The long night finally arrived in Sunday night’s episode during the highly anticipated Battle of Winterfell, resulting in the deaths of some of our favourite characters, long-awaited dragon battles and of course the return of the Night King.
The tension is clear from the offset as the beginning sees the unexpected return of the Red Witch Melisandre. Previously instructed never to return to Winterfell on threats of execution Melisandre sparks the first thrilling moment of the battle, arming the Dothraki with flaming swords before they ride out to the meet white walkers. Watching each and every flame extinguish in the dark was particularly chilling, immediately reminding viewers what an extreme feat the impending battle will be.
With the extent of the danger above ground instantly clear, Arya sends Sansa down to the crypts for safety. Although viewers expect brutal battle scenes from the offset, the tender moments between Sansa and Tyrion in the crypt are particularly moving with Sansa admitting Tyrion was the best of the men she’d married. Another touching scene comes once the dead break out of their tombs as Tyrion kisses Sansa’s hand before they venture out from where they are hiding sparking theories that the marriage between the pair may not be over yet.
Bran’s warg into the three-eyed raven brings about the long-awaited entrance of the Night King and subsequently the dragon fight in which ice literally meets fire, something which fans have been waiting for since season seven ended in 2017. Much of the first half of the episode and especially the dragon battle has received a huge amount of criticism in the last few days. Many have condemned the episode for excessive darkness, poor writing and it has received the lowest IMDB rating of any Game of Thrones battles since the series began. Personally I agree that parts of the episode were difficult to work out, but it worked for the episode adding to the suspense and confusion of who was in danger. I would go as far as to say critics of the episode have become spoilt, expecting too much from an already incredible episode and being unappreciative of what we’ve been given.
In an episode full of suspenseful moments, one of the most tense comes during Jon’s pursuit of the Night King. In a scene where I really and truly thought Jon (and almost everyone else in Winterfell) would be gone for good, the Night King raising the dead mid-battle brings back serious memories of Hardhome back in season five, swiftly becoming one of my all time favourite Thrones moments.
This episode saw the demise of several beloved characters, so we’ll work through this chronologically. Eddison Tollett was the first to meet his end this week dying heroically on the battlefield. Helping Sam off the floor after a fall, Edd locks eyes with his bestie before he is stabbed in the back by a walker. I wasn’t too heartbroken by Edd’s death, but the fact he, Sam and Jon were the only ones remaining out of everyone who had joined the Night’s Watch together struck a little pang of sadness in me.
Next to go was Lyanna Mormont, and I can’t lie I was pretty upset about this one. Not only was it bad enough that she was literally crushed in the hands of a giant (which seemed pretty painful by the way), we also had to see Lyanna come back as a white walker when the Night King woke the dead. Still, she got a truly epic ending taking out the giant in one fell swoop and I would expect nothing less from a character as badass as her.
Beric Dondarrion also got the chop this week, saving Arya in the process. We all know by this point that the red priests and priestesses are around to serve a purpose, so once Beric had saved Arya’s life there was pretty much only one way for him to go. An honourable death, but relatively predictable and not all that shocking.
Theon’s death was the most tragic for me this week. After everything he has been through over the last decade of Thrones narrative, witnessing Theon’s bravery in the lead up to his death was truly heartwarming. Bran’s forgiveness of him in his final moments was also particularly moving and gave Theon the courage to accept his fate. Again, a predictable death but filmed and directed beautifully.
The Night King’s death was simply incredible and honestly, I don’t know what else there is to be said about that. Although there had been a huge amount of speculation and theorising about his potential demise during the battle, I wasn’t entirely convinced he would be killed off and genuinely leapt out of my seat when it happened. Epic writing, stunning filmography, Arya is the greatest of all time. That’s it.
After saving Daenerys in a predictable but heart wrenching moment on the battle field, Jorah was the next to go. Jorah’s position in the show has been pretty unstable for a while now and I can’t say I was shocked at his death, but the gorgeous acting on behalf of both Ian Glenn and Emilia Clarke made it far more upsetting than I expected it to be, especially looking back on all the pair have been through together.
Melisandre was the final character to meet her end this week, removing her necklace and greeting death as an old friend. Let’s be real, no one was really shocked at this (especially after her telling Ser Davos that she’d be dead by the end of the night…), but it was nice to see Melisandre actually contribute some good the the series before her death.
Looking Forward To…
Quite honestly, I’d just like an explanation of why the Night King didn’t burn in the dragon fire during this week’s episode. But apart from that I am seriously looking forward to Daenerys, Jon and co. marching towards King’s Landing and ripping out Cersei “root and stem” (see HBO’s trailer for episode 4). Although much of next week’s episode will focus on the aftermath of this week’s battle, there is speculation that it will contain a scene even more shocking than the Red Wedding. I seriously hope this is true, and if it is I couldn’t be more excited!