Greetings, and welcome! My name is Ben, and you have stumbled upon the ONLY Game of Thrones recap on the entire internet. Week to week I will be breaking down each episode of season 8, giving out highly prestigious awards, and wrapping everything up with a haiku.
Season 8, Episode 3: “The Long Night”
Before I say anything about the battle of Winterfell, I must first thank Nicole for her spectacular job covering last week’s episode. But alas, her watch has ended, and you’re stuck with me again.
I have some friends that haven’t viewed a single episode of Game of Thrones (shocking, I know) and they generally fall into one of two camps—people who refuse no matter how many times they are told they need to watch it (the stubborn holdouts), and those who plan to binge the entire thing when it’s over.
While the first group likely can’t be helped, I take more issue with the latter philosophy. The beauty of this show is the anticipation it creates from from week to week and season to season, the (insane) fan theories, and the almost Super Bowl quality of the major episodes—like this one. Complaints about specific plot turns aside (and I certainly have a few), what else on TV can captivate so many of us this?
Before I start getting misty-eyed, let’s dive in!
The first ten minutes of “The Long Night” are wonderful theater, playing off the end of last week’s standout episode. Even before we even see the army of the dead, my stress levels were off the charts, and the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife (or some dragonglass). The battle really kicked off with Melisandre showing up on horseback to set all of the Dothraki’s arakhs alight, a truly hopeful visual to start the last stand of the living against the dead. A much less hopeful visual shortly followed as all of those fires were put out from a distance by the White Walkers and their army. But, to be fair, if left to their own devices the Dothraki would still be raping and pillaging in Essos right? (Is this recap getting too dark too early?)
I have complaints about this battle, but the visuals (what we could see of them) are not one of them. When the dead first rushed the Unsullied and crashed over them like waves upon rocks, it was very clear very quickly what the living were up against. The threat triggered Daenerys to use her dragons too early. You know you are making a rash decision when Jon freakin’ Snow is the voice of reason.
It was nice to spend some time in the crypts before they got super creepy (to be fair they were already a little creepy), as Sansa tells some of the characters who have made a living being clever for the last eight years (Tyrion and Varys in particular) that they are useless in the face of such a threat. They might not like it, but she’s right. The time for schemes and plots is temporarily on hold.
As the battle waged on, and as impressive as it was in terms of sheer scale, I was struck by how many times the writers stuck to a particular theme: characters like Sam, Jon Snow, Grey Worm, Jaime, and Brienne teetered on the edge of death for extended periods of time. Are we really to believe that they were cornered by Wights for 30 minutes of screen time and were yet victorious, against all odds? All of them? I’ll have whatever they’re having.
While the battle untimately did not feel as high stakes as I thought it would, there were some losses. Let’s pour out a little Dornish wine for:
—Beric Dondarrion: He died as he lived, dying a lot.
—Lyanna Mormont: It’s hard to imagine a more heroic death than being in the clutches of an undead giant, about to be eaten, and then stabbing it through the eye with a sword. Life is unpredictable, but I would care to wager that my death will look a little different.
—Dolorous Edd: I’m too despondent to even talk about this one. Perhaps my editor will fill in something here, perhaps not. [Editor’s note: Nah.] We’re all going to die anyway so what does it matter? Oh, Edd.
—Jorah Mormont: Perhaps in death he can finally escape the friendzone. That seems like a meme that the kids will be doing, yes? But seriously, Jorah’s death puts a a spotlight on how truly talented this cast is—he hasn’t been given much of import to do for several seasons but remained riveting nonetheless. Jorah and Dany were a team since the first episode of the first season. This one stings.
—Theon Greyjoy: Theon’s character arc over the last few seasons didn’t do much o convince me that he deserved redemption, but something about his brief interaction with Bran followed by his charge directly at the Night King that made me go, “Okay, that worked.” So many of the atrocities visited upon the Starks were indirectly caused by his seizing of Winterfell many moons ago; that he sacrificed himself to save its last living male heir made sense.
—Melisandre: We’ll get to the Red Woman later, but it’s worth noting that her death looked exactly like me leaving work on a Monday.
Other thoughts: Jon and Dany’s storyline proved frustrating, in that it was rarely clear what they were doing, or even supposed to be doing. I get that the sudden, convenient, unexplained snow storm made their jobs difficult, but they why did they spend most of the battle circling and doing nothing? Why did they briefly engage the Night King on his ice dragon, then completely fallback? Why did Dany land for long enough to be
unhorsed undragoned? For all I giggled at Jon trying and repeatedly failing to sneak past Viserion, their scenes made me seriously question whether either is ultimately fit to rule.
On a more positive note, Sana and Tyrion shared a very nice moment in the crypts. It wouldn’t really make sense for the show to turn either of these characters into action heroes, and I much more appreciated seeing the quiet, tearful connection between them at what seemed very likely to be the end of everything. (This was slightly before it became totally obvious that most of the characters who appeared to be on the chopping block weren’t going anywhere.)
Arya’s time in the castle hiding from the wights provided one of the episode’s standout moments. While she is a highly trained killer, she was, for a moment, transformed by her fear into a much younger version of herself. Yet she also understood that sneaking was a lot more effective than trying to fight her way out, which made for some marvelously tense television. Yes, having a character behave smartly on Game of Thrones does pay off. Her escape seemed important at the time, but I didn’t know exactly how important it would be. Luckily she soon after ran into Melisandre, who helpfully underlined it for us by repeating the prophecy she delivered to her way back in season three. It seemed like the writers tipped their hands too much with that line about Anya shutting many blue eyes forever, but to judge by the reactions on Twitter, many were still surprised.
Shameless segue: The Night King has been built up as quite the baddie over the last few seasons, and his reaction to having dragonfire pour over him for what felt like two minutes straight was definitely in line with that. I’m pretty sure he smirked. (Do White Walkers smirk?)
Anyway, having the dead part like the Red Sea as he and his lieutenants approached Brandon Stark in the godswood ended up giving him his last badass moment. Suddenly, Arya Stark came out of nowhere to deliver the fatal blow to who we thought was the endgame villain of the entire series. It was not a bad moment, but I’m not sure if this makes sense given the theme Jon has been hitting us over the head with for at least three seasons—in short, that everyone should lay off the political maneuvering and face the real zombie threat. I guess not so much anymore; it really will all come down to playing the game of thrones. Cersei is a great villain, buthow can she compare to a guy who could waggle his eyebrows and make thousands of corpses move in unison?
All that said, and just for the record: I’m really glad that Jon Snow was not key to the final resolution in this part of the war. The show has continued to lionize him (er…) despite one questionable leadership choice after another, but this episode finally didn’t reward his general uselessness. (Cue the post-episode quarterbacking from the showrunners, who will probably tell us, “Arya could have never accomplished this without the limited screen time that she had with Jon in the first season.”)
“It’s the most heroic thing we can do now” —Sansa Stark, about staying below in the crypts. Her transformation into one of the best (and smartest) characters on the show has been fun to watch.
“There’s no need to execute me, Sir Davos. I’ll be dead before the dawn.” —Melisandre, who was true to her word and fulfilled her destiny.
-”Theon, you’re a good man. Thank you.” —Bran Stark, who didn’t need his crazy sight to tell that Theon’s story had come to an end.
—The highly coveted “Nightmare Fuel of the Week” award goes to all of the wights who stood just on the edge of the fire, patiently waiting for their pals to smother the flames with their bodies so the siege could continue. I don’t know how they are going to split this award, but good job everyone!
—This week’s “We Miss You and Wish You Weren’t Murdered in Horrifying Fashion” award goes to Stannis Baratheon, who really grew on me towards the end. He popped to mind shortly after Melisandre achieved her purpose and collapsed. She really believed in him, and it seems she just couldn’t quite get over being that wrong.
—The first ever “Holy Crap You’re Still Alive?” award is shared by Tormund Giantsbane and Brienne. After their big moments in the previous episode, it seemed likely that one of them (or both) would not make it out alive from this battle. (Honorable mention: Grey Worm.)
And Now, a Haiku by the Bran Stark
I had a good run
Raised some dead, rode a dragon
Best of luck, Cersei
Did the Battle of Winterfell live up to your expectations?
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