GoT 8.3 The Long Night
Full Spoilers, yo! Watch the episode before reading this!
You’ve been warned.
How the fuck did so many people survive that?!
I’m changing up my format again this week, it keeps it interesting. I’ve watched the episode once so far, will be going back to it this evening and seeing if there’s things I missed but everything I’m writing here is after one watch and not reading any articles online. I’ve had a couple of conversations with friends who have also watched it and that has solidified a few things for me.
I am shocked that so many of our heroes survived the battle for Winterfell. I really was prepared for a much higher bodycount. But maybe that is the point. We all knew this was going to be a grand scale, epic battle and that we were going to lose people. Having a lot of those people survive, people like Pod, Brienne, both Greyworm and Missandei, Varys, Gendry, Tormond, The Hound, hell even Jaime, it really felt like there was a strange chance they could all bite it.
Instead the death toll was lower for our named characters which actually puts me more on edge. They’re not all making it out of this series and now when they do get got it’ll be more of a surprise.
The episode opens with a series of tracking shots moving from one leader to another showing everyone getting into position ready for the long night. Dolorous Edd Tullett, the nine hundred and ninety ninth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and perennial pessimist has the opening line of the episode chastising Sam for taking his time getting to his spot among his former brothers from the Watch.
Melesandre arrives, riding out of the darkness and in the first incredible shot of the episode lighting the ankh(?) blades of the Dothrahki who then ride out to face the dead wights first. Meeting a Dothrahki horde in an open field might have seemed like suicide for Robert Baratheon and the other kings of Westeros in the past, but the Night King’s army gives zero fucks and we see from the distance the blades wink out one by one as they’re seeming cut down without much effort. At first I thought this was kind of shitty as Dany has effectively helped commit genocide to an entire civilisation… even if they weren’t very civilised, but we do see at least some retreat back on foot, Jorah Mormont among them. Not Ghost though, we don’t have enough budget even in this episode to show the dire wolf and dragons! More on that later though.
As the army of the dead approach the defences it is more like a wave crashing against the shore than a charge of soldiers. Greyworm and his Unsullied do their best to hold the centre, Jaime, Brienne, Pod and the knights of The Vale have the left flank and the northmen have the right. I believe this is also where the Nights Watch remnants are positioned, but it doesn’t matter too much as they all get fucked up pretty badly. Edd is the first named hero to die, after saving Samwell Tarley one last time.
Eventually the retreat is called for and they begin falling back through the gates of the keep.
Meanwhile Jon and Dany have been mounted in the sky doing what they can to thin the advancing evil with dragon fire. A great icy cloud starts to come in though, presumably some power of the White Walkers or Night King. This hinders not only their ability to provide adequate air support but also allows the Night King, upon a dragon himself, to get the drop on them both and lead them on a chase/dragon battle high above the rest of the fight.
As they don’t have the dragon fire to light the trench defences and flaming arrows aren’t doing the job, Greyworm, Berric and Sandor Clegane lead a contingent back out through the gate to protect Melesandre as she does that voodoo that she do. Her faith is visibly tested as she can’t get the fires started immediately but eventually the Lord of Light does his thing and Winterfell is encircled by fire. The Hound’s PTSD kicks into high gear.
I’m jumping around a little bit at this point as I can’t remember the exact order of things but I know Theon and the Ironborn are keeping an eye on the Bran-Eyed-Raven in the Godswood. Jon flies down to make sure they’re all good before taking off again to try taking out frosty Darth Maul. Tyrion is pissed and pissed off about being in the crypts with the women and children pointing out that if he was up there he might be able to see something that might change the course of the battle much like he did at Blackwater. Varys, Missandei, Gilly and Sansa all agree that that is a stupid thought but Sansa at least does say that Tyrion was the best of her string of unfortunate forced marriages. They share a sweet moment.
Jaime, Brienne, Pod and most of the remaining heroes relieve the archers on the walls, joining Davos and Arya who’ve been holding that down until now.
The Night King instructs the wights to create a zombie bridge over the fire and they approach the walls en-mass, eventually breaching the castle. The fighting comes to the courtyard where Lyanna Mormont and her small cadre of Bear Islanders face them head on. She valiantly and single handedly takes out a wight giant with some dragon glass to the eye while having her chest crushed, killing her.
For me the best shot of the episode is the backlit by fire, silhouetted, back to back fighting on the walls of Jaime and Brienne who came to each others rescue multiple times throughout the episode. The visual of this was the first of two visual cues that really harkened back to The Last Jedi for me. The other is a little later on.
After a long period of large scale battle, once the walls are breached, we see a lot more smaller and enclosed fights. This really ramps up the tension in a different way and the scenes of Arya hiding and sneaking around her childhood home play out a lot more like a horror movie than Saving Private Ryan.
Jon and Night King are both grounded. As Jon was fighting in the fields outside Winterfell I couldn’t help but thinking he must have an inner monologue along the lines of, “Didn’t I just leave this party?”
Dany is very proud of herself as she attempts to roast the Night King as he just stands there and takes it, but as the fires die out and he is still there like a Terminator stalking after Sarah Conner he is the one with a cheeky smirk on his face and Dany fucks off to regroup.
Seeing this, Jon knows this may be the only chance he has to defeat his great foe and begins to charge forward, stopping in his tracks when NK turns, and begins to raise his arms and all the dead with it. The bastard of Winterfell knows exactly what is happening and tries his best to get to him but is cut off by a mixture of enemies and former allies.
Elsewhere the dead are also rising, Tormond and Gendry are doing what they can in the courtyard, the wielders of the swords that were once Ice are on the walls and Beric has used Arya as motivation to get Clegane to rejoin the fight. They help her through the castle until the leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners is cut down one final time. Melesendre is there, but knows that his purpose is now forefilled and earns Arya’s trust by echoing one of her earliest mentors with the line, “What do we say to the god of death?” She correctly responds with, “Not today.”
Dany saves Jon’s ass one more time bringing the fire with Dragon but foolishly lands and begins to be overrun by dead. She dismounts and lets her dragon fly off to try and shed the unwanted passengers but is then alone in the field until her most loyal protector, Ser Jorah Mormont arrives to defend his Kahlessi one last time, taking multiple wounds but not giving up.
Jon meanwhile is fighting his was through Winterfell as he knows exactly where NK is headed. He sees his friends battling hard but can’t afford to take the time to help. As he approaches the gates to the Godswood though Viserion, the undead dragon appears and starts laying blue fire waste to everything in sight.
The weakest part of the episode is also around here as the dead Starks in the crypts begin to bust out of their tombs and murder the innocents. None of our main characters are seen to get it though.
I hate this. The dead in those tombs should all be dust by now, bones at most, with the possible exception of Rickon who we don’t see. We also know from last season that a wooden box is strong enough to contain a fairly fresh wight so how these ancient bastards can break through stone tombs just doesn’t make sense. I’m sure defenders of the scene will wave their hands and say, “Oh well the Walkers are so much closer so they’re stronger.” But it’s a crappy scene that didn’t need to be there.
The Night King, White Walkers and hundreds of dead wights are now mere meters from their goal as Bran sits by the hearttree and Theon Greyjoy, the last man standing tries to defend him. In what was for me the most emotional moment of the episode, Bran tells Theon he is a good man, that he is home and thanks him. If it wasn’t already, this completes Theon’s redemption and what might be the sneaky best character arc of the entire series. He charges forward, knowing it is futile but in defiance, with one last attempt to kill NK.
All looks lost. Bran, with all the knowledge of the living world contained within him, is in the grasp of NK. Dany and a dying Jorah are in the field about to be over run, the heroes in the crypts are hiding as best they can, everyone in the courtyard and on the walls is fighting a losing battle to survive and Jon, the only one even remotely close, knows to get to him get needs to get past a dragon on a killing spree. He stands defiantly and screams at the beast. As this is happening the Night King moves to strike down Bran but out of no where comes a girl.
Arya Stark flies in with a superman punch armed with the Valaryian steel dagger ready to stoke down NK. But he catches her by the throat and weapon hand. Without missing a beat the water dancer channels her inner Rey and drops the blade only to catch it with her off hand and drive it into the very spot the Children of the Forest did centuries earlier to create him in the first place. He explodes and sends a shockwave out to all the Walkers, weights and undead dragon presumably everywhere.
Jorah, knowing he has done his duty and defended his queen dies in her arms and they’re encircled by a returning Dragon who also appears to mourn the loss. Melesandre shares one last look with Davos, the man who has wanted her dead for almost the entire time they’ve known each other, as she walks through the front gates of Winterfell, removing her necklace and power keeping her alive and as she rapidly ages and dies. Credits.
I’ve got to say I was hoping the red priests and priestesses would have a larger role to play, but thinking about it now, I’m happy with how it played out. She knew Winterfell would be the location but she wasn’t sure of the circumstance. I believe that’s why she pressed Stannis into his foolish attack but realised her folly at that time and returned here to do what she had to do.
The episode was great. Not perfect, but really great. As a one/two punch with last weeks I feel like we got the very best of what Game of Thrones the TV show can offer. Last weeks episode may be one of my favourite episodes of the entire show, this was an amazing rollercoaster.
I hope you enjoyed my extended write up for this extended episode. I’ll continue to write about the show for the next three weeks and you can find other nonsense every day. I guess we can’t say winter is coming anymore huh? Cersei is coming just sounds dirty…
Qhono, that Dothraki dude.
The Night King
NOT GHOST! He survived and is in the 'next week on' I guess they just couldn't afford too much wolf stuff on top of all the dragons.