Game of Thrones: Recap of Season 8 Episode 3 – The Long Night
If you came here to read about me being a fanboy and only gushing about last night’s episode, you’ve come to the wrong place. I liked a lot; All in all, I felt that the direction, production and the acting in the episode was fantastic. It was truly an edge-of-your seat experience, that I thought beautifully captured action, heroic, thriller and horror genres in the span of 82 minutes. But I also felt that, in a way, the episode left a lot to be desired given the wildly high (probably too high to be honest) expectations heading in to the battle. What fell a bit flat for me was the actual story and the writing, which we’ll get into later on.
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You won’t see me complaining about the darkness of the battle; it’s night out, it’s the Long Night (despite it only lasting a few hours), get over it people. I thought Director Miguel Sapochnik (who also was behind Hardhome and the Battle of the Bastards) really made you feel like you were in the battle fighting alongside our heroes and favorite characters with the way the action was shot. To start, we jump into the episode with a fantastic tracking shot that was shot in one clip featuring Sam, Tyrion, Theon, Bran and the Winterfell forces preparing to battle.
As Jorah leads the Dothraki, Unsullied and other forces outside the castle’s fortifications, a lone rider appears and it is Melisandre, who as promised, has come to Winterfell on her final day. She chants a spell that lights every Dothraki’s arakh in flame, which is the beginning of one of my favorite scenes of the episode. The forces charge into the darkness, accompanied by Ghost who we surprisingly do not see for the rest of the episode until the previews for Episode 4. The filming of this scene is fantastic, especially from Jon’s and Dany’s points of view from afar. We were treated to some hope as the Dothraki charged only to have our heroes’ optimism literally extinguished as each arakh slowly getting smothered by the undead army.
And the dead then attack the remaining Winterfell forces. Like a crushing wave, they attack and attack, never tiring, never slowing down. It’s getting ugly for Brienne and Jaime until Dany and Drogon light the place up with some dragonfire. Our first character death occurs out in the battlefield as Dolorous Edd Tollet saves Sam only to be stabbed through the head a moment later.
Elsewhere, Arya tells Sansa to head to the crypts for safety, arming her with a dragonglass blade. I was a bit disappointed later on that we did not see Sansa wielding it in the crypts, but that is the smallest of quibbles. Tyrion tries to convince Sansa that he might be of some use in the battle, but Sansa disagrees and says it’s more heroic to stay in the crypts. They discuss their marriage and Sansa says it won’t work given Jon’s and Dany’s relationship; Missandei defends her Queen, and this political struggle will surely continue in future episodes.
It’s clear that winter has arrived as Jon and Dany are struggling to fly their dragons throughout the battle amidst the fog, snow and storms. The chaos continues on the ground when everyone is forced to retreat back through the trenches and in through the Winterfell gates. Dany can’t see the signal to light up the trench given the weather conditions, but Melisandre’ fire abilities allow her to light it in the nick of time. The engulfed trenches are only a brief reprieve buying them time, as the Night King commands some of his army to lay down on the trenches to act as bridges to the other side.
The undead army continues their attack as they swarm Winterfell’s walls. We see Gendry, Jaime, Brienne, Pod, Jorah all struggle with the masses. Sandor Clegane is clearly struggling with the flames, but he is reinvigorated as Beric points out Arya, running through and whipping some undead ass and the Hound rejoins the fight.
It what is surely a fan favorite scene, an undead Giant rips through the Winterfell courtyard and takes out some Mormont men. Lyanna Mormont, already injured, bravely runs toward the giant in one last hurrah, only to be scooped up, literally crushing her to death. With one last attempt, she stabs it in the eye with dragonglass, as both giant and little girl fall to the ground, dead.
We then go to easily one of the eeriest scenes of the series as Arya is surrounded by the undead in the Winterfell library as she slowly, quietly makes her way around the area. The tension in this scene was palpable and my heart was racing a mile a minute, especially because I am not the world’s biggest fan of jump scares and horror movies, to say the least. She luckily escapes but is followed by a quickly-enclosing horde before she is saved by Beric and the Hound. Beric takes many stabs and collapses as they enter Winterfell’s Great Hall. Melisandre tells Arya that Beric was raised by the Lord of Light for this exact purpose; to keep her safe. As Mel reminds Arya of the prophecy that she will close many eyes for good (including blue ones…and green ones that may refer to Cersei??), Arya runs off for her next victim.
Back in the skies, we see Dany/Drogon and Jon/Rhaegal clawing at the undead Viserion and the Night King. I for one thought Rhaegal was a goner until the E4 previews as Jon lands on the ground, as does the Night King soon after. Daenerys has her one shot of an exposed Night King, unleashing hellfire on him but, as Bran was worried about, dragonfire is useless against him. In a similar reckless endeavor as Jon was in the Battle of the Bastards, he rushes to the Night King on foot. One small problem: he’s already raising the dead. Unsullied, Dothraki, Northern soldiers; Lyanna, Dolorus Edd, all blink open with icy blue eyes as Jon is only a few feet from closing in.
The new wights are attacking everywhere. Jon outside, in the godswood as the Ironborn protect Bran, and even in the crypts where the women and children have just entered in to a horror situation as undead Starks escape their graves. We never got a famous undead character (I could have sworn we’d see Ned, Catelyn or Rickon attacking when Tyrion and Sansa are hiding behind one of the crypts), but alas.
The tension and stress continued to mount for me as the desperate fighting continued. Dany is now on foot with Drogon being weighed down by wights. She is on the brink of death only for Jorah to save her. Without his mount, Viserion unleashes blue flame throughout the Winterfell courtyard, where Jon is trapped and unable to get to the godswood to protect Bran.
As the Night King and his fellow White Walkers enter the godswood, we see a montage of the rest of our beloved characters struggling for their life. Jorah is taking heavy heat defending Dany, Jon is struggling with the blue-eyed dragon, and the rest are trapped with no where to turn. Theon makes one last rush at the Night King who quickly dispatches him with a strike through the heart. The Night King approaches Bran, very similar to how he entered the Cave and ended the previous Three-Eyed Raven’s life. As viewers hearts continue to race through this scene as the music mounts, we see Arya leaping in to stab the Night King from behind. He turns to catch her at the neck and I thought she was dead right then and there. But she drops her Valyrian steel dagger (the same one that Bran gifted to her under the very same godswood tree last season) into her other hand and plunges it in to the Night King, shattering him to bits. Every White Walker follows suit and every wight across the landscape drops to the ground.
Survivors throughout the castle are shocked at the result. The inevitable claws of defeat mere moments ago is undone as quickly as the dead came for them. Outside, Jorah falls to the ground as Dany cries out for the man that protected her for so many years. As dawn arrives, we see Melisandre leave the castle and walk out amongst the mountains of dead men. She unclasps her magic broach and dies as the sun comes up and shines on Winterfell.
Some random thoughts:
1) What was Bran doing when he warged away from Theon for what ended up being most of the battle? I was hoping to learn something from that, and I hope that the show will touch on that later on. I imagine that it is confirmed he can see in to the future, which should be confirmed by him giving the Valyrian steel dragonblade to Arya, which proves to be the weapon to kill the Night King.
2) We’re obviously going to see Ghost see he was in the E4 preview, but that was surely a personal disappointment of mine to only see him for a few minutes.
3) It was great to see Theon’s character arc come full circle. As Bran put it, Theon is a good man, and he was able to die heroically at his true home, defending his true family.
4) The music that Ramin Djawadi produces for Game of Thrones continues to be fantastic. His scores throughout the episode were the perfect addition to the stress induced by the acting on screen.
5) I keep going back to what an utter disservice the writers did with Jon. Jon’s entire character arc and storyline has been about the White Walkers. Ever since the first season when he saved Jeor Mormont’s life. Even before his Targaryen lineage (and thus, the Azor Ahai and TPTWP prophecies) was outlined to us and eventually him, he had one sole enemy: death. He was even resurrected from it for a reason, one that I would imagine was to end the White Walkers. Sure, he served a purpose in bringing together an incredible army made up of northmen, wildlings, Knights of the Value, Unsullied, Dothraki and dragons, but his role last night was severely, criminally even, lacking. I don’t even really hate the idea of Arya killing the Night King given her experience confronting death and killing people. That also makes sense to me. But, coupled with the fact that this is Jon’s entire story-arc, it just confuses me that this was their story choice and how they wanted to wrap up the White Walker storyline. I would have much preferred a scene where Jon is able to get in to the godswood to fight with Theon to protact their brother, only for Jon to fall and Arya to swoop in (as she did) saving both her brothers and ultimately the entire world.
6) The other thing I still struggle with is that this is supposed to be the Great War between life and death. Now, there are always certainly arguments between “what makes Game of Thrones the show it is: the impending doom of the White Walkers or the political struggle for the Iron Throne”? While the Iron Throne is certainly important, the White Walkers are literally viewers’ first introduction to this show in S1E1. In the grand scheme of things, the conclusion to the Great War, the Long Night, etc. etc. was in a way, just finalized in one singular episode. I’m not sure how I feel about that just yet.
All in all, it was a monumental episode that we saw last night. I have several issues with the story and the writing, but in terms of watching the episode and seeing what was on screen (which includes the acting, direction, cinematography and music), I would consider it a success. I do anticipate liking it more on my second (and third and fourth) rewatch(es); it was just that I didn’t full line up with the story that David Benioff and DB Weiss were trying to tell. We are still talking about what is likely the greatest epic in television history; a show that is easily in one of my top five hobbies (hell, I’m writing 2+ single-spaced pages worth of recaps/thoughts weekly for a Baltimore-based sports website for goodness sakes). But I think it is still OK to immensely enjoy an episode while also be able to critique it as well.
From here, we shockingly only have three more episodes in this epic saga. Now that the Great War has been won, we will surely see our characters turn south to face Cersei and her armies. There are still so many questions and unresolved conflict that needs to be settled, and the countdown is on for next Sunday at 9 PM.
A graduate of Xavier University, Chris began his writing career as a Xavier Musketeers Athletic Communications Intern where he wrote previews and post-game recaps for men’s basketball, women’s basketball and other Olympic sports. He has worked in the sports industry in various capacities for over 5 years. Chris is a fan of the Xavier Musketeers, the Baltimore Ravens and the Baltimore Orioles. Other hobbies and passions includes Game of Thrones and, as an Eagle Scout, volunteering as a Boy Scout Troop Assistant Scoutmaster. Chris was born in Baltimore, raised in Baltimore County and currently resides in Canton.