'The Long Night': A Recap of The Most Epic 'Game of Thrones' Episode Yet
The night is dark and full of terrors.
Needless to say, SPOILER ALERT! If you have yet to reach season 8, episode 3 of Game of Thrones, you’ve been warned: spoilers are coming. For episode 2's recap, click here.
The so-called Battle of Winterfell was nothing short of a heart-stopping spectacle of fire and ice––the ultimate showdown between the living and the dead was the culmination of one of the series’ major plots. At 82 minutes, the episode-long battle sequence is boasted to be the longest in cinematic history. “The Long Night” was packed with callbacks, deaths, and revelations, which only raised more questions, so let’s unpack the episode, shall we?
“After the long summer, darkness will fall heavy on the world. Stars will bleed… The cold breath of winter will freeze the seas… And the dead shall rise in the north… A warrior will draw a burning sword from the fire, and that sword shall be Lightbringer.” –Melisandre in season 2
As everyone stands in formation awaiting the Army of the Dead, a lone rider approaches the front line: Melisandre returns. The battle gets off to a promising start when her High Valyrian chant magically sets all the Dothraki swords ablaze; but, when the first horde of fighters rides off to the wights on the horizon, the flames quickly die out one by one. RIP Dothraki. This obviously upsets Daenerys, who watches from a hilltop with Jon and her dragons, so she ditches Jon’s plan for them to hunt down the Night King, and takes to the skies to help the living with Drogon's fiery breath.
Watching the war commence from the battlement, Arya sends Sansa down to the crypts and arms her with a dragonglass knife. Since Sansa has never wielded a weapon, her younger sister passes on some advice, a Stark inside joke, if you will: “Stick them with the pointy end,” a cute callback to the same thing Jon told Arya when he gifted her Needle in season 1.
On the battlefield, some of our favorite characters fight for their lives. As a wight comes inches close to stabbing the lovable Sam in the face, Edd comes to his Night Watch brother’s rescue, but only to be speared from behind. Your watch has ended; RIP Edd Tollet.
While Jon and Dany fly through the frosty winds in search of the Night King, Ser Brienne instructs the army of the living to retreat. Under Lyanna’s command, the gates are opened to let the surviving allies back in, while Grey Worm has the Unsullied stand their grounds outside. Melisandre uses her magic to light the trenches encircling the castle, but that soon proves to buy the living only about a minute of time. Wights: 2 - Melisandre’s fire magic: 0.
Down in the crypts, Sansa, Varys, Missandei, Tyrion, Gilly & Co. anxiously wait. Sansa and Tyrion share a moment when he (half?) jokes that they should’ve stayed married, to which Sansa replies, “you were the best of them.” I mean, that really can’t be much of a feat considering how low Ramsay Bolton set the bar… but I digress. Sansa says it never would’ve worked anyways, because of Tyrion’s loyalty to “the Dragon Queen.” Missandei claps back, but it’s safe to assume that Sansa is still not buying what Dany is selling.
As they wait in the Godswood––where everyone who has wronged Bran seems to go to apologize (see: Jaime last episode)––Theon tries to make small talk, and express regret for the things he’s done. In classic Three-Eyed Raven fashion, Bran explains that it was not for naught: it brought Theon there, back to where he belongs… “home.” Awwww. But Bran quickly kills the moment and goes off to warg into a flock of ravens to check on the Night King’s status.
Wights on the front line create a (non-) human bridge on the flaming trenches to let the rest cross over and climb the castle walls. The best of fighters try to stop them from making it over, but the undead are indomitable. On the plus side, Sam escapes death by an inch yet again, while Brienne and Jaime save each other several times, showing they actually make quite a cute tag team. Sorry, Tormund.
Using her new custom-made sword, Arya shows what 7 seasons of practice can do for a girl in her first major war, but soon loses the double-edged weapon. A dispirited Hound withdrew into a corner (to be fair, look no further than his face to see why his fire phobia is totally valid), but Beric points out Arya in danger, which is enough motive for the Hound to get back up. They’d never admit it, but Arya and the Hound are pals for sure.
Lyanna and her men try to protect the gate, but a giant wight crashes through and knocks everyone in his path. Not one to be messed with, Lyanna bounces back up and charges at the giant, who picks her up and squeezes the life out of her. But, with her last breath, the smallest of the living takes down the largest of the dead by stabbing him directly in the eye. You fought with the strength of 10 mainlanders; RIP Lyanna Mormont.
Barely armed, Arya tries to evade the wights roaming the stacks of Winterfell’s library in probably one of the most anxiety-inducing scenes. She makes it out the other end of the room unscathed––but only to turn around and find another group of wights breaking in. Struggling to outrun them, things are looking very, very bleak for the young warrior. Fortunately, the Hound and Beric find Arya just in time to help her, but Beric gets stabbed multiple times in shielding them. Impressively, he makes it with them to find refuge in the Great Hall, and dies (for the last time). Your purpose has been served; RIP Beric Dondarrion.
Ironically, Arya finds herself in a room with three people previously on her famous kill list: the Hound, Beric, and Melisandre. The red priestess gives the distressed Arya a little pep talk and reminds her what she told the young girl during their last encounter in season 2: “I see a darkness in you. And in that darkness, eyes staring back at me: brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes you’ll shut forever.” Then echoing Syrio Forel, Arya’s sword-fighting instructor in season 1, Melisandre gets Arya to keep going with one simple question.
"What do we say to the God of Death?" NOT TODAY!
The Night King uses Viserion’s blue icy-hot breath to flambé the walls of Winterfell. While fighting his undead brother, Rhaegal injures his wing, toppling him and Jon to the ground. When Dany and Drogon knock the Night King off Viserion, they look straight at him below, and… DRACARYS! Drogon blows fire at the Night King, answering Arya’s question last episode––if dragonfire can kill the Night King. The answer is a resounding no.
On the ground, Jon heads towards the Night King but stops when the king raises his cold, dead hands; the recently dead rise, now with deep blue eyes. With the help of Dany and Drogon’s breath, Jon escapes the new wights and makes his way to the Godswood. A pack of wights then get a hold of and engulf Drogon, so he throws Dany off his back flies away to shake them off. In her (probably designer) fur overcoat, Daenerys proves she is absolutely incompetent in battle, sans dragons. Nevertheless, she can always count on trusty Jorah to come to her rescue. She picks up some dragonglass and for the first time, she helps him fight for her and fights for him right back.
To no one’s surprise, the dead break out of their tombs in the “super safe” crypts––though we didn’t see any late Stark we recognized. Behind a vault, Sansa and Tyrion share another tender moment when they shoot each other knowing looks and whip out their daggers. Ready to “look truth in the face,” Tyrion kisses Sansa’s hand and the two emerge from hiding. Varys, being the Spider that he is, found a little hiding place for himself and several of the survivors.
In season 1, when Maester Luwin joked about a future battle in the Godswood, Theon vowed to Robb that he'd stand behind the Starks in a war to avenge Bran. Now back in the very place, Theon comes full circle and finally delivers on his promise and fights on behalf of Bran. All the Ironborn are taken out by the wights, and Theon finds himself to be the last man standing––and in the way of the long-awaited showdown, no less. The circle of wights part for the Night King and his White Walkers, who actually take their time––probably to build suspense. Bran shows some emotion for the first time in a long time, thanking Theon and finally absolving him. In his ultimate act of redemption, Theon charges at the Night King with a spear, but gets stabbed first. Like Bran said, you were a good man; RIP Theon.
Outside, Rhaegal and Drogon are nowhere to be found; Dany and Jorah are still desperately fighting off wights; Sam sobs on top of a pile of bodies; Brienne, Pod, and Jaime are backed into a wall; and Viserion intercepts Jon’s path to the Godswood––and the two have a screaming match. It is bleak, to say the least.
With his White Walkers behind him and no living around, the cocky-looking Night King strides towards the very calm-looking Bran for the ultimate staring contest. As he reaches for his spear, Arya COMES FLYING IN ready to stab him from behind, but the Night King blocks her by grabbing her at he neck. She drops the dagger in her left hand––for her right hand to catch and stab the Night King, shattering him and all his lackeys to pieces. The Great War has ended. RIP (for good) Army of the Dead, RIP Viserion, and RIP Night King.
Arya’s kill was actually a poetic one: she stabbed him in the exact same spot the Children of the Forest stabbed him in when they created him––which both happened by Weirwood trees. The Valyrian steel dagger that Arya used also has its own history: it was the one used in an attempt to kill Bran in season 1, which Littlefinger then gave to him in season 7; Bran told Arya that it was “wasted on a cripple,” so he gave it to her when they reunited at the Godswood last season. No wonder Bran sat there, unfazed, throughout the entire war.
As all the enemies suddenly fall to the ground, the exhausted fighters watch in disbelief. Jorah, who still continued to fight for Daenerys when he fell on his knees after being stabbed multiple times, finally falls to the ground. Drogon returns to console his mother while she holds Jorah in her arms and weeps––in honestly, the best time for her to grant him his wish and finally kiss him, but no. Guess he’s eternally in the friendzone. You literally died protecting your khaleesi, and if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is; RIP Jorah. RIP House Mormont.
Ready to get out his sword and kill her, Ser Davos instead watches Melisandre walk off into the distance, remove her anti-aging necklace, her coat, and all her clothes to finally “die in this strange country” at the crack of dawn. The Lord of Light thanks you for your service; RIP Melisandre.
They said no one can kill the Night King. And No One did. The pack survives.
Now the question is, since Arya killed the Night King, is she Azor Ahai, The Prince/Princess Who Was Promised? Now that the Great War has ended, the battle for the Iron Throne begins. The Night King and his army seemed unbeatable, but unlike Cersei, he had no hidden agendas. With only 3 episodes left, Game of Thrones will finally return to the politics that started it all. Only time will tell who will sit on the Iron Throne.
Photos from HBO.