A Binge Guide for Season Eight, Episode Three – “The Long Night”
by Greg Enslen
Episode Number: S08E03
Original Air Date: April 28, 2019
Time: 82 minutes
Synopsis: The Night King and his army have arrived at Winterfell and the great battle begins.
The updated animated map during the credits shows a few important locations: the Wall, Last Hearth, Winterfell, and King’s Landing. Updated in this episode are the blue tiles of the undead moving past Last Hearth and arriving at Winterfell. Also updated are the lights in the Winterfell crypt going out row by row.
Before the Battle
Inside Winterfell, Samwell Tarly is nervous. People are fleeing for the safety of the crypts, but he’s heading for battle. Lady Lyanna Mormont rallies her troops while Tyrion Lannister watches the soldiers prepare for war. Brandon Stark is wheeled to the Godswood, where Theon Greyjoy and his Ironborn will protect him. Lady Sansa Stark and Arya Stark wait atop the wall, watching for the approaching Army of the Dead.
A dragon passes overhead as the Unsullied and Dothraki take positions between the dead and Winterfell. Ser Jaime Lannister, Brienne of Tarth, and Podrick Payne wait with Stark troops. Grey Worm heads up a column of Unsullied. Tormund Giantsbane, Sandor “the Hound” Clegane, Beric Dondarrion, and Dolorous Edd with free folk. They are soon joined by a nervous Samwell. Ser Jorah Mormont and Dothraki, along with Ghost, wait for the attack to begin.
From a nearby mount, Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow wait with their two dragons.
Notes: The opening scene with Samwell, Lyanna Mormont, Bran and Theon is one long tracking shot. There is also very little dialogue.
Emerging from the darkness is the Red Priestess Melisandre, who asks Jorah to have the Dothraki lift their swords. She enchants their weapons, setting them all aflame. Ser Davos Seaworth isn’t happy to see her but allows her through the gate of Winterfell.
Inside the castle, Davos confronts the Red Priestess. “There’s no need to execute me, Ser Davos. I’ll be dead before the dawn.” She also sees Arya and they share a look before the Dothraki and Ser Jorah surge ahead, attacking unseen army in the dark. In moments, all of their lighted swords are extinguished, implying they’ve been whipped out by whatever is approaching Winterfell. Soon, the battlefield is eerily silent, and then Dothraki and their horse begin fleeing back toward their defensive lines.
Notes: Melisandre speaks High Valerian to light the Dothraki weapons. In S06E10, Ser Davos threatened to kill Melisandre the next time he saw her. Melisandre was also briefly on Arya’s kill list but has since been removed. While it looks like the Dothraki are literally wiped out because their weapon flames are extinguished, it’s more likely the fire goes out as a result of continued fighting and that many of the Dothraki survive the initial assault and continue on fighting.
The Dead Attack
Out of the darkness, the Army of the Dead surges out of the darkness and attacks the front lines of the Winterfell defenses. They attack, washing over the humans like a wave of death. As Brienne is knocked down and saved by Jaime, Dany and Jon swoop in on their dragons and begin strafing the dead with long, concentrated blasts of fire. Jon flies down to attack the white walker generals but a sudden blizzard envelopes him, chasing the dragons away.
Arya gives Sansa a dragonglass dagger— “stick them with the pointy end”—and sends her down to the crypts. Sam, Brienne and Jamie continue to fight as Edd is stabbed from behind and killed. In the crypts, Sansa joins Tyrion, Missandei and Lord Varys.
Notes: Arya’s instructions to Sansa are the same words Jon used when he gave Needle to Arya in S01E01.
Many of the defenders fall back into the castle as Grey Worm and the Unsullied protect them. Jon searches for Dany and lands on a castle wall. The Unsullied fall back to the trench and Grey Worm signals for it to be set alight, but Dany and Jon cannot see the signal. Archers with flaming arrows also can’t get the fire going in the blizzard. Melisandre walks out and uses her magic to light the trenches, sending a row of fire racing around and circling Winterfell. Suddenly, the dead halt their attack, standing silently back from the ring of fire.
In the crypt, Sansa and the others await word of what’s happening above. In the Godswood, Bran wargs into crows and searches for the Night King, finding him hovering above the battle on his dragon mount. The Night King orders the dead to start throwing themselves on the flaming trench to extinguish the flames. As they do, parts of the trench become passable—and the dead begin their assault on the castle walls proper.
Quotes: Sansa Stark: “It's the most heroic thing we can do now. Look the truth in the face.”
“Man the Walls”
The dead attack Winterfell, streaming through the gaps in the burning trench. Jon sees the Night King and flies up to meet HM. Archers shoot at the dead as Jaimie, Arya, Grey Worm, Ser Jorah, Tormund, Gendry and others climb the battlements as the dead come over the top. The Hound hides from the flames and undead, but Arya uses her double-ended dragonglass spear to take out dozens of undead. Beric yells at The Hound to get back in the fight.
An undead giant bursts through the gates, knocking down Lady Lyanna Mormont. Arya is overwhelmed, losing her spear, but The Hound races to help her. Lyanna attacks the giant and is crushed in his hand, but not before stabbing him through the eye, destroying him.
In the skies above Winterfell, the Night King attacks Dany and Jon, spraying blue flames at them. Jon and Dany dive for the ground.
Notes: The dead climb the walls of Winterfell by climbing up each other like undead ladders, much in the style of the zombies in “World War Z.”
In the Castle
Arya, re-arming herself, sneaks through the castle, avoiding the dead and hiding in the library. Undead enter, quietly searching for any living, and Arya uses her stealth to avoid them. The Hound and Beric Dondarrion also move though the castle quietly, avoiding the throngs of dead and saving Arya. Beric falls back to protect them and is stabbed over and over.
They all barricade themselves in a room as Beric dies. Melisandre says that the Lord of Light brought him back for a purpose: to save Arya. The Red Priestess reminds Arya that she would “shut many eyes” and repeats the words of Syrio Forel: “What do we say to the god of death?” Arya answers: “not today.” Arya races off into the castle to fulfill her destiny.
The Night King swoops down.
Notes: Syrio Forel was Arya’s sword and water dancing instructor in S01E08.
In the Godswood, the dead invade and the Ironborn fight back. Above, the Night King swoops down, strafing the walls with blue fire. Jon swoops down and attacks, with the dragons fighting and biting at each other. The Night King is knocked from his mount and falls to the ground. Jon also lands and makes his way after the Night King, who approaches the walls of Winterfell.
Dany watches from above and targets the Night King with a pall of dragon fire—but it has no effect. Jon runs up behind him, preparing to fight him alone, but the Night King has other plans and puts his hands out, RAISING more dead to fight for him. Dothraki and Northmen and Unsullied rise to block Jon’s path. Inside the castle, all of the dead star standing back up to continue the fight, including Dolorous Edd and Lady Lynna Mormont. The Night King turns away as Jon fights the undead around him, and the white walker generals enter the castle.
And, in the crypts below, the Stark ancestral dead begin to rise, breaking out of their crypts and attacking the living. Sansa and Tyrion hide, avoiding the slaughter. Arming themselves, they turn to fight.
Jon fights for his life as Dany swoops in, dousing the undead with dragonfire. Landing, she and Drogon are attacked by dozens of undead, climbing on the dragon and stabbing at it. Dany falls as Drogon takes to the air, shaking the undead off of her. Dany is surrounded and Ser Jorah Mormont appears, protecting her. Theon defends Bran but soon he is the last of the Ironborn.
Jon fights his way through the castle, passing Samwell and Grey Worm and Brienne as they fight for their lives. The dead attack from all directions. Jon is cornered by Viserion and hides to avoid the blue flame, unable to get to the Godswood.
Theon, barely standing, sees the Night King approach. Bran tells Theon he’s a “good man,” and Theon attacks the Night King, dying in the process. The Night King enters the Godswood. Jorah is struck down defending Dany, stabbed over and over. Jaime and Samwell and Brienne are overwhelmed.
The Night King approaches Bran’s chair, reaching for his sword—when ARYA leaps out of the darkness. The Night King catches her, trapping her arm—but she drops the dagger into her other hand and STABS the Night King, destroying him. Around them, the entire Army of the Dead disintegrates, including Viserion and all the newly-reanimated Winterfell defenders.
Notes: Arya kills the Night King in very nearly the same spot where Bran gave her the Valyrian dagger in S07E04.
As the sun begins to rise, the others look around in wonderment as the dead fall to the ground. Jorah Mormont is dead, along with many others. Ser Davos watches as Melisandre walks from the castle, taking off her necklace and falling to the ground, rapidly aging and then turning to dust.
Notes: Her “Lord of Light” necklace gives her long life. Without it, she ages and dies. This was last seen at Castle Black in S06E01, when she removed the necklace after raising Jon Snow from the dead.
Another amazing battle at Winterfell, this episode represents the culmination of eight seasons of the growing war with the Night King and the white walkers. And although the battle sequences were amazing, I have to say I’m a little disappointed that it’s all over just like that. Now it’s back to our previously scheduled program: humans squabbling over who gets to sit in a VERY special chair. Right?
The lead-up to the battle was great, with more people getting prepared for the approaching Army of the Dead. But since we already had a WHOLE episode of preparation, I felt like this wasn’t needed. The long tracking shot of Sam, Lyanna, Bran and Theon was well done, as the camera sweeps through Winterfell in one unbroken shot, but it felt like more wasted time.
Melisandre and her “lighting the weapons” magic was fun—it was nice to see her ride out of the darkness, one of the few complete surprises on this episode. And the way the battle begins, with the Dothraki racing into the darkness and then all their flames going out, was creepy and unsettling.
Then the bad guys attack and it’s all one long fight scene, under lit and hard to see anything. I am guessing the director was going for a “fog of war”/ “hey, wait, I can’t see anything” moment of confusion to make the viewers feel just as scared as those actually fighting the war, but the darkness became more frustrating when the Night King unleashed a blizzard to blind the dragons. Great, now I REALLY can’t see what’s going on. This led to a whole series of videos being posted online where people had turned up the brightness to see what’s really going on. Just a piece of advice—if you film it, show it to us.
One reviewer noted the considerable similarities between this battle and the attack on Helm’s Deep in the Lord of the Rings The Two Towers. This online reviewer compared the two scenes, cutting back and forth between footage, and it made it very clear just how murky and frustrating the Game of Thrones footage was. While the Helm’s Deep battle ALSO took place at night and in bad weather conditions, you could still see what was going on and stay involved in the action. You could track the major characters, follow the movements of the enemy, and understand when the battle turned to one side’s advantage.
Game of Thrones? Not so much. There were several scenes where I couldn’t tell at all what was happening, and others where I could see people fighting but I couldn’t tell who they were. If you want us to root for people, show us those people.
The battle goes as expected: the humans are getting destroyed in a rout. All their careful planning is pointless in the face of such huge numbers. The enemy is relentless, doesn’t feel pain, doesn’t get tired, and doesn’t care if it dies. At one point, the Night King orders the dead to throw themselves into the fire trench to make a bridge for others to pass over. Try getting people to do that.
I also disagree with Dany and Jon’s decision to hold back the dragons. If you have an enemy that’s vulnerable to only one thing—fire—you need to be out there using it. They needed more trenches, more fire, and the dragons strafing for the whole battle instead of diving in here and there. That would force the Night King to attack them, then they could retreat to the Godswood and Bran. I felt like the dragons were underused, although thankfully with all their flames, I could see the battle!
Arya had a few great moments in here, recalling a lot of her training. She swung the spear just like in her battles with the Waif, moved silently, stayed calm in the face of death, and scrambled her way to safety. In the end, though, it was Beric and Melisandre that allowed her to be in the right place at the right time. I loved that final struggle with the Night King—her dropping the knife into her other hand, the killing blow, was seen before: she did that same move while sparring with Brienne in the Winterfell courtyard. Very cool.
So, where do we go from here? I’m assuming it’s on to King’s Landing and Cersei. But like I said, it all feels like a big letdown. I loved the white walkers and the Night King and their overarching threat to all of mankind. I hope we get a few more answers over the next three episodes (what did the Night King want other than domination, why did the white walkers favor spiral patterns, how much was the Lord of Light and his followers responsible for the Night King’s defeat, and will the Night King or Children of the Forest return) but I’m not holding my breath. At this point, it all just feels like a race to the finish, plot arcs, foreshadowing and character development be damned.
The title refers to the long nighttime battle that must be fought to save the world of man. It also clearly notes the concept of the “Long Night,” a period of time in Westeros history that lasted a generation , when the dead last attacked humanity. And if you’re a fan of the show’s music, the nearly-nine-minute “The Night King” track is a haunting reminder of why Ramin Djawadi is such a gifted composer.
Nudity and Violence:
Battle—The entire battle sequence has blood and gore throughout
NOTE: All sites accessed on accessed May 22, 2019.
Game of Thrones Wiki, several pages. http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Game_of_Thrones_Wiki
HBO Game of Thrones synopsis. http://www.gameofthrones.com/game-of-thrones/season-8/episode-3
New Rockstars, “Game of Thrones 8x03 Breakdown.” https://youtu.be/JgGfqiL3ZHA
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