Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3 Review
Darkness Looms Over The Castle of Winterfell…
An eerie silence settles. It drowns out the clinking of weapons. The clanging of armour. The nervous whinnying of horses. The bated breath of the army of the living. Men of every class, from peasants to princes, stand as brothers as they await their enemies. They know they’re outnumbered; they know they’re likely to die, but they fight for hope and survival in the biggest battle in television history. This is “The Long Night”.
But First, A Quick Lesson in Cinematography
To understand why this episode is the way it is, I must talk about cinematography and its use of light and darkness combined with the limitations of special effects. Now a cinematographer will know ahead of time what they expected to film so that special effects, both computer-generated (CG) and practical, can be added later. It then becomes part of their job to make sure the cinematography uses light in such a way that it at least partially disguises how fake the effects are going to look.
So now imagine you are a cinematographer on the episode “The Long Night”. You must make upwards of 100,000 CG zombies, as well as hundreds of actors wearing practical decaying effects, look good. Luckily for you, you can use darkness to disguise the fakeness of the army while still making them look like a huge, unstoppable force. It also helps that both zombies and the dark is scary. So you use also darkness to build up dread and put viewers in the character’s shoes as they fight for their lives. So, if you hear someone complain that the episode was “too dark”, just think about effect that darkness had on you and the characters we love.
Fighting The Army Of The Dead
Oh boy, the characters we love. Or rather, love to hate as Melisandre finally decides to show up and use the Lord of Light’s fire to aid in the battle. For all it helps. It doesn’t take long for fear to set in as the Dothraki forces are wiped with barely a second thought. Then the front-lines are beaten back by shear numbers. Even with Jon and Daenerys laying down literal suppressing fire, all end up retreating into Winterfell, though Edd loses his life in the first character death of the episode.
The awesome Lyanna Mormont is not fair behind in a clever bit of foreshadowing as she manages to slay the wight giant as she crushed to death. However, the way the episode builds on despair and hopelessness leaves you believing no one is going to live. Samwell spends most of his time on the floor. Brienne, Jaime and Podrick almost always have their backs to the wall. Meanwhile Arya, The Hound, Beric and Davos are running the halls of Winterfell in a game of hide and seek. This becomes quite literal in Arya’s case. In one of the most intense scenes of the episode, as she quietly sneaks around the undead searching the archive room. Its chilling stuff, and that’s before mentioning the raging blizzard making the fight harder for everyone.
However, that’s not even the worst of it…
Fighting The Army Of The (Recently and Not-So-Recently) Dead
There’s a somewhat welcome lull in the episode, as it appears the undead army have been beaten back to a manageable level, but the fans know better. There are hundreds of fresh dead bodies around. As well as ancient skeletons in the crypts in which the women and children are hiding, accompanied by Sansa and Tyrion. Anyone ready for round 2? This was the point for this reviewer where all hope was lost. I was willing to announce everyone dead as this new army flooded Winterfell completely. They annihilated the Ironborn as they protected Bran and picked off the defenceless in the crypt. However, many kept on living and this has bothered a lot of fans.
The named character death counter only reached seven by episodes end, which seems very low for such stacked odds. This does bother me, but I get why. We’ve been waiting eight years for the Battle for The Iron Throne and it is still at the heart of the show for many. Unfortunately, some fan favourites will never get to see it. Beric lives his last life in defence of Arya and The Hound. Jorah dies fighting as he defends the untrained future Queen (seriously, years with the Dothraki and the Second Sons and not one sword-fighting lesson Daenerys?). Then finally, Theon finally redeems himself as the last Ironborn standing to defend Bran as the Night King brushes off his last stand.
All three deaths stand out well in this episode, but the greatest death is yet to come…
Fighting The Night King
Despite the growing theory that the Night King would not be present for the battle, he rode in on storm and wight dragon ready to school the foolish humans. With still not a word uttered, he distracts Jon and Daenerys as their armies fall. He takes down Jon’s dragon. Makes Daenerys lose hers after surviving a blast of its dragon-fire. Then he saunters over the the Godswood like nothing can stop him, leaving everyone to their fates. The intensity builds as he approaches Bran. He takes his time. Certain in his victory as others struggle to catch up. As Bran return from wraging to see him, all hope is lost. UNTIL THE BEST THING EVER HAPPENS!
“What do we say to the Lord of Death?” Melisandre asks Arya as they cower in the great hall of Winterfell. Well, she says the greatest “not today” in history as she charges up to the Night King. She allows herself to get caught by the throat, only to drop Littlefinger’s Valyrian steel dagger from one hand to the other and stab the King in his belly. He disintegrates into icy chips with the rest of his White Walkers and undead army. Yes. This. Was. It. Whether you think this in anti-climatic or not, it was a joyous moment as the battle was won and the audience could hope again. Arya Stark. MVP of the Long Night and a character arc fully realised. Stunning television.
Amazing. Fantastic. Spectacular. Watch it again. Then again. You haven’t seen it enough!
Our Stand-Out Moment
Arya. Just Arya. Watch her struggle, watch her stand, watch her save Westeros. Perfect.