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Game of Thrones 8.03 Review: “The Long Night”

April 29, 2019 | Posted by Wednesday Lee Friday
Game of Thrones 8.03 Image Credit: HBO
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Game of Thrones 8.03 Review: “The Long Night”  

I hope everyone is done ugly crying now that we know who bites the dust this week. Mister Blue reaches Winterfell with his armies, and may have accidentally committed full and complete Dothraki genocide. I have to wonder whether or not that’s a net gain for the world given how the Dothraki have always conducted themselves. But let’s not get ahead of things. Spoilers abound, obvs, for season eight, episode three.

Last week’s episode was a combination of tension and levity. We knew our relationships with at least some of these people were coming to an end. To be honest, I thought we’d lose a lot more than we did. But the deaths we did see were pretty amazing. The lead in to the battle was as suspenseful as any horror movie. Checking in briefly to see how everyone is, reminds us of how much there is to lose if all of these people die. We already know that this episode took months to shoot and is the biggest battle in all of TV and film.

As Game of Thrones is winding to a close, redemption is of the essence for many characters who have done abominable things. This week starts with Melisandre busting out her high Valaryan sayings and lighting all the Dothraki arakhs on fire. It’s a little surprising that they were cool with that, given how their people feel about magic. But they seemed to take Jorah’s word that it was okay. Plus, you’ve got to think the horse lords are not at all down with the temperatures in the North. I love the way this first portion of the battle was handled.

The visual effects were stunning. They straddled a fine line between being unable to clearly see what was happening—as a soldier wouldn’t—and letting us know where everyone was every few minutes. The darkness added much to the tension, basically turning the Winterfell grounds into a game of Silent Hill. Using the flames to visually represent the Dothraki made it so much more impactful when we saw them vanish a few at a time. Since ostensibly Dany had the loyalty of all the Dothraki, and all the Dothraki (at least the men and fighting women) are now gone. No more Dothraki? Maybe.

I sort of expected the newly killed Dothraki to come running immediately back to charge the Unsullied. But no. They couldn’t, because the Night king was too far away. For the time being, at least. Next up, we see Torgo Nudho downright terrified. Brave, but terrified. I’m reminded of Ned Stark explaining that when you’re scared, that’s the only time a man can be brave. I was pretty sure either he or Missandei would die. Now I’m just worried that one of them will die later. Bravery is, as we also learned tonight, staring truth in the face. That’s probably what The Hound thought he was doing when he almost gave up.

We saw many close calls tonight. I thought Sam, Pod, Brienne, Jaimie, Clegane, and even Arya were all going down at some point. Ed was not a giant surprise. Still, he died helping one of this brothers. That’s got to be one of the most honorable ways for a man of the Night’s Watch to go out. RIP, Ed. It’s around Ed’s death that we see a White Walker who looks very much like she could be one of Craster’s daughter-wives. I was looking pretty closely for Wight Walkers I recognized. Like, that was probably Wun Wun who killed…well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The pacing of the episode was spectacular. They did a wonderful job of establishing constant suspense and terror — which is helped by us fans being sure there will be lots of death. We could talk about the amazing dragon battles in the sky, and undead Viserion vs. Rhaegal and Drogon. But honestly, what is there to say about it? I thought Drogon was a goner for a bit, but it seems like we’d need at least one dragon to make it to the finale. Tyrion in the crypt complaining that he should be helping personified the tense feeling of helplessness we all felt as we waited to hear who else would die. The only person who looked really comfortable in the crypts was Varys. I love Varys. But his death has been foretold, so we’ll almost certainly see it soon.

Fans of the show have been yelling for a week that hiding from zombies in the crypts is not smart. We were right. Sansa may try to “stick ’em with the pointy end,” but I can’t imagine she’ll have much success. Once the Night King rose the dead battle participants (anybody else really wishing Jon Snow could run faster, or maybe throw a spear?), the contents of the Winterfell crypts came alive. Happily, we didn’t have to see recognizable versions of Ned, Cat, Robb, or Lyanna. We did definitely lose people in the crypts. It seemed like we lost the little girl from last week that reminded us all of Shireen Baratheon. Sad times.

Let’s talk about redemptions. Beric Dondarian, who was recast, but we’ve known him since season one, died helping Arya. That’s lovely, and with Clegane, no less. Beric is lawless good, if that’s the expression. Doing the right thing despite what the rules are. As Thoros is gone, there’s nobody to bring him back. Because…Melisandre, who actually did make herself useful tonight, is gone. She went out on her own terms, without pain or torture. I’d say that’s far more than she deserves. But as a former slave, Melisandre took agency over her own life and death — even if her choices were sometimes horrible. I think she deserved far worse for what she did to Shireen. But how much pain do people need to endure to be forgiven for their worst sins? Which brings us to Theon.

Theon was a dead lock for death tonight. I don’t think anyone thought he’d live through protecting Bran from the Night King. He fought well and bravely. He was a man with something to prove, sins to atone for, and a family to save. While I thought, it was well done, Theon’s ending was easily the most predictable. Ser Jorah Mormont was another easy-to-call death. He was saved from greyscale by a man whose family was executed by the woman he loves. Neat! He dies saving Dany, which is exactly how he’d want to go out given the choice. Sadly though, that means House Mormont is also probably gone forever.

Sadly, we may never find out if my theory is right and Lyanna Mormont really is the daughter of Tormund Giantsbane (who slept with a “bear” who could have totally been a were-bear Mormont). Because Lyanna Mormont had the most badass, impressive, and gut-wrenching death of the night. It was a tough call whether or not she’d live. On the one hand, she’s brave and fierce. On the other, little girls can’t normally kill undead giants without help. Lyanna did. She just wasn’t able to kill the enormous White Walker and still live. That was my ugly cry, screaming “NO!” so loudly my neighbor heard me in the hallway, moment. RIP, Lady Lyanna. If I may borrow a phrase from the Ironborn, ‘What is Dead May Never Die.’ Not sure who’s gonna break the news about Theon to Yara, but I doubt she’s going to be surprised.

Remember in season six when the Northmen (and girl) made Jon Snow King in the North? One of the praises they heap on him as that he “avenged the Red Wedding.” But he didn’t. Arya did. I’m hoping that since she sort of singlehandedly won this war, somebody notices and gives her some damn credit. Granted, lots of people fought and died. But most of them fought and died protecting each other rather than trying to kill the Night’s King. For a few seconds, we worry that Arya will go out the same way as Lady Mormont. But no…she uses skills she learned from Syrio, Jaqen, and even the Waif, and manages to stick it to the Night King right in the space where his heart should be. Right where we saw the Children of the Forest create him in the first place. And come on, did anybody really think killing the Night’s King would be as simple as dragon fire?

So, where does all that leave us? We haven’t lost any of the major contenders for the Iron Throne. I suspected that the death toll at Winterfell would be so great, the survivors would flee south toward King’s Landing. But no. Having the White Walkers taken out this early — I mean winter has barely begun — seems like we’re missing out on a major thematic element. Is the moral that banding together is the only way to survive? Is it not to underestimate the badassery of girls? Maybe the theme is like David and Goliath where faith lets you slay the bad guy? Or maybe the Night’s King is a distraction from the larger lessons we’ll learn in the second half of this final season.

We have to think Khaleesi (can we even call her that if there are no more Dothraki?) is gonna be doubly angry at Cersei for lying about sending troops North. She might even blame her for Jorah’s death. It seems increasingly likely that Dany will go mad-queen before this is over. We’ve seen her forays into wanton murder and dragon burning when she burned the masters in Meereen, killed all those people in Qarth, burned the Tarlys alive, executed that slave, and a few other deeds I’m probably forgetting. While she did fight for Winterfell as promised, losing another dragon (are we sure whether Rhaegal survived?) and Jorah has likely left her not wanting to hear any crap about Lord Snow being Azor Ahai.

Overall, this was not as killy as I expected it to be. Seven dead including the Night King is a lot, but few that will make a difference in the battle for the Iron Throne. That means when I watch episode two again, it won’t make me terribly sad for all the people we lost. Everybody from the North is gonna be pretty tired by the time they reach King’s Landing. The Golden Company might have an easy time of it. Or not.

See you’s next week!

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
We were all bracing for horrible deaths at a level we'd not seen since the season six finale. What we got was some incredible fighting, a lot of close calls, fire, and the kind of heroism they'll sing songs about for years to come.