Charge of the Lit Brigade
Marieke: What a sight! The Dothraki going into the dark with their weapons on fire. I did not expect to see Melisandre just walk back into Winterfell like that. There was no need for her to be afraid of Davos though. A lot of people praised Melisandre for the fire and it was nice she shed a light in a dark episode! The effect of the Dothraki weapons’ flames going out was haunting. Whilst it may not have been a great strategy to attack something in the dark, it did look incredibly spectacular until you realised they pretty much all died. RIP Dothraki army.
Dany has always been impulsive and it was no wonder she wanted to dracarys the dead and help out her Dothraki men. They could have planned the dragon as weapons tactic a whole lot better, but the snowstorm did not really help. Dany and Jon even flew into each other! At Hardhome the weather changed too, but that was overlooked by the Hardhome survivors. This time it was worse, more aggressive even. It made the fight damn harder and also harder for us too see. The panic and tension were palpable. And then they were fighting the dead.
Danielle: Never was I more grateful to see Melisandre! Not only was her arakh-lighting trick an absolute boon in such a dark episode, but the moment we saw each of the weapons catch alight as they faced down the undead army, I nearly punched the air. Unfortunately, that jubilation was short-lived. Apparently the Night King’s army has no trouble facing down the Dothraki in an open field though, and they were literally and figuratively snuffed out. As brutal as their culture is, there’s something deeply saddening about them becoming all but extinct fighting a battle in foreign lands. I did enjoy the little nod between the Red Woman and Grey Worm, and the ‘Valor Morghulis’ ‘Valor dohaeris’ exchange. Again, it was a reminder that these were characters fighting other people’s battles on foreign soil.
In general, as war commanders, Dany and Jon don’t really cut the mustard, do they? It was understandable that she reacted to half of her army being massacred, but the emotion that spurred her to jump on Drogon’s back early and toast a few wights, completely disregarding their initial plans to hold back and draw the Night King out, was as damaging to the fight as it was chaotic. In fact, Dany putting heart before head reminded me of Jon trying to charge Ramsay’s army during the Battle of the Bastards after Rickon was killed. It was also really interesting to see her dragons becoming a complication, rather than an out and out ace card. From last season we knew that they were vulnerable, and of course undead!Viserion showed up to engage in a stunning aerial battle with Drogon and Rhaegal in less than favourable weather conditions. Both Dany and Jon were able to utilise their mounts to burn a ton of wights, but it speaks volumes that they weren’t exactly decisive in the ultimate outcome of the battle. There was also a hubristic quality to Dany facing down the Night King and trying to burn him, only to end up dodging an ice spear and a smug grin.
Marieke: Those dead. They act like lemmings, but they cannot die. TERRIFYING. They had the numbers and the set up of Dany’s armies was not exactly a great one. The Unsullied did their best and I loved that they wanted to protect the people retreating no matter what. The tsunami of corpses was just impossible to deal with. I really thought he was going to sacrifice himself to light the trenches. I was equally relieved when Melisandre did that in time. Her magic has always been a little too unreliable. The wildings looked at their best fighting in the snowstorm, but obviously the sheer numbers of the dead hurt them too. It was a miracle only one familiar GoT face died outside the castle walls: Edd, Commander of the Night’s Watch. He died saving Sam, the brother he liked to make fun off. Look who is living now, Edd! Even though he was a more minor character, I did let out a little sigh. I thought he was going to be the first of many. Speaking of Sam, he was supposed to represent all of us in battle. He is trying, he wants to, but he is also a little coward which cost Edd his dear life. Sam most likely has writing duties plot armour and just some damn good luck. Outside and on the wall Jaime and Brienne fought side by side and they had not survived this if they did not have each other’s backs.
The fire was a relief, they whole army of the dead stood still! Until they just threw themselves onto the flames to create bridges. Oh man, they have no problems sacrificing themselves for each other. I reckon they don’t have feelings, do they? They easily formed a mountain of dead bodies to get into Winterfell. One question: Where was the hot oil castles always have to throw on armies storming at them? They could have used some of that! Possibly Ramsay used it all during a barbecue, but answers by raven please.
Danielle: In an altogether tense episode, the retreat behind the castle walls after the wight army basically trampled over the living was probably the most heart-stopping. You could literally see the Winterfell alliance dwindling before your very eyes, as even the battle-hardened Unsullied couldn’t withstand the onslaught. Fortunately, someone on Team Dany was thinking effectively on their feet and Grey Worm decided to use Melisandre’s fire-starting skills to light the trench in the wake of Dany being unable to see Davos’ signal, sacrificing vast swathes of his men in the process. It does offer some respite for those who’ve retreated within the castle walls, but it’s short-lived as the Night King retaliates by making his wights throw themselves on the fire to dampen it so that those behind them can walk through unscathed. The result is Winterfell being swarmed with the animated corpses, forcing everybody inside to fight for their lives. Even Jaime surprised with his left-handed sword skills, having Brienne’s back just as much as she had as his, as their ‘adoped squire son’, Pod, also made a good account of himself. I’m almost glad that they didn’t have Sam turn into an unexpected badass at the eleventh hour, in spite of his reputation as the ‘Slayer’. Him pleading with an uninterested Jon to help him was heart-breaking, and may have ramifications later on.
What Lies Beneath
Marieke: And there they were, down in the crypt: the women, children, Sansa, Tyrion, Missandei, Gilly and little Sam and Varys. I have never seen the latter look so scared and he delivered the most deadpan line of the night. As everyone with half a brain shouted towards the screen every time the crypts were mentioned… THERE ARE DEAD PEOPLE DOWN THERE AND YOU ARE FIGHTING AN ICE-COLD NECROMANCER! I still don’t get why this has not been mentioned by Jon, Edd or Tormund. They had seen it in Hardhome! They could have at least taken it into account. Anyway, before the dead Starks started attacking and eating the extras (our crew is safe), there were some enlightening moments down there. Missandei does not like to hear someone bad mouthing Dany. Yes, she came to help. But Sansa was right. She and Tyrion could never still be married, because it would divide his loyalties in Dany’s eyes. Who would think Sansa and Tyrion would even discuss this? He was the best of them though. He has always shown Sansa respect and she has returned it. The silent scene of them hiding behind a crypt when the dead have broken loose had to be one of the sweetest and loveliest moments in times of death. Tyrion cares for the women he knew as a girl and sees her as the grown up she is. Sansa has always been grateful he did not take advantage of her. One thing though. Has Sansa never cut any meat with a knife in her live? Cause she apparently does not know how to handle it. But, she was prepared to fight with Tyrion and use the pointy end.
Danielle: You have to be a special kind of dense not to realise that the Night King would reanimate the Stark dead in the crypts. I mean, really? It was the one thing that pulled me out of the episode as the collective stupidity required not to think of the possibility was just breath-taking, to the point that it made me question the writing. Still, we got Varys cracking jokes and a rather sweet conversation between former spouses, Tyrion and Sansa. I don’t particularly ship them, but it was good to see that she bears him no ill will, and that they were looking out for each other when the undead Starks attacked. It was rather inconvenient that Missandei was there to overhear them discussing why the ‘dragon Queen’ is the fly in the ointment that would prevent them from rekindling their relationship. Things really are falling apart for Team Dany.
Marieke: Perhaps the death count when it comes to the regular GoT crew was rather low. Maybe one of the bigger names did not die. However, a big death would have taken away from the sacrifices made in this war. They all had their purpose. House Mormont, as we predicted, is no more. Little Lyanna went down like the fighter she is. In an act of final bravery, she attacks the giant wight. Maybe not so smart, but before being completely crushed she managed to take him out. I cheered and I felt sad. Lyanna was a badass who stood up to all men way older than her. She was braver than them. She will be missed. It was freaky seeing her as a wight though! Beric Dondarrion also was always a goner without Thoros, but it turned out they had both served their purpose. Beric only kept on living to save Arya. His mighty flaming sword took out plenty of wights, but the one trying to eat Arya was meant to die by a flying flaming sword. They met early on in the series and this was the outcome. He also made a lovely bickering fighting couple with The Hound. He won’t miss Beric’s sword though. Theon and his Ironborn fought hard to defend Bran, but it was always going to come to Theon as the last man standing. He fought like I had never seen him fight before. Bran’s words about Theon being home *and * a good man, gave him his final fighting spirit. Charging towards the Night King might have been an unwise decision, but he definitely was not going to Reek out of this one. He died for his little brother, he died a Stark and a Greyjoy and has totally redeemed himself. When you think about it, he may have deserved a little more than this cold death, but we will remember him for the journey he made. God I hated him, I pitied him, I felt for him and, during this episode, I cheered him on.
Our final hero dying in battle was Jorah. Oh Jorah. We knew you would not survive this, but you died like we knew and loved you best: fighting for your Khaleesi. Of course it had to be him. He had kept his eye on her during the frantic battle and the moment she needed it, he was there. And it hurt. His final words. They did hurt. Jorah also had quite a journey, also literally. He came, he went, he came, he went, he came, he went, but he always returned to his precious Khaleesi. Her most loyal knight. Drogon knew and him protecting his grieving mother cause a little dust in my left eye.
Melisandre did not die in battle, but in the same vein as Beric, she finally went to the Lord of Light. Taking off her necklace, she died of old age. Whilst her fire may not have been as useful as we hoped, the fire she put in Arya (okay, more triggering a few memories) was the catalyst to end this gruesome war. Blue eyes, Arya. That is it. Melisandre has definitely not redeemed herself as much as other characters might have. Shireen was just a giant step too far. But she had a role to play and knew how she was going to die, hence her fearless disposition she has always had. I am glad she went out with a few good deeds (which got to favour the Dutch actress a little, no?)
Danielle: If you’re going to go, do it while putting most of the other soldiers to shame and taking down a wight giant. That’s exactly what Lyanna Mormont did with aplomb, fighting through the absolute agony she was in to skewer her massive opponent in the eye. To tell the truth, I did wonder if she might make it out of this battle to continue the Mormont line, but it wasn’t to be. Something is clearly in the Bear Island water, as her cousin also fought bravely, taking the blows that Dany otherwise would have succumbed to. As sad as his death was, and it really, really was, I can’t help but feel like that was the way he would have wanted to go, making the ultimate sacrifice for the woman he’d once spied on and then came to love, and dying in her arms. I have to say though, Drogon joining in the mourning party really got me.
So, who knew that Beric was brought back all those times just to be there to save Arya from a horde of wights? It was honestly something I never would have guessed in a million years, but that Christ-like pose he held as he blocked the undead from getting at the living’s saviour was on point. I’m really going to miss his odd joviality in the sea of misery that GoT can often be, and I suspect Sandor will too. Less missed will be Melisandre, who may have formed one of half of the lighting department with Beric, but who’s main role was as motivational speaker for Arya. I knew something was going on the moment their eyes met across the ramparts. Perhaps it wasn’t the role in all of this that I expected for the Red Woman, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more visually stunning death in the whole series. With Davos looking on, sword poised ready to insure that she lived up to her word that she wouldn’t see the dawn, she walked out into the icy landscape, her age finally catching up with her after she removed her necklace. As we saw her hair turn grey and her drop to the floor, a visible gust of icy wind seemed to take her soul with it. An oddly beautiful ending for a very morally grey character.
Lastly, and by no means least, we saw Theon breathe his last in defence of his adoptive brother. This was the death that really moved me, in no small part because of Alfie Allen’s ridiculously emotive face. He fought like a demon to to keep those wights away from Bran, even as the rest of the Ironborn men fell beside him. Then the young man he was protecting gave him the one thing he’s been searching for all along: a sense of where belonging. This made his previous cowardice melt away, and spurred him to charge the Night King in the knowledge of his almost certain death. I watched him stare up at his adversary after he he was mortally wounded with a huge lump in my throat. What a character arc!
Arya Stark: The Ninja that was Promised
Marieke: There was no one more ready to fight more than Arya. Also being No One (badam tschhh). She gave Sansa some advice she heard many seasons ago from Jon and sent her to the crypt. Then she showed us again how gifted she is with bow and arrow and saved the Hound from an oncoming wight. Davos also nearly dropped his jaw when he saw the little woman fight. She really kicked some dead arses with the weapon Gendry made for her! It was a lovely sight to behold. Nevertheless, she ended up in trouble with the dead outnumbering her. The Hound could not deal with any of it anymore. The sheer numbers of their opponents and all the fire, obviously, sent him into flight rather than fight mode. He was completely paralysed by a panic attack, something we have seen from him before. He virtually gave up until Arya was in trouble and Beric pointed that out to him. His fondness of Arya was something he could not hide anymore and he sprung into action. Arya got away and played a little Solid Snake in Winterfell’s library. Where it was actually rather quiet. Even the dead followed those rules. It was a tense scene, where Arya showed us her skill, mostly when she managed to get out from under the table without being noticed. We should have taken notes after this move. Her sigh of relief after closing the library door obviously had to be followed up by more danger. Beric’s flying flaming sword saved her and sealed his fate. The Hound picking up Arya like old times was rather amusing, she must have been a little annoyed by that.
The trio managed to get to safety, but Beric lost his life. Oh wait, there is some red in the corner of the room. Somehow they ended up with Melisandre, who intrigued Arya more than actually activated her kill-list. Mel was key to unlocking what Arya had already known since season 3. She was going to kill many: green eyes, brown eyes and blue eyes. DINGDINGDINGDING! The dead were still approaching and they were ready to fight, so Mel used her final piece of energy to convince Arya: “What do we say to the god of death?” Oh Syrio, you taught her so well. “NOT TODAY!” Arya sprinted away and left Melisandre and a surprised Sandor behind.
When the Night King approached Bran I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen. Jon was stuck fighting a dragon, the rest were stuck within Winterfell’s walls and Theon was dead. I had honestly forgotten that Arya had taken up long distance running. A whiff of air moved the hair on one of the white walker’s heads, and there she was screaming, our little Arya.. OH NO HE IS GOING TO CHOKE HER… but wait… she had the weapon in hand switch she had previously demonstrated when sparring against Brienne! The Night King shattered into a thousand pieces, taking his whole army with him, saving our favourites. Throughout the show this climax had been building up, but we neglected the signs. It was refreshing that it was not Jon to take the Night King down, but instead his little ninja sister. Arya was trained as an assassin, quick, almost invisible and without the scream (probably needed for some strength) we would not even have noticed her. Her getting away in the library demonstrated how she got past the White Walkers. Also, they just were not paying any attention and got all cocky that they had won already. No one was keeping a look out! Arya was not a deus ex machina, it was all set up, but maybe we just were not paying enough attention. I cannot wait to see the response from everyone to Arya killing that dreaded Night King. TODAY.
Danielle: Undoubtedly for me, one of the best and most bizarre relationships on the show has always been between Arya and The Hound. I made it pretty clear that I wasn’t exactly satisfied with their reunion in the premiere, but what transpired in this episode more than made up for it. If there was one person that could snap Sandor out of his PTSD, it was going to be Arya, especially after she’d already saved his bacon by killing a wight that was chasing him down. For all of the unkind words they’ve shared, they care, and it’s that looking out for each other, coupled with Beric’s sacrifice and Mel’s pep talk, that precipitated her ultimate act of badassery.
Even before that though, she really was Team Winterfell’s MVP, taking down wights like she was born to do it with the weapon that Gendry made for her. I was actually glad to see her falter in the library, and us get a sense that she was genuinely in fear of losing her life during that scene. It’s hard to cheer someone along when they seem infallible, and Arya’s coldness hasn’t always helped to make her empathetic. Injecting some humanity into her persona made her ultimate triumph, sticking the Night King with the pointy end, all the more glorious. My heart almost stopped when he grabbed her by the throat, but boy was I glad to see her pulling the hand switching trick again! Like Marieke, I am absolutely THRILLED that Jon wasn’t the one to take out their icy foe, and I love the fact that there was foreshadowing in the premiere when his sister silently snuck up on him in the exact same spot. If the Jon fanboys are crying over Arya taking the plaudits, I really couldn’t care less. They can keep screaming into the void like Jon was at Viserion.
Marieke: I have never watched an episode with so much tension, or with my breath so bated. The episode was dark and hard to follow, although I admit watching it again in a darkened room, it was definitely easier to see. Or was that because I knew the ending already? I am glad many of the faves survived, although the heartache is still going to come. The deaths we did witness were honourable and made sense. I understand part of the audience might be disappointed, but GoT was never going to play by the rules. A major character’s death might also have overshadowed Arya’s heroic moment.
Whilst the music was excellent again, I also was a bit distracted by the scenes accompanied by the piano music. Piano seems to initiate impending doom, but this time that was mostly for the army of the dead. We’re still not any further into knowing the motives behind the Night King besides wanting the everlasting night. At first I always figured he would be the final boss of the show, but I am also glad he is not. Whilst fighting them was always tense, he was a little too 2D for me to be incredibly interesting. Yes, we are left with a supposedly pregnant lady and a pirate, but Cersei has always been one of the most interesting characters to me. Dany has hardly any army left, however I believe she still has two dragons, although Rhaegar went down he was not summoned by the Night King. Still, will she be able to defeat Cersei? There are three (!!!) episodes left and I have no idea what is going to happen. Let’s go back to warmer territories and leave the winter behind.
Danielle: Putting aside the need for night goggles, in it’s purest form ‘The Long Night’ was an absolute spectacle! Have we ever seen an episode that was concurrently as visually stunning and absolutely terrifying? Often Thrones focuses on the human drama and Westeros’ politics, but here we strayed into outright horror territory as the Night King and his foot soldiers massacred and fought their way within Winterfell’s walls and set about bringing the endless night. Heroism and sacrifice (mostly) prevailed however, and Ned Stark’s motto about ‘the pack surviving’ bore fruit in spectacular fashion as his daughter saved the day. Major props to the showrunners for surprising me on that front, and for turning this whole show on its head in the final stretch by killing the ‘Big Bad’ before the end. Just remember to tell the people in lighting to light a torch or two next time, guys!
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