Who knew that after eight seasons Game of Thrones (Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Crave) could still deliver an episode so big, so stunning and so intense that—much like our favourite characters—we’d be up until the crack of dawn recovering from it? Yet here we are, still trying to catch our breath after “The Long Night,” a.k.a. The Battle of Winterfell.
There were character deaths, heavy battle scenes, horror sequences and too many close calls to count, not to mention an intense opening 20 minutes that were some of the most chilling we’ve ever seen on television. It was a masterclass in how to execute dramatic TV, and there were tears, screams, and a few well-timed fist pumps from couches everywhere as we watched it all go down.
About last night…
We were all watching TV like it was 1999:
Hands up to everyone out there who forgot to look at their phone, social media, significant other and/or dog while watching Sunday’s 80-minute instalment. From the opening moments of the episode, “The Long Night” required serious attention—and not just because of the series’ notorious dark shots. There was very little dialogue and plenty of life-threatening attacks, which translated into zero chance to check devices. It was like watching television in a time capsule, before you could pause, rewind, or dissect everything happening in real-time with a like-minded community.
It was basically one big battle
Well yes, basically. One that took 55 nights in the freezing Northern Ireland rain to shoot. But there were also a few well-timed breaks to give us a reprieve from the intensity of it all. The whole thing was actually kind of operatic. We’d have a breathtaking battle followed by bits of dialogue or pep talks as the characters recovered or the overall perspective shifted, and then we’d jump right back into the thick of it.
And we do mean thick. A lot of the sequences were hard to follow thanks to that aforementioned dark screen thing that Thrones likes to rely on. But the director also tapped into the utter confusion of war on the ground. If the character we were following didn’t know what was going on than neither did we. Add in that dead, ice-breathing dragon Viserion basically sharing his morning breath with everyone and the many (many!) fires lit throughout the episode and our eyes needed constant adjustment.
— Jepe (@heehman) April 29, 2019
Who is this director?
Oh, sorry. We’re talking about Miguel Sapochnik, who also directed “Battle of the Bastards,” “Hardhome” and “The Winds of Winter.” He’s basically the go-to guy for these epic, game-changing episodes. When the powers-that-be were setting up the final season lineup of directors (TV rarely uses the same director over the course of a season), they knew they wanted Sapochnik for this episode.
Actually, after reading the scripts the director asked to tackle episodes three, four and five because he saw them as the same piece, but in the end he was only physically able to do three and five. He studied Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers beforehand, and you could totally see those influences on Sunday night.
Also, if he directed episode five we feel like we should be preparing for yet another monumental battle, probably at King’s Landing. For now though we’re still trying to get over the record-breaking battle that was Sunday night.
Yup. Sunday night marked the longest battle sequence ever featured on television.
Come on, this was more than just a battle
That’s what made the episode so genius—it wasn’t a typical battle. The most effective moments weren’t a bunch of swords crossing and arrows slinging. There was some of that, sure. But this was a very personal effort that got down to the ground level and followed different points of views, and that totally upped the stakes.
There were also strong elements of horror and suspense, like when Arya Stark basically had to evade a horde of zombie-like wights inside Winterfell. Or when the dead Starks in the crypts came alive to take out all of the women and children. Every single sequence counted, and as soon as one was over you had to brace yourself for the next one.
At least Bran helped someone…
Last week Bran, a.k.a. The Three-Eyed Raven, announced that he would wait for The Night King in the Godswood (where he was first created by the Children of the Forest), and Theon said he would go with him. Not a whole lot of action took place there as the duo and other guards waited, but Theon did offer up something of an apology for his former actions. Bran let him off the hook for it all—including pretending to kill him and Rickon—before suddenly announcing, “I’m going to go now” and taking off into his warg state. For most of the episode.
His last words to Theon though, “Theon, you’re a good man. Thank you,” meant everything to the Starks’ former ward, who died redeemed.
This was the real song of Ice and Fire
Dany and Jon were knocking off as many wights as possible on their dragons, but Dany learned the hard way that The Night King could not be taken down with a little dragon breath. That was an important moment for the theory that the Night King is actually a Targaryen, by the way. Only Targaryens can ride dragons, but also only true Targaryens are unaffected by fire. The Night King smirking at Dany after she tried to take him out basically solidified the theory of his former bloodline.
— Nora Dominick (@noradominick) April 29, 2019
Meanwhile The Red Woman returned with a very timely entrance to motivate the troops with some cool fire-swords. She also swooped in to save the day with another spell that ignited the Winterfell moat when Daenerys couldn’t see Davos’ signal below through the ice storm. Most importantly though, she had a reunion with Arya, in which she reiterated the prophecy about Arya shutting eyes of all colour—including blue ones—permanently. Speaking of…
Remember when Sansa was always annoyed by her little sister?
It’s safe to say that Arya’s “dance lessons” in season one (and her subsequent training in The House of Black and White) paid off in a big, important way. While we spent the entirety of the episode sure that the final showdown would be between The Night King and Jon Snow, it was Arya Stark who actually charged in the last few minutes of the show to tackle—and kill!—the chilling undead leader as he went in to finish off his ultimate nemesis, The Three Eyed Raven (a.k.a. Brandon Stark).
That’s right, Dany’s fire-breathing dragon couldn’t do it. Jon Snow tried and he was met by hundreds of reanimated dead people (we can’t even get into that soul-sucking moment). Theon got a spear in the side for his trouble. But Arya freaking Stark, in the most poetic moment of the entire series, used the same valyrian steel dagger that was sent to kill Bran Stark in season one to save him from The Night King on Sunday night.
Yup, GoT pulled a Wire and had the biggest threat taken down by the most unexpected person. And we were HERE for it. The second The Night King fell, so too did the rest of his dead army, and we had mad respect for every set of parents out there who have named their kid Arya over the past decade.
— Desiree Pulmones (@desireepulmones) April 29, 2019
— Kenneth Bone (@warhog123) April 29, 2019
In case you’re forgetting anyone…
It was hard to keep track of all the dying. In case you’ve forgotten any, here’s a handy list of favourites we lost, in order:
Eddison Tollett a.k.a. Dolorous Edd – He told Sam to get up during one of the earlier sequences and then a White Walker stuck him with the pointy end.
Lady Mormont – Game of Thrones took the idea of David versus Goliath quite literally when the girl heroically ran straight at a dead giant, who grabbed her and started squeezing her to death. She retaliated by jabbing his eye full of dragonglass.
Lord Beric Dondarrion – He and The Hound saved Arya from the Winterfell Zombie Gang and he was basically stabbed to death for his troubles. “The Lord brought him back for a purpose. Now that purpose has been served,” Melisandre explained to Arya.
Theon Greyjoy – The man formerly known as Reek proved in the end that he had balls after all. He protected Bran long after the others fell, then rushed at The Night King knowing he was sprinting to his death. “You’re a good man. Thank you,” Bran simply said as hordes of wights looked on like it was Fight Club.
The Night King – BY ARYA FREAKING STARK.
She used that pointy end real good.
Ser Jorah Mormont – He loved and defended Daenerys until the bitter end, but even he could not survive all of those wights. She sobbed uncontrollably while Drogon consoled her with his giant dragon neck and wings.
Melisandre/The Red Woman – Suicide by necklace. The moment Arya killed The Night King and everyone else was (shockingly) okay, she left Winterfell, took off her necklace, reverted to the older woman we saw several seasons ago, and bit the dust. All while Davos looked on, naturally.
— nik (@whoznik) April 29, 2019
That’s it, right?
That appears to be the case. Unless you count basically the entire Dothraki army, various Unsullied, a bunch of wights and our nerves. Also, the jury is still out on Jon’s direwolf Ghost, and the dragon Jon was riding, Rhaegal…
Actually, we’re just going to go on the record and say that Jon is a terrible pet owner.
UPDATE: thanks to next week’s previews, it looks as though Ghost and Rhaegal just may actually be okay after all.
Cool, cool. So what’s next?
Onwards and upwards, as they say. There are only three episodes left in the season, which brings us to the official halfway mark.
Our best guess is that the survivors are going to take stock and figure out what kind of manpower they have left before making their way to King’s Landing, where a totally refreshed Cersei will be waiting for them, chalice of wine in hand.
Oh, and Sansa and Dany will probably have to figure out that North/Seven Kingdoms Brexit situation, and Dany and Jon will need to figure out their own claims.
Also, someone really needs to find Ghost.
— Kojo Tariq 🇬🇭 (@Kojo8baah8299) April 29, 2019
Until next week!
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Crave. For live viewing select ‘On Air’ at the top of your computer screen or bottom of your app.