Game of Thrones season 8 episode 3 — the Battle of Winterfell — was a rather dark tale. Literally. It may have been hard for you to confirm who was still standing, who went down, who sounded like they were dying but didn’t, and what exactly happened to those who did.
Astonishingly, given the show’s pathological need to wipe out named characters without warning, very few bought the farm. Of those who did, some would be considered major characters, others considered fan favorites, but no one was really both. So here, in order of importance, are the casualties from the Battle of Winterfell.
[Ed. note: This post contains major spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8 episode 3, “The Long Night.”]
The Night King
What is dead may, in fact, die: The Night King was originally one of the First Men, and he was created by the Children of the Forest in one of the all-time worst decisions a people have ever made in the name of self-preservation, enchanted or otherwise. His presence has been felt over Westeros since time immemorial, but he isn’t seen until season 4, when he is revealed to be a kind of Aqua Velva Darth Maul, but not as talkative. The Night King creates the White Walkers from Craster’s babies; he raises every dead thing at Hardhome in the show’s biggest officially-not-messing-around moment; he chucks a lawn dart through Viserion the dragon’s neck and then reanimates him, too. He is the incarnation of the existential threat facing all humans in Westeros.
Cause and manner of death: True to Bran Stark’s calculations, the Night King sought Bran out in the Godswood in order to annihilate the memory of human civilization. The Night King survived just about everything else directed at him, including a full-on roasting from Drogon. But in the Godswood, approaching Bran and attempting to pull out his sword, he is attacked from behind by Arya. At first seizing Arya by the throat, he is destroyed when she plunges her Valyrian steel dagger — the one meant to kill Bran in season 1 — into the exact spot where the Children of the Forest slid their dragonglass to create him.
Significance: Well, he was the biggest of the bads, and when he turned to slush, so did the White Walkers and everything they’d reanimated, ending an eons-long threat to all of humanity. That’s rather significant. It’s also significantly anticlimactic, as what would ordinarily be a series finale boss battle now focuses attention on how Jon, Dany, Sansa, Cersei, Jaime, et al. coexist, if they can at all. But at least the Night King isn’t interrupting our intrigue, incest, and bastardy anymore.
Actor now looking for work: Vladimir Furdik
Iron from ice: Theon was the vessel for Game of Thrones’ undercurrent of redemption (Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, still living, a distant second place). As the Starks are headed off to throw down with the Lannisters, Theon decides it’s a good time to make it all about him. He sets in motion a series of shameful overreaches and crimes against his adoptive family, which lands him in the torture chambers of the repulsive Ramsay Snow. Though an emasculated and tormented wretch, he step-by-step atones for his atrocities, beginning with the rescue of Sansa Stark from Ramsay’s clutches. He ends up in Winterfell, where he belongs, instead of in his birth home on the Iron Islands.
Cause and manner of death: Theon and his men volunteer to guard Bran, who is sitting as bait out in the Godswood. Theon protects Bran as he wargs into a flock of ravens to find the Night King, somehow felling all of the wights with a poleax before the Night King and his posse ride up. Bran forgives Theon, tells him he is a good man, and thanks him; thus redeemed, Theon charges the Night King, who sidesteps his pike and runs him through with it.
Significance: Theon is effectively a Stark, having lived with that family since being taken from his hateful father as the ward of Ned Stark for the Ironborn’s rebellion against Robert Baratheon. His betrayal dates to season 1, when he turned against Robb Stark, who had been like a brother to him. So his redemption has been a long time coming and, though somewhat formulaic, it was justly awarded.
Actor now looking for work: Alfie Allen
There is a beast in every man: Jorah was the protector of Daenerys Targaryen, whose love for the Mother of Dragons was largely unrequited, until he was banished. Jorah had been spying on her for Lord Varys, but became enthralled with Dany’s power and cult of personality. Jorah himself had been exiled for selling poachers into slavery, leading him to the Free Cities and ultimately Dany as her brother arranges her marriage to Khal Drogo.
Jorah is the son of Jeor Mormont, the 997th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and theolder cousin of Lady Lyanna Mormont. Jorah dies despite wielding a Valyrian steel sword, though it is not his family’s Longclaw, which Jeor gave to Jon Snow. Last week, Samwell Tarly gave him Heartsbane, the massive family heirloom of House Tarly.
Cause and manner of death: It looked like Jorah might actually survive. He goes down fighting at the end, suffering multiple wounds to his side, including a rather grave one on his left. Yet he is still able to stand to make one last defense. He succumbs to his wounds, in Dany’s arms, at the end of the battle.
Significance: Like Theon, Jorah Mormont goes back to the first episode of Game of Thrones’ first season. His obvious and unrequited love for Dany has given him many disappointments, the latest of which was being passed over for Tyrion Lannister as Hand of the Queen. But he no doubt got the death he would have chosen, protecting his beloved.
Actor now looking for work: Iain Glen
The night is dark and full of terrors: Melisandre was the religious zealot priestess at the center of two of the show’s most hideous and atrocious crimes: birthing the shadow (in front of a repulsed Davos) that killed Renly Baratheon, and having Stannis Baratheon’s greyscaled daughter, Shireen, burned at the stake as a battle sacrifice, which backfires horribly. She resurrects Jon Snow, but that is a drop in the bucket against what she must atone for.
Cause and manner of death: Early on, Melisandre tells Davos not to execute her; she’ll be “dead before the dawn.” And she’s right. Melisandre lights the Dothraki’s swords, and then sets the defensive trench around Winterfell ablaze. Both acts, dramatic and inspiring, are still overrun by the dead horde. She gets the most peaceful death, however. With the dawn coming up in the distance after the battle, she walks out of Winterfell, removes her necklace, reverts to her true form as a frail old woman, and succumbs to the winter.
Significance: Despite her warped priorities and repellent blood magic, the Red Woman is an indispensable participant in the Battle of Winterfell. Her actions, be they mistakes or repentance, drive a lot of the story to its major turning points. She was the devil on Stannis Baratheon’s shoulder, after all, and if she wooed him to his doom, he had to be taken there so that the larger Stark/Targaryen/Lannister triangle could be resolved.
Actor now looking for work: Carice van Houten
Edd’s dead, baby: “Dolorous Edd” is a man of the Night’s Watch, and was part of Jon Snow’s class of rangers when he went to the Wall back in season 2. Despite (or perhaps because of) the pessimism that gives him his nickname, Edd survives a hellish tour north of the Wall, including the White Walkers’ assault on the Fist of the First Men, the mutiny at Craster’s Keep, the Battle of Castle Black, and, of course, Hardhome. He is made the 999th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch by Jon Snow when Jon departs for the Battle of the Bastards. With Edd’s death, the Night’s Watch is officially no more.
Cause and manner of death: Edd was the first named character to go. On the front lines of battle, with Sam, of course, Edd saves Sam’s bacon again (of course) and is rewarded with a blade through his back and out his front.
Significance: Edd was a supporting character, but a sentimental favorite for many. He and Sam Tarly are Jon’s best friends on the Night’s Watch, and his ability to survive, only to be miserable with whatever duty he handles next, makes him endearing. Edd exemplifies the late David Halberstam’s characterization of baseball icon Roger Maris: “Constantly griping, constantly irritable and yet surprisingly tough and good at everything to which they were assigned.”
Actor now looking for work: Ben Crompton
The cat with seven lives: If you’re bad with names, this is the dude with the eye patch and the flaming sword — he leads the Brotherhood Without Banners, the guerrilla fighters who pick up the Hound in season 6. Beric has already died six times, revived each time by Thoros of Myr (who bought the farm last season). Tonight made lucky demise No. 7 for Beric.
Cause and manner of death: Beric is overrun by the dead, stabbed multiple times, as he holds them off so that Arya and the Hound could make it to safety inside the castle at Winterfell. Melisandre later said that the Lord of Light brought Beric back so that he could serve this purpose. And of course, it’s Arya who goes on to take down the Night King.
Significance: Beric is more than a minor character, but definitely not a major character. While he may lead the Brotherhood Without Banners, the Hound is its most important member. Probably because he’d died so many times, Beric was cheerfully fatalistic, but not careless. Without Thoros to bail him out again, though, he probably knew his time was coming at Winterfell.
Actor now looking for work: Richard Dormer
A ferocious lady: Lyanna Mormont is the precocious, take-no-shit Lady of Bear Island and the head of House Mormont. You likely remember her from season 6, for hauling off on three noble houses for not heeding the Starks’ call to arms, and for proclaiming Jon the new King in the North. Lyanna takes House Mormont’s obligations, particularly as bannermen to the Starks, very seriously. By season 8, she had emerged from a fun little novelty at war councils into a duly respected figure of political bearing. Lyanna, who was present for the coin toss at the Battle of the Bastards but didn’t fight, insisted on joining the fray for round two at Winterfell.
Cause and manner of death: Give it to the little lady, she went down fighting like 10 of her people a lot older than her 13 years. Lady Mormont orders open the Winterfell gates to accept the retreat, but soon the keep is breached by waves of the dead. A reanimated giant, Wun Wun, busts through a wall and begins wreaking havoc, knocking Lyanna aside. When she arises and charges him armed with a dragonglass blade, he seizes her bodily; she is crushed to death in his hand, but first she plunges the dragonglass in his one remaining eye, ending the threat.
Significance: Lyanna Mormont is a minor character but a widely liked one, for how she puts powerful adults on their heels and commands the respect they’d show to someone twice or three times her age. “If they’re half as ferocious as their lady, the Boltons are doomed,” Ser Davos Seaworth observed of the 62 Bear Islanders pledged to fight for Jon in season 6. And they were. But with Jorah’s death following hers, House Mormont is officially extinct.
Actor now looking for work: Bella Ramsey
Wait, did these folks actually not die?
Nope: Ser Brienne of Tarth looked like she got overrun, and sure grunted like she was going down swinging, but she appears to have lived. Bettors who had Grey Worm in their death pool took a really bad beat, as he was the odds-on favorite to die, and was even at the front lines for the army of the dead’s onslaught. Jaime Lannister and Tormund Giantsbane, dark-horse candidates to meet the reaper, also came through intact. And despite what everyone thought about the Winterfell crypts being a great place for an undead sneak attack, Missandei, Varys, Gilly, Sansa and Tyrion all escaped unharmed when dead Starks began clawing out of their sarcophagi.