Some awesome (and somewhat predictive!) fan art from Erta Alt?nz @ Deviant Art from before last week?s episode
The Great War is over. This episode was controversial and reactions ran the gamut from folks who were thoroughly unsatisfied to those who thought it perfect, and everything in between. I lean towards the latter and will get to why below, though I do have some minor gripes and think some of the major ones have merit. Regardless of how you felt, we?re in the endgame now. Here?s my recap of Season 8 Episode 3, ?The Long Night.?
In case you?ve missed it, check out the recap pod Kristine A. Kippins, Palak Sheth, and I recorded for this episode on Spotify or Soundcloud.
Disclaimer: I have read the books, and while the book plot is well behind the show plot, there may be some book spoilers that inform thoughts and predictions here. If you like it and/or have thoughts, go ahead and clap at the bottom, and share as you please!
Preliminary Thoughts / Opening Credits
- This episode was directed by the incomparable Miguel Sapochnik, director of ?Hardhome?, ?Battle of the Bastards?, and ?Winds of Winter.? He also directs S8E5, so the remaining big clash seems likely to happen there.
- No ?previously on? this week. I guess we?re all locked in and ready to go.
- The opening credits feature two changes: 1) The blue tiles representing the Army of the Dead?s progress all the way to Winterfell, and 2) The lights in the crypts of Winterfell are going out one by one, foreshadowing the night making its way down there.
- Look, I understand some viewers? main gripe with GoT here: Why would the writers spend so long building up a character, marking him as undeniably crucial to the story, only to have him die abruptly before most thought he would? But enough about Robert, or Ned, or Robb, or Oberyn, or Tywin. This recap is about S8E3 and the Night King?s downfall!
- So why are people responding so differently to this surprising death than they did those previous ones? Why are people complaining that this isn?t emblematic of the show they stan, for which the subversive death of a main character is a move they have gone to so often? I?ll explore more on that later, including what are, in my opinion, some legitimate complaints and some that don?t stand up to any pressure.
Suspense (Beginning of Episode -> Wights Putting out the Trench Fire)
?Stick ?em with the pointy end.? ? Arya Stark
The ?Beautiful Death? image created by Robert Ball. These are all fantastic. This one is the Night King?s symbol on his chest being stabbed by the catspaw dagger, with the shards of ice/glass reflecting some others we lost, like Theon, Qhono, Melisandre, Edd, Beric, Viserion, and more.
- Melisandre coming in hot, lighting up those arakhs and providing one of several stunning cinematic shots of the episode, first with the aerial view of the Dothraki flames charging ahead. Then another as the Army of the Dead puts out the fires one by one, with ease.
- After promising Davos she?ll be dead before dawn, Melisandre locks eyes with Arya from afar.
- After seeing the Army of the Dead extinguish the flames of life of the Dothraki, Dany is emotional and breaks their plan of waiting for the Night King to pursue Bran. This directly reflects Jon?s emotional decision to charge after Rickon during the Battle of the Bastards, also jeopardizing their plan.
- Why is Ghost with Jorah and the Dothraki and on the front lines? We know he survived thanks to the ?Next On?? trailer? but has Jon just dumped Ghost for Rhaegal? And if so, can Sam get Ghost?! He could?ve used some help this episode.
- So many callbacks in this episode, specifically for Arya. Handing Sansa a dragonglass dagger and telling her to ?stick ?em with the pointy end? was a great kickoff to these.
- RIP Edd! *Pours one out.* The first to go, but not until he saves Sam. Let?s take a quick aside here to comment on the ?but not enough people died!? complaint about this episode. This was, by far, the bloodiest battle in the show?s history in named/important casualties. A look back:
- The Battle of the Blackwater (S2E9) ? Named/important casualties: Matthos Seaworth, Ser Mandon Moore (50% of you would have to google both these people, 80% of you have to google at least 1). ~~~ A or B-level deaths: 0
- The Battle of Castle Black (S4E9) ? Named/important casualties: Ygritte (RIP), Styr (the Thenn), Grenn, Pypar, and the giant Mag Mar Tun. ~~~ A or B-level deaths: 1
- The Massacre at Hardhome (S5E8) ? Named/important casualties: Karsi, one White Walker lieutenant. ~~~ A or B-level deaths: 0
- The Battle of the Bastards (S6E9)? Named/important casualties: Ramsay Bolton, Rickon Stark, Wun Wun, Smalljon Umber, Harald Karstark. ~~~A or B-level deaths: 2
- The Battle of the Goldroad aka Loot Train Attack! (S7E4) ? Named/important casualties: None? Randyll and Dickon Tarly were executed after the battle ended. ~~~A or B-level deaths: 0
- The Battle of Winterfell aka The Battle of Ice and Fire (S8E3) ? Named/important casualties: Dolorous Edd, Lyanna Mormont, Beric Dondarrion, Theon Greyjoy, Jorah Mormont, The Night King (+ Viserion and all other White Walkers / Wights!), Melisandre. ~~~A or B-level deaths: 6(+)
- Literally twice as many A or B-level deaths as the 5 previous show battle sequences combined.
- I?ve heard some complaints about the chaotic nature of the fight and some difficulty following our heroes ?plan.? I get these to an extent, but not to a point where either took away from the viewing experience for me.
- Another Arya throwback with her as an archer on the ramparts of Winterfell. Remember, this was our introduction for Arya all the way back in the pilot.
- Melisandre comes through in the clutch again, lighting the trench after Dany?s blinded by the snowstorm, and giving us the awesome shot of Melisandre?s eyes lighting up with fire.
- I like that we see Melisandre?s uncertainty and fear before the spell works. It adds to the uncertainty of magic and prophecy in this world, something the end of the episode will only magnify.
- The dead are paused surrounding the trench, which seems like it?d be the perfect time to make use of the dragons! Both in torching these wights and in burning the fallen soldiers, preventing them from being raised again by the Night King. Alas?
- Quick shoutout to the crypts actually being the safest place in Winterfell! The dead rose of course, as literally everyone in the show should have seen coming, but the death count down there was still minimal.
- We got precious little time down in the crypts, which is one of my complaints coming out of this episode. I wish we had some closure on the Tyrion/Bran conversation. I guess we?re waiting a bit longer on that!
- I loved Sansa?s ?you were the best of them? remark to Tyrion, and his ?what a terrifying thought? in response. I also loved Missandei dropping the hammer on their convo and reminding them that without Dany, they?d all be dead.
- Finally, we get Bran?s ?home? speech from the trailer, and we see now that it was Theon on the receiving end. It?s clear this is truly the last bit of closure Theon requires, as he tries to gut out an apology to Bran. More on this in his final scene later.
- Bran wargs into the ravens, finds the Night King, and then we have no idea what he does for the next 45 minutes. I hope there was more to it than just that he was in the ravens that whole time.
- We see the Night King command his army with a gentle finger extension, calling on them to fall on the flames, putting out the fire with their bodies in sacrifice, and allowing the rest to breach the walls of Winterfell.
- Into the horror portion!
Horror (Wights Putting out the Trench Fire -> Night King Surviving Dragonfire)
?What do we say to the God of Death?? ? Melisandre
?Not today.? ? Arya Stark
So, why did he survive Dragonfire?
- It?s around now (with the dead climbing the walls of Winterfell) when I started to feel that despite their attempts at game planning a defense, there was only one way out of this for the Army of the Living: getting the Night King.
- Jaime and Brienne fighting back-to-back was fun to watch, though I maintain it would?ve been more fun if the enemy was a White Walker instead of a mass of wights.
- Arya Stark coming off the bench like?. Arya Stark. There is no comp for her this week. She stands alone atop the mountain. The initial sequence is of her with this new breakable staff, with the music swelling and her taking out no less than 13 (!) wights in a matter of 20 seconds. The weapon is cool. Nothing earth-shattering, but it sure was fun to watch her use it.
- Every scene we get with Arya is a further reminder of the skills we?ve seen her acquire through the entirety of the show?s history. First the archery, and now she?s skilled with a long-staff.
- Lyanna. Mothereffin. Mormont. What a way for her to go out. Was it fan service-y? Yes. Did I enjoy it anyway? Hell yeah. In a gut-wrenching, well-shot, David v Goliath-esque moment, the smallest person on the battlefield wipes out the largest as Lyanna sticks a dragonglass dagger in an undead Giant?s big blue eye. *Pours another one out.* RIP Lady Bear.
- Then we get by far the best shot of the dragons as Dany and Jon are hanging high above the clouds until Viserion and the Night King come charging at them and light the sky up with blue flame. This is the point where you should remind yourself you?re watching a television show. TV is not supposed to look like that.
- It was particularly great when the dragons ran into each other mid-air because they couldn?t see. Dany also proves herself as a pretty solid dragon-rider when she rams into Viserion and sends the Night King flying to the ground.
- Arya in the library ? This reminded me of trying to get Link through the Castle Courtyard in Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Any gamers out there relate?!
- Continuing with Arya?s in-episode arc in which they remind us of all her skills, the library sequence reminds us of her ability to move in complete silence. She literally scurries under a table without making a sound. The loudest thing in the room is her blood hitting the floor.
- Beric and the Hound come to Arya?s defense, with Beric dying in quintessential crucifixion of Jesus imagery. Melisandre helpfully confirms for us that this is what Beric was brought back six times for. Sacrificing himself for Arya in this moment. And now his purpose is fulfilled. *Pours several out.* RIP Lightning Lord.
- Melisandre then beautifully reminds us of her and Arya?s first interaction, including this now-iconic promise:
A Phil Jackson-esque pep talk Melisandre is giving Arya here. ?Girl, you were born for this. Remember what I told you back in your rookie year? ?Blue eyes.? This is your moment. You got this. Go end this thing and bring it home.?
- Finally, we get a last glimpse of Melisandre?s power. Remember when she parroted Ygritte?s ?you know nothing, Jon Snow? to him back in S5? She does the same here, this time with Syrio Forel?s favorite refrain:
- All of this is extremely important. We had just seen Arya scared for the first time since she returned from the House of Black and White. She needed this assurance, this belief, this sense of purpose, to go and complete the task. And she damn sure did!
- In the final act of the horror portion, we see Dany on top of Drogon, with the Night King right in her cross-hairs. As she?s done many times before, Dany says ?Dracarys? to Drogon and he engulfs the Night King in flames. It?s obvious right away that this isn?t going to work. There could be many reasons for this (Jason Concepcion gets into a couple of them here), but regardless, this fight is not over.
Action (Night King Raising the Dead -> End of Episode)
?You?re a good man Theon. Thank you.? ? Bran Stark
Arya is the GOAT
- Sapochnik gives us a mashup of two of his iconic moments here right off the bat as Jon begins to sneak up on the night King: Jon?s charge in Battle of the Bastards, and the Night King slowly turning around and lifting his arms, his classic dead-raising maneuver from Hardhome.
- This not only raises the dead from the battlefield, but as many expected, also raises the dead down in the crypts. This was foreshadowed all the way back in the first book, in one of Jon?s chapters about 2/3 of the way through:
This always had to happen
- The dread is fully settling in at this point. All those that have fallen on the battlefield on the Army of the Living?s side rise again, this time behind the Night King. We see the eyes of characters like Qhono, Lyanna, and Edd open again, now pale blue.
- Jon is completely surrounded by wights, seemingly with no escape (yet again), but is saved at the last second by Dany on Drogon (not the first time she?s saved his life).
- I was surprised none of our characters had to interact with a friend of loved one after they were re-animated. Imagine Wight Edd facing Tormund and Sam, or Grey Worm having to fight any Wight Unsullied. That felt like a show beat I always somewhat expected to get that was passed over.
- Side note, was the first of the dead to rise from the crypts Maester Luwin? I think not but he certainly bore some resemblance!
Definitely looks like a Maester?s garb and chains!
- Back in the crypts we?re with Tyrion and Sansa, hiding behind a tomb as the dead have been raised and are attacking others. This is also the first note of the score for the last piece of this episode, Ramin Djawadi?s masterful ?The Night King.?
- This is only the second time Djawadi has used piano in a score, as he usually opts for more medieval instruments. The two that he has gone to piano for are ?Light of the Seven? and ?The Night King?, two all-timers.
- They share a wonderfully tender moment that reminds us of their long shared history and mutual respect. Just a week after #Theonsa was all the rage, folks want to see these two together now? Let?s just let Sansa be!
- After Drogon is attacked by wights and Dany is thrown from his back, Jorah comes in at the last moment to rescue her.
- Jorah?s entire ambition after being exiled was to come back to Westeros, to the North, and rejoin his family. After meeting Dany and falling deeply in love with her, his purpose revolved around protecting her. He goes out exactly as he was meant to, accepted as a Mormont, in Westeros, in the North, wielding an ancestral valyrian steel sword in defense of his Khaleesi.
- I also respected the choice to have Dany pick up a dragonglass blade and to fight for Jorah just as he?s fighting for her.
- The Mormont house words are ?Here We Stand,? and Jorah dies evoking memories of Boromir from LOTR (played by Sean Bean, aka Ned Stark!), taking shot after shot and continuing to rise and fight until he is no longer able. A fitting end for a pilot character. *Pours out the whole bottle.* RIP Jorah the Andal!
- The show has given us some Jon and Dany parallel shots in the past and gives us another here, cradling a dying loved one:
Top Left (Battle of the Bastards S6E9) ? Bottom Left (Mhysa S3E10) ? Top Right (Watchers on the Wall S4E9) ? Bottom Right (The Long Night S8E3)
- Theon also gets a perfect sendoff. First off, let?s give him his due. He and the Ironborn do a better job than anyone could have expected in protecting Bran from countless wights. He?s still an expert archer, and even as he runs out of arrows, he does some work with the bow.
- As the Night King and the White Walkers enter the Godswood, we get a last interaction between Bran and Theon, as Bran calls Theon ?a good man?, and thanks him. This is beautiful. This is Bran talking, not the Three-Eyed-Raven, and absolving Theon of his past deeds. After saving Yara in E1 and pledging to fight for Winterfell and Sansa in E2, Theon?s story arc is truly complete. Alfie Allen, who?s always been one of the best actors of the show, delivers a memorable final scene, and charges to what everyone knows is his demise at the hands of the Night King. *Refills the Jorah bottle and pours it out again!* RIP once-Prince of Winterfell! What is dead may never die!
- Jon is attempting to run towards Bran and protect him, but his path is blocked by Viserion. This was another one of my gripes of the episode, though I guess I?ll have to wait to make full judgment. Jon was not exceptionally useful in this battle. If you wanted to uphold his hero-status, you could?ve had him slay Viserion with Longclaw before Arya got her moment.
- And finally, the moment. Just, incredible in all ways. I understand not everyone feels this way but I thought it was perfect and the highest level of storytelling. Some notes on this:
- This was an unambiguously earned moment for Arya (we?ve seen her acquire and train at these skills for literally the entirety of the show). She learned how to move ?quick as a snake, and quiet as a shadow? from Syrio Forel all the way back in S1. In S4, the Hound showed her where the heart is, and how to kill a man by stabbing him there. And of course, we saw her train for nearly 2 years with Jaqen H?ghar and the Faceless Men, the greatest assassins known in this world. This was the culmination of her arc through the entire series.
- It was, for me and many, a huge subversion of expectations. Jon was by far the likeliest candidate to be the one to take down the Night King, with Dany as the next most likely option. From multiple prophecies to personal encounters, everything pointed towards Jon v Night King. And yet in retrospect, Arya is the perfect assassin. And to do it with the catspaw Valyrian steel dagger, in protection of Bran, the same dagger used to try and kill him 68 episodes ago that he then gave her in this exact spot, is poetry.
- Palak Sheth made an interesting point on the pod regarding the potential upcoming conflict between Jon and Dany and how if one of them had been the one to kill the Night King, that could play a role in who the North in particular chooses to back for the throne. Now it?s neither of them!
- The actual visual of the shot, with Arya coming from out of nowhere into focus, only for the Night King to turn around and catch her by the throat, and then for her to pull out the hand switch tricked that they showed us last year, was so good. Let?s not overthink this. Any moment that can produce a reaction like this is incredible TV. That roller coaster of emotions over 4 seconds is unbelievable.
- The last shot is of Melisandre wandering into the field, taking her necklace off and collapsing into dust. As she said for Beric, she?s served her purpose, and now she can pass. With her and the Night King gone, how much of the magic of the world has faded?
#Hot_Takes on ?The Long Night? and Critiques
- Obviously, there is no ?right take? on this episode, or the show overall! But I?m gonna dive into my thoughts on some of these specific critiques I?ve heard. Feel free to #change_my_mind.
- ?Arya was a deus ex machina.? ? I?m not sure what you believe that term to mean, but no. In fact, there are better examples from almost every other battle this show has done, and other better examples within this episode! At Blackwater ? Tywin with the Tyrells was a deus ex machina. In the conflict between the Wildlings and the Night?s Watch, Stannis? army played that role. In the Battle of the Bastards, it was the Knights of the Vale. In Beyond the Wall, Dany and all 3 dragons show up exactly in the nick of time, from Dragonstone across the continent! Even in this episode, Dany and Drogon showing up to save Jon, and Jorah showing up to save Dany, also exactly in the nick of time, were more convenient. We saw Arya being told specifically to close blue eyes, we?ve seen her acquire and use the skills necessary to do it for years, and she was fully aware of the plan to use Bran as bait for the Night King. That?s not a deus ex machina.
- ?There weren?t enough deaths.? ? This was addressed above, but to add a little color? this is the end of the series. I get that we are conditioned to expect ruthless reality, and for our heroes to often lose. But the only way to end this series that ever made sense was in a bittersweet fashion. There would be no ?sweet? portion of a Night King victory. And while objectively this last battle had plenty of death, I?d agree that there would be very little ?bitter? if Dany and Jon were able to simply oust Cersei and take the throne now. What does it all mean? There?s more death to come.
- ?The episode was too dark.? ? I don?t disagree. Check out this ~4 minute clip that someone made brightening the episode. It is quite different.
- ?GoT has lost it?s ruthlessness.? ? I don?t know. This goes back to the end of the series vs. middle of the series distinction. Yes, moments like Ned?s beheading, the Red Wedding, and Oberyn?s skull getting crushed were incredible and subversive and destroyed us. But you can?t just have evil win at every turn of a story. If you do, those other moments lose their meaning. Who cares if Ned loses his head if the Night King wins and the Starks die anyway. Whereas, if his final act of ensuring Arya?s safety before she witnesses his beheading then leads to her saving humanity 7 years later? that?s pretty damn awesome! Again, GRRM has always promised a bittersweet, mixed ending. I expect that in the show as well.
- ?I expected Grey Worm and Brienne to die, not the Night King!? ? There?s a difference between bad storytelling and a story not meeting one?s expectations/predictions. I?ve yet to see a fleshed out alternate story outline that feels obviously superior.
- ?The show didn?t treat the Night King story line, or the fantasy at large, with enough care.? ? I think that?s really valid. I still want to withhold judgment until we?ve seen the final product, but I think it?s fair to point out that the show has always been more comfortable with the human and political drama portions than it has the fantastical elements. I?m not sure we?re done with that story line completely yet though. If we are, I quite agree. What was up with the spirals and bisected circles that he stole from the Children of the Forest? There was no personal motivation for the Night King at all? I think it?s possible we get a little more there, in an unexpected way. That being said, if the show is done with it, and is bad at fantasy, yet you?re still a fan, shouldn?t you be excited that they get to close it out with the human and political drama that they?re so good at?
- ?It should have been Jon, not Arya, to kill the Night King.? ? ?Yeah, well, you know that?s just like uhhh?. your opinion man.? I, for one, loved this choice by the show runners. I?ve suggested alternatives that could have made Jon more heroic, which could have still had Arya deliver the death blow. But Jon besting the Night King in 1×1 combat, in my opinion, would have been basic and somewhat deflating.
?Next On?? / Lingering Questions / Predictions / Theories
- Is it going to be Spring now? Was the Winter a function of the White Walkers being around? That?d be cool!
- Is everyone going to go South to face-off with Cersei? Or will some, like Sansa or Bran, stay in Winterfell?
- Cersei?s plan was a success. The ?monsters? killed each other, and her army seems to be significantly more formidable than what remains for Dany and Jon. Of course, they have dragons. But Cersei, Qyburn, and Bronn saw the scorpion bolt injure and ground Drogon last year. I?m sure they have several of those now, especially since the opening credits linger on it below the Red Keep. I predict they?ll take down at least 1 and maybe both dragons during their battle.
- Could Dany have Daario bring the Second Sons back as reinforcements? They?re going to need more than what they have + whatever Yara has scrounged up!
- Burning the Dothraki so they can return to the Night Lands
- Now we have to get Cleganebowl, right? Maybe this episode! E5 at the latest, I?d wager.
- Clearly the show has been seeding a rift between Dany and Jon. Does that come to fruition? Does it happen after they defeat Cersei? Or does it maybe prevent them from doing so?
- Will Varys die in Westeros as Melisandre foretold?
- Will the Valonquar prophecy from the books ever get fulfilled? I?m still leaning Jaime there.
- Bronn is presumably making his way North with sights on killing the Lannister brothers. What is going to come of that?!
- The other shoe has not dropped on Tyrion and Bran?s conversation as many of us expected it to in the last episode. That still has to pay off somehow.
- Are we going to see a return of Quaithe? Or Kinvara? Or get more meaning behind this look a red priestess gave Tyrion? Perhaps she saw something is his future, as Melisandre did when looking at Arya?
- There is still a large cache of wildfire buried under the Red Keep and under most of King?s Landing. I thought they?d use that to neutralize the Army of the Dead if/when they made it to King?s Landing. Now that they presumably aren?t, is that wildfire going to get ignored? Could Cersei be planning a second wildfire explosion?
Thank you for reading this Post that was Promised,
Samit ?naming my first daughter Arya? Sheth