What was billed as the longest battle ever recorded in television and movie history is what fans were given this week for the third episode of Game of Thrones Season 8, ‘The Long Night’. Fortunately, for this season creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have delivered every delicious moment that fans have been eagerly anticipating for the last two years.
The episode quietly begins with barely any dialogue for the first few minutes; instead viewers are treated to long, meaningful shots of every man, woman, child, and direwolf at their post at Winterfell. It is an exquisite moment to see all the beloved characters one last time not knowing who will still be standing at the end of the 82-minute Great War against The Night King (Vladimir Furdik).
With the Dothraki, Unsullied, and Wildlings guarding the outside of Winterfell, patiently waiting for the Undead army to attack, Melisandre (Carice van Houten) rides up out of nowhere, holds on to an arakh from a soldier, speaks some enchanted incantation and the whole army’s weapons light up. They charge off to attack as Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) watch from high above. It is a chill-worthy moment to see their blades light up across the field and then charge out across the darkness (and yes, it is dark – like turn your TV brightness all the way up dark for this episode!) only to disappear and become numbingly quiet. Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) is the lone man seen retreating, and few else after that. A sobering moment to realise this is not going to be an easy battle for the living.
Dani and Jon fly off on their dragons, assisting the front lines by burning everything in their path while Sansa (Sophie Turner) is ordered to the crypts by Arya (Maisie Williams) with the other citizens who cannot fight. Sansa and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) share a little side eye glare between them since Sansa is still not sold on Dani’s true allegiance. Back to the sky, flying so high and with the emerging black and stormy night, the dragon riders miss the signal to light the trenches and once again Melisandre, along with the protection of Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and his Unsullied, speaks the flames alive and creates a stunning fire-moat around Winterfell. Viewers finally see The Night King flying in on his own dragon taking in the scene and making eye contact with Jon Snow.
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With almost a third of the episode gone the battle retreats and moves inside Winterfell with the fierce but tiny Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) guarding the gates. She delivers a most powerful performance in a magnificent David vs Goliath moment that will leave fans applauding through tears. As the undead breach the walls with the Baratheon bastard, Gendry (Joe Dempsie), standing on top waiting for them to climb up and over, the fear is palpable in his face and breath knowing that the dead just keep coming.
Arya shows off her double headed separating spear-staff ending more than her fair share of wights. She becomes trapped in the library moving stealthily in order to not draw more undead than necessary to her. When it seems as though she’s ridiculously outnumbered, The Hound (Rory McCann) with the urging of Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) and his flaming sword of light rip her away to safety where Melisandre awaits to re-state the prophesy that will ultimately make Arya the champion of Winterfell and possibly the whole series.
Dragons battle in the sky between Jon and The Night King with them both ending up bucked off and on the ground. Daenerys still up on Drogon speaks her famous line ‘dracarys’, and Drogon delivers a heaping pile of fire breath on The Night King. It feels like an eternity for the flames to clear and see the undead villain smirking, and fully unharmed. Now only a short distance apart, it looks like a sword fight of the century is about to erupt between he and Jon but instead The Night King raises his arms and doing so elevates a fresh new army between them with the dead soldiers and saunters off leaving Jon to kill yet another army.
Drogon is unable to fight off the wights with Daenerys on his back and she is flung to the ground with Jorah materializing to protect his queen. They fight side by side, and elsewhere Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) do the same. Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Sansa are also together, hiding in the crypts behind a tomb, sharing a moment that is breathlessly poignant, not knowing if they should confess love for each other, or commit some kind of double suicide since doom is imminent because the undead have broken into the crypts and now nowhere is safe.
At Winterfell’s godswood, The Night King approaches with his generals, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) gives Theon (Alfie Allen) the redemption he has desperately wanted his whole life with the affirmation that he is indeed ‘a good man.’ His character comes full circle with defending Bran and the Starks that were his captors and enemy but ultimately his one true family. It appears as though all hope is lost with The Night King face to face with Bran, completely unguarded, vulnerable and out of protection. Fortunately, someone has been training for 10 long years and says, “NOT TODAY!” when asked “What do we say to the god of death?”. Quite possibly the sweetest moment of the whole series, which is saying quite a bit since there is no shortage of amazing scenes in the whole series but especially this last season.
In the end the living are left mourning those that have fallen, which aren’t as many as most would have expected. And with The Night King and his army perished, the final three episodes will now get down to business of who will end up on the Iron Throne and Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.