Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 3: the very unexpected Battle
The Battle of Winterfell will remain in the annals of television. Game of Thrones’ season 8 episode 3 is entirely dedicated to him with a title that says a lot: The Long Night (The Long Night).
This is the episode that the creators of the series, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, spoke most about before the broadcast of this final season. And for good reason: this is probably the most expensive, long and painful episode of the Heroic-fantasy series. A night battle with hundreds of extras to play the most intense battle thought (but not yet written) by G. R. R. Martin. A ordeal for the film crews but a great show for the spectators.
A final look at the preparations
The defenses of Winterfell are ready to welcome the dead and the Night King. But everyone already knew it in episode 2 of season 8: some trenches and catapults will not be enough to repel the tens of thousands of soldiers of the mysterious zombie monarch.
Episode 3 begins with a final look at these preparations. Young Lyanna Mormont shouts orders to her men. Tyrion observes the installations and Theon leads Bran into the Sacred Bosquet of Winterfell in order to attract the Night King who obviously wants to end the Three-Eyed Crow.
The troops on the ground, on the other hand, are waiting for the battle to begin. Then a horse comes up to our heroes. We might believe a messenger from the opposing camp came to claim Winterfell’s keys against the capitulation of our heroes but the dead do not do diplomacy. The horse is not a threat to the Night King either. This is the arrival of the one that everyone has been waiting for since many episodes: Mélisandre.
The Red Witch does not accept politeness. There is no time to lose. As soon as she arrived she ordered Jorah Mormont to ask the Daenerys cavalry to raise their iron weapons. After a magic formula, the useless weapons against the dead, ignite. Not just a sword, but the thousands of curved swords of the Dothraki. A more spectacular version of the spell of Thoros de Myr and Béric Dondarrion.
Mélisandre finally enters the fortress of Winterfell and it is welcomed by ser Davos. He had promised to execute her if she ever came back in front of him and the dialogue with the girl with the burned face of episode 2 did not make him forget the tragic fate of Princess Shireen Baratheon. But Melisandre promises her that she will not survive this night. This is the second time she prophesies her death.
A cavalry that was decimated
Armed with their blades inflamed by the magic of Mélisandre, the cavalry rushes alone towards the enemy lines with the assistance of the catapults. Jon and Daenerys observe from the heights this spectacular assault. The flames of the swords pierce the veil of the night but, after a few seconds of fighting, the flames extinguish. The cavalry is decimated in silence, far from the glance of the spectators. The armed force that had crushed the Lannister army is no more.
This terrible backlash then convinces Daenerys not to stay away from the battle with his dragon. She must help her army. The army of the dead is throwing itself like a tsunami on our heroes. Nothing seems to stop them and the swords of Brienne or Jaime seem trivial. Only the action of the two dragons makes a difference. A small difference…
Faced with the arrival of the enemy, Arya persuaded Sansa to surrender with women, children and other unpretentious politicians with a blade to go into the crypt. She entrusts a obsidian blade to her sister and gives her the same advice that Jon had given her years earlier: “Put her in with the sharp end”. Quick military training but common sense.
The flames of Mélisandre
The Night King, too, uses his magic to triumph on the battlefield. to limit the action of Daenerys and Jon, it invokes a thick freezing fog. Our two heroes can no longer see the ground troops, let alone the signals of ser Davos to ignite the last trenches. Anyway, the couple is too busy fighting an air battle with the Night King and his zombie dragon to think about protecting Winterfell.
The army of words approaches the walls of Winterfell and nothing seems to stop them. The commanders then made the decision to retreat behind the thick wall of the northern city.
Since Daenerys or Jon can’t see ser Davos signals, no one is able to light the trench to create protection around Winterfell. It is Mélisandre who must stick to it at the last minute. Protected by a unit of soldiers, she recites the same formula as for Dothraki weapons. While an undead is within a hair’s reach of gutting him, the spell takes effect and a wall of flames rises between the dead and the living.
The “safest place in Winterfell”
In the crypt, Varys and Tyrion are desperately trying to relax the atmosphere. At least we are already in a crypt”, says Varys, for example, unconvinced by his own disillusioned joke. Sansa and Tyrion exchange a few words about their marriage before Sansa refreshes the mood once again by talking politics: “Our marriage would not have worked, your irreconcilable loyalties [with Daenerys and her] would be an obstacle”. A hard and probably unfair word to Daenerys who has no more to Missandei: “Yes, without the queen of Dragons there would be no problem, indeed… We would all be dead already”.
The crypt was probably not the best place to protect itself from an invasion of the undead. If our heroes did not have to confront the Army of the Night King frontally, they had to face the corpses awakened by his magic.
Dead for the last time
Following the order of their master, the White Walkers threw themselves upon the flames of the trench. If the first ones burn, the mass of corpses ends up creating a bridge and spreading the fire of Mélisandre. The Night’s Army can then attack the walls of Winterfell and penetrate all the wings of the fort.
It is through the eyes of Arya, Béric and the bloodhound that we experience this invasion. If the young Stark fights with courage, Dondarrion has a little trouble convincing Clegane to continue the fight. This lack of courage is immediately counterbalanced by the sacrifice of Lyanna Mormont, who managed to defeat a giant of the Night King on his own by ramming a hint of Verredragon into his eye. A desperate but heroic gesture. The young heiress will eventually die of her wounds.
Arya was rescued by the bloodhound and Béric. But this rescue got Béric. Despite his multiple resurrections, he died one last time allowing Arya and Clegane to join a room where Mélisandre was waiting. It is then a festival of nostalgic phrases: Mélisandre reminds Arya that it is destined to “close brown, green and blue eyes”, that she had predicted that they would meet again and finally this expression learned from her former master of arms in season 1: “What do we say to the god of death? Not today”, not today.
For Mélisandre, Béric died (for good) to save Arya. Such was his destiny. Even if she knows how to bring the dead back to life, the Witch does not attempt to resurrect the warrior with the blade of fire.
Did Bran have it all figured out?
Faced with the impossible military victory, Daenerys and Jon focused on the Night King. If they succeed in killing him for good, the other white walkers under his control will perish. After a victory in the air, the Night King falls to the ground. Gravity doesn’t seem to have hurt him, but he’s now facing Daenerys and his dragon. Standing in front of the reptile, he waits for the queen to give the order. “Dracarys!” she throws and… nothing. As planned, the Night King is immune to the fiery dragon. He always knew how to walk through the flames of dragons or forest children.
Jon then tries to face the king but dozens of white walkers stand between him and his target. Among these new enemies: the allies of yesterday revived by his magic. The King of the Night then headed with his lieutenants towards the sacred grove where Theon and Bran are. Saved at the last minute by Daenerys, Jon then runs towards Bran to save him. The Dragon Queen, she is attacked by hundreds of corpses and falls from Drogon’s back. Unarmed, it can only count on Jorah Mormont’s providential presence to protect it.
For his part, Theon uses all his arrows to defend the Crow. But he can do nothing in the face of the inevitable and finds himself facing the Night King. Listening only to his courage and the last comforting words of Bran (“You are a good man, Theon. Thank you”), the heir of the Greyjoy goes before the Night King armed with a spear. He is immediately stopped by the Night King who kills him. Jon does not manage to cross the obstacle that stands in front of him: the zombie dragon. Jorah Mormont is mortally wounded. Sansa and Tyrion exchange an ultimate look in the crypt. The Night King approaches Bran… The situation seems totally hopeless…
Choosing to die
But Arya appears miraculously. Thanks to her Valyrian steel dagger (entrusted to this same grove by Bran himself), she kills the Night King who explodes in a thousand pieces of ice. Following the domino effect, the lieutenants of the Walkers and the whole army of the Night King collapsed at the same time.
All that remains is to contemplate the magnitude of the losses. Among the important characters: Theon Greyjoy, Jorah and Lyanna Mormont and Béric Dondarrion are dead. A large part of the northern army and Daenerys as well. In the crypt, all our heroes survived. It is rather unlikely that other important characters died without the scene being explicitly shown. We can therefore conclude that Brienne or Jaime are still alive.
The episode nevertheless ends with an ultimate death. A chosen death. Mélisandre’s. As the first splinters of dawn finally colour the sky, the Red Witch walks towards the horizon, removes her necklace, instantly ages under the gaze of ser Davos and falls to dust.