There are no atheists in foxholes. Or turrets. Or family crypts.
Or on my couch, apparently. Even though I knew the Battle of Winterfell would mean heavy casualties, I was praying to both the old gods and the new that this week’s Game of Thrones would spare some of the characters I love most dearly.
Oh, pre-Episode 3 me, you sweet summer child.
Read on to find out exactly how deadly the Battle of Winterfell turns out to be, and steel yourself for “The Long Night.”
TENSE MOMENTS | Despite his big talk last week, Sam’s hands are shaking a bit as the episode opens. The troops are marching out, people are filing into the crypts, and it’s an intense mood all around. Davos, Tyrion, Sansa and Arya — everyone’s just waiting. Drogon and Rhaegal screech overhead, the Unsullied step into place behind the Dothraki, and it’s super quiet. We see Brienne, Jaime, Pod, Tormund, Beric, Genry, Dolorous Edd and The Hound get into position. Then Sam joins Edd, who tells his former Night’s Watch brother “You took your time.”
Ghost is there, and Jorah, too. Everyone stares into the darkness, and the tension is killing me and WE ARE TWO MINUTES IN.
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Jon finds Daenerys looking out over her assembled forces, but says nothing. Then a ride approaches Winterfell: It’s Melisandre, who goes right up to Jorah. “Do you speak their tongue?” she asks of the Dothraki, and he nods yes. “Tell them to lift their swords.” So he does, and she grabs one and starts reciting a prayer that lights every single one of the weapons ablaze. The flames spread throughout the army like a fiery wave, and it’s pretty damn cool looking. (Don’t get it twisted, Melisandre. Haven’t forgiven you for Shireen.) As she rides past Grey Worm, she says, “Valar morghulis,” and he replies, “Valar dohaeris.” Then Davos orders the gate opened, and as he watches from above, she rides in.
He’s the first to encounter her. “There’s no need to execute me, Ser Davos,” she says flatly. “I’ll be dead before the dawn.” Then she and Arya exchange a long look across the courtyard, but the Dothraki start screaming and riding into the darkness, so I guess now is when all the carnage begins? OK, cool.
Jon and Daenerys watch the Dothraki fire brigade cross the countryside. Jorah is right there with them, and Ghost is at his side, which makes me ridiculously happy for all of a minute before the hit the army of the dead and all of the flames get snuffed out like birthday candles in the rain. It’s chilling. From their stance back at/in front of Winterfell, no one can see exactly what happened. But they know it’s extremely not good.
Some of the fighters make it back. Jorah is one of them, but he’s not doing well. Daenerys sees this and goes to leave, but Jon tries to stop her, saying, “The Night King is coming.” She’s having none of it. “The dead are already here,” she replies as she leaves.
PLAN B? | You can hear the zombie horde approaching as Grey Worm puts on his helmet and orders his men to stand at the ready. But then so many freaking undead soldiers rush over them like a wave at high tide. Like, they’re completely subsumed in moments. Then the wights rush Brienne and her men, and it’s going very badly until the dragons swoop in — with Daenerys and Jon on their backs — and start barbecuing the enemy. But soon they’re caught up in… what is that, a blizzard? I don’t know. It seems to make things tougher for the giant, mythical beasts, which falls heavily in the Not Good column.
“Get down to the crypt,” Arya tells Sansa, giving her a weapon that Sansa says she doesn’t know how to use. “Stick ’em with the pointy end,” she says. Sansa wisely flees.
The fighting is so well shot and at the same time so insane that it’s hard to tell who’s doing OK and who’s about to eat it. At one point, Sam nearly dies but Dolorous Edd saves him… and then gets taken out by a wight a moment later.
In the crypts, everyone is very scared and very silent. Sansa shows up and doesn’t have to give an update for Tyrion to know they’re screwed.
Quick question: Has Jon riden a dragon other than that one time we saw in the season premiere? because it seems that a little practice might have served him well.
When it becomes clear that things are well and truly effed, Brienne and Tormund (I think?) call for everyone to fall back. The soldiers run for Winterfell, with Grey Worm and the Unsullied protecting those who are retreating. How can they even tell, with all of this fog and fire and fear, who’s retreating and who are dead folk rushing the line? From the parapet, Arya shoots a flaming arrow into a wight who’s gaining on The Hound; Clegane looks up in time to see who save his life, then hacks at the zombie with his axe.
Grey Worm orders the trenches lit, so Davos gives a sign to Daenerys… who can’t see it because of the blizzard. So the marksmen up with Arya give it a shot. It’s worth noting at this moment that Grey Worm is losing his stuff: Ain’t love grand? When the fiery arrows don’t do the trick, Melisandre swans out, all Stevie Nicks-like with her cape, and tries to light the trench the same way she did the Dothraki swords. It doesn’t work until the absolute last minute, but when it does, it’s VERY effective: Winterfell is ringed in fire, which gives everyone who made it back a moment to catch their breath. But the fact that the Night King’s forces are just standing there beyond the perimeter, biding their time, is unnerving.
“At least we’re already in a crypt,” Varys jokes down below, but Tyrion is all business: If he were out there, he reasons, maybe he’d see something everyone else was missing. Or, “you’d die,” Sansa says, telling him there’s nothing he can do. “Witty remarks won’t make a difference.” He jokes that maybe they should have stayed married. “You were the best of them,” she remarks. “What a terrifying thought!” he replies. She adds that it never would’ve worked, because he’s loyal to “the Dragon Queen.” And you know Missandei isn’t going to let that one sit. Without Daenerys, she cuts in, they’d all be dead already.
THE BRAN ABIDES | In the godswood, Theon and Bran wait. When Theon starts to apologize for Seasons 1 through five minutes ago, Bran tells him that everything that happened before “brought you where you are now: home.” Then he wargs into a raven and flies out over the battlefield, eventually finding the Night King astride Frozen Viserion. The Big Dead Bad stretches out his hand, and the undead start throwing themselves on the trenches until they’ve snuffed out the fire enough so that the forces behind them can cross it.
Inside Winterfell, a cry goes up to man the walls. Jon sees the Night King approach on dragonback and takes off to follow him. Jaime, Jorah, Brienne and the rest do their best to try to keep to the plan, but the army of the dead literally is scaling the walls. When they get to the top — by making an inhuman chain or pyramid or something — they get dragonglass to the face. But the numbers are not in the good guys’ favor: Pretty soon, Jaime and Brienne are fighting back-to-back, and Sam is nearly dying AGAIN.
It’s not long before the dead have breached the courtyard. And while The Hound — who’s afraid of fire, remember — is freaking out, Arya is being the badass she is. She dispatches so many undead, even Davos is like DAMN. But lest we get too excited about that, a giant wight busts into the castle and tosses Lyanna like she’s a rag doll someone left out after playtime. Still, she picks herself up and charges undead Mag the Mighty (that’s him, right?), so he picks her up and screams at her. But she manages to stick some dragonglass into his eye, ending him. Yay! Too bad that as he falls to the ground, he slams her into the earth like a tent stake.
Arya gets her bell rung when she’s thrown into a wall, but she manages to survive a scrabble off a nearby roof and find her way to relative safety inside. Soon, though, she’s trapped in a small area with a handful of wights. She silently evades their notice, using all of Syrio Forel’s water dancing tricks in the process. But when the blood from the gushing cut on her head starts to patter on the ground where she’s hiding, the dead perk up. She walks right into one but has the presence of mind to stab it under the chin, so it re-dies right there and she keeps going.
It seems almost like Arya’s going to be OK, but then wights bust into the room where she is, entering from two different directions until she’s flat-out on the run.
Back in the crypts, we get a few cherubic shots of the children assembled, which means bad things are definitely going to happen soon, right? As if on cue, there’s a scary-sounding commotion at the door. But then it subsides.
Beric and his flaming sword and The Hound and his crippling fear gingerly make their way through a passage. Thank the Lord of Light, they’re in exactly the right place for Beric to throw his weapon and save Arya, who’s about to become wight fodder. She and The Hound manage to get Dondarrion to a quiet room, but he’s gone. “The Lord brought him back for a purpose. Now that purpose has been served,” Melisandre intones, and HOW does she happen to be in that exact room at that exact time?
Arya recognizes the Red Priestess and remembers that she said they’d meet again, and that she’d “shut many eyes.” Melisandre nods. “Brown eyes, green eyes… and blue eyes.” HMMMM. Then she reminds Arya, “What do we say to the god of death?” Heartened, Lady Stark replies, “Not today.”
CHAOS IS A FOGGY HELLSCAPE, PART 1 | Theon and his merry band of We’re Totally Gonna Die Now prepare themselves as the dead hit the godswood. Above, Viserion and the Night King go dragon-to-dragon with Jon and Rhaegal. At one point, the Night King falls off his mount. Then Dany swoops in. Then Jon gets bounced and winds up rolling through the snow. Daenerys finds herself still on Drogon’s back and in a position to flambé her enemy. So she looks right at the Night King and commands, “Dracarys.” Drogon does his thing… but the Night King survives it. OH MAN THIS IS SO, SO BAD. He even kind of looks like he LIKES it. And when he pulls out a frozen spear, Dany and her steed get the Helms Deep outta there.
As El Rey del Noche approaches Winterfell, Jon runs up behind him. The Night King is like, “That’s cute,” and then he reanimates every single person who was killed in the past hour. Lyanna. Dolorous Edd. EVERYONE. Jon finds himself totally surrounded, as does everyone in Winterfell. And then the White Walkers begin moving in. He’s slicing and dicing as ffast as he can, but then Daenerys and Drogon light it all up and give him a bit of a reprieve. As Jon runs toward the castle, the remaining wights attack Drogon. She falls off his back and is about to be SO dead when out of nowhere, Jorah shows up to save her pretty little head. They wind up hacking away at the undead, but Jorah is not doing well.
In the crypts, Gilly is the first to notice when the long-dead Starks start to reanimate, as well. Soon, it’s a horror show. Sansa and Tyrion cower behind some stone, then he kisses her hand and makes a decision.
CHAOS IS A FOGGY HELLSCAPE, PART 2 | Jon makes it to the courtyard, where Brienne, Grey Worm and a bunch of others each are (barely) holding off pockets of undead fury. Meanwhile, Bran is still all white-eyed in the godswood while Theon and his men are losing the fight. I’m not even going to pretend at this point to know who’s still alive and who’s not, with Jon nearly getting hit by Frozen Viserion’s ice breath and Jaime looking like he’s been overtaken by a bunch of wights. Oh and look, the Night King is sauntering into Winterfell like he owns the place… which I guess he pretty much does, at this point.
DIDN’T SEE THAT ONE COMING, DID YA? | Eventually, the horny cold bastard makes his way to where Theon has taken out every single threat to Bran. “Theon, you’re a good man. Thank you,” Bran says, having come out of his warg state just in time to see Greyjoy meet his maker. Theon knows he’s going to die, so he readies his spear and runs at the Night King. I love how the hundreds of wights are all just standing there, like, “Well isn’t this interesting?” Theon dies. Bran — shocker! — has no reaction.
The Night King walks right up to Bran, who turns to look him in the face. AND THEN ARYA JUMPS IN, STABS HIM WITH VALYRIAN STEEL AND HE DIES HE DIES HE DIES. So does Frozen Viserion, who’s just about to make Jon into an ice pop. In fact, all of the dead fall, all because Arya is the baddest of badasses.
Guys, I still can’t believe that happened.
Outside the castle walls, Daenerys holds Jorah in her arms and sobs as he draws his last breath. One of the dragons (Drogon?) lands behind her and gives both of them the dragon version of a hug, which is sweet.
Melisandre exits Winterfell, shedding her cape as she does so. Davos follows her out and watches as she snakes through the piles of the undead. As she walks, she removes her necklace, dropping it on the snow. Before our eyes, she transforms into the old woman we saw seasons ago. Then she collapses, and dies. WOAH.
So, in summation, the Battle of Wintefell dead include: Dolorous Edd, Lyanna Mormont, Jorah Mormont, Beric Dondarrion, Theon Grejoy, Melisandre and the Night King.
Now it’s your turn. Grade the episode via the poll below, then hit the comments with your lamentations for the fallen.