REVIEW: Game of Thrones, S8 Ep3 – The Long Night

Game of Thrones, S8 Ep3 - The Long Night

Game of Thrones promised us an epic battle to put all others to shame, and it did not disappoint.

The Long Night was an unprecedented spectacle and logistical masterpiece, masterfully blending the gritty chaos of battle with majestic dragon flights and truly tense character moments. While the episode was a thrilling ride from beginning to end, the death toll was surprisingly lower than I expected in terms of major characters. There were those who fell, of course, but their deaths felt expected, and even earned, and not as emotionally devastating as I expected this episode to be. But this was still a gripping hour and a half of television, as I feared for the lives of all my favorites up until the last few minutes.

Game of Thrones, S8 Ep3 - The Long NightThis is not to say that there were no casualties from this battle, of course. It was the lack of named characters who perished that made the episode implausible, though still important. Dany probably lost the most in this fight, watching all her Dothraki be annihilated as well as a significant number of Unsullied (we didn’t see Grey Worm fall though so he and Missandei still have a chance!), and, most heartbreaking, she lost Jorah Mormont. But he died on his own terms, sacrificing his life to protect his Khaleesi, and Dany’s reaction to this was a rare display of vulnerability from the Targaryen queen.

House Mormont also lost much in this battle as fearless Lady Lyanna Mormont, everyone’s favorite, also fell, but not without taking down a giant Wight with her. This tiny warrior queen had originally been a one-scene character but Bella Ramsey’s performance had been so effective that she stuck around for longer. And she had to go in epic fashion, so having someone so young and small take down a literal giant was a pretty awesome moment for her, even if it leaves House Mormont in uncertainty.

Game of Thrones, S8 Ep3 - The Long NightLady Melisandre makes a surprise arrival, just in time to help the cause. Her appearance is welcome as she is able to ignite all of the Dothraki’s weapons, sending them ablaze to face the hordes of the dead. She is also responsible for igniting the trenches that temporarily keep the dead away from Winterfell.

Sansa, Tyrion, Varys, Missandei, and the rest of the women and children wait in the crypts, giving the episode a chance to calm down somewhat. While Tyrion restlessly wishes he could go outside to help, Sansa sensibly reminds him that none of them are cut out for battle and that the bravest thing they could do was to stay inside. She was right, of course, though the crypts later proved not to be as safe as everyone had hoped. But we all saw that coming.

Game of Thrones, S8 Ep3 - The Long NightWhat was interesting was the interaction between Sansa and Tyrion, as they alluded to their former marriage and Tyrion even flirtingly considered resuming that alliance. Sansa refused, still stubbornly against a Targaryen rule, earning Missandei’s sharp comment. But there still is a bond between them, after all they endured on Game of Thrones.

And when the dead started attacking, Sansa and Tyrion shared a moment together, both terrified but comforted by the other. Sansa draws the dagger Arya gave her (with the “Stick them with the pointy end” advice) and Tyrion draws his, but also kissing Sansa’s hand to reassure her that she was not alone. They both survive but the experience seems to have drawn them closer, and certainly given Sansa some cause to trust her former husband. I doubt that romance is in the cards for the final season but I would love to see them grow in friendship.

Game of Thrones, S8 Ep3 - The Long NightMuch of the episode was about people protecting those most precious to them. Good old Dolorous Edd fell defending Sam, who spent most of the battle scared out of his mind (as anyone would be in such a situation.) Jaime and Brienne continually fought to save the other, and mostly survived because of plot armor, but I’m not really complaining. Even Jon and Dany, despite Jon’s latest revelation, rode the dragons to try and save everyone else.

Then, there was a great moment when Sandor Clegane, clearly living his worst nightmare because of all the fiery weapons around him, snapped out of his panic attack because he was determined to protect Arya, who put her new weapon to good use. The Hound acts all tough but really has a soft spot for the Stark lady as he has frequently shown in previous seasons of Game of Thrones.

While Sandor did manage to rescue Arya, who spent some truly tense and silent moments hiding from the walkers who had infiltrated the halls, Beric Dondarrion did his part as well, fighting to protect them both and surviving multiple stab wounds. He was brought back to life a number of times but this time, he really made it count and we thank him for his service. Melisandre appears just to give Arya some crucial pep talk.

Game of Thrones TheonBran stayed in the godswood, as planned, protected by Theon and his Ironborn. Theon has come a long way and has done so much to atone for his crimes in season two. That this would be his final stand was pretty much expected but it was still moving to see him slash through White Walkers with determination. Hearing Bran absolve him of his past sins by saying that he was where he belonged, thanking him, and saying he was a good man, was a touching sendoff to a character who has long been part of Game of Thrones.

Ramin Djawadi gave us yet another iconic piece of Game of Thrones music in the somber piano-tune played as the Night King approached Bran. The haunting melody exuded a sense of ominous inevitability as all hope seemed lost with characters trapped and incapacitated, helpless in the face of an ice dragon or a horde of White Walkers, and Bran, alone and defenseless in the godswood. This music ramped up the tension, just as “Light of the Seven” did during the season six finale, and I held my breath as I watched the final minutes unfold.

Game of Thrones, S8 Ep3 - The Long NightAnd then I found myself cheering at my screen as I watched the Night King’s armies crumble into ice because stone-cold badass, Arya Stark, had achieved the impossible and slayed the Night King, saving the world. In the end, the combined forces of dragons, Dothraki, Unsullied, Night’s Watch, wildlings, Ironborn, Northmen, and the best knights of the realm failed in their mission but one, scrappy, Faceless Men-trained she-wolf did the job. Arya Stark was the true MVP. Arya Stark just won the game.

What a moment. I haven’t been this happy with Game of Thrones since Littlefinger’s death last season, also at Arya’s hands and also with that Valyrian steel dagger. Bran must have known, of course.

Game of Thrones, S8 Ep3 - The Long NightThe victory still came at a price, however, and the episode ends, not in jubilation, but in mourning and farewell, with Dany’s heart-wrenching grief over Jorah’s noble death, and Melisandre quietly walking into the snow, her destiny fulfilled, discarding her necklace, and finally, sinking to her death, just as she had promised Davos at the beginning of the episode.

So, the great war is won, and where do we go from here? In the final three episodes, the fight will be taken back to King’s Landing. I’m slightly disappointed that Cersei and the south never had to suffer the horrors of the White Walkers and it seemed convenient for the whole conflict to be so quickly resolved, but Game of Thrones has always been about rival houses competing for power, even as the threat of the dead loomed in the shadows. Now that this supernatural threat has been eliminated, it’s time to go back to the show’s roots, and with so many of the major players still alive after this huge battle, it is clear that the next three episodes will be a slaughter.

But for now, let us just celebrate the triumph of Arya Stark of Winterfell, slayer of the Night King and savior of the world.