The first two episodes in Game of Thrones season 8 were about talking. The third episode, “The Long Night,” is about action. Let’s walk through the dark together to notice what you might have missed.
The calm before the storm
“The Long Night” begins with a tight shot on Samwell Tarly trembling hands. He is not a fighter, but he is ready and willing to join the battle. Someone hands Sam two dragonglass daggers, and he walks into the Winterfell courtyard, where he passes he passes Lyanna Mormont who’s rallying her troops. He passes Tyrion Lannister, too.
Tyrion looks grim, which, you know, is appropriate. He walks up to a table and grabs not weapons but flasks filled with booze. As we know from a previous episode, Dany said that his place is in the Winterfell crypt, not on the battlefield.
A group of Ironborn soldiers passes Tyrion. At the front of the line, Theon Greyjoy pushes Brandon Stark/the Three-Eyed Raven on his wheelchair.
On the Winterfell wall, we see Ser Davos Seaworth, better known as the Onion Knight. His job, as we know from a previous episode, will be to send a signal to light a trench surrounding Winterfell.
Sansa and Arya Stark stand on the wall, too, looking over the battlefield. Overhead, two dragons fly, carrying Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, or Aegon Targaryen, depending on how you want to look at it.
On the battlefield, Grey Worm and his Unsullied soldiers stand behind Dothraki warriors, who are mounted on horses.
Nobody says a word. They just stare into the black distance, where the army of the dead will come from soon.
Behind the Dothraki are various types of catapults and trebuchets.
Behind those, Ser Brienne of Tarth stands in silence next to Podrick Payne, who we saw training in the previous episode. Next to Brienne stands Jaime Lannister. Lord Beric Dondarrion, the man with the eye patch who’s died many times, stands next to Tormund Giantsbane, he of giant’s breast milk fame.
Sandor Clegane, aka the Hound, walks his way to the frontline (which is technically behind the Dothraki). He stands next to Robert Baratheon’s bastard, Gendry the blacksmith, who’s standing next to Eddison Tollett, an old friend of Jon and Sam, who once commanded the Night’s Watch, back when there was a night to watch for and a solid wall to defend.
Sam bumbles his way to the frontline and looks nervously at Edd.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Edd says to Sam. “You took your time.”
We see Jorah Mormont mounted on a horse next to Jon’s direwolf, Ghost.
On a plateau miles away from and above Winterfell, Dany and Jon look down on the tens of thousands of troops gathered.
The Lord of Light enters the fight
Out of the darkness, a lone rider approaches Jorah on horseback. It is Melisandre, the Red Woman, a Red Priestess who serves the Lord of Light, R’hllor. Since she first arrived in season 2, she’s been talking about a few things: an ancient battle between darkness and light, an upcoming war between the forces of each, and the (re)appearance of Azor Ahai, The Prince That Was Promised, who once defeated the darkness and will return to victory again.
It is no surprise, in other words, that Melisandre arrives at Winterfell at the precipice of war. She’s lived hundreds of years and done strange and terrible things in preparation for this moment.
“Do you speak their tongue?” Melisandre asks Jorah. He nods. “Tell them to lift their swords.” He does.
She approaches a Dothraki and grabs his curved blade with both hands. She chants or prays ancient High Valyrian words over and over. The sword of every Dothraki soldier ignites.
From his perch on the Winterfell wall, Davos sees this happen. They have a history. Davos used to serve Stannis Baratheon, the brother of King Robert Baratheon. Stannis had a daughter, Shireen, who nearly died as an infant when she contracted greyscale. Davos loved Shireen like his own daughter. In what was perhaps the bleakest moment in Game of Thrones’ bleakest season, Melisandre persuades Stannis to sacrifice his daughter to secure victory in an upcoming battle.
For Davos, seeing Melisandre is infinitely difficult. But these are dark times. He calls for someone to open the Winterfell gate and let Melisandre in.
Davos walks down to meet Melisandre.
“There’s no need to execute me, Ser Davos,” she says. “I’ll be dead before the dawn.”
Melisandre walks past Davos and look up at the wall. She sees Arya, who she hasn’t seen since season 3. They stare at each other for a moment, and then Arya breaks their line of sight.
The last they spoke was way back in season 3, and Melisandre had some interesting things to say.
“I see a darkness in you,” Melisandre said as she took Arya by the cheeks. “And in that darkness, eyes staring back at me. Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes you’ll shut forever. We will meet again.”
The dead are already here
The Dothraki army cries war chants, holds flaming swords aloft, and rides into the darkness. Jorah and Ghost ride side-by-side. Everyone watches from a distance as the fire illuminates the darkness.
Unsullied soldiers light the boulders in the catapults and trebuchets. They fire into the darkness ahead of the charging, whooping Dothraki.
The trembling hoofbeats and cries go silent. One by one, the flames go out. It didn’t take a minute to remove the mighty and fearless Dothraki army from the battlefield.
A few horses run back to the frontline. Jorah arrives on horseback, bloodied.
From her perch on the plateau, Dany turns away from the new darkness. Jon grabs her arm to stop her.
“The Night King is coming,” he says.
“The dead are already here,” she says.
This was not the plan. They’re supposed to wait. But Dany changes her mind, breaks free of Jon’s grip, and mounts her dragon.
The ground shakes as the army of the dead charges toward Winterfell. They are legion.
A group of zombies pins Brienne down. Jaime comes to her rescue, but he pauses as the battlefield ignites. It’s Dany on her dragon, roasting the army of the dead. Now Jon is there, too.
Dany and Jon look down, far away from Winterfell, where they see the evil dead’s leadership. They fly toward them, but before they can get there, a ferocious winter storm overtakes them. It’s as high as the heavens and heading south, toward the battle at Winterfell.
“Get down to the crypt,” Arya tells Sansa.
“I’m not abandoning my people,” Sansa says.
“Take this and go,” Arya says, and hands her a dagger.
“I don’t know how to use it.”
“Stick them with the pointy end,” Arya says, echoing a scene from season 1. When her father discovers her weapon, Needle, he asks if she knows how to use it. That’s her answer then, as it is to Sansa now.
Sansa leaves for the crypt, and Arya readies her bow.
Down on the battlefield, things are bleak and dark. The storm overtakes everyone.
Inside the walls of Winterfell, Bran the Three-Eyed Raven sits in his wheelchair next to the Weirwood tree. He’s surrounded by soldiers tasked with defending him. Nearest to Bran stands Theon Greyjoy.
The fighting continues outside of Winterfell, as the monstrous winter storm obscures all but a few feet in front of everyone. Jorah fight from his horse until he’s knocked off.
Sam gets pinned down, but Edd is there to save him. Sam is stunned. Edd screams at him to get up, helps him to his feat, and dies from a stab wound a moment later.
Eddison Tollett, formerly of the Night’s Watch, is our first well-known casualty. RIP.
Silence in the crypts
As the battle rages outside, mostly women and children take shelter in the Winterfell crypt. Sansa is there. Tyrion is there, drinking from his animal skin flask.
Above the battlefield, Dany and Jon fly their dragons, sometimes into trees. They can’t see anything.
On the ground, Tormund screams the inevitable. “Fall back! Fall back!” Brienne joins in the chorus. Lyanna Mormont gives the order to open the Winterfell gate, and the soldiers run through the bottleneck.
As hundreds stream from the battlefield over the recently constructed trench surrounding Winterfell and into the courtyard, Grey Worm gives an order to the Unsullied: Protect the retreat, and hold you ground.
Dany and Jon land their dragons, looking around for the Night King.
The army of the dead advances on the Unsullied soldiers, who are vastly outnumbered. They stand their ground, but it won’t be enough.
Archers, including Arya, fire from atop the Winterfell walls. The Hound helps the soldiers retreat. Grey Worm stands ready to light the trench’s fire, and watches helplessly as the seemingly infinite forces of evil overrun his men. He knows they’ll soon be doomed.
“Light the trench!” an unnamed soldier screams.
Ser Davos waves two burning logs above his head. This is the signal to close the path from the battlefield into the courtyard.
Grey Worm pulls a rope, sealing the fate of hundreds of brave Unsullied warriors.
The plan now is to have Dany’s dragon ignite the trench, but Ser Davos realizes that Dany can’t see his signal. He screams for the archers to fire into the trench. They do, but the wind and unnatural cold from the storm extinguishes the flames before they can do their job. Before anyone can ignite the trench with a torch, they die.
Grey Worm sees Melisandre. The Unsullied create a safe space for her. She walks to the trench, places her hand on the barricades in the trench, and chants (or prays, maybe) like he did earlier on the Dothraki swords.
It’s not working. People are dying everywhere. Her voice quivers.
The trench ignites. Dany and Jon see it from above.
The Hound looks past the fire to the halted army of the dead. He retreats, ignoring Beric who calls his name. He’s incredibly afraid of fire, given that his brother tossed him into one when he was a kid.
Varys, Tyrion, Sansa, and Missandei in the crypt
Back in the crypt, the huddled masses wait in silence (until Varys breaks it).
“At least we’re already in a crypt,” he says with a resigned sigh.
“If we were up there,” Tyrion says, “we might see something everyone else is missing. Something that makes a difference.”
Varys is dubious.
“If I was out there right now,” Tyrion says.
“You’d die,” Sansa says. “There’s nothing you can do.”
“You might be surprised at the lengths I’d go to avoid joining the Army of the Dead. I could think of no organization less suited to my talents.”
“Witty remarks won’t make a difference. That’s why we’re down here, none of us can do anything. It’s the truth. It’s the most heroic thing we can do now look the truth in the face.”
“Maybe we should have stayed married.”
“You were the best of them.”
“What a terrifying thought.”
“It wouldn’t work between us.”
“The Dragon Queen. Your divided loyalties would become a problem.”
“Yes,” Missandei says. “Without the Dragon Queen, there’d be no problem at all. We’d all be dead already.” She walks away with more than a little disgust.
Bran and Theon by the Weirwood tree
“They lit the trench,” Bran says to Theon.
“Bran,” Theon says. “I just want you to know — I wish — The things I did —”
“Everything you did brought you where you are now. Where you belong. Home.”
Theon swallows hard, knowing the truth of that statement. He may be a Greyjoy. Eddard Stark may have “kidnapped” him and raised him in Winterfell alongside his children. His loyalties may have once been divided. But not now. Not anymore.
“I’m going to go now,” Bran says.
Bran’s eyes roll into the back of his head, and he takes flight as a flock of ravens over the battlefield. There he does something that Dany and Jon couldn’t: He finds the Night King.
Man the wall
From his perch on a dragon, the Night King holds his hand in front of him.
At the frontline of the Army of the Dead, a lone White Walker Wight steps forward and falls into the fire. Another follows him. Then another. And another. Dozens sacrifice themselves to create a path through the flames. It’s happening everywhere, all around the trench.
Arya and Davos watch it happen from atop the wall. Davos gives the order to man the walls, and everyone runs up the stairs to meet the incoming assault. Archers fire, but it does little good.
The Wights start climbing the walls. They reach the top. Their numbers are overwhelming. There are too many of them. They can’t be stopped.
For the second time, Sam is overrun. This time, Jorah saves him. Beric ignites his sword and fights valiantly. Arya uses the custom staff that Gendry designed for her to kill many Wights. Everyone does. Well, almost everyone.
The Hound is paralyzed, breathing heavy, and leaning against a wall away from the battle. Beric calls to him, but he doesn’t answer.
Arya runs inside, but she’s soon vastly outnumbered.
An undead giant breaks through the Winterfell gate.
“Clegane,” Beric screams at the Hound. “Clegane, we need you!”
“Fuck off!” the Hound says. “We can’t beat them. Don’t you see that, you stupid whore? We’re fighting Death! They can’t beat Death.”
“Tell her that,” Beric says and they look at Arya.
The Hound snaps out of it and runs after her.
Lyanna and the giant in the courtyard
Lyanna Mormont charges the decomposing giant zombie, but he catches her in his skeletal hand. He lifts her up. Her bones snap as he squeezes her tiny body. She’s bleeding from the mouth. She has one last thing to do.
They fall together, defeated. RIP Lyanna Mormont, Lady of Bear Island, head of House Mormont, indomitable badass.
Dany, Jon, and the Night King above the clouds
Above the battlefield, Dany and Jon search for the Night King, but he finds them before they find him. His dragon chases Dany, spewing blue flames. He disappears again, and they dive down to find him.
Arya is inside Winterfell now. So is the Army of the Dead. She sneaks through rooms, like a stealth season in a Metal Gear game. Arya, alone and without a weapon, breathes heavy and walks lightly, avoiding the zombies.
She makes her way under a table. As blood drips from her face, a Wight hears it. She manages to sneak away before being discovered. The throws a book (classic stealth video game move there) to distract the zombies. She runs, runs into a zombie, knifes it in the throat, and exits the room.
She’s safe for a few seconds, until the zombies crash out into the hallway with her. She does the only thing she can do and runs.
Teela, Varys, and Sansa in the crypt
Back in the crypt, everyone waits in silence. We see the worried looks on Varys’ face. We see the little girl from the previous episode, Teela.
A loud bang startles everyone. There’s nothing they can do, and they all know it. Death is at the door, and they’re helpless.
Sansa stares at the staircase that leads out (and in), holding her breath. The noise quiets down.
Beric and the Hound in the hallways
Beric hold his flaming sword and leads the tiptoeing, tooth-sucking Hound through the Winterfell hallways. They see nothing. They hear nothing. But death is all around them, and they know it.
They hear the muffled sounds of the undead in the distance, and they make their way toward it. A door flies off of its hinges and crashes onto the floor. Arya is pinned under a Wight. Beric tosses his flaming sword at the zombie, and it lands, freeing Arya.
A horde of ravenous undead rushes into the hallway. Beric gets Arya to her feet, but a zombie stabs him in the calf. He pushes her away from them, and she runs to the Hound. He grabs her and tells her to run. And they do.
The zombies catch up to Beric, stabbing him over and over. Arya picks up an ax. The Hound fights off a zombie, and then runs away from a dozen or more who appear in its place down the hall.
Arya kills one of the zombies attacking Beric, but the Hound picks her up and runs away. Beric tries to follow, but the zombies get him. He stands in the hallway in a Christlike pose, distracting the enemies so that his friends can get away. The Wights stab him over and over. He shuffles away.
The three of them make their way into a room and close the door behind them. The Hound barricades the door with a chair and a pew.
Beric falls to the floor, and Arya goes to him. He looks as if he’s about to say something, but before he can, he dies.
RIP Beric Dondarrion, Lord of Blackhaven, head of House Dondarrion, founder of the Brotherhood Without Banners, devotee of the Red God who resurrected him many times because, he believed, he had a destiny to fulfill.
“The Lord brought him back for a purpose,” Melisandre says to Arya. “Now that purpose has been served.”
“I know you,” Arya says.
“And I know you,” Melisandre says.
“You said we’d meet again.”
“And here we are. At the end of the world.”
“You said I’d shut many eyes forever. You were right about that, too.”
“Brown eyes, green eyes, and blue eyes.” Emphasis on blue.
The three of them turn to the door and the zombies behind it.
“What do we say to the God of Death?” Melisandre asks.
“Not today,” Arya answers.
Arya looks at Melisandre and runs away toward her destiny.
Facing off with the Night King
Theon, Bran, and the others are still safe from attack near the Weirwood tree. Bran is still doing his raven thing, for what reasons we don’t know.
Theon hears the sounds of the Wights near them and alerts his men. They ignite their arrows and aim them. Dozens of zombies run in.
Above them, Jon and his dragon attacks the Night King on his dragon. The Night King falls off of his dragon and falls to the earth. Jon and his dragon fall to the ground, too. Dany is still searching the skies.
Jorah hears the call of the dragon from the Winterfell courtyard. Dany hovers over the battlefield. She spots the Night King.
“Dracarys,” she says, and her dragon blasts the Night King with a steady inferno. Jon watches as everything burns. The flames subside. Dany looks down in disbelief.
The Night King shrugs it off with a smile, picks up his sword, and walks toward Winterfell.
Jon chases after him. The Night King hears him approaching, stops, and looks over his shoulder. Jon charges. The Night King raises his hand, and the thousands of dead who, moments ago, fought against the Army of the Dead, come back to life.
It’s happening everywhere and to everyone, as our friends fighting in the Winterfell courtyard see. Lyanna Mormont wakes up undead. Eddison Tollett wakes up undead.
The troops advance on Jon as the Night King walks away toward Winterfell — toward Bran.
Inside the Winterfell crypt, Starks dead for ages claw their way out of their tombs.
Theon and his men hold back the advancing zombies, as Bran chillaxes in his wheelchair.
Jon fights off the undead, until Dany and her dragon clear a path with fire. He runs past the dead (again) soldiers into Winterfell. As he does, the dead that Dany didn’t kill overwhelm her dragon. She falls off. Her dragon flies into the air, flaps his wings, and the dead fall to the ground like snowflakes. But they’re still alive. One charges Dany, but Jorah beheads it.
Jon fights his way into the WInterfell courtyard. Sam is overwhelmed for a third time. Grey Worm fights. Brienne fights. Jon fights his way inside. The dead are everywhere. He makes his way into an inner room and closes a door behind him.
Theon and his men run out of arrows. He switches to a spear. Bran’s just hanging out.
Jorah defends Dany.
Down in the crypt, the undead Starks claim victims. Sansa and Tyrion take shelter behind a large tomb. She’s breathing heavily, looking away from the action. Tyrion can’t help but watch. He turns to her, and they exchange a look of infinite sadness. Sansa takes out the dagger that Arya gave her. Tyrion takes out his dagger.
Tyrion grabs Sansa’s hand and kisses it. He takes a deep breath and moves out.
Jon makes his way to the courtyard, and the bad dragon arrives to spew blue fire everywhere.
Dany and Jorah fight off zombies.
Those who haven’t died yet run from the crypt. Varys keeps Teela company.
Jon makes his way into the courtyard, but he’s overwhelmed and boxed in.
Theon protects Bran with a spear.
The Night King advances.
Jorah takes a bad hit.
Sam is on the ground, crying.
Everyone is losing everywhere.
Theon kills everyone. It’s just him and Bran left near the Weirwood tree now. Or is it?
The Night King and his lieutenants arrive.
“Theon,” Bran says when he wakes up, and the Greyjoy turns to look at him. “You’re a good man. Thank you.”
Theon, proud and sad, knows his fate. He holds his spear out, screams, and charges the Night King, who runs him through with his own spear.
RIP Theon Greyjoy, once heir to the Iron Islands, brother of Yara Greyjoy, adopted son of Ned Stark, adopted brother to the Stark children, former castrated and enslaved pet of the unimaginably evil Ramsay Snow, then known as Reek, now a hero of Winterfell.
The Night King walks to Bran.
Jorah gets to his knees and defends Dany. He gets to his feet.
The Night King and Bran stare each other down.
Jon and the evil dragon stare each other down.
The Night King reaches for his sword.
Out of the darkness, Arya stark leaps toward the Night King with a scream. He spins and catches her by the neck. She drops her dagger from her raised left hand to her lower right hand and stabs the Night King. I will forever think of this as the Bucky Barnes move, but Arya did something similar when facing Brienne last season.
The Night King explodes into 10,000 ice shards. The Army of the Dead and the evil dragon follow suit.
Jorah falls to his knees, and then onto his back. Dany cradles him in her arms and weeps.
RIP Jorah Mormont, once heir to House Mormont, who many years ago disgraced himself and became a slaver out of an insanity born of love for a woman, loyal protector of Dany Targaryen, who did not repeat the mistakes himself and this time defended the woman he loved with honor to his dying breath.
Her dragon flies to Dany and uses his wings to surround her in a makeshift hug.
As the storm breaks and dawn arises, Melisandre walks outside of the Winterfell walls and onto the former battlefield. Davos the Onion Knight watches her go.
She removes the necklace that keeps her young, turns into an old woman, and falls, keeping the promise she made at the beginning of the episode.
RIP Melisandre, the Red Woman, who did terrible things in service of the god of light, but departed Winterfell after doing some very good things at the end of all things, and knowing that her mission is now over.
I won’t say that there’s nothing to talk about, but in an episode devoted to action, there isn’t much left. And yet …
The game of thrones continues
I wrote in the first watchthrough that, assuming that humanity beats the dead, there would still be a game of thrones to play. Well, humanity beat the dead. And there’s still a game of thrones to play.
At Winterfell, humanity sacrificed countless thousands of lives to triumph over the White Walkers. We’re halfway through the season. One war down, one war to go.
Cersei’s troops are sitting in the south, full strength and well-rested. Most of the people who would or could stand against her are dead. The mighty Dothraki army is gone. Many of the Unsullied are gone. Many of the warriors from Winterfell’s great Houses are gone.
There’s a victory worthy of celebration. But it came at a staggering price.
There’s still a game of thrones to be played, but Cersei has the upper hand. (At least she doesn’t have dragons, though.)
What the eff, Bran?
Bran announces that he’s going to do something, but by the end of the episode, it seems for all that world like he did nothing other than fly a flock of ravens away from the battle. What gives?
My most optimistic take is that it’ll make sense later, which is why I keep thinking about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Without spoiling anything, there was a moment involving a ship in Captain Marvel that I wasn’t super in love with. But a moment in Endgame made me feel better about it.
Maybe (hopefully), we’re just not privy to whatever Bran did. And maybe (hopefully), we’ll find out the purpose of his white-eyed meditation in the most important battle ever later.