“For fuck’s sake, you took your time.”
Never have more appropriate opening words for such an epic episode been spoken. We knew that this was going to be the biggest on-screen battle ever. We knew we were going to lose some of our beloved characters. People the world over debated on social media over who those would be. It felt like a long week of waiting.
At the end of “The Long Night” many people complained that some of the bigger names didn’t die, but I for one am glad. There are three episodes left, and while Game of Thrones does epic battles like no other show, it’s the warring families, the political conniving, the plots against each other, and the larger game of chess that we are really interested in. It is, at the end of “The Long Night,” still totally up in the air as to who will sit on the Iron Throne. And you can bet your asses that we will lose a lot more of our beloved characters in the final few hours, so don’t relax just yet.
First of all, welcome back Melisandre. The Red Woman returned at exactly the right time, bringing the God of Light’s power with her. As complicated and strange characters go, she was always my favourite. Burning Shireen at the stake was not her finest hour, but I guess we can blame this on misunderstood messages from her deity or the fact that (as Melisandre and Bran appear to know well) everything that has happened up to this point has happened for a reason. Those left standing at the end have all gone through their own hell, and there’s a reason why they are still alive. I expect some shocking twists from here on in.
But let’s get back to the battle. There was a glimmer of hope after Melisandre’s fire-inducing incantations armed the Dothraki soldiers with blazing swords, but it was short lived. Watching the lights go out on the horizon was truly chilling. Just what were they up against? A wave of death is the best way I can describe it—like seeing video footage of a tsunami powering up to shore, destroying everything in its path, the horror of everything just being gone in seconds. It’s no wonder then that most of those who survived that initial surge retreated back to Winterfell.
Daenerys wasn’t wasting any time. She hopped on her dragon’s back and set about lighting up the night sky with fire, taking out a fair few wights (and likely allies) in the process. You can’t really be too accurate with dragon fire, to be fair. Jon joined his girlfriend-aunt on his own dragon, watching the terror unfold on the ground below.
Being in amongst the battle was intoxicating—the darkness, smoke, and ash from both the fire and then the icy air that the wights brought with them, the screaming and wailing as both sides of the battle took their last breaths. Every second brought a new enemy to pummel. If you weren’t on the edge of your seat in awe watching this then you have probably been spoiled by the amount of brilliant TV we have these days, and you need to check yourself.
The first of our heroes to fall was Edd. Eddison Tollett was a good friend to Jon Snow. Jon had unofficially named him the Acting Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch before he left for Castle Black many moons ago. With Edd’s death, the Night’s Watch are officially extinct. While it was a great sadness that Edd lost his life, he did so saving a fellow Night’s Watchman, Samwell Tarly. God knows how Samwell survived this episode—assuming he did. He looked in a pretty precarious position the last we saw him, but at this point I’m taking only on-screen deaths as definite. That goes for Ghost the direwolf, too. Ghost ran into the wights alongside the Dothraki warriors but did not return. I’m not writing him off that easily, though.
Watching the chaos unfold below, sisters Sansa and Arya share a moment, with Arya giving Sansa a dragonglass dagger and telling her to take shelter in the crypts along with the Northern women and children, as well as Tyrion, Missandei, and Varys. As always, Tyrion brings some welcome wit to the proceedings while they await their impending doom. One of the most beautiful moments of the episode came when he and Sansa talked about their marriage. They were a good couple, but for a relationship to really work you have to really want to be together—in every way—and neither of them felt that. Their friendship is strong, but as Sansa herself admitted, his loyalty to Daenerys would come between them. You gotta love Sansa, still taking time for a bitchy comment about her brother’s girlfriend while in the midst of battle. You would think that witnessing Dany burning a thousand wights to the ground would perhaps win her around, but no; the trust issues run deep. Sansa is the cleverest person Arya knows, though, and after this episode I trust Arya with every single breath. Still, I applaud Missandei for sticking up for Dany. Sometimes Sansa does need a good reality check.
“Without the dragon queen, there’d be no problem at all. We’d all be dead already.” – Missandei, speaking to Sansa in the crypts
Next, to the Godswood where Theon is guarding Bran. At this point, I want to apologise to Theon for my comments last week about him not exactly being the person I’d want most to protect the VIP Bran. Theon absolutely kicked ass this episode (and looked surprisingly hot while doing it). He must have taken out at least 50 wights with his fiery bow alone, then about 20 more with just a stick. But before any of that happened, Bran decided he was “going now,” rolled his eyes, and warged into a raven which flew off towards the Night King. Why exactly he did this I am not sure, but I would guess he was just keeping an eye on how close the Night King was to arriving at Winterfell, or even luring him to his location. For Bran had a plan; some might say he knew what was going to happen all along.
Elsewhere in Winterfell things are getting even more chaotic as the wights breach the castle. Jaime, Brienne, Tormund, Podrick, and Gendry are all knee-deep in bodies and physically exhausted. But still, they carry on.
The totally ferocious Lady Lyanna Mormont is sadly the next of our team to bite the dust, but she goes down like the absolute legend she was. The reanimated giant Wun-Wun storms the door to the courtyard, so who other than the tiny warrior would stand up to him? In a true David vs Goliath moment, Wun-Wun picks her up and crushes her to death in his hand, but not before she stakes him in the eye with a dragonglass blade, killing him instantly.
The Hound loses his mental strength to carry on, believing that there’s no way to stop the dead (and no doubt paralyzed by the fire—his greatest fear—surrounding him). Thankfully, Beric Dondarrion provides him with some inspiration from the now 100% badass fighter, Arya. She had already saved The Hound’s life that night. Their love/hate relationship has morphed into true friendship, and there was never really any doubt that was going to happen. Beric gives his life to save Arya’s as the trio flee a horde of zombies tearing their way through Winterfell. When they reach safety, they find themselves in a room with Melisandre who tells Arya that Beric was resurrected six times for this moment. This seventh death will be his last.
Back in Game of Thrones season three, Melisandre and her gang ran into Arya, Gendry, and the Brotherhood Without Banners. Melisandre “buys” Gendry from the Brotherhood because she believes his blood is key to helping Stannis Baratheon. But Arya won’t let Gendry go without cursing Melisandre. It’s then that Melisandre looks into Arya’s eyes and tells Arya that she sees death in her future:
“I see a darkness in you, and in that darkness, eyes staring back at me: brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes you’ll shut forever. We will meet again.”
At the time that first conversation was had, it was assumed that this referred to Arya’s destiny as an assassin, and that is still true. But the blue eyes now have a far deeper meaning. Upon Melisandre asking Arya, “What do we say to the god of death?” Arya replies—as she was taught to by her first “dancing partner” Syrio—”Not today.” Arya appears to understand her calling and takes off alone.
The battle rages on, on the ground and in the sky. Daenerys and Jon go head-to-head with the Night King who has arrived on his reanimated dragon, Viserion. I have to say the special effects during the whole episode were just incredible. Some of the flying scenes looked a little superimposed, but on the whole, everything looked as realistic as dragons, giants, and swarms of dead people could possibly look. Viserion’s frozen fire breathing was particularly impressive, and illuminating too—much needed during this long dark night. The Night King gets knocked off his perch and falls through the clouds. Dany spies him and sets her dragon’s fire on him. It does precisely nothing to harm the Night King at all, which poses a question: isn’t it only Targaryens that can withstand flames? Does that tell us anything about who the Night King was originally?
Jon stalks him by foot, which isn’t a good idea as the Night King isn’t stupid by any stretch of the imagination. This just seems to piss him off. He waves his horribly long-nailed fingers and brings the dead back to life. Yep, if the soldiers weren’t knackered enough already, they’ve got to re-fight all the previous dead they’ve killed, plus all their own dead. Lyanna Mormont’s now electric-blue eyes open. Imagine getting into a fight with the fierce little undead Lady. Yeah, I’d probably just give up at that point. Death would seem a welcome rest.
The crypts are no longer a place of safety after the Night King resurrected the dead, including all the ancient Starks in their sarcophagi. As creepy as this was, both Ali Sciarabba and I felt they really missed a trick in not bringing out the undead Lyanna and (the headless) Ned Stark to kill some innocents. It would have been downright nasty, and we expected nothing less from Game of Thrones.
Then the music changes, and I must say the score for this entire episode was just triumphant and perfect—thank you Ramin Djawad. When it changed from powering orchestral manoeuvres in the dark to tingling strings and piano, drowning out the noise of death, I started crying. It reminded me of the end of Blackadder Goes Forth when our friends ran out onto the poppy fields to certain death. Sansa, armed with her dragonglass dagger, gets ready to fight alongside Tyrion—and when Tyrion kisses her hand, it brought me all the feels.
Jon continues stalking the Night King, slaughtering everything in his path, but he himself is being stalked by Viserion. Time is running out as the Night King and his troops have arrived at the Godswood. All Jon can do now is stand up to the dragon and scream.
Bran finally returns to his own body. Where did he warg to for so long? His ability to tinker with time is well-known, but could he have changed the past? If he was going to do such a thing, you would have thought he’d go back to the time the Children of the Forest created the Night King in the first place and convince them not to do it, rather than have all these thousands upon thousands of people die. My only thought at this point is that Bran must be aware of a bigger threat than even the White Walkers. Bran himself may even be that threat. There is something quite cold about the way he nonchalantly expects people to die for him, but I guess if you have a knowledge of the bigger picture, and that people will all have their role to play, you have to try and stop caring about those people too much.
Bran tells Theon he is a good man. With a tear trickling down his cheek, he tries one last time to protect the young Stark as repentance for his betrayal of the family. The Night King kills him with one spear to the side. Theon died a hero, he suffered more than most in this story, and I was glad his pain was finally at an end.
Daenerys found herself in a bit of a pickle, with wights attacking Drogon, debilitating him and knocking her to the ground. Then her protector Jorah Mormont arrives. He goes down fighting, suffering multiple wounds to his side, including a grave one on his left. Yet he is still able to stand to make one last defence. He succumbs to his wounds in Dany’s arms at the end of the battle. He no doubt got the death he would have chosen: protecting his beloved Khaleesi. With Jorah’s death, the Mormont lineage is no more.
All seems lost now as the Night King approaches Bran, who appears nonplussed. It’s either that the Night King was befuddled by his lack of fear or that the pair of them were talking psychically, but something was going on here. Personally, I think it’s the former. Bran knew what was about to happen. From out of nowhere Arya comes flying through the air and attacks the Night King just as he’s about to pull a sword on Bran. He grabs her by the neck, she drops her Valyrian steel dagger from one hand, catches it in the other, and plunges it into the heart of the Night King, shattering him into a billion icicles and killing not only the Night King but every undead being. The Battle of Winterfell is over and the living have won.
I don’t know about you, but I screamed (silently, because it was gone 3am in the UK). I wasn’t expecting it. I don’t think anyone was expecting it and that felt so good. Arya is a true hero, and she so deserved this. (I’m still waiting for Jaqen to return though dammit!)
The blade that Arya used to destroy the Night King was given to her by Bran. It was also the blade that was meant to kill Bran way back in Season 1. After he woke from the coma, Cersei and Jaime sent an assassin to keep their incestual secret. Bran’s direwolf, Summer, came to Bran’s rescue that day.
It appears, then, that Bran knew all along what Arya’s destiny was to become. We have watched her grow from a precocious young girl into the Greatest Warrior of All Time. It is even possible that she is The Prince That Was Promised. The Red Priestess has said time and time again that Azor Ahai, the Prince (or Princess, since Maester Aemon confirmed that the word used to describe the prince in the prophecy was a gender-neutral) that was Promised would save Westeros from the eternal night.
Early on, Melisandre tells Davos not to execute her; she’ll be “dead before the dawn.” And she’s right. She gets the most peaceful death, however. With the dawn coming up in the distance after the battle, she walks out of Winterfell, removes her necklace, reverts to her true form as a frail old woman, and succumbs to the winter. She had accomplished what she set out to do. Melisandre made a lot of mistakes along the way, but she came through in the end and died a heroine. She brought Jon Snow back to life and put all the chess pieces in the right place.
And so the battle is over. It was exhausting and elating and incredibly sad, but beautiful. The direction by Miguel Sapochnik was sublime from beginning to end—how the camera panned from Sam to Tyrion, then onto Lyanna, scoping around Winterfell, setting the opening scenes. I knew we were in for something special and I was not disappointed.
So what’s next? Well, Cersei is ready to fight her own battle now and she will be far less weary than her enemies. She certainly has the upper hand in that sense, but woe betide anyone who tries to break down the folk that survived the battle for Winterfell.
Bronn has been sent to kill Jaime and Tyrion, don’t forget, but will he really do anything for money?
Arya and Gendry both survived so hopefully they get to spend some more time enjoying each other’s company. But everyone has a lot of loss to deal with. How do they find the strength to carry on after the horrors they witnessed? They will, of course, because it’s Game of Thrones and everyone is nails! PTSD wasn’t acknowledged back in the olden days.
I will be back next week to talk you through Episode 4. I have a feeling things are about to get really nasty and I can’t wait!