This post is dark and full of spoilers. Turn back now if you haven’t seen season 8, episode 3 of Game of Thrones!
Episode Title: The Long Night
It’s a fitting title. Because this is going to be a really long and really dark episode (both literally and figuratively).
The undead have arrived in Winterfell, and the troops are gathered in formation to defend the castle. Melisandre shows up and grants The Dothraki army an upgrade of +1 fire to all swords! That helps make it a little less dark for a moment. There are no inspirational battle speeches before the Dothraki charge out to meet the enemy. There is no moment of hope as they take down the dead. Just more darkness as the army appears to be swallowed up – horses, fire swords, and all. Jorah rides out with them and then rides back with the few soldiers that remain after just moments of combat. He has no words for the remaining troops as he returns, but his face says it all: everyone is going to die.
What follows is wave upon wave of undead soldiers running toward the castle. Many soldiers fall, and the troops have to retreat quickly to have any chance of surviving. In this chaos, Edd is killed saving Samwell and Lyanna Mormont is slain – taking a zombie giant down with her. Meanwhile, Jon and Daenerys fly around killing lots of the undead with dragon fire. But they push too far forward in search of the Night King and are caught in a storm.
Things look particularly grim when the dragons are unavailable to light the trenches, as the army is desperately in need of a break from the endless army of undead soldiers – and fire would hold them off. Melisandre appears again and is able to light the trenches, giving the army a brief reprieve. But too soon, the Night King orders his zombies forward, where several fall atop the flames – making way for others to close in on the castle
Away from the frontlines, Bran is keeping an eye on the Night King by warging into some ravens, and Arya gives Sansa a dragonglass dagger and tells her to seek shelter in the crypt. From their place atop the castle wall, they both see that the battle will be lost. Sansa enters the crypt without a word of hope to any of the scared people gathered there and settles in with Tyrion to await her death.
Back at the castle wall, there have been breaches. All the surrounding fire has left The Hound frozen with fear. Zombies are now roaming the castle, and Arya is losing her cool in the Winterfell library. Beric convinces The Hound to fight when they see Arya cutting her way through the undead invaders, and they go to her rescue. In the end, Beric saves Arya and dies his final death. Melisandre appears as Arya catches her breath, and reminds the young woman of their last meeting. The red witch had promised Arya that she would seal shut forever: brown eyes, blue eyes, and green eyes. Arya understands – she is meant to shut more blue eyes tonight. Before she heads back toward the battle, Melisandre reminds Arya of what we say to Death – not today.
Back in the clouds, Jon and Daenerys find the Night King and the undead dragon and fail to bring either down. When the Night King lands, Daenerys takes her shot at him with dragon fire, but he emerges unscathed. Jon, now on foot outside the castle, attempts to attack the leader of the dead with his sword – but the Night King just smiles and lifts his hands. With this motion, he thwarts Jon’s attack by reanimating the corpses of the soldiers all around them. Now, not only is Jon unable to reach the Night King – but everywhere the dead have come alive again. Including in the crypt beneath Winterfell, where no one is prepared to fight them off.
As Tyrion and Sansa crouch in fear in the crypt, Daenerys’ dragon is forced to abandon her beyond the castle walls as the newly undead soldiers swarm around them. Jorah sees the commotion and comes to her rescue, and dies saving her. Jon has his hands full trying to battle the undead dragon with his sword.
Back at the godswood, the ironborn have all fallen protecting Bran against the invading dead. All except Theon, who stands ready to defend the younger man until his last breath. As the Night King appears, Bran thanks Theon for his service. Theon knows his time has come as he rushes the enemy in a last-ditch effort to save Winterfell, but the Night King cuts him down easily. Bran and the Night King stare at one another as the dead man approaches the living one. Then, seemingly from nowhere, Arya appears and stabs the Night King with her Valyrian steel dagger. The same dagger recently gifted to her by Bran.
All at once, the battle is over. The Night King is obliterated, and his army of undead inside, outside, and beneath the castle disintegrate. Then, just as the sun begins to rise, Melisandre steps back to the battlefield and removes her magic necklace, crumpling to her death and fulfilling her final prophecy.
With only three episodes remaining in the series, the Iron Throne is still in play. Lots of great characters have left us forever, and the real heartbreak is yet to come – but humanity lives another day.