For years, people have discussed how the Night King in “Game of Thrones” and his White Walkers might end up on the throne. At first, it seemed like a far-fetched theory, but as “The Long Night” continued, it seemed more and more evident that the theory may have not been far-fetched after all.
Help From The Lord of Light
The episode was mostly devoid of any speech. The battle doesn’t begin right away. Director Miguel Sapochnik
wanted to heighten the tension to the highest possible degree. The audience sees shots of the principal character. The armies are in place. Everyone is waiting anxiously for the White Walkers to make their appearance. However, it’s the middle of the night. It’s too dark to see much of anything. Enter Melisandre.
In season six, Melisandre was banished from the north after burning Shireen Baratheon at the stake in season
five at the command of Stannis Baratheon. Her presence in the North isn’t welcome. Melisandre is a Red Priestess. She knows that it’s her destiny to die tonight. She is here to help them. Melisandre lights the swords of the Dothraki on fire to help fight against the White Walkers as well as to help see the enemy clearer. Afterwards, she withdraws from the battle.
Melisandre’s help provides an optimism to the battle. Maybe the North has a chance.
Then, the battle begins.
The Battle of Winterfell
The Battle of Winterfell is, well, disastrous. The Dothraki charge with their newly lit swords to the White Walkers. Their collective light is burnt out quick by the time they reach the army. The Dothraki come back mostly defeated. The battle has only went on for a few minutes.
Catapults start shooting flaming barrels into the night. Daenerys Targaryen is devastated by the blow to the Dothraki army that she has commanded for years. She abandons her initial plan, which was unclear to the audience to begin with, climbs upon her dragon Drogon and takes flight into the battle along with Jon Snow on Rhaegal.
A magical snowstorm is conjured by the Night King, and it is incredibly hard to see what’s happening in battle for those participating and for the audience. Soon, the army of the Unsullied and the army of the North are collectively driven into the castle of Winterfell. Here, we experience our first blow of the night as Dolorous Edd takes his final breaths, saving Samwell Tarly.
The episode’s darkness was distracting. It was hard to see what was going on during most of it. One
second, Brienne is falling down from the weight of the wights. Is she falling to her death? Jorah returns from fighting the White Walkers. The camera’s shot seems to be intentionally blurry as the audience tries to discover whether his
eyes were turned blue, which would indicate whether he is a White Walker. The blurriness had to be somewhat intentional. The amount of blurriness throughout the episode though was distracting and took away from some of the excitement of the battle.
It appears that the army needs their own form of magical help. Melisandre makes a grand return to further help the army. She lights the entrenchments around the castle with help from the Lord of Light. This is incredibly helpful because the army of the undead is resistant to fire. Instead of charging forward, the White Walkers wait.
Arya’s Big Battle
As the army of the undead forms a barricade to put out the flames and enter the castle, Arya shoots arrows down
at the army. After watching seasons of Arya training to become a faceless man, it is thrilling to see Arya fight in a major battle for her first time. She uses her new weapon, forged by Gendry Baratheon, wisely.
Unfortunately, Arya suffers a blow to the head and is knocked out. She wakes up some time later, stumbling her way
into the Winterfell library. In a tense scene, Arya uses her faceless man skills to her advantage and expertly navigates around a room of wights. As she opens the door to escape, she finds herself surrounded again by wights.
Fortunately, The Hound and Beric Dondarrion are close by and aid Arya. The trio run to the castle’s interior
where it’s unlikely the undead army has already reached. In order to give them more time, Beric forms a makeshift blockade of his body, similar to Hodor’s sacrifice in season six. As the trio makes their way inside of the interior of the castle, away from the undead, Beric succumbs to his injuries. In the room they enter, it appears that Melisandre is waiting for them. Melisandre informs Arya and The Hound that Beric’s life purpose has been fulfilled.
Arya and Melisandre’s final meeting is important. In season three, Melisandre prophesied that the two characters
would meet again. Melisandre reminds Arya of the words she said the last time the two met. Melisandre’s words from season three are evoked again.
“I see a darkness in you,“ Melisandre said. "And in that darkness, eyes staring back at me: brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes you’ll shut forever.”
It is clear that Arya’s fight is not over yet. She still has many more blue eyes to “shut forever.”
Arya’s arc is the most successful of the episode because sufficient time is spent on Arya’s character, and Arya’s
history as a character greatly comes into play during this episode. When Maisie Williams, the portrayer of Arya is on the screen, the episode shines brighter. She brings a charisma to the episode that is different from the rest of the
fighters because of her training as a faceless man. Not only is Arya a great fighter, she is also stealthy and calculated. She has devoted years of her life to prepare for battles like this one.
The Dance of Dragons
While Winterfell is up in flames, the Night King rides Viserion, Daenerys’s undead dragon. Drogon and Rhaegal, ridden by Daenerys and Jon, respectively, attack Viserion in the sky. Rhaegal and Viserion go after each other. Viserion badly claws Rhaegal’s belly and Rhaegal tears half of Viserion’s face off. This is not enough to stop the Night King, but it does distract him.
Drogon tackles the Night King hard enough to knock him off his mount. Rhaegal, however, must make a forced landing because of his wounds, dropping Jon on the ground. The Night King is walking to reach Bran in the Godswood, but Daenerys has the advantage of Drogon. She tries to kill the Night King with Drogon’s flames. It turns out that the Night King is immune to Drogon’s flames, which was hinted at in the seventh season in the last battle of the undead.
Jon gets off from the ground, and he approaches the Night King himself. The Night King responds by raising all of
the dead members of Winterfell’s army. Since the bodies weren’t burned alive, they weren’t immune to the Night King’s resurrecting power.
While the battle is happening, the more vulnerable people of the North hide in the Crypts of Winterfell. Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister act as the audience’s eyes and ears. The people in the Crypts are downright anxious, and they know that if the dead prevail that they also have no hope of survival. There’s no set guard down in the crypts either which seems like a dreadfully poor decision.
When the Night King rises the dead members of the Winterfell army, the few corpses in the crypts are also
affected. The people in the Crypt are defenseless, and people are being hacked away. None of the people dying are anyone the audience knows. The important characters are all hidden.
Sansa reveals that she has a dagger to Tyrion, and she realizes that she can help the people of Winterfell, even if
it means losing her life. Tyrion comes to the same conclusion. And the two charge out of their hiding spot to protect the rest.
The Fall of House Mormont
Before the dead rise in the Crypts and elsewhere, the other characters fight against the army of the undead.
Lyanna Mormont once remarked that a soldier from Bear Island can defeat 10 average soldiers. Although Lyanna is young, she proves to be a remarkable soldier. An undead giant picks her up and strangles her. She has one last weapon of defense. A dragonglass blade. She plunges the blade into the giant’s eye. The giant is extinguished. Lyanna falls to her death, but it’s clear that her sacrifice was indeed worth the efforts of many soldiers.
As the battle wages on, the only characters left standing are characters that the audience will recognize. How
convenient. Brienne of Tarth, Jaime Lannister, Grey Worm, Gendry Baratheon and Tormund Giantsbane are all hacking away against the threat, barely surviving each stroke of the sword.
Outside Winterfell’s walls, Jorah Mormont protects Daenerys from the newly risen army of Winterfell’s dead
fighters. Daenerys even picks up a dragonglass dagger herself and starts fighting alongside Jorah.
The Last Battle of the Undead
The battle is looking grim for everyone. The undead are everywhere.
During the whole episode, Bran Stark has waited for the Night King at the Godswood. The Night King wants to
destroy Bran specifically because Bran has knowledge on the history of Westeros due to his three-eyed raven powers. It feels like there is more to this story and to the threat of the undead. However, the threat is not further explained.
Theon Greyjoy, sworn protector of Bran, is the last one standing of his army of the Ironborn. He has run out of
arrows to kill the wights. Instead of the wights approaching Theon, the iwghts stop and form a circle around the Godswood. The Night King has arrived. Theon tries to stab the Night King, but the Night King stabs Theon instead. Before he dies, Bran tells him he is a good man. Theon is effectively redeemed for his crimes against the Stark family, dating all the way back to season two when Theon briefly took control of Winterfell.
It looks as if the Night King has won. Jon Snow, the alleged Azor Ahai or Prince That Was Promised, will not make
it to save Bran in time. Instead, he’s fighting Viserion. The Night King pulls out his sword. The music heightens.
Something is up. An unexpected gust of wind bristles against a white walker’s hair. The audience hears a battle
cry and we see Arya descend from above onto the Night King. The Night King instantly reacts, grabbing Arya’s left wrist, which holds a Valyrian steel dagger. Unexpectedly, Arya drops the dagger from her left wrist, catches it
with her free right hand and plunges it into the Night King. The Valyrian steel makes contact with the ancient dragonglass blade inside of the Night King that effectively powers the Night King, and it kills him. He is shattered into ice.
The episode’s ending to the battle was electrifying. The music of Ramin Djiwadi has been a highlight of the show, and it elevates the scene from great to one of the show’s very best scenes. It was an excellent choice by the director to not show Arya approaching the Night King. As we survey those left fighting, it’s easy to forget about Arya. When we hear Arya’s battle cry as she drops down to the Night King, we realize the gravity of what’s about to happen. There are a few ways this could go. The odds are that she is going to not survive. However, her move, which was the same move she made last season when sparring with Brienne, startled the Night King. The undead will now remain dead.
It’s certainly an unexpected ending too as it seemed like the rest of the show would focus on the army of the undead. This is not the case. The rest of the episodes will instead focus on who takes the Iron Throne. Maybe Cersei Lannister will retain hold of it. Maybe Daenerys will finally take over the throne as she has tried to do since the start of the show. Maybe the rightful heir to the throne Jon Snow will take over. Odds are that none of these characters will end up on the throne because those endings would be too predictable.
What’s most exciting about the end of this episode is that the existential threat of the world is extinguished. Now, it’s clear that some of our favorite characters will survive. The final three episodes promise to offer a bittersweet end for the characters.
War Is Over (For Now)
With the Night King dead, all of the members of the undead army fall, including Daenerys’s undead dragon Viserion. The battle is won.
All of the important characters we last saw fighting in the courtyard survived, including Jon Snow. Jorah Mormont though has sadly taken too many blows in defense of his queen Daenerys. He dies in her arms. Drogon, who survived the attack, curls himself around Daenerys to comfort her.
Melisandre used up all of her magical powers to help defend the castle. Melisandre removes her magical choker
and drops it to the ground. Her youth evades her, and she is once again slowly transformed into a 400-year-old woman. She walks onto the snow, and as she’s walking, she falls. Her body crumbles into dust. Her life’s purpose is fulfilled. It’s the end of the episode.
Eastern Echo Grade: B+
It was an A-level episode. However, the darkness of the episode was very distracting. I also feel like the threat of the undead wasn’t explained enough to feel as satisfying. The motivation of the Night King was to kill everyone because he thought the world deserved one long night? The end of the character’s storylines that didn’t make it out of the battle were all satisfying besides the Night King’s. It left too many unanswered questions. Also, it was painfully convenient that the only people who seemed to be surviving the fight were the characters who we knew very well already. What was Bran exactly doing in the episode anyway? The more I think back on it, the more holes the episode has. Fortunately, Arya’s culmination of her series-long storyline was satisfying enough to elevate the episode from good to great. Though it is not necessarily one of the best “Game of Thrones” episodes.
I’ve already included many of my scattered thoughts within the recap, but seriously, why did anyone think it was a good idea for the defenseless people to hide down in the Crypts among dead bodies? That was obviously a bad idea.
The episode doesn’t exactly confirm or deny whether some characters lived or survived like Samwell Tarly or Rhaegal. However, the episode’s trailer for the next episode confirmed their fates. I thought that was a little sloppy.
It was also unlikely that the wights would ignore Samwell Tarly and stop targeting him during the battle. If the Night King aims to destroy all knowledge of the Seven Kingdoms, shouldn’t he specifically try to destroy Samwell Tarly who has more knowledge than many of the characters in the series? Yes, yes he would.
There’s talk that the threat of the undead is not entirely extinguished, supported by an interview where the creators of the show refused to confirm whether the threat of the undead is actually gone.
What is Bran’s purpose exactly now that the Night King was gone? I didn’t think that the Night King would go so soon, but I was predicting that when the Night King’s threat was taken care of, that Bran would also die in the process. I think there are still greater plans for Bran. I think he holds the key to the end of the show. I have no idea what the end of the show will look like after this episode.
Predictions for Next Week
Each week, I’ll make three predictions specific to the next episode. Let’s review last week’s predictions.
Last Week’s Predictions
- Grey Worm, Jorah Mormont and Tormund will not survive the episode.
Somewhat inaccurate. Jorah Mormont does not survive the episode. Surprisingly, Grey Worm and Tormund survive the battle.
- All of the Lannisters and Targaryens will survive the episode.
Accurate. All of the Lannister and Targaryens (Jaime Lannister, Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen) survived.
- We will find out more about the Night King’s past, but what we find out is not enough in quick enough time. The episode will end with Winterfell in flames.
Inaccurate. We don’t