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The biggest questions after the Battle of Winterfell

Night King Schmight Schming, amirite?

The ice dragon letting loose on Game of Thrones.
The ice dragon letting loose on Game of Thrones.

Every episode of the final season of Game of Thrones has been a wild ride, but this week’s “The Long Night,” which featured the much-anticipated Battle of Winterfell, was particularly noteworthy (even if you couldn’t see most of it).

The 82-minute action sequence put finale-worthy battle fodder smack dab in the middle of Thrones’ six-episode run. There were dragons, there were White Walkers, there were major character deaths, there was just the right amount of tension between Dany and Jon Snow, and Tyrion even found room for a joke.

[Ed. note: This post contains major spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8, episode 3, “The Long Night.”]

At the end of “The Long Night,” it almost feels like we’re getting two mini-seasons; the question of how our heroes would deal with the oncoming natural disaster has been answered, and now we have the politics of the realm to wrap up.

The chaos of battle, however, also means that we need some more micro-level questions answered. A lot happened, including Arya pulling off one of the most “wow, yes, she is That Bitch” moments in anything, ever, and an entire Fantasia-style sky interlude with all three dragons. (Okay, it wasn’t as chill as Fantasia is, but still.)

Now that the dust has settled and the bodies have begun being laid to rest, it’s time to take stock of what we know — or rather, the biggest questions leading into the back half of the season. If this is the halfway mark, things are only going to get a lot hairier from here on out.

Who died?

In a pretty surprising twist of events, not as many people as you’d think! Obviously, a lot of soldiers have kicked the bucket, but as far as the good guys are concerned, the names to know are Dolorous Edd, Lyanna and Jorah Mormont, Beric Dondarrion, Theon Greyjoy, and Melisandre.

And, of course, R.I.P. the Night King, plus all of his White Walker minions and wights.

What the heck was that giant storm?

At the beginning of the episode, as soon as Dany and Jon bring the dragons out to play, a giant storm rises up behind the White Walkers that, as best I can describe, is like if The Day After Tomorrow and the big dust storm in Mad Max: Fury Road had a baby. What was that about? Can the Night King control the weather? What was that?

What happens now that the Night King is dead?

Game of Thrones’ Big Bad is no more! The threat of winter has been a shadow over the series ever since its beginning — “winter is coming,” hello — with the Night King essentially serving as that bad end’s physical manifestation. Well, he’s shattered into so many ice cubes after six and a half seasons, which leaves a big, villain-shaped hole in the series.

Presumably it’s Cersei who’s now going to serve as the series’ primary antagonist, but let’s not forget that there’s some tension between Dany and Jon, too. He’s got a more legitimate claim to the Iron Throne than she does, and she’s not particularly happy about it.

What is Bran going to do?

Like Voldemort and Harry Potter, the deal with Bran and the Night King was that neither can live while the other survives. Apart from the question of exactly what Bran was doing during the battle besides just keeping tabs on everyone by warging into a raven, it’s worth wondering what he’s going to do now that he doesn’t have a counterbalance — especially since we’ve all kind of been theorizing that he was going to die.


Does nobody care about Ghost? Ghost has kind of just ... been hanging around. But unlike in the last episode, he’s actually featured pretty prominently in “The Long Night,” charging into battle by Jorah’s side.

But then, he disappears again! Where is he? What’s going on with Ghost? Does Jon even care about his direwolf anymore?

What happened to Melisandre?

Like Gendry, Melisandre just went away a while, and her reappearance at Winterfell at the top of the episode was a pretty big surprise. More surprising still is what she tells Davos: “There’s no need to execute me, Ser Davos. I’ll be dead before the dawn.” As per her conversations with, uh, everyone she comes across in this episode, her prophecies have been pretty uncanny.

Indeed, as the episode ends, Melisandre walks out of Winterfell, shedding her cape and her jewelry, and as the morning sun rises, her hair turns white, and she falls dead as her body turns to dust. Melisandre’s magic has finally worn off — she’s played the last of her role in shepherding the affairs of the dead and the living.

Was the ice dragon biting off Jon’s cape a reference to The Incredibles?

I mean, it’s not for me to say, but it is kind of funny.

Where have I seen Arya’s dagger move before?

If the trick Arya uses to dispatch the Night King seems familiar to you, it’s because she pulled a pretty similar switcheroo in her sparring with Brienne in season 7. That said, it’s also pretty close to the move T’Challa uses in Black Panther to kill Killmonger. Also neither here nor there as a question, but still, to quote one member of the Polygon staff, it was “the most baller-ass shit I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”

Are Dany’s dragons still alive?

Good news: Drogon and Rhaegal are fine! They took a beating from ice-Viserion, but both of ’em are flying around in the preview for episode 4.

Why is the Night King immune to dragon fire? Is he linked to the Targaryens?

One of the big surprises of “The Long Night” was seeing the Night King survive being blasted by dragon fire. So far, the only people shown to be impervious to fire are Dany and the White Walkers, but that doesn’t mean they’re linked. The Night King predates the Targaryens — the thing keeping him in one piece post-fire is just some cold, eldritch magic.

Is Jon impervious to fire?

Jon, as we now know, has Targaryen blood in his veins, but it’s not likely he’d have survived the same kind of attack as the Night King. We saw him get burned all the way back in season 1 while facing off against wights. Maybe he’s impervious to dragon fire, just not regular fire, but we have yet to see any proof of that.

How many soldiers are left in the North’s army?

The Battle of Winterfell feels like a pyrrhic victory, as a whole lot of soldiers died before Arya managed to take out the Night King. The troops are looking kind of thin in the preview for next week, but it remains to be seen just how much harder it’s going to be to take on Cersei with depleted forces.

What’s the deal with Azor Ahai?

For pretty much as long as she’s been on the show, Melisandre has been looking for the Prince Who Was Promised. The Prince is the reincarnation of Azor Ahai, the hero of legend who ended the Long Night the first time it happened. The prophecy that Melisandre and other followers of the Lord of Light have been following goes as such:

There will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.

For a while, Melisandre thought Azor Ahai had been reincarnated in Stannis Baratheon, but that’s obviously not the case. Arya is in fact the one to bring about the Night King’s end, and she uses a Valyrian steel dagger to do the deed.

That said, Melisandre’s prophecy all the way back in season 3 — that Arya would become a killer (specifically noting that she would shut many “blue eyes,” like, for instance, those of the Night King) — was right, as was the prediction that the Lord of Light had brought Beric Dondarrion back to life so many times for a purpose, i.e., to save Arya’s life, so that she could save the world.



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