Warning: This Game of Thrones Season 8 Ep 3 review contains spoilers. If you haven’t watched it, we suggest you turn back now, else read at your own peril.
The Long Night was a historic event in television history for many reasons. It was billed as one of the biggest battle sequence in cinematic history. You read that correctly. Not television, cinematic! A battle sequence that put Gladiator, Apocalypse Now, Saving Private Ryan and the rest of them to shame. 82 minutes of no-holds barred, full-fledged, extremely bloody (and extremely dark) violence. But was it worth the immense amount of hype generated by the makers, actors and fans? A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer may not suffice here. But hey, that’s why you have reviews, right?!
After two episodes of build up, reunions, tender moments, drinks and battle preparation, The Night King had finally arrived. To lay waste to all of Winterfell, and after that, all of mankind. It was the Apocalypse, more or less. If you notice, the opening credits of this episode focuses a LOT on the minutiae of Winterfell. Every nook and cranny of it. Which is obvious, because it’s the staging ground for one of the largest-scale, most ambitious, audacious and insane battles ever filmed in the history of television.
It’s understandable why David Benioff and D.B Weiss didn’t want the onslaught to start from the get-go of Season 8, in order to mentally prepare us for what’s to come. And what finally came on that dark, dark, DARK night in Winterfell was something that none of us were expecting. But I’ll get to that in a bit.
The tension is evident right from when the opening credits stop rolling and the episode starts. A dagger is thrust into Samwell Tartly’s hand, and his anxiety mirrors everyone’s around him, not to mention the audience, while he’s sent off to the battle lines to await Death. And by Death, I mean The Night King. Tyrion with his ever-present skin of wine, goes off with Sansa down to the crypts, rather reluctantly, with the other non-fighters. Greyworm and his Unsullied march into position. The Dothraki and their horde of horses make up the front line. Lyanna Mormont, tween badass, holds her position at the gates along with her soldiers. It’s do-or-die this time. Winter has come.
As soon as Melisandre (who came out of nowhere) lights up the Dothraki swords with her magic incantation, it’s pure mayhem from the start. And under the watchful eye of director Miguel Sapochnik, who also directed Hardhome and The Battle of the Bastards, the episode makes for a visual spectacle. If you turn your brightness way up, that is. As the Dothraki horsemen, the most feared in the world, charge forward, flaming weapons held high, running into the dark, the flaming swords, visible from afar as bright little dots, start to turn off, like switching off a light.
As the lights wink off, Dany and Jon watching from above, the folks on the ground begin to sweat in fear. As the audience watches in fearful anticipation, the horde of undead zombies charge in full force.
The battles appear confusing, due to the dark tone, but it is done on purpose. The director wants to convey to us the same feelings of confusion and uncertainty felt by the soldiers on the ground. But Sapochnik on cue also opens up his favourite wide shots, and switches to a dragons eye view of the battle, that also being another visual treat.
Instead of having the man-on-the-ground view here, we see hordes of White Walkers take on hordes of Unsullied or Wildlings. The Night King makes full use of his numbers here, sending all his soldiers, while he tries to go through the metaphorical back door and get to Bran. Even with the best fighters in Westeros and Essos teaming up, all it takes is enough bodies and even the most able swordsman can be subsumed, though the tag team of Brienne and Jaime Lannister do a remarkable job of watching one another’s back and Arya is a thing of beauty with that spear in her hands.
Meanwhile, Bran is being protected by Theon Greyjoy and his men. Theon’s character development in the series has been one of the absolute best in the entirety of Game of Thrones. The Greyjoy of Winterfell, after committing grave sins, going through unspeakable horrors, has come back to defend his second home, to defend his foster family against the White Walkers, and won’t run away this time. Elsewhere in the crypts, Tyrion and Sansa have a tender moment, reminiscing about days gone by, uncertain of what the future holds for them.
In the midst of all the chaos and confusion, Game of Thrones still manages to extract emotion from the characters, giving us the full range of what the consequences might be if they lost.
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The deaths in the episode were executed with the same emotional intensity we’ve come to expect from the show. Dolorus Edd’s death (okay, that was a little predictable) after helping Sam up (and Sam RUNNING AWAY?) maybe didn’t have the effect we would’ve wanted, but it was fine. Beric Dondarrion died his last death, without having a Melisandre or a Thoros to resurrect him. He died saving Arya from an onslaught of White Walkers. “He has served his purpose,” said The Red Woman to Arya.
But the deaths of the Mormonts and Theon Greyjoy were perhaps the most heart-wrenching in this episode. Lyanna Mormont, no taller than Bran was at that age, dies at the hands of a White Walker Giant, but not without stabbing the blade made of dragonglass into the Giant’s eye and turning it to ice. Jorah Mormont died as he lived: protecting his Khaleesi, not resting until his Queen was safe. No more Khaleesi Friendzone jokes now then. *sniffs*
Theon met his end with the utmost bravery, earning a compliment from The Three-Eyed Raven himself. “You’re a good man. Thank you.”
Bran said this as Theon charged towards the Night King, death almost certain. And as expected, he met his end. You have our respect and admiration, Theon Greyjoy. What is dead may never die.
But none of these deaths came close to the one that made us go, “HOLY ****!”
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The Night King was vanquished by No One. After 7 seasons of foreshadowing, the all-powerful Night King was vanquished by a stab to the belly by a Valyrian Steel dagger, by none other than everyone’s favourite Faceless Man, Arya Stark. The Night King standing menacingly over Bran Stark, ready to kill him, as quiet as the wind, Arya Stark came from behind. But the Night King caught her mid-air, and as all hope seemed lost, Arya, who had trained for most of her life to face Death, stared him in the face. “Not today.” Switched her blade to the other hand, and delivered the fatal blow.
Night King crumbles to ice. Undead Viserion crumbles to ice. All the White Walkers crumble to ice. While the whole world watches on in amazement.
Melisandre, who seemed to have been exhausted of her powers, walks out of Winterfell, takes off the pendant that gave her immortality, and crumbles due to extreme (and I mean EXTREME) old age.
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This episode has been received with polarising reveiws. Mainly because of the unexpected death of the Night King. Personally, I loved the fact that Arya was the one who killed the Night King. The Night King is the closest embodiment to the God of Death in this show. Arya had been training for this moment ever since Season 1. She trained to face Death one day, look Death in the eye, stand her ground and say, “Not today.” And sure, after years of build up, all it took was a stab to the gut to end him.
But as usual, GoT finds a way to amaze us. Now Game of Thrones can go back to being what it actually was, A Game of Thrones. A game of politics, cunning and trickery for the Iron Throne. Now our focus shifts back to Cersei, who we didn’t see in the entirety of the second episode.
But this now leaves us uncertain. What’s next? Go back to fighting over a metal chair after facing the Apocalypse? Game of Thrones has managed to surprise us even when we thought there wasn’t anything left to surprise us with. It’s not the end of the world now. It’s A Game of Thrones. And when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.
Let’s see what the show has in store for us next!
Episode Rating: 4/5