‘Game of Thrones’: “The Long Night” S8E3 recap
We revisit the most intense battle scenes in all Game of Thrones: “The Long Night”.
Major, serious spoiler alert! Sh** gets real below.
For Game of Thrones fans and anyone with even a slight, passing fancy for the HBO prestige drama, the moment we’ve been waiting for is finally here. This week, for one night only, most of our beloved GoT characters (of the North anyway) battled fiercely in the zombie apocalypse of your wet dreams against the Army of the Dead.
“The Long Night” labored for a glorious 82 minutes of absolutely epic television as we saw our heroes go up against the Night King’s army of mindless undead wight soldiers. Throw in a couple live dragons & an undead one along with the Three-eyed Raven, and we’re calling this episode the television event of the teens.
Before “The Long Night” began, we had a couple of our own fan predictions to throw into the pub quiz hat:
- Lady Melisandre would arrive just in time to pray to R’hllor for some fire magic to help the effort;
- Theon Greyjoy would be the first of the core cast to die;
- and those waiting in the Winterfell Crypts would be under threat from dead Starks reanimated by the Night King.
Were we right? Just wait and see.
The waiting is over – the nerves begin
“The Long Night” – written by Benioff & Weiss themselves and directed by Miguel Sapochnik – begins where we left the gang last week. In a beautifully shot opening scene from Nightswatchman Samwell Tarly’s eye and his nervous breath in our ears, we traverse Winterfell’s battlements in preparation for an impossible war.
There’s Gendry at the front. (Um, when did Robert’s bastard the blacksmith become a master warrior?) There’s Jorah Mormont and Ghost. (Drink!) There’s Dany and Jon on their dragons. (Um, when did Jon become a master dragonrider – has he been taking lessons with Dany on the D.L.?) There are 75 million extras standing just behind the Unsullied.
In short, people look scared and worried. But who’s this riding in on a black steed? It’s our old friend Lady Melisandre, come with a world of witchy weirdness to help the vanguard (naturally consisting purely of Dothraki screamers). She looks at Grey Worm with intent, mutters some words, and within a few seconds the Scourge of the Steppes has flaming curved arakhs swinging above their braided heads.
For a hot minute, people seem pretty stoked about this. In fact, we think we saw Dolorous Edd and Jorah Mormont smile for the first time in eight seasons.
A first, depressing Dothraki salvo
As things often go in Westeros, joy soon becomes abject pain as the Dothraki’s flaming arakhs, reduced to mere torch spots in the distance of Winter mists, are disappointingly – and terrifyingly – extinguished among muffled clanging and screams. Ominous silence yields a single panicked horse, the sole survivor. The troops left behind look at each other in horror, acknowledging that they’re pretty much fucked.
Meanwhile, Ser Davos and Lady Melisandre have a happy reunion inside Winterfell as the Red Woman declares, “There’s no need to execute me, Ser Davos. I’ll be dead by the dawn.” Does that mean young wolf Arya Stark will be crossing another corpse off her Hit List? We’ll find out later.
Up on a rocky outcropping overlooking the battlefield, things are a little frosty between Dany and her lover-cum-nephew Jon Snow. We’re guessing things got awkward when he opened the incest can of worms off-screen. (Keeping it in the family’s no biggie for the Targaryen clan, but may be a bit of a dealbreaker for Starks).
Wpic zombie noises fill our speakers as we see Auntie Dany and Nephie Jon/Aegon VI ride into the battle and blow some nuclear dragonfire onto the Army of the Undead.
Elsewhere in Winterfell, the Three-Eyed Raven stares at nothing.
Fur is cool again
We need to break from the action for a second to talk about Dany’s epic winter looks. After spending all that time in Meereen, we considered her a natural summer type with all those Grecian gowns and gold adornments. But girlfriend has a gift for winter style, too.
We worried how she stayed warm while blasted by undead ice dragon blue fire breath weapon. Or would she sweat-stain her beautiful white fur from the exertion of riding Drogon? Considering how flawlessly her look held together (up to and including those long silvery-white braids), we’re just going to trust her fashion judgement from now on.
Bad to worse
Just as sh**’s getting really real on the ground, Arya tells Sansa she should prolly go down to the crypt and seek safety. After a hot millisecond of consideration, Sansa aquiesces.
Sh** real-getting shifts to the sky as Jon and Auntie Dany realize it’s a familiar chum attacking them with ice: Viserion the lost dragon, whom the Night King made into a wight last season. Very uncool, bro!
Sh** continues its uninterrupted slew of getting extremely real just outside Winterfell’s walls as fan fave Dolorous Edd saves Sam’s life one final time, becoming our first main character casualty of the episode. And now his watch is ended. Your wish to be cremated before your lifeless corpse could be raised as a wight in order to kill your former friends sadly went unheeded. Tragic!
In a scene The Walking Dead only dreams it could afford, the living army retreats within the relative safety of Winterfell’s thick stone walls behind the secure spears & shields of the highly regimented Unsullied. The advancing undead army is accompanied by beautiful sound effects of zombie squelches, burps, and mewlings.
A single hopeful glint of light
Our heroes, the living, are trying to go all Johnny Cash on the Army of the Dead and create a Ring of Fire trench around Winterfell, but they’re epically failing. Thank the Old Gods the Red Woman was able to concentrate among the distracting sights & sounds of battle around her to chant her incantation to the Lord of Light and get this party started.
Elsewhere in Winterfell, the Three-Eyed Raven continues staring at nothing.
The army of the undead ain’t no slouches. They make fast work breaching the Ring of Fire and begin climbing Winterfell’s walls. Turns out climbing tall stone walls specifically designed to prevent such is really easy if you’re a tireless horde.
Cue a ton of amazing close shots of undead climbing over the castle battlements as our fave heroes defend their lives, for some reason totally forgetting to pour vats of burning oil on their targets. You’d think Tyrion might have thought of that during the battle-planning sessions. Oh yeah, he hasn’t had a good tactical plan in four seasons.
Slowing the action before the big finale
Things get very George Romero-esque in a scene that shows Arya Stark getting all Crouching Dragon, Hidden Zombie on a ton of undead ass. The Hound has a full-blown Millennial-style fire panic attack (his avocado toast got burnt). Young Lady of Bear Island, Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey), bravely stabs in the eye the one giant wight in the Winterfell courtyard and wins, sadly getting crushed in the process. If she counts as a main character, she’s the second to fall.
As Auntie Dan and Jon continue their battle above the skies, Arya dares venture inside the Winterfell Library for one of the most creative action scenes in all Game of Thrones. Playing out like a real-life version of a video game or John Carpenter horror, Arya uses the many nooks & crannies of the ancient castle to evade some shuffling undead.
It’s the perfect opportunity to show off the badass fighting skills Arya learned among the Faceless Men of Braavos, simultaneously brilliant fanservice compensating us for two slow seasons of arduous training fails at the House of Black and White.
Elsewhere in Winterfell, the Three-Eyed Raven staring at even more nothing.
Dire times for the House of the Direwolf
The Hound and Ser Beric Dondarrion rescue Arya from the dangerously wight-filled stone corridors of Winterfell, and Beric pays with his life – the third major character death of this Long Night. Up in the sky, Jon and his dragon are in pretty bad shape, taking a nasty beating from the Night King on Viserion. Fortunately Dany arrives just in time to knock him off his mount.
Jon crash-lands and is lucky to survive, surrounded by dead troops. Auntie Dany is still aloft and corners the Night King below, commanding Drogon with a terse “drakarys” (High Valyrian for “dragonfire”). The Night King is engulfed scads of fire hot enough to melt stone – but comes out totally unscathed. He even smiles cheekily. Gotta hand it to that Night King – he’s a really amazingly together guy.
Jon gets to his feet and decides his best option is going after the Night King. Before you can say “incest is best”, the Father of the Undead raises his arms – drink again! – and all the guys you were rooting for twenty minutes ago reenter the fray on the opposite side, replete with shiny new blue eyes.
Elsewhere in Winterfell, the Three-Eyed Raven stares. He skin-changed into a raven or something, right? Or maybe the directors just wanted to give us a raven’s-eye view.
Just when you think our heroes can’t last another second
The few remaining live warriors get overwhelmed. The Three-Eyed Raven is at risk, protected as he is by just a few Ironborn archers. Even the women, children, eunuchs, and dwarfs in the crypts are unsafe – because dead Stark lords from ages past start coming back to life along with all the other corpses in the vicinity. And the Night King is on his way to presumed victory. We’re now basically watching a high-budget George A. Romero movie.
Auntie Dany tries to clear a path (via fire of course) for Jon to get to Bran, but becomes overwhelmed by the new batch of wights and also crash-lands. Auntie Dany nearly gets slain, but Jorah arrives just in time to guard her from the approaching zombie swarm. Fanservice comes to the rescue here as well as Her Grace Queen Daenerys picks up an obsidian shortsword and stoops to the dirty work of zombie stabbing right on the ground just like lowly infantry.
In the Winterfell Godswood, the Three-Eyed Raven stares.
Theon Greyjoy is the last Ironborn standing before the Heart Tree of Winterfell guarding Bran. He’s defeated scores of wights and protected the Three-Eyed Raven – and for fulfilling this duty, Bran gives him the ultimate sobriquet, specifically declaring him a “good man”.
However, the skinny eunuch is no match for the Night King, especially exhausted and in an unwisely direct spear charge. Poor Theon, main character death number four, is slain in a beautiful long shot that reminds us of the more cinematic fight scenes of earlier seasons.
Finally, the Night King comes face to face with Bran. As the Night King reaches for his ice sword from a stylish back scabbard (and everyone watching takes a sharp intake of breath), out of nowhere sneaks Crouching Tiger, Hidden Zombie Arya in an enormous, incredibly silent leap.
The Night King underestimates this diminutive trained assassin with a straightforward strangle attack that is countered by Arya’s new signature feat: the House of Black and White special, dropping her dagger from top hand to bottom and giving it good to the ice zombie lord right in the heart, where the obsidian dagger that created him originally had plunged. Gotcha!
Turns out the crazy gamble Jon pulled out of his ass in the planning meeting last episode – that killing the big bad would automagically also destroy all the minions he had created – was absolutely right. What amazing, unforeseen luck!
Thank the Seven “The Long Night” didn’t end on a cliffhanger
Auntie Dany mourns her protector Jorah after his typically laconic passing on the battlefield (death number five). After viewing the scenes of devastation – who’s gonna clean all this up, we wonder? – Ser Davos is seen covered in the blood of battle, once again looking quite ready to make Melisandre pay the iron price for her brutal live sacrifice at the bonfire stake of his buddy’s innocent young daughter and good friend, Lady Sheera Baratheon, a few seasons back.
But the Red Woman nonchalantly walks out through the gates of Winterfell into the snow beyond the castle’s walls, removes her ruby choker (which ceases to glow), and staggers off into the long night, finally disintegrating into dust to form the sixth main character death. Arya didn’t manage to stick her with the pointy end after all.
The Battle of Winterfell was won by the living, thank the gods. But who in their name will win the Game of Thrones?