Never before have the words “the night is dark and full of terrors” had as much meaning as in this week’s episode of Game of Thrones. Titled “The Long Night,” it featured the highly anticipated Battle of Winterfell and some big name deaths.
As predicted, the living suffered heavy losses. The Dothraki were eviscerated in a courageous but foolish charge to kick things off. The Unsullied died valiantly defending a retreat back into Winterfell. Wildlings, Nnortherners, and some unfortunate women and children in the Winterfell crypt also received brutal ends.
Jorah and Theon both completed their arcs by heroically defending their loved ones. Beric Dondarrion and The Red Woman both did their part to extend humanity’s shelf life. The most gruesome death suffered byof our heroes saw Lyanna Mormont‘s tiny body crushed by a zombie giant before she returned the fatal favor. There was death and lots of it. But the deaths that truly matter were not from the living, but from the dead.
Easily the moment of the episode (and one of the most important moments of the show) occurs by the weirwood tree. The Night King is about to win. He has Bran, and all of human history, in his sights. One blow and it’s over.
Luckily for Westeros, Arya comes flying out of nowhere, aiming directly for the Night King. Being evil incarnate, he easily snatches her out of the air. Arya shrewdly drops her Valyrian steel dagger into her other, free hand and stabs the show’s most powerful villain. He shatters instantly, and with him, all of the dead return to the graves. Against all odds, the good guys win.
It’s definitely a holy shit moment. The Night King, hyped up since the first episode, dies with three episodes left. That, plus the lack of major (human) character deaths, leaves the show’s trajectory in uncharted, but exciting waters, even if there is a case to be made that the completion of the White Walker side of the show was anticlimactic.
Now, this episode had a lot of things happen (we haven’t even mentioned the dragon fight), but they all happened over one long sequence. Recapping it like we usually do wouldn’t really do it justice. Instead, we’ll pose questions and then answer them to try and cover what the hell just happened. There’s some controversy to be had, but let’s get to it.
Why the hell did the Dothraki charge?
Sam: I’m not really sure. Strategically, it probably would have made much more sense for them to defend or at least have Dany or Jon scout out the enemy on their dragons. For being some of the most feared warriors in the world, the Dothraki went down a little too easy.
Nick: This was a head scratcher for me too. Dany spent so much time building up their loyalty and they all die within seconds. It really felt like the showrunners just wanted the epic scenes of charging flames and then their subsequent disappearance, but it didn’t make much sense even if it did look awesome. Jon has proven to be a dumb military leader at times, but this was one of his worst ideas yet.
Who was the star of the episode?
Sam: Arya. I mean not only did she end the entire army of the dead, she also showed just how deadly of a warrior she is when she single-handedly took down a seemingly endless stream of Wights.
Nick: Arya. There’s not really a choice here. She killed death. The scenes of her sneaking around were also some of the best of the episode. Her actions also were completely understandable throughout, making her the most compelling character of the episode. Hopefully she gets to cross a few more names off of her list before the show is done.
Who are you shocked survived?
Sam: Grey Worm, The Hound, Jaime Lannister and Brienne.
Nick: Grey Worm, Brienne, and Gendry. Their arcs seemed completed, but they live to fight another day.
Should they have killed more characters?
Sam: Definitely. While important to fans, Theon, Ser Jorah and Lyanna wouldn’t have a substantial impact on the plot had they survived. I wish they had at least killed off a few more important characters, like a Jaime Lannister, in order to drive home just how much Dany’s armies lost.
Nick: Yea. They made the army of the dead so overwhelmingly strong that it seems improbable that so many people survived. I think at least a Brienne or Grey Worm could’ve died, but they opted to keep a lot of people around. Maybe that means future carnage or maybe we should prepare ourselves for a happy ending. I’m not really sure anymore.
What was the best part of the episode?
Sam: The lack of dialogue. In almost every scene, the writers let the action do the talking and didn’t let the episode get bogged down in politics or drawn out conversations. It also allowed Ramin Djawadi’s soundtrack to perfectly complement the action uninterrupted.
Nick: The music. Ramin Djawadi continually pumps out epic scores and this was no different. The piano based music lifted the second half of the battle and gave it strong emotional weight. I can’t wait to see what he has left in store.
Did the dragon fight live up to your expectations?
Sam: Yes. CGI money well spent. It was hard to see at certain points but the contrast between the blue and red dragon fire was breathtaking.
Nick: Absolutely. Some of those shots looked like damn renaissance paintings. Watching an undead Viserion scrap with his living brothers was a treat and had me legitimately on the edge of my seat, especially when the Night King fell off.
Are you satisfied with how the Night King died?
Sam. Yes. I’ve loved how this season has been structured. We’re getting time to tie up loose plot ends because the Night King is dead. Because the battle of Winterfell was in the third episode, it was pretty obvious the living were going to win. Had the dead one it would have been them against Cersei and Euron, who has no knowledge of how to defeat them. Would you rather watch that or a the resolution to the struggle between characters who’ve been competing for the Iron Throne for nearly a decade now? While the battle against the dead is thrilling and all, the battle we all want to see is Cersei versus Dany for control of Westeros.
Nick: Eh. I liked the scene and how Arya did it. My problem is more with the narrative sense it made. They built the Night King up to be this massive villain from the very first scene of the show. We were supposed to fear death, and we did. Why kill him with three episodes still to go? I think Dany v. Cersei will be fascinating, but death’s death felt kinda cheap in the grand scheme of things. It also changes the whole moral of the show, shedding its message that earthly politics are pointless. I love the show and am excited to see where it goes, but this felt like lazy writing.
What was the most fucked up moment of the night?
Sam: Definitely the crypt scene. It was unsettling to see the dead rise up out of their tombs to start killing women and children. However, how did they not see this coming? Their enemy could literally raise the dead and they thought the best place to hide the women and children is where a bunch of dead people are buried?
Nick: Probably the crypt scene. Women and children were slaughtered by the dead rising from literal graves. They were defenseless and many suffered horrible fates.
What was more peak Jon Snow, charging at the Night King while he’s raising the dead or facing an undead dragon head on and screaming at it?
Sam: Facing the dragon. It’s not ridiculous to say the greatest fighter in the Seven Kingdoms could defeat the Night King. A few seasons back, Jon actually kills a White Walker at Hardhome. Against the dragon, Jon would’ve almost certainly died.
Nick: Charging at the Night King. I don’t understand why he thought it would work so that’s what makes it peak Jon for me. Jon is the most honorable man left in Westeros, but he is thick in the head, especially on the battlefield. He’ll make a great king.
Theon or Jorah, who died more heroically?
Sam: Ser Jorah. With the countless injuries he sustained while protecting Dany, it has to be him. Theon was valiant but didn’t exactly have the best strategy against the Night King. Running directly at an undead king who has decimated your army? Seems like a great way to die. Jorah was valiant and only died after being stabbed countless times.
Nick: Theon. Jorah’s death was really really well done, but Theon showed insane courage. Protecting Bran was a suicide mission. He did the absolute best he could and achieved ultimate redemption by getting emotional recognition from the cryptic Bran. He bum-rushed the Night King, but it was out of heroic defiance, not stupidity. What is dead may never die.
This episode vindicated Cersei’s decision not to help. How well positioned is she moving forward?
Sam: Not too well. Word will travel of the living’s triumph over the dead which will increase opposition to her. But most importantly, Dany still has dragons and, unlike the Night King, will not be able to javelin throw a spear into them with perfect accuracy.
Nick: Really well. She played the situation perfectly. King’s Landing is fully stocked with the Lannister army, the Golden Company, and whatever crafty shit Qyburn can come up with. The good guys are critically low on manpower and Cersei only has to defend. Killing the dragons and defying her damning prophecy are her biggest obstacles.
How many troops do the good guys have left?
Sam: Not many, but the ones that are left are some tough motherfuckers. You’ve got almost all the main characters plus an army that killed death. I think more Northern houses will join their fight against Cersei after seeing how they defeated the dead. Yara Greyjoy is also probably back at the Iron Islands which could mean they have more troops incoming.
Nick: Thanks to plot armor, they have a ton of main characters left. Other than that though, a mixed handful of Unsullied, Dothraki (presumably without horses), Wildlings, Northerners, and two dragons. Cersei has a massive force. Perhaps Dany recalls Daario and the Second Sons from Essos or somewhere like Dorne join the fray.
Does Bran have any use anymore?
Sam: Yes, Bran is an odd character, but he still will be useful during and after the coming wars. He can advise whoever is sitting on the Iron Throne by giving insights into what is going on in different parts of the Seven Kingdoms.
Nick: Bran is a really hard character to predict. Some online seem to think he might have more to the Night King arc than meets the eye. Is Bran the main baddie? Probably not considering the show’s trajectory. If not, perhaps he can be sage counsel to whoever sits on the throne.
Jon and Dany need to talk. How do you see that playing out?
Sam: I think Jon will cede control of the Iron Throne to Dany. Jon has never struck me as someone who wants to be a king. Jon will most likely become warden of the north while Dany rules from King’s Landing. I could also see her granting the North certain liberties.
Nick: Dany definitely still wants the Iron Throne. I could see Jon letting her pursue it in exchange for the North’s autonomy. She may persist though, which would lead to some tense scenes amongst lovers/relatives. I still think Dany won’t sit on the throne, but I also thought the Night King would live to episode six, so all bets are off.
Is the Clegane Bowl pretty much guaranteed now?
Sam: I’d be shocked if it doesn’t happen.
Nick: Yup. All aboard Team Sandor.
Is Jaime going to kill Cersei?
Sam: No. Jaime loves Cersei whether he likes it or not. I just can’t see him killing her. There’s a chance Tyrion does it but again I think it’s most likely Arya or one of the Starks, completing their revenge on the Lannisters.
Nick: It sure seems like it. It’ll be him, Tyrion, or Arya. Cersei’s prophecy needs to be filled, and Jaime is the only left that fits it I think.
Iron Throne Power Rankings
- Daenerys Targaryen
- Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen
- Arya Stark
- Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen
- Sansa Stark
- Cersei Lannister
-Sam Shiffman & Nick Shiffman