“The Long Night” will go down in television history as the Game of Thrones episode that made “Arya Stark” a verb.
Episode 3 of season 8 started slow on Sunday night, opening as if from the backstage of a play, with all of the players grabbing their props and – “Places everyone!” – moving to their marks. It is called a theater of war, after all. The curtain raised on the first highlight of the night:
Taking their position as wight-fodder in this fight: the Unsullied led by Grey Worm, the Dothraki (including the tall one, Qhono, played by Staz Nair, in case you ever wondered), Podrick Payne, Brienne of Tarth, Jaime Lannister, Tormund Giantsbane, Ser Beric Dondarrion, The Hound, Gendry, Edd Tollett, Samwell Tarly, Ghost! (hereafter with an exclamation point), Ser Jorah Mormont.
Meanwhile, Jon and Daenerys survey the scene from the distance with dragons Drogon and Rhaegal. Sansa, Arya, and Ser Davos are on the ramparts when a lone rider appears.
Melisandre rides in out of nowhere and says, all casual, to Ser Jorah: “Do you speak their tongue? Tell them to lift their swords.”
Speaking a spell/prayer in High Valyrian and grasping Quono’s arakh, she sets the Dothraki swords – all of them! – on fire. If only Ser Jorah had Heartsbane out at the time.
She rides on, drops the mic in front of Grey Worm, and says: “Valar morghulis.” Grey Worm: “Valar dohaeris.” Enough said.
The fact that Melisandre shows up isn’t as disturbing as what she says to Ser Davos: That he needn’t bother executing her, because she’d be dead before dawn.
An aside: Watching the Dothraki flaming swords get extinguished in the dark is devastating with the final flames frantically slashing as they sputter. And that Ser Jorah and Ghost went with them is, in that moment, heartbreaking. Jorah and a few Dothraki horses and men return, but not Ghost.
Edd Tollet is the first named character to die on screen – maybe. It’s so dark, that I can’t tell wight from warrior. So many were slaughtered before Daenerys and Jon showed up with Drogon and Rhaegal and set fire to the field, we may have missed one.
Brienne saves Jaime, Jaime saves Brienne, Edd saves Sam. Podrick, Gendry, The Hound – all slashing at a tsunami of undead.
“Open the gate,” Lyanna Mormont screams as the live fighters retreat into Winterfell. Can’t help but think that Jorah was absolutely right: This is no place for Lyanna, the future of her house. Listen to your elders, girl. She later takes down the wight Giant with dragonglass to the eyeball when he attempts to snack on her, but dies in the process. If you were hoping she would be only mostly dead, you’d be disappointed later in the episode.
Sure, the Unsullied in perfect formation even in the midst of madness was an impressive sight to see, but they also look an awful lot like future wights for all their heroism. They back up against spikes in the trenches that are supposed to be set aflame. Daenerys doesn’t see the signal, flaming arrows from the ramparts keep going out before they can catch, and the wights keep taking out the runners with torches.
Melisandre saves everyone’s asses (for the time being) by lighting the trench with her spell/prayer.
The Night King flies in on a high pressure storm front and, with a wave of his hand, commands his followers to create wight bridges over the trench fires, so that the others can climb over them. The zombies crawl up and over the walls World War Z style.
Arya fighting on the wall is awe-inspiring and strikes Ser Davos silent. It also prompts The Hound to get his ass in gear to save her.
Arya plays a deadly game of hide-and-seek with the wights who have made it inside Winterfell.
There are too many of them. So now we know what was obscured in the darkness of the trailer: dozens of wights chasing our petite hero.
When Beric and The Hound later come to her rescue, it’s almost as if Arya had given up. She stares almost helplessly when wights attack Beric, which is very unlike her. The trio retreats to a room where Melisandre has been hiding/waiting for them, and Beric dies.
“What do we say to the god of death?” Melisandre asks Arya, which immediately summons the ghost of Syrio Forel (not literally).
Arya: “Not today.”
The dragons in the moonlight above the storm clouds is a beautiful image – this-dragon-moment-is-brought-to-you-by-Hallmark beautiful. But the scene later turns deadly as Jon and Rhaegal lock together in dragon battle against the Night King and wight dragon Viserion, who tears at his brother’s flesh and snaps his jaws at snack-sized Jon on Rhaegal’s back. The Night King tries to be smooth and grabs for his ice spear, but falls off (not to his death, of course – because that would be too easy).
The scene of Winterfell from the air at this point, by the way, looks like a nighttime Burning Man riot: a circle of fire and waves of bodies flowing this way and that.
Rhaegal goes down and Jon tumbles off. Daenerys tries dragonfire on the Night King on the ground, but he does not burn (like a Targaryen). She retreats when he aims a spear her way, but Jon pursues him on foot with Longclaw. The Night King raises a new army from the freshly dead, including those inside Winterfell – including, they make a point to show, Lyanna, Qhono, and Edd. Was that Podrick standing behind the Night King before he pimp-walked away? OMG, where’s Podrick?
Wights, meanwhile, swarm Drogon, and Daenerys falls off.
Tyrion laments that he’s not out there. Sansa says he’d be dead. Then he suggests they should’ve stayed married. She rightly notes his divided loyalties (aka “You loooove her, you want to marry her…”) for Daenerys.
The dead rise in the crypt of Winterfell even (thanks for the heads-up, Jared Harris), and dusty, ancient Starks start tearing at people.
Next time, maybe freeze them in carbonite?
The Night King swaggers into the godswood with his court. Bran: “Theon, you’re a good man. Thank you.” Theon charges the Night King and gets a spear thrust into his side.
Elsewhere, when a wight wave threatens to overcome Daenerys, Ser Jorah puts himself between them and her and is mortally (maybe, probably) wounded protecting her. He leans on Heartsbane in his final stand.
Holy sh–! Arya killed the Night King. She takes a flying leap and, despite being caught by the throat, still manages to thrust that ancient Valyrian-steel dagger into his belly. (To “Arya Stark” someone will forever refer to that move.) He explodes, his court explodes, Viserion (who Jon has been dodging all this time) collapses to the ground in a pile of loose bones and ragged flesh, as do all of the other wights.
(We heard echos of Jon’s voice: “How did you sneak up on me?”)
There’s a roll call of who’s still alive: Arya, Bran, Daenerys, Jorah (until he’s not), Drogon, Jon, Tormund, Gendry, Grey Worm, Brienne, Jaime, Podrick, Tyrion, Sansa, Varys, his new little crypt birds, Missandei, Gilly and Little Sam (did anyone see Samwell Tarly in the roll call?), The Hound, Melisandre (until she isn’t), and Ser Davos. Where’s Ghost!? Did Rhaegal survive?
I hit “replay.”
What was your favorite moment of the episode? Tell us in the comments!
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.