Game Of Thrones: The heroes of The Battle Of Winterfell
:: Warning: This article contains spoilers for Game Of Thrones season eight, episode three, The Long Night.
This is it. The Battle Of Winterfell. The One Where The Night King Rocks Up And Everyone Dies.
After two scene-setting, tension-building episodes which remained largely gore-free, despite a crescendo of predictions of a mass body count from the off, this is the one Game Of Thrones fans have been waiting for – bloodthirsty sadists that Game Of Thrones fans are.
It wasn’t quite a case of valar morghulis, but rather some men (and women, of course) must die. We need a few survivors for the final three episodes, after all.
The Long Night was an epic, feature-length episode; the longest and biggest battle in Game Of Thrones history as the army of the living faced the ever-swelling army of the dead.
Here are the main talking points.
:: Arya Stark is the hero Westeros needs and deserves
We start with the biggie: The Night King is dead – yes, really – and in the end, it came down to little Arya Stark to do the deed.
Just as you thought the Game Of Thrones villain had the battle sewn up, arriving at the Godswood for Bran the Three-Eyed Raven after raising the Winterfell dead, out from above jumped Arya, everyone’s favourite pint-sized assassin.
With her throat seemingly in death’s grip, Arya employed the skills she started learning way back in season one and gave it the old hand-switch trick, plunging her Valyrian steel dagger down into his frozen heart and turning the Night King to dust.
With their leader gone, one by one his White Walkers were wiped out too.
:: So… is that really it for the Night King?
With three episodes to go, it’s pretty early in the series to lose the face of evil; this is after all the moment the show has been building up to since 2011.
But that’s Game Of Thrones for you. It seems Winter has arrived and Winter is… over?
Well, don’t forget, there’s also the small matter of who’s going to take the Iron Throne to wrap up, too. That could prove the biggest battle of all.
:: The big deaths
Apart from the Night King, none of the big-hitters were slayed; despite a few nail-biting moments, Jon Snow, Daenerys, Sansa and Tyrion live to fight another day.
But we did say goodbye to a few favourites, notably Dolorous Edd, Beric Dondarrion, Lyanna Mormont, Ser Jorah, Melisandre and Theon Greyjoy.
Some were more spectacular than others: special mentions to the Night’s Watch’s Dolorous Edd, who died a hero saving Samwell Tarly; little Lady Lynanna, who managed to stab a wight giant in the eye while being squeezed in his deathly grip; and Ser Jorah, who wins the award for biggest tear-jerker, dying a noble death after saving his beloved Khaleesi, Daenerys. Sobs all round.
Melisandre, who set fire to the trenches to keep the army of the dead at bay, had predicted her own death right from the beginning. “I’ll be dead before dawn,” she said, calmly, in strict breech of HBO’s notorious no-spoilers policy.
:: Theon died a hero
It was always to be, wasn’t it? After betraying the Starks, Theon had redeemed himself, returning to help them fight for Winterfell. With that kind of character arc, he was bound to be doomed.
When Bran uttered those fateful words: “Theon, you’re a good man. Thank you,” it was uh-oh. You knew his time was up.
:: What were Jon and Daenerys doing?
For all the hype about Jon joining Dany on the dragons and the steamy build-up to their relationship – and them both finding out The Truth – their pairing in season three has been a bit meh.
There were lots of meaningful looks and they tried their best, of course, but in the midst of some seriously bad weather and turbulence it was hard to employ their dragons to full force.
To be fair to them, visibility really was poor – as much for us watching as it was for them. At some points, it was hard to tell what was happening on screen.
Obviously, it was supposed to be chaos and the darkness only added to that, but also perhaps took away some of the poignancy, especially from the deaths.
We want to see every last detail of the blood and guts and heartbreak and fear in the eyes when our heroes die, dammit!
When Dany did get a clear view and the chance to dracarys the hell out of the Night King, it didn’t work. Good thing Arya was about, hey guys?
:: Sansa and Tyrion had a moment
Down in the crypts, Sansa and Tyrion were in reflective mood; impending death tends to have that effect.
“None of us can do anything. That’s the truth. That’s the most heroic thing we can do now: look the truth in the face,” she said, as Tyrion wanted to join the fight.
“Maybe we should have stayed married,” he replied.
“You were the best of them.”
“What a terrifying thought.”
Later on, as it was all really kicking off, he kissed her hand tenderly.
Now this is a Game Of Thrones partnership we could really get on board with.
:: And finally… don’t forget Cersei
We’ve barely seen the most despicable (living, that is) Lannister all series.
Which is fair enough, since she stayed behind in King’s Landing (cowardly? Or cleverly?) while everyone else did the dirty work of defeating the White Walkers in Winterfell, where pretty much all the action has taken place thus far.
But her lack of screentime in the first half of the series surely bodes for something big for Cersei in the latter half?
We look forward to her return.
:: The final series of Game Of Thrones airs on Sky Atlantic at 2am and 9pm on Mondays.
:: Want to recap on the story so far? All episodes of Game Of Thrones from series 1-7 are now available to watch on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV.