is on his way out. Holding back the wights, Beric blocks a doorway and is stabbed even more times, but manages to rejoin Arya and the Hound as they lock themselves in the dining hall. Before he can say any final words, Beric slips away, dying a true heroic death. Melisandre appears and states that the Lord of Light brought Beric back to serve a purpose, and it has been served. Arya recognizes the Red Woman from their encounter in Season 3. The prophecy that Melisandre told Arya she would fulfill is coming true; Arya will “shut many eyes forever”: “brown eyes, green eyes, and blue eyes.” As Melisandre recites Syrio Forel’s old saying, Arya knows exactly what she must do and she leaves to do it.
The fight comes to the godswood as Theon and the Iron Born are forced to fight off the wights; “make every shot count,” Theon commands. Meanwhile, the aerial battle rages on as the Night King charges toward the wall of Winterfell and has Viserion unleash blue fire, creating an opening for his army. Jon and Rhaegal collide with the attacking dragon and the siblings engage in a fury of bites and thrashes. Drogon and Dany arrive and manage to throw the Night King from his dragon, sending him falling to the ground. Rhaegal crash lands to the ground, throwing Jon tumbling across the snow. Dany spots the Night King standing on the ground and utters “Dracarys” giving Drogon the order to unleash hellfire on this sinister force. Emerging from the flames with a creepy grin is the Night King, unharmed and immune to the fire. He picks up a spear and throws it at Dany, missing narrowly as Drogon flies away. After that little showdown, the Night King walks toward Winterfell, passing through the piles and piles of corpses left in wake of the battle. Jon charges at his rear, but the Night King catches onto his plan and slowly turns around, raising his arms in a power move that adds all of the deceased to his army. Those fighting inside Winterfell take note of what is happening, seeing the dead rise up. The eyes of Lady Mormont, Qhono, Edd, and many others open up as they rise from the dead. An especially terrifying turn of events unfolds in the Crypt as the coffins housing those buried begin to move. There’s mass panic in the Crypt as the dead reanimate and break free of their final resting places, forcing those seeking shelter to run through the darkness. This was a popular fan theory of many, and it just so happened to come true. The Crypt is NOT safe.
Jon has already died once, and just when it seems he might die once more, Dany swoops in with Drogon and burns some undead pricks. As Jon charges to the godswood to save Bran, Dany strangely leaves Drogon parked, allowing dozens of wights to climb on board and attack. It’s a rather contrived scene that REALLY makes it seem like Dany and/or Drogon will meet their end here. This is especially true as Dany tumbles to the ground and Drogon struggles to take off and shake the wights off him. With no melee battle experience, Dany is defenseless as wights charge toward her, but fortunately, her saving grace is there for her as always. Jorah defends his Khaleesi just as he has done sine day one. Jon fights his way through the castle, seeing countless wights toppling in as his friends make their final stands, barely holding on. He can’t stop to help them. His mission to help Bran is the priority here. At the godswood, Theon becomes the final human left alive to defend Bran; he doesn’t even have any more flaming arrows left. It’s here that the episode takes its most hopeless shift into the final act.
The final act is some of the most beautiful material “Game of Thrones” has ever produced. Set to a musical score called “The Night King” by Ramin Djawadi, the characters fight for their lives in what seems to be their last moments. Sansa and Tyrion hold their weapons in their hands and embrace for a moment while hiding behind a coffin before charging out into the madness. They’re ready to die together. Viserion recklessly burns the remnants of Winterfell. Jorah is stabbed multiple times as he defends his Queen, but Dany uses a weapon to fight by his side. Jon hides from attacking wights while simultaneously dodging the blue flames that shoot at him. At the godswood, Bran returns from warging as the Night King and his White Walkers make their final approach. Theon realizes they are surrounded and he sees the Night King step out of the snowy haze. The silence is broken by Bran telling Theon, “you’re a good man. Thank you.” He needed to hear this. Turning to face the Night King, Theon makes his last stand and charges straight at the invader with his spear. It’s a hopeless act, but surrender is not an option here. Theon has to try. The Night King uses Theon’s spear to stab him through the stomach, dropping his body to the ground. In his usual dramatic fashion, the Night King walks toward Bran and the two lock eyes. The Night King reaches for his weapon, ready to extinguish the Three-Eyed Raven forever. Suddenly and silently, a girl named Arya Stark flies into frame behind the King and is grabbed by the neck. She drops the iconic Valryian steel dagger and grabs it with her other hand, plunging it straight into the cold heart of the enemy before her. The Night King shatters into a cascade of ice, followed suit by his White Walkers. En mass, the wights fall to the ground. Viserion, just seconds away from burning Jon, dies in a final screech. It’s over. The threat is put to rest after eight seasons of terror.
The aftermath of all of this isn’t easy. This was a hard fought battle that no one really expected to win. Those in the Crypt emerge from their hiding places, surprised to still be alive. Brienne, Jaime, Podrick, Grey Worm and the other fighters take their first breath after fighting nonstop. Dany holds Jorah in her arms as he slowly bleeds to death, but not before attempting to utter a final word to his queen. She cries over his body as Drogon arrives and shelters his mother and her sworn protector. Melisandre exits the castle, walking through the pile of bodies into the field of snow. Davos watches from behind as she takes off her necklace and drops it on the ground. She ages drastically as she stumbles and collapses in the snow in a bundle of bones. She served her purpose and just as she stated at the start of the episode, she died before dawn. The Lord of Light used her to help win the battle before ending her time in this world. In an episode of fitting character deaths, this ends an epic episode with one final conclusion to a long-standing character’s story.
The good in “The Long Night”
- The scale. Prior to this episode, this battle was teased to be the biggest battle in cinema history…and it sure was. Nothing like this has ever been seen.
- The cinematography. Pretty much ever shot is beautiful and looks like a painting.
- The musical score is simply so powerful and is on the same level as that of “The Winds of Winter.”
- Characters dying heroic deaths. Each of the main and recurring characters went down fighting and had fitting deaths entirely.
- The hopelessness. Seeing these characters at their lowest point ever shows just how relentless and deadly the Army of the Dead is.
- Arya killing the Night King is shocking, but totally fitting of her overall character arc.
The iffy in “The Long Night”
- Characters have extremely THICK plot armor and surviving this battle when they realistically shouldn’t have. To be fair, there has always been plot armor for characters on this show and many others.
The bad in “The Long Night”
- The Night King and the Army of the Dead being destroyed this earlier into the season. After being the looming and impossible threat since the opening scene of the first episode, one battle in one episode is the full extent of their role in the final season. It feels almost too easy and anti-climactic for them to be wiped out here.
- Ghost charging full steam ahead at the wights…only to survive? What is the point in having him on the frontlines?
- Daenerys parking Drogon in the middle of the wight mass…for her to fall off and be saved by Jorah.
Top performances in “The Long Night”
- Maisie Williams as Arya Stark
- Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen
- Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister
- Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark
- Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy
- Jacob Anderson as Grey Worm
- Iain Glen as Jorah Mormont
- Carice van Houten as Melisandre
- Richard Dormer as Beric Dondarrion
- Bella Ramsey as Lady Lyanna Mormont
- How the hell was all of this filmed?
- Jorah died protecting his queen. Theon died protecting Bran. Their characters had exceptionally fitting conclusions. This is character development done right.
- All of Arya’s training built up to THIS. She did THAT.
- HOW WILL IT ALL END?
“The Long Night” is simply incredible. Sure, it does have some small issues and the end of the White Walker threat is strange. That being said, this is a television episod that needs to be watched by everyone, even those that don’t even watch “Game of Thrones.” Give this episode all the awards.
Be sure to tune into “Game of Thrones” Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on HBO.