***Spoiler Warning: This post contains Spoilers for Game of Thrones through Season 8, Episode 3. Spoilers***
In the darkest night that was truly full of all the terrors, Miguel Sapochnik’s take on this battle royale was a heart-pounding thrill ride with a surprisingly low major character death count. Still, beginning to end, “The Long Night” roller-coastered across Winterfell’s vast landscape and from the crypts to Godswood and points high and low, the dead army invasion felt a neverending wave of wights from which there was no escape.
Hand-wringing and reverted to his less brave and softly whimpering self, Sam led us through the readying groups, passing the viewpoint to Tyrion and later, Jon through a clever camera relay that perfectly translated the impending sense of doom. Alongside our heroes, we waited for death, internally chanting “Not today.” The screech of dragons seemed to herald a dark arrival and indeed, Melisandre’s ominous presence unsettled more than a certain Onion Knight, though more than once, the Red Woman provides protective fire to aid the defenses.
As Petty once noted, the waiting is the hardest part; shots linger on fearful faces watching and listening as the darkness threatens to envelop all. Armed with newly glowing swords, the Dothraki force heads into the black nothingness, kicking off the first domino of activity and audience chills. Over haunting screams and screeches, the distant lights begin to dim and a wave of riderless horses and men make a panicked retreat, sparking spreading terror as wights fill in and invade. Grey Worm’s helmet donning signals a chain of favorites immediately responding to the legion of dead. The Stark sisters’ open-mouthed horror mirrors our own and Arya quickly schools Sansa on defense (“Stick them with the pointy end”).
In a blink, raining fire heralds Jon and Daenerys riding Rhaegal and Drogon, but the Night King’s approach has turned the skies into a swirled blinding and frozen haze. Down in the crypts, the living awaits the dead; Arya fights the first to break through and in an evasion eerily similar to the Jurassic Park kids hiding from raptors, she sidles up to bookshelves and under tables, quietly slices a wight’s throat. Above ground, the Night King’s army mows over and through soldiers, lit trenches instantly go out and Melisandre desperately chants another spell to create a wall of fire, a barrier that temporarily holds back the wights until they bridge themselves across. Grey Worm calls out his order to protect a mass retreat, while in the Godswood, Bran casts a virtual lure and the bait is quickly taken.
Fully under attack, Winterfell threatens to crumble. Through Sapochnik, cinematographer Fabian Wagner and Ramin Djawadi, we are wracked by tension and held rapt in their expert hands. Wights fill every corner, corpses burst through walls and every living being must summon courage, whether they have it or not. Side by side, Jaime and Brienne fight, likewise Gendry, Tormund, Beric and a quivering Hound … and to Ser Davos’ amazement, a girl who trained her whole life to fight in this single most important battle takes out an inordinate number of deadly soldiers. Topside, the beloved Lady Mormont goes down defending her House banner, defiantly taking a giant with her.
While Jon attempts to head towards his apparent Godswood fate and as Dany’s rain of fire has no effect on the Night King — who once again raises his fallen soldiers — a sense of inevitable and irrefutable loss pervades the final scenes. Theon valiantly completes his redemptive arc and receives a final acknowledgment from Bran, who awaits what he has already seen. Spurred by Melisandre’s reminder, the Prince Who Was Promised takes surprising form. As the Night King prepares to kick off eternal darkness, Arya Stark shuts a final pair of blue eyes and the army of dead instantaneously shatters. Under a watchful Seaworth eye, the Red Woman walks away, dropping her disguises as she falls lifeless; those remaining and we, too finally catch our breath anew.
In the space of two episodes, Arya got laid by the hottest dude in town and killed the WBI’s (Westerosi Bureau of Investigation) Most Wanted. Seriously though, HOLY ARYA (Jaqen would be proud). Not only did she have some of the greatest fighting scenes this hour plus; she is also, apparently, the prophesized (genderless) Prince Who Was Promised — though not necessarily exactly according to that prophecy. While many people thought Jon or Dany might fulfill that role, the show (which could be the different ending GRRM intends) and Miguel Sapochnik thought this surprise was the way to go.
Arya saved the Hound! With a fiery arrow, no less!
While it may be an odd complaint, the lack of major character deaths is (even in this fantasy show) unrealistic, and very unexpected. We prepared ourselves to lose a lot of favorites. Sure, we lost Jorah and Lyanna Mormont, Theon Greyjoy, Beric Dondarrion, Dolorous Edd, and Melisandre, but in the face of that insane wight army, it doesn’t seem like much. There were many times that characters seemed to be overrun, then we’d cut away from the scene, and later that character would be fine. I’m pretty sure Jon should have died ten times (though that’s nothing new for him). I would have guessed Brienne and Tormund, at the very least, would be dead. How is Grey Worm not (unsure) dead? This looks like Tormund’s silhouette to me:
Grey Worm may still die in the next episode, I suppose:
Theon’s death was appropriate and weighed especially heavy. Lady Mormont went out like a champ and of course, Ser Jorah’s death was heartbreaking, Dany sobbing over him.
Every time Melisandre did something helpful, I shouted, “Okay, that’s cool, but we still don’t forgive you Shireen!” And I know Ser Davos feels the same.
I’m so ready for next week, and for Jaime (that’s my valonqar prediction) to kill Cersei. (Alas, no Lady S.)
Tyrion and Sansa’s exchange was beautiful (that hand kiss), and Missandei got in the episode’s best zinger:
Tyrion: “If we were up there, we might see something everyone else is missing. Something that makes a difference.”
Sansa: “Witty remarks won’t make a difference.”
Tyrion: “That’s why were’ down here, none of us can do anything.”
Sansa: “It’s the most heroic thing we can do then, look the truth in the face.”
Tyrion: “Maybe we should have stayed married.”
Sansa: “You were the best of them.”
Tyrion: “What a terrifying thought.”
Sansa: “It wouldn’t work between us.”
Tyrion: “Why not? The dragon queen?”
Missandei: “Yes, without the dragon queen, there’ be no problem at all. We’d all be dead already.”
There’s no need to execute me Ser Davos. I’ll be dead before the dawn.
I’m not abandoning my people.
Everything you did brought you where you are now — home.
Clegane, we need you.
Fuck off, we can’t beat them.
They’re fucking death. Can’t beat death.
Tell her that [Arya].
You said we’d meet again.
And here we are, at the end of the world.
You said I’d shut many eyes forever. You were right about that too.
Brown eyes, green eyes, and blue eyes.
What do we say to the god of death?
Theon, you’re a good man.