‘Game of Thrones’: The Great War comes to Winterfell
***WARNING: THE NIGHT IS DARK AND FULL OF SPOILERS THROUGH SEASON 8, EPISODE 3 OF ‘GAME OF THRONES’***
Honestly, this episode — despite being 90 minutes long — doesn’t really require a lengthy review.
Director Miguel Sapochnik staged one of the best extended battle sequences you’re likely to see, certainly on a television show. In “The Long Night,” he threw the entire Army of the Dead at the Westerosi equivalent of the Avengers, and made its scale seem realistic without actually showing hundreds of thousands of zombies.
The battle ebbed and flowed with just the right balance of hope (Melisandre lighting up the Dothraki’s arakhs and giving us, in Mance Rayder’s words, “the greatest fire the North has ever seen”) and hopelessness (pretty much everything that happened to the Dothraki after that).
The crypts of Winterfell came alive with animated Stark corpses, which honestly felt a little bit corny to me. We already heard the battle raging all around the crypts; there’s no reason to think the dead wouldn’t eventually break in. And the freshest Stark down there (Ned) doesn’t even have a head. Everyone else couldn’t have been much more than a pile of dust and bones.
We got dragon battles on a massive scale. Rhaegal tore a hole in his brother’s throat and had Zombie Viserion belching blue fire out the side of his neck. We even got Jon Snow doing his best impression of Harry Potter á la “Goblet of Fire” when he tried to do a little dragon fighting.
It’s rather interesting that Jon Snow did surprisingly little in this battle. He killed his share of wights, certainly, but just when we thought Jon might get the full-on Hero’s Moment — going mano á mano with the Night King — the writers picked the perfect time to basically drown all hope.
I knew that at some point, the Night King would raise up everyone who’d been killed, but there truly couldn’t have been a better moment. I’m also fine with how he went out: the Arya Ex Machina.
When Melisandre revisited her prophecy about the eyes Arya would close and put a special emphasis on “blue eyes,” I started thinking about the Valyrian steel dagger Bran gave to her last season. My only criticism of the Night King’s fate is that I hoped we’d get some more information about what exactly his deal is. When he and Bran were having their little staredown, I thought for sure the Night King was going to say something… or Bran was going to try and warg into him… or SOMEthing.
And while the Night King is clearly no slouch in the hand-to-hand combat department — RIP to Theon — he doesn’t want that Faceless Man smoke. Arya hit him with the double-hand dagger okey-doke. It was a sweet move, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I thought she was a goner for a second there. I would have been alright either way. I didn’t want to lose Arya, but that would’ve been a BAWSE way to go.
The episode ended without taking in any of the fallout, and certainly without a certified body count. We saw several main characters go — we’ll get to that below, although to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t nearly as many as I expected — but there were quite a few favorites who were in more than a bit of peril the last time we definitively saw them onscreen.
That includes at least one dragon. Drogon was shaking off about fifty knife-wielding wights when he left Dany high and dry in the Winterfell courtyard, and while this might sound a little bit dragon-racist, it’s pretty tough to tell ‘em apart when they’re only being lit by the burning corpses of the dead. So I’m not really sure if it was Drogon or Rhaegal who was comforting Dany as she cried over Jorah the Andal.
Soooo…. where do we go from here?
It’s hard to imagine how the rest of the season could top this. As someone said in the preview for next week, they’ve won The Great War. Dany still wants the Iron Throne, though I have to believe that Jon could care less about it at this point. But everyone left around the Winterfell poker table is pretty much pot-committed at this point. The Northmen will want to just stay home and rebuild, but Dany basically lost her entire army in service of defeating the Night King. They owe her big-time. They certainly can’t just ignore Cersei. She’s going to march the Golden Company north to take ‘em out.
I’m surprised she didn’t start them on their way the second she heard the Wall had fallen. Imagine everyone who’s left in Winterfell walking to the battlements only to see 20,000 sellswords about to attack.
But that’s for next week. Let’s hit a few other moments from tonight.
• • •
A FEW STRAY RAVENS
• In the intro, I noticed that the torches went out in the Winterfell crypts before moving on to the next scene. I don’t think the first two episode intros went like that.
• Just before the battle started, when the camera was panning across main characters in their various battalions, all I could think was, “I wonder if Beric bothered to tell the guys to his left and right that his sword is about to go up in flames?”
• I get it, Melisandre is a sorceress or whatever, but how did she just come out of the fog between the Army of the Dead and Winterfell? I call shenanigans.
• Ramin Djawadi’s score throughout this episode had a much more modern feel than most of the series’ music. I thought I would mind, but I didn’t.
• Even amid one of the most serious episodes of the series, we gotta make time for some humor…. SANSA: I don’t even know how to use this. / ARYA: Stick ‘em with the pointy end.
• Speaking of Melisandre: “What do we say to the god of death?” … let the MELISANDRE = SYRIO??? speculation begin. The “brown eyes, green eyes, blue eyes” prophecy was pretty much the only one Melisandre got right, so maybe that was her all the way back in Season 1 getting Arya her start on the road to saving Westeros.
• Jon and Dany could’ve used some fog lights on those dragons.
• RIP Dolorous Edd. Way too many people called you “Dolores” Edd because not nearly enough of them read books nowadays, and I will miss you. No one could summarize a terrible situation with dripping sarcasm like Edd. I’m glad we didn’t have to watch Sam or Jon re-kill him when he became a wight.
• TYRION: Maybe we should have stayed married. / SANSA: You were the best of them…. aww, that was nice of you, Sansa. I’m glad you guys didn’t go full-on suicide pact, which is what I thought was happening for a second down in the crypts when things were going really badly.
• But seriously though, there has to be more to the Night King than Bran’s explanation that he “wants endless night.” I really hope the books shine some more light on what exactly his motivations are. Is he mad that the Children of the Forest didn’t let him finish the job they created him for (winning the war against the First Men)?
• RIP Lyanna Mormont, the Little Bear. Talk about going out like a BAWSE. There will be stories for generations in House Mormont about how the Little Bear brought down an ice giant single-handed. Oh… except House Mormont is pretty much no more, because… RIP Jorah the Andal. He made it through 70 episodes, and that’s no small feat on this show. Iain Glen brought nobility to a shamed and downcast knight of Westeros, and it was completely fitting that Jorah went out protecting his queen.
• RIP Beric Dondarrion. He was pretty great, his voice was amazing, he came back from the dead like nine times, and his sword lit on fire. What a fantastic character.
• So… does this mean winter’s over?
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .