“The Long Night” is here and it’s finally time for the ultimate showdown between the living and the dead. Click away now to avoid spoilers for the newest episode of Game of Thrones.
With the last episode ending on such a heavily suspenseful note, the first part of this hour and a half episode sought out to amplify that sentiment tenfold rather than throwing us directly into the heat of battle. The episode begins with a familiar face we knew we had to see once more in the series before it came to its inevitable end. It couldn’t have come at a better time than right before the plunge into this battle.
Melisandre (aka the Red Woman) makes a surprising entrance back into the series. She eerily walks on horseback towards our heroes and lights all the swords of the Dothraki on fire, giving them a seemingly stark advantage against the Night King’s forces. Only it isn’t much of an advantage.
Almost immediately after, the Dothraki charge ahead of the rest and are decimated. Their fires slowly diminish abroad the increasingly dark and evanescent battlefield. This only further increases the tension of the conflict until, at last, the two armies clash.
Executive producers and co-creators of the show, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, have long since said that this battle would be just as big as the Battle of Helm’s Deep from the Lord of the rings. They were clearly not lying. What we’re shown during the epic battle scenes does not fall short of the mark. Gruesome fighting scenes, intensifying musical scores, and the overwhelming fear of the unknown come together to create an environment where we truly didn’t know which one of our favourite characters might’ve been next to die.
In an initial failure to beat back the enemy, we lose Ed as he saves his long-time friend, Sam, from one of the wights. His watch has finally ended. The troops fall back to the castle and signal Daenerys to light the trenches with her Dragon, but she doesn’t get there in time. An ill-tempered reaction to the decimation of her many Dothraki causes her to ride Drogon towards the center of the army of the dead, with Jon riding Viserion just behind her.
Melisandre calls out to the Lord of Light and successfully lights the trenches just like the swords before, and Jon and Daenerys encounter the Night King in a 2 vs 1 fight against him (while he rides the undead version of the dragon, Rhaegal). This dragon fight was a treat and very intriguing since many fan theorists had speculated the sibling dragons would not end up fighting each other due to their relationships. Nevertheless, the fight ensues and another of the Dragon Queen’s children, Viserion, is killed in the process (throwing Jon safely into the snow). Meanwhile the Night King falls off his dragon somewhere below.
Back at the castle, the army of the dead throw themselves onto the fire to suffocate the flames as they create a path and pile on top of each other, one by one, until forming a ladder (of sorts)— similar to that of the zombie ladder from World War Z. The brave heroes and Arya Stark beat them back as best they can until they are all overwhelmed and fall back even more. As they fall back, a giant breaks through the front gates and we see the death of a second important character. Little Lyanna Mormont is picked up and crushed in the hands of the giant just before she is raised to the giant’s face and she stabs him through the eye, killing him in her last and dying effort.
Meanwhile, the Hound, Beric, and Arya have retreated into the castle, followed closely by many white walkers behind them. In the labyrinth of hallways that make up the castle of Winterfell, the three characters end up bombarded by the white walkers and Beric is stabbed 10-15 times in an effort to give time for the other two to escape. Beric just barely slips into the locked room the Hound and Arya find, but he succumbs to his wounds and dies for the final time on the floor. In the room we find Melisandre greeting the Hound and Arya. She actually gives the two courage and reminds Arya of all the struggles she’s traversed to come to where she is now. This scene ends with Melisandre asking Arya “What do we say to the God of Death?” a popular phrase she always heard from her sword teacher, Serio Forell, back in the first season. The heroine responds appropriately with “Not today,” as we see her run off with a kick in her step towards her destiny.
Almost every important character is in dire straits at this point. Shortly after the Night King fell off his dragon, he was confronted first by Daenerys and Drogon who tried to reign fire down upon him, only to realize dragon-fire cannot actually harm the Night King after all. Jon, being on the ground at this moment, charges towards the Night King on foot as Daenerys circles around in fear of her dragon being killed by the Night King’s spear. The Night King, surrounded by dead bodies, raises his hands just like he did at Hardhome and brings them (and every body not harmed by dragonglass) back to life. And we mean every dead body, meaning everyone in the crypts of Winterfell (including Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister) were forced to defend themselves against the dead literally rising out of their coffins. All hope seems lost.
Then, a sentiment of desperation passes over in the final moments of the episode. Nothing is clear-cut and everything is tense—we have no idea what’s going to happen. Daenerys is on the ground as she helps Jon fall back to Winterfell, but Drogon is overwhelmed by white walkers and flys off without her, and Jorrah comes to the rescue just as we thought Daenerys had met her end. Every hero has their backs against a wall, especially Theon, who this entire time has been protecting Bran as they wait for the Night King to come and kill him, wiping all living memory of the present and past from existence. After a well fought fight, all of the men from the Iron Islands have died, leaving Theon and Bran solely surrounded by the white walkers… and they’re just waiting. A path clears and the Night King is walking followed closely behind by his commanders.
The music slows and begins its build for the final few minutes of the episode. Bran, realising the end has come, turns to Theon and thanks him for all he had done and recognises him as the good man he has grown to become. Theon, in a final act of love, charges the Night King, spear in hand. His effort ultimately proved to be in vain as the Night King breaks the spear and stabs him with it, and Theon dies knowing all is lost. The Night King approaches Bran, stares him in the eyes and the tension rises to its crescendo. He reaches for his sword just as we see Arya Stark jump out from the void with her Dagger in hand… and the Night King turns on a dime to grab her, one hand on her throat and the other on her hand, in midair. Arya drops her dagger, picks it up below with her free hand, and plunges it right into the heart of the Night King, ending the war and killing all of the white walkers in turn.
The heroes have won the Battle of Winterfell and defeated the Night King and his army of the dead. And, in the traditional style of Game of Thrones, we see one last death to realize the gravity of the situation at hand. Many were lost and Ser Jorrah Mormont apparently had been stabbed a number of times just before the white walkers were defeated. The screen fades soon after Jorrah dies in the arms of a sobbing Daenerys. Now, after such an incredibly tense and breathtaking performance in the Battle of Winterfell, the game of thrones can finally begin as we transition into the real war between Cersei and the rest in the final three episodes to come in Game of Thrones.