The Great War is here. It was an epic battle that began in the very first scene of the series, a battle between the living and the dead. Last night’s Game Of Thrones, titled “The Long Night”, was an expertly paced episode lasting an hour and twenty-two minutes in length. It was the most cinematic that GOT has ever been, with stunning visual effects and a score that was almost as unsettling as what was going on onscreen. To say it was the greatest episode the show has ever done is an understatement; it was a landmark in television history.
The episode begins with around 10 minutes of extremely tense silence, setting the mood for the episode and building anticipation for what had better be a pretty spectacular battle. Thankfully, it paid off the moment Melisandre arrived to light all the Dothraki swords on fire! It was an incredible visual effect to have all those Dothraki screamers riding out to meet the dead only to have their swords extinguished one by one by a barely seen tidal wave of wights. The whiplash of excitement and dread was superbly done, although I still have many questions from purely a tactical standpoint: Why put all of the Dothraki on the front lines if you didn’t want them to be the first to go? What is Jon’s Direwolf Ghost doing out there? Is Ghost dead now?
Of course, in any battle where there is an overwhelming weapon that could easily win the war, they always take it out of the equation in order to give everyone a chance to be a hero. “The Long Night” accomplishes this with Jon and Dany riding Rhaegal and Drogon into a sudden winter storm, getting lost among the snow. Speaking of which, where did this storm come from? Was it the White Walkers? They really are a metaphor for climate change.
Meanwhile, on the ground floor, Arya finally realizes that Sansa’s pretty useless and sends her down to the crypts to stay safe. Sansa heads down to the crypt to meet Tyrion in a scene that’s reminiscent of her and Cersei during the Battle of Blackwater. Sansa is so much more unhelpful this time around (I miss when she made everyone sing hymns), but at least Varys is there to lift spirits by pointing out the obvious irony that they’re hiding from the dead in a crypt.
Our first casualty is the loss of Dolorus Edd, a man who died too soon (for me to really care about). The living then play the ace up their sleeves when they retreat behind the walls of Winterfell and throw up flaming trenches, handily lit by the human Bic lighter that is Melisandre. We take on our second casualty with the loss of Lyanna Mormont, who goes out in a burst of bravery by taking down an undead giant. They take their time with her death scene, tugging on our heartstrings in an intimate send off to a beloved fan favorite.
Meanwhile, the dragons are flying peacefully above the clouds in what I can only imagine is an homage to “How To Train Your Dragon 3” until undead Viserion attacks. Viserion is like your brother who runs away from home and joins a cult, then comes back and tries to kill you and your sister.
The episode changes pace at this point, going from overwhelming battle scenes to silent stalking through Winterfell. Arya decides she’s had enough and hides, evading several wights in her childhood library like she’s on a ten-minute break from work trying to avoid the customers. She’s saved from an onslaught of them by the arrival of Beric Dondarrion and his flaming sword, although he’s killed (again) in the process of saving her and the Hound. This brings the death count of the episode to three, and brings Beric’s death count to somewhere in the mid-40’s. Melisandre and Arya share a quick little pep talk before Arya regains her strength and motivation and runs out the door, off to places unknown.
Cut back to the dragons fighting and biting each other like two giant wrestling Russian Wolfhounds. The Night King and Jon both get thrown from their dragons, but Dany stays on hers long enough to blast the Night King with a ton of dragon fire, which does… nothing? Oh, come on! Jon goes for the ground attack but is too late to stop the Night King from reanimating all those we’ve lost so far, even the dead bodies in the crypt.
It’s at this point that everyone realizes things truly can get worse. Dany falls off her dragon and Jorah gets wounded multiple times defending her. Sansa and Tyrion are no help at all down in that crypt, and Jon tries to go help Bran but gets sidetracked by Viserion. The Night King finally makes his way to Bran, allowing Theon a chance to regain his honor by running headlong into the face of death. This raises the death count to 4, and although I would have liked to have seen Theon die in a useful way rather than a needless one, he was always a kind of needless character.
The moment we’ve all been waiting for comes when the Night King finally goes to kill Bran, but not before Arya runs up and jumps from behind with the Valyrian steel dagger. He catches her, but she drops the dagger to her other hand and stabs him in the stomach, killing him and wiping out all the reanimated dead in what is obviously the coolest moment of the series. The living win!
Jorah takes his final breaths with Daenerys holding him, our fifth casualty. Thankfully none of the dragons died, or I would have had a full on meltdown. And in the final moments of the episode Melisandre takes off her necklace, gets super old, and dies for no reason. Death count: 6 (people we care about).