I have no words.
Seriously, I tried to come up with some catchy set of phrases that convey properly my initial thoughts on the long anticipated battle with the Night King on last night’s Game of Thrones.
And I just couldn’t think of anything. I’m just trying to catch my breath like the rest of you as we process the absolute horror of the Night King’s army, the total hopelessness we all felt as everyone fought for their lives, and the improbable celebration when Arya appeared out of nowhere to stab the Night King and destroy his army.
And “improbable” was not the word I thought I would use to describe the ultimate victory of the Night King. I mean, we all knew he wasn’t going to win. Could the show really pull off “The Night King vs Cersei” and expect to keep all its viewers?
The obvious answer to that last question is yes, of course we’d still watch. But we all knew Cersei would be squaring off with actual humans, not an undead army.
Yet, somehow, as the brilliant score played in the background in the final minutes of “The Long Night,” a part of me thought “They’re not going to win this.” Jon was too far away, the bodies of dead Starks were wrecking havoc in the crypts, and the numbers were just too great for everyone to overcome.
That is a great credit to the show to have us believing the worst even when we know victory is inevitable.
Now, is it too soon to relieve last night’s horrific battle? Well, just consider this therapy as we try and talk through what we just witnessed.
“Tell Them to Lift Their Swords.”
Tension. Everyone feels the moment as they scatter to their positions, and the near silence hear compliments that feeling perfectly.
Sam said he wanted to fight, but he’s clearly terrified as he takes hold of two dragon glass blades. Tyrion takes his things to the crypts. Theon is leading Bran to the Weirwood Tree. The dragons fly overhead going wherever they want to go.
The Unsullied and the Dothraki stand on the front lines. Brienne heads her regiment with Jamie and Pod on either side of her. Tormund and Dolores Edd lead a crew of Wildlings and Night’s Watch. Arya and Sansa stand atop the wall. Jorah and Ghost (Ghost!!!) stand ahead of the Dothraki. And Jon and Dany are off in the distance keeping an eye out for the Night King and his ice dragon.
Everyone is in position as a lone rider rides up on horse.
This was a big risk Melisandre took here. Everyone is really tightly wound, and the reason sits in the direction she chose to approach from. It would not have surprised me if a flaming arrow had gone piercing through her eye at that moment.
But she brings the night’s first sign of encouragement: she lights up the Arakhs for the Dothraki.
“Stick Em With the Pointy End”
That hope was snuffed out (literally) very quickly. Jorah led the Dothraki as the first line to fight the army of the dead. Now, we all knew this was not going to end well. It was 15 minutes into and 80 minute episode, and it couldn’t be that easy.
Everyone at Winterfell looks on as all those flaming Arakhs eventually burn out.
A number of horses, a few men, and Jorah (no Ghost??) all retreat back as the next lines of defense prepare for the onslaught.
The dead charge forward, and they are horrifying!!! Brienne comes under attack from multiple sides until Jamie comes over and saves her. Dany was going to wait until the Night King arrived. But watching the Dothraki slaughtered convinces her she needs to go into battle. Sam is overrun with zombies, but is saved by Dolores Edd.
If you had Edd as first to die in your “Long Night” death pool, congratulations. The Lord Commander of what’s left of the Night’s Watch is stabbed from behind while talking to Sam.
Arya encourages Sansa to join everyone in the Crypts. Sansa is reluctant. She wants to stand with her people, but Arya sees no point in her doing that. Arya gives her “the blade” (the one used in an assassination attempt on Bran back in season one and has since been passed around among all the Starks). “Stick em with the pointy end” is Arya’s advice in another season 1 callback.
“Protect the Retreat!!! Stand Your Ground!!!”
It becomes evident really quickly that, despite the constant dragon flame Dany and Jon’s dragons breath down onto the zombies that the living will not stay living long if they stay outside the castle walls.
The retreat begins in earnest to get everyone behind the walls and, more importantly, behind a flaming trench.
Grey Worm commands the Unsullied to heroically “Guard the retreat!!! Stand your ground!!!” as everyone makes their way inside the walls of Winterfell.
The Hound is being pursued until Arya takes down his attacker with a flaming arrow. They pull up the bridge and Davos is frantically waving flags calling for Dany or Jon to light the trench up.
But the coming of the Night King means an extreme polar vortex bearing down on Winterfell, so the two dragon riders can’t really see anything.
If only there was some mystical priestess who could light things on fire with a few words.
Melisandre steps forward and commits the 2nd of her three major acts during the battle. Her prayers light a trench surrounding Winterfell on fire, briefly halting the army of the dead.
“At Least We’re Already in the Crypt.”
Meanwhile, in the Crypts of Winterfell, Tyrion is chomping at the bit to be of use. He’s tasted combat before and feels completely useless being left down here while everyone else fights.
Sansa points out correctly that everyone down here is down here because “We can’t do anything.” And the viewing audience agrees, saying “Hey Half-man, we can see what is going on out there, and you do not want to be a part of it.”
The subject of Sansa and Tyrion’s marriage comes up again, and this time Sansa goes so far as to say it could never work now because of Tyrion’s loyalty to Daenarys. Melisandre is close by, and she storms off (though I’m not exactly sure where) in a hissy, saying without the Dragon Queen, everyone would be dead tonight.
She’s not wrong about that, but all this reminds us that, indeed, a victory at the Long Night will not the end the simmering feud between Dany and Sansa. And her and Tyrion will draw closer to each other tonight as well.
“Everything you did brought you here to where you are now.”
Time to check in on Theon and Team Sacrificial Lamb. They stand ready with arrows and fire to fight off any charge in a position we all know guarantees death.
He asks for atonement from Bran, who tells him it’s not necessary. He’s here now, and he wouldn’t be here if not for the decisions he’s made.
Since somewhere in season 5, Theon’s story as all been about atonement, and he will atone for plenty before this episode ends.
“We’re Fighting Death!!! You Can’t Beat Death!!!”
To get over the flaming the trench, the dead start throwing themselves onto it (because of course they would do that). The dead start climbing the walls of Winterfell. Our heroes fight frantically to hold them back, but the damn breaks eventually. Everyone must now fight multiple zombies at once to stay alive.
A giant finds his way inside Winterfell, and Llyana Mormont makes her last stand. She charges a giant, and that giant picks her up and practically crushes her. We can here the bones crack as the giant prepares to eat her (I think???). But Llyana stabs the monster in the eye, sacrificing herself to take out a huge threat in the battle.
Meanwhile, Arya is making great work of that weapon Gendry made her, taking out zombies left and right. But the onslaught eventually knocks her into a wall, making her woosy.
The Hound is cowering, afraid of both the fire and the undead army. Beric tries a pep talk that falls on death ears until he points out Arya’s plight. That gets the Hound back into action.
“What do We Say to the God of Death?”
Arya finds herself in the library sneaking around when she runs into a number of zombies looking for interesting reading material as they destroy the race of men.
This scene was a nice break from the constant onslaught of action in the heart of the battle. Arya appears to have escaped using her skills as “No one” to get out.
But these damn things always find you. They eventually break through, forcing Arya to run. The Hound and Beric follow her down here. They find her with a zombie on top of her. Beric fights them off and the Hound gets her out of the situation. Beric gets away, but with mortal wounds.
Of course, Melisandre somehow found her way into the room the Hound and Arya end up in. Here, Melisandre gives her last pep talk. Back in season three, Melisandre predicted Arya would kill a lot of people. Well, here they are. And our favorite not so little anymore assassin gets the words she needs to rejoin the fight.
Meanwhile, a fight between dragons ensues. Working together, Drogon and Rhaegal (Jon and Dany’s dragons) unseat the Night King from the Ice Dragon. Rhaegal unseats Jon (conveniently) as the Night King starts walking towards Winterfell.
Daenarys has the Night King in her sights and commands Drogon to light him up.
But we all know it’s not going to work. That seed of doubt was planted last week. Also, we saw a Whitewalker (one of the supreme leaders, not the zombies) walk through fire all the way back in season 5. And it would have just been way too easy. The Night King smirks back up at the Dragon Queen and marches on his merry way.
Jon is now in pursuit of the Night King. But the leader of the undead picks up on that and raises all the dead bodies that had been fighting for the living earlier. That includes Unsullied, Dothraki, Dolores Edd, and Llyana.
All the dead bodies within the walls of Winterfell rise as well. “Oh great,” says everyone still living as fresh troops appear in the Night King’s army.
And now, the entire Whitewalker Supreme Council has arrived. And with everyone occupied, they make a slow walk towards the Weirwood Tree where Bran is waiting.
“Theon, You’re a Good Man. Thank You”
Jon fights off all the newly awakened dead when Dany shows up with dragon fire. Jon takes this moment to chase towards Bran, the long anticipated battle with the Night King awaiting him.
The zombies start climbing onto Drogon. Drogon fights to knock them off. And in the course of doing so, knocks off Daenarys as well. That leaves Dany alone with a host of zombies before Jorah shows up to save her.
Sam, Grey Worm, Brienne, Jamie, and everyone else inside the walls are fighting with everything they have.
A flaw in the plan is exposed when the bodies inside the Crypts of Winterfell start to awake. Many die in the crypts as Tyrion and Sansa have a moment before they fight their way to safety.
Theon and his crew had been fighting off all the undead with flaming arrows. When the arrows are out, Theon fights them off with his bow.
The score playing in the background rivals the opening of the season 6 finale (Cersei blows everyone up in the Great Sept of Baelor) in effectiveness as a tone of hopelessness falls over the proceedings.
Bran thanks Theon for all he’s done (Meera deserved something that like from you, Bran!!!!) as the Night King and his council appear. Theon charges with all his got before the Night King stabs him and kills him.
Jon is fighting desperately to get to Bran when he runs into the Ice Dragon. Jorah and Dany are fighting off zombies in the field, a battle where Jorah would eventually take a stab to the heart and die protecting his queen.
The Night King is ready to deliver the final blow to Bran, erasing all of man’s history when one of his council notices a disturbance.
We all were looking for Jon to get there, but it was Arya out of nowhere who shows up with a dragonglass blade. The Night King catches her by the throat with his hand, but she drops the blade into her other hand, which is right by his heart.
Arya stabs the Night King, and his army disintegrates. The council breaks like glass. All the zombies fall and are back to their original lifeless state.
Dany cries over Jorah, the knight who’s been with her from day one. Drogon flies back, now free of zombies, to comfort her.
Melisandre walks out to the middle of the snow covered field and drops her fountain of youth necklace. And with Davos looking on, Melisandre falls apart and dies, her purpose now complete.
-It made sense for Arya, a stealth assassin no one (including the Night King) saw coming, to be the one who pulled off the kill tonight.
-It was in season 3, episode 6, that Melisandre made this prophecy about Ayra: “I see darkness in you. And in that darkness, eyes staring back at me: brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes you’ll shut forever. We will meet again.” Melisandre referred back to that quote, particularly the part about “blue eyes” last night.
-I appreciate the way this episode really classified bravery not as some strong hero using his or her skills and physical attributes to defeat the enemy.
What we saw from bravery last night were terrified people fighting anyway. Yes, Sam needed to be saved a couple of times. But he fought to the bitter end. The Hound showed fear and resistance, only to find courage in reserve when he saw Arya needed his help.
-For the third straight week, the title of the episode was not released until after the episode. “The Long Night” was this week’s title. And each week, as I’ve looked at the revealed episode titles, I ask why they are being withheld.
I mean, seriously, what would seeing “The Long Night” have spoiled for us?Maybe there’s some concern about hacking that knowing the episode title would allow people with more knowledge than me to get access to an episode and leak it online. But nothing about any of the titles so far in my eyes would have revealed much of anything.
-So is that it for Ghost? Surely, he has a better end than just disappearing into the night at the start of this battle.
-I am a little disappointed we didn’t get to see an undead Llyana Mormont in action. I would love to have seen her start bossing around the other undead, admonishing them for “refusing the coll” of the Night King.
-So what does this mean for Cersei and her chance at holding the throne? On one hand, her army is fresh and in tact, while Dany’s are forces are a bit decimated and warn out.
But on the other hand, not being there during the fight gives the North a reason to unify around Dany in the fight against Cersei.
-And, based on the previews, it doesn’t appear the ice between Dany and Sansa is thawing anytime soon. And what action will Sansa take if she discovers Jon has a better claim to the throne than Dany does?
Now, how do you follow up that??? Well, I would imagine with a series of twists even more gut wrenching than what we just witnessed. And I doubt we will see these twists coming.
See you next week.