I think it is fair to say that the world was collectively shocked in THAT moment, the moment to end all moments, at the end of this weeks episode, ‘The Long Night.’
Episode 3 was always going to be a big one, if not the biggest of the series, and we do not feel disappointed. It is rare in this day and age that television can continuously and effectively throw curve balls that not many, if any at all of us saw coming, and do so with such precision. When it comes to battles, Game of Thrones knows how to bring it, but a battle of this scale was going to be a whole new ball game, which the creators and writers handled with accuracy and pulled off spectacularly.
The episode opened with shaking hands and a weapon being thrust into them. The hands belonged to Sam, who, without being too harsh, was utterly useless for the whole episode. Moving on from Sam, the sense of foreboding grew stronger as all the characters we know and love geared up for battle, until the Red Woman, Melisandre, suddenly showed up out of the darkness. After lighting the Dothraki’s weapons, the sense of foreboding lessened slightly, and we thought they just might have a chance. One of the most cinematic parts of the episode was when the Dothraki, led by Ser Jorah, advanced on the enemy, their flames lighting the way. After a few tense minutes, and the extinguishing of the flames in the distance, the small morsel of hope that we had was once again thrown into the wind, and the dead descended on Winterfell.
Game of Thrones succeeded in the execution of this episode because of its focus on the magnificence of the battle, but also because it stopped, gave the audience breaks and allowed us not to get numb to the fighting. Between the battle in the skies with the three dragons, the Unsullied and armies of Winterfell on the ground with the army of the dead, Bran and his protectors, the crypts and whatever Arya was getting up to, we had a lot to focus on, which made the transition for plot a lot easier to take in.
The army of the dead were a lot. There’s no other way to put it, they were just significantly a lot and the living team were losing, quite badly. This was of course most harshly felt in the first few deaths of the episode, the first being Edd Tollett, who died saving Sam. His was a heroic death, which was closely followed by Lyanna Mormont, who was adamant that she would fight in the episode prior, and didn’t stop being fierce until her last breath was drawn. Another aspect the writers managed to pull off in this episode was the coupling. Ignoring what suits who politically, the mini teams that formed throughout the episode were what kept it grounded and emotionally enriching. In the battlefield, there was Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister, fighting alongside one another, and Podd, always loyal to Brienne. Greyworm was with his men, and fought heroically throughout. Even in the crypts, where another type of heroism took place, Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister stood together, reflecting on their past marriage and being there for one another. Thankfully Varys, Missandei and Gilly all survived too. Sidenote, for those who doubted it (40%) the Starks did rise from their tombs in the crypt, as 60% of us predicted.
As for those who predicted which Stark sibling would die first (15% said Sansa, 30% Arya and 4% Bran), you were told “Not today!” Although we were sincerely doubting this a few times throughout the episode, specifically when Arya was in the library. The way the creators managed to fuse thriller, horror and drama together was another success, and we can definitely say tension was high. The battle and this scene showed off Arya’s two seasons of training with the faceless men, and she really got her time to shine, however it was not without help. The ultimate and most important coupling in the episode came when most needed. After being frozen as the reality of their demise was realised, the Hound was only roused into action when he saw Arya struggling, and together with Beric Dondarrion, and the wise words of Melisandre, Arya was saved.
This paved the way for Arya to run off, going to who knows where (well, we know, but we didn’t when were watching it), and makes Beric’s eighth and final death one of significance and honour. Someone with less honour, being the Night King, showed up on Viserion (which we hate him for) and , after being flung off (which we loved) got an intense but altogether useless charring by Drogon. Dany’s look of dismay and horror was one for the books, however it was nothing compared to when Ser Jorah Mormont, who was with us from the beginning, played the good, the bad and the heartbroken, the guy who has had more second chance’s than anyone, died protecting his beloved Kahleesi. This was a truly heart wrenching scene, especially when Drogon came to her and lamented alongside her.
After the Night Kings classic move of reanimating the dead, including the crowd favourites, hope seemed lost as Jon Snow tried to battle the Ice Dragon, as Brienne and Jaime struggled in Winterfell and as Sansa and Tyrion bravely drew their dragonglass and tried to defend the crypt. In the godswood, Theon Greyjoy, who was another character tthat was with us from the beginning, died having achieved the best redemption arch the show has seen yet and protecting Bran after a brave effort. The episode had reached its climax.
The music, quiet and mournfully beautiful, dragged our hopes lower still, and every viewer drew their breath, not wanting to believe that the Night King was really going to prevail and wipe out humanities memory, being Bran. As he drew his sword, however, a small wisp of wind blew one of the White Walkers hair, and suddenly, Arya was there; Arya was pulling sick moves with the dagger of Valyrian steel that was supposed to kill Bran way back in Season 1, and killed Littlefinger, the man that put the whole series into action; Arya ended the Battle for Winterfell, and the living prevailed (which 63% of us predicted). The strangely peaceful end to the episode saw Melisandre fulfil her promise to Ser Davos of Seaworth, as she stripped her necklace that made her young and walked into the sunrise, dying in the snow.
Melisandre: “What do we say to the God Of Death?” Arya: “Not today.”
The Night King (and his whole army, including Viserion), Theon Greyjoy, Jorah Mormont, Melisandre, Edd Tollett, Beric Dondarrion, Lyanna Mormont and a whole lot of Unsullied, Dothraki and other fighters.
Biggest Jaw-Drop Moment:
Arya stabbing the Night King and ending the Battle for Winterfell.