Tonight on Game of Thrones, we were treated to the most intense 80 minutes of television ever. Ever. So buckle up, friends, because no one’s getting any sleep on this Long Night.
Spoiler Note: This is our book reader’s recap, intended for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The post and the comments section may contain spoilers from the novels, whether or not that material has appeared on the show yet. Because no, we are not all Unsullied now. If you have not read the books yet, we encourage you to check out our non-book-reader recap, by Oz of Thrones!
Right off the bat, watching the episode, I wondered, “Does anyone else feel like throwing up or is it just me?” And then I saw Samwell Tarly and thought, “Oh good, it’s not just me.” I can see Sam shares my anxiety about the upcoming battle. Director Miguel Sapochnik (and his always-amazing DP Fabian Wagner) pulls us right into the terrifying shit with Sam and Tyrion in Winterfell with a beautiful tracking shot. Preparations are underway, with the army of the dead just outside the walls, and the tension heavy among the living. Everyone is very very still and waiting. It’s haunting, and I can barely breathe. My stomach hurts. (Hey, wait, there’s Ghost! That’s a nice happy thing, right?)
Then, a rider emerges from the darkness, and we’re all expecting something terrible- but no, it’s just Melisandre! As usual, arriving at a strange time and giving everyone a heart attack. The fire priestess brings the mojo just when it’s needed, turning every arakh into Dothraki versions of Beric’s flaming sword. The first charge is ready to fight the dark.
Davos isn’t so pleased to see her though. They have unfinished business on account of her torching Shireen. But she shrugs off his crankiness with a prophecy (self-fulfilling as it turns out): she announces she’ll be dead before the dawn.
The Dothraki screamer attack, led by Jorah, is impressive (and gorgeously filmed- they’re really bringing the cinematography eye candy) but easily beaten back, with the fiery blades snuffed out. They thought they were ready, but can you ever be ready for a horde of zombies? I mean honestly.
The army of the dead arrives and dominates the defenders of Winterfell, with our brave heroes looking beaten down pretty quickly. Jaime saves Ser Brienne from a gruesome death at wight hands, just before Daenerys swoops in with dragonflame to save them all. On Rhaegal, Jon scopes out the situation and spots the row of White Walkers nearby. He’s getting good at handling his mount, but the Walkers use the cover of snow to confuse Jon in midair.
With the battle getting ugly, Arya sends Sansa down to the crypts with dragonglass and sage advice: “Stick ’em with the pointy end.” Ugh, my heart! It’s okay, I already knew this episode would destroy it. It might as well be with a sweet moment.
In the godswood, Bran awaits his destiny with Theon guarding him, while Jorah, Jaime, Brienne, Tormund, Gendry, the Hound, and others hack their way through the undead. In the thick of it, Sam is nearly killed by a wight, but Dolorous Edd saves him. His relief can only last for a moment though as his old Night’s Watch friend is killed just then by a wight.
In the crypts, Sansa finds a group of scared women and children accompanied by Tyrion- an awkward reunion, to say the least.
Jon and Dany discover how difficult it is to fly their dragons in battle with the White Walkers throwing the skies into wintry chaos, while below the fighters are forced to fall back and retreat into Winterfell’s courtyard, leaving the Unsullied to guard the walls outside. The army of the dead attack the trench posts where they can, while Arya picks off wights with her fiery arrows. The living aren’t doing so hot; it’s only a matter of time.
Grey Worm is sweating under his helmet; he gives the order to light the trench, but Dany can’t see the signal due to the snowy air. Improvisation is needed; aren’t you glad now that we have a fire priestess around! Even with all her abilities, Melisandre nearly fails though. It’s nice to know there’s still something human in her that falters when she’s confronted by the zombies attacking. But she succeeds, and the trenches alight, buying them time.
The Hound can’t handle the fire; he retreats from it, as usual. PTSD is a real bitch.
In the crypts, Tyrion argues in favor of going above to help; after all he might be able to, using his mind. Sansa thinks that’s a crap plan, and that the most heroic thing they can do is be truthful. Truth in this case includes acknowledging their marriage, with Sansa pointing out why it won’t work. Missandei gives them a good stinkeye and reminds everyone they’d all be dead without Dany.
Bran is his typical eerily calm self as he waits in the godswood. Theon takes the opportunity to try to apologize, but the Three Eyed Raven isn’t having it. Everything Theon did brought him back home, so it’s all good. But now Bran is checking out, for a timely dose of white eyeball/ravenvision time.
The trench was a great plan- it bought them enough time for, say, a bathroom break? But the Night King is here and is saying, “Enough of that!” He directs his army to lay down on the trenches and form bridges, rendering the barriers useless. The wights quickly swarm the walls, and now the battle is truly begun. There is no retreat. There is no being saved from this.
Watching Gendry panic, seeing the wights crawl up the wall, I was absolutely positive he was goner. (Wrongly, as it turns out.) All the dragonglass weapons are shattering around them. Hapless souls fall to the wights, Jaime and Brienne fight at each other’s backs. Sam almost dies again, but Jorah saves him- his father would be so proud of him. But humans are dying everywhere, so badly outnumbered in the battle.
Huddled off to the side is the Hound, shaking from the trauma of the flames, just as he did at the Blackwater. Arya bursts into the courtyard, chopping and twirling through the undead. Beric tries to rally the Hound into action. Arya takes on a crowd of wights, but even she looks like she no longer is excited to be facing Death itself. That spark of arrogance is gone, and that’s what’s really frightening. Seeing her in trouble, the Hound finally jumps into the fight.
Meanwhile a David and Goliath (or Lyanna and Macumber) showdown happened in the courtyard, and I don’t like it one bit. This is the point where I started gasping and then cry-laughing because goddammit. Goddamn. This girl. This amazing person.
We saw an undead giant in the season 7 finale- we knew it was inevitable, a great weapon for the Night King to wield. And wield he did, on Winterfell and one of its smallest but fiercest warriors. The wight giant knocks aside several men killing them. The injured girl pulls herself up and runs at this massive thing, screaming. He scoops her up, and he’s crushing her, killing her (it’s killing me), and then- she fucking kills the bastard, dragonglass in the eye.
They both fall to the ground, dead. I am absolutely wrecked at this point.
The battle is in the skies now, with Viserion attacking his siblings and their riders. They’re holding their own though…for now.
Arya has run into a challenge: making her way silently through the Winterfell library overrun with zombies. It’s like a game of Frogger, jumping from row to row, trying not to get nailed. She makes it out alive, but the tension in that scene and the long run from the library nearly killed me. Seriously:
JESUS FUCK I CANT TAJE ANOTHER HALF HOUR OF THIS #GamefThrones
— Sue the Fury (@SueTheFury) April 29, 2019
Back to the crypts where everyone is very quiet but still alive! Someone’s a-knock-knocking on their door but judging from the screaming, don’t answer.
Beric and the Hound are cruising for bruising in the halls of Winterfell, and luckily they find one in the form of Arya needing a hand with a brawl. Arya is saved, but Beric’s last life is lost when he takes several wounds. They manage to get him away, but just long enough to bring him to a room where Mel is. Isn’t that just like R’hllor? Bringing his followers together for one last laugh.
Melisandre isn’t worried about Arya killing her though. Prophecy, remember? Arya will shut different colored eyes include blue ones. Blue eyes, get it? Arya gets it! Okay, good, we’re on the same page here.
The Night King is coming for the godswood, via his wights picking off the Ironmen, while he and Viserion personally tear up Jon and Rhaegal. He has that damn Olympic-caliber javelin with him so we know he means business. Jon hits the ground, but soon so does the Night King, exposed for Daenerys to take her shot.
Except…it doesn’t work. The Night King is unscathed by fire, not a surprise to anyone who has seen what a White Walker can do to fire. They weren’t sure whether dragonfire would be different- now they know. It’s useless.
Faced with the threat of the javelin thingamabob, Dany and Drogon retreat. Reckless as ever, Jon makes a run for the Night King on foot. But the Night King is too fast.
HE raises all those who have fallen- every Unsullied, every Dothraki, every Northern soldier.
Lyanna Mormont. Dolorous Edd. Qhono, that one really hot bloodrider.
Oh, and the SKELETONS IN THE CRYPT! I TOLD YOU!
They’re tearing up the place, the innocents in the crypt, the wights in the gods wood (you go, Theon!), the monsters all over Winterfell. It’s nightmare central. This is a straight up horror movie and I honestly can’t take it. Somehow I went from sitting on the couch to crouching on the floor in front of the TV, shaking. When the hell did that happen?!
Drogon is being attacked by wights, downed to the point where Dany is on foot and about to become zombie chow when Jorah swoops in and saves his khaleesi! Drogon flies off to save himself briefly, while Jorah and Dany kick some ass- yes, our queen can handle herself sufficiently with a sword when need be.
In the godswood, Theon has no more arrows. So he fights with his bow. He’s a goddamn hero.
Jorah slashes away, taking more hits, and some deep ones, as he defends Dany.
The crypts are sheer hell, with women being torn up. Sansa and Tyrion share a tender unspoken moment, pull out their dragonglass and run.
Vierion lands in the center of Winterfell, and starts blowing it all to hell with his blue flame.
Our favorite warriors are fighting, but losing is inevitable now. Jon, Jaime, Brienne, Pod, weeping Sam, Theon, they’re fighting to the last.
Bran waits, as the Night King arrives in the godswood. He returns to himself to see the end of Theon, and tells him he’s a good man. It means the world to Theon, we can see.
Theon makes a suicide run at the Night King who kills him quickly.
Jon looks for a chance at Viserion, but doesn’t find it. The blue-eyed dragon is unstoppable.
The Night King is on Bran, approaching him as he did the other Three-Eyed Raven. It seems like this will end the same way. But then- just over his shoulder- a leaping woman, Arya diving for him.
But the Night King turns to catch her! And I was convinced, completely, in that moment, that she was done for. But then Arya drops her Valyrian steel dagger into her other hand and aims low, for his heart, the place where the dragonglass penetrated so long ago to create the Night King.
And he shatters. Every White Walker shatters into ice and every wight drops where they stand. Viserion’s flame dies, and he’s gone.
Standing by Dany, Jorah drops to his knees- and falls to the ground.
Survivors around the castle stand in awe of what has happened, gazing at the now-still dead.
As he dies, Daenerys weeps for her protector, who has traveled with her for so long, from so far away. Drogon curls himself around Dany to comfort her.
Melisandre leaves the castle, and makes her way through the dead as the skies lighten. Dawn is coming.
She pulls her necklace from her throat, as Davos watches. In a way, he’s always been the one who sees her for what she really is, isn’t he? With her true age coming upon her, Melisandre dies.
My main reaction, in general:
I'm still shaking jesu fucking christ almighty fuck fucking fucing motherfucking jesus fucker #gameofthrones
— Sue the Fury (@SueTheFury) April 29, 2019
Bring Out Yer Dead: Who died in The Long Night? Melisandre, Jorah Mormont, Theon Greyjoy, Beric Dondarrion, Lyanna Mormont, Dolorous Edd Tollett, Qhono the bloodrider, The Night King (and all his sons, and every damn wight everywhere!) Big Curtain Call week, y’all.
Theon’s Last Stand: Beautifully done. Bless Alfie Allen and everything he brought this underrated role and performance, all these years. He was graceful, to the very end.
Blue Dragon Down: I loved the totally terrifying chaos that Sapochnik brought in the direction, it reminded me of modern war movies like Black Hawk Down. It was disorienting but deliberate, scary and very well done.
Djawadi’s piano returns: Djawadi has said before he rarely uses piano in GoT but when he does, boy it packs a punch. WaterTower Music has uploaded the track online already- it’s called “The Night King.”
Overall Rating: 9.5/10 (Not a 10 because sometimes it was a little confusing in some details like where the hell did Gendry and Ghost go, but that’s a pretty minor quibble shhh numbers are arbitrary just have fun)