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Game of Thrones - The Long Night - Review

Game of Thrones “The Long Night” was written (finally!) by the team of David Benioff and DB Weiss and was directed by Miguel Sapochnik. I don’t know about you, but it was almost too much for me! We lost a few – but not as many as I thought we might. We got that magnificent dragon fight – which we’ll never see again. And we got action, action, and heroism. Yes. It was much, much too dark at the beginning especially – apparently due to the editing taking place in a dark room as if it was being prepared to be shown in a dark theatre. And some of the fight scenes were shot much too close and much too choppy. But all in all, this battle was worth every one of the 55 nights it took to film it. And a huge shout out and all the praise in Westeros for composer Ramin Djawadi for an incredible score. Let’s take a closer look…

The episode begins with a close up of Sam’s (John Bradley) shaking hands and we follow him through the courtyard as he watches everyone preparing and getting into place. Lady Mormont (Bella Ramsey *sob*) is in the background getting her men in place. Sam passes us off to Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) who continues on, grabbing a wine flask almost as big as he is. He watches as Theon (Alfie Allen) pushes Bran (Isaac Hemsptead Wright) out of the courtyard and into the godswood. From there, the shot pans up to the wall. The archers wait and Davos (Liam Cunningham), Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maise Williams) wait with them. We follow Sansa’s eyes up to the dragons as they fly overhead. It’s a beautiful shot that establishes most of the main characters.

The dragons take us out to the battlefield with the Unsullied – and the rest of our characters. The Dothraki wait with the Unsullied and the armies of the North. Pod (Daniel Portman) stands on one side of Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) stands on the other. Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) stands with his helmet off – so we can see him clearly. Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) stands in the front row with Beric (Richard Dormer), and we watch as the Hound (Rory McCann) shoves his way forward to stand with them and he’s accompanied by Gendry (Joe Dempsie). I loved the somber beat of drums that felt almost like the them from Jaws during this sequence.

And the first bit of real dialogue takes us back to Sam as he flounders his own way to the front to stand beside Edd (Ben Crompton) who remarks, “Oh for fuck’s sake. You took your time.” Sam looks like he wants to bolt or throw up – and I’ll spare a minute now for the fact that Sam really does do himself proud in the battle – even if he does get Edd killed. The next shot takes us to Jorah (Iain Glen) who sits on his horse between the Dothraki and Ghost.

Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Jon (Kit Harington) with the dragons watch the battlefield from atop a nearby mountain. We get a terrific shot of the army spread out. A single horse and rider come out of the darkness – and somehow Davos from the ramparts recognizes Melisandre (Carice van Houten). She commands Jorah tell the Dothraki to lift their swords.

Melisandre clutches one of the Dotraki swords and chants over it until it bursts into flames. This was a beautiful shot as the fire raced down the length of their lines. I loved how it also lit a ripple of hope in all of the grim faces. The somber drums of opening are joined with the more hopeful sound of violins. Melisandre says “Valor Morghulis” to Grey Worm, who returns “Valor Dohaeris” – of course! Davos has the gate opened for Melisandre and rushes down to meet her. She meets him halfway and tells him there’s no need to execute her – she’ll be dead before the dawn. She and Arya lock eyes from a distance – and it’s chilling to say the least.

The Dothraki charge – yelling as always and blood lusting for the fight. It’s another beautiful shot as their fiery swords streak through the darkness – with the flaming payloads from the trebuchets flying overhead. And then the flames and the light – and the Dothraki are swallowed by the army of the dead. The yelling becomes screaming and the slavering of the dead army.

The others wait and then the Dothraki return, some on foot, some without riders, and Jorah injured. And no sign of Ghost. Daenerys is ready to join the fight – she’s just watched half of her army get wiped out. Jon tries to get her to stick to the plan and wait for the Night King, but she tells him that the dead are already here. The drums pick up the pace as we watch the rest of the army brace for the army of the dead – I loved how it mimicked their no doubt quickening hearts.

And then it’s just confusion. I get that it’s supposed to feel like chaos – like an actual battle but it made it impossible to see what was really happening. It seems immediately like we are going to start losing people. Brienne goes down screaming and would have been dead right then if it wasn’t for Jaime saving her. Frankly, in those first seconds it looked like we also lost Pod, Tormund, and Baric! And then Daenerys is there with Drogon and with Jaime watching, it felt like the last time he was on a battlefield with the dragons – except this time they are fighting for him.

The music cuts to the dragon’s aria and almost immediately, we see Tormund still fighting. Jon, of course, has joined Daenerys. But then Jon is distracted by the Winter Knights and goes after them – and then, surprise, surprise, we learn that they can conjure the weather – plunging Daenerys and Jon into a raging blizzard, making it impossible to see.

Arya sees that things are not going well, and tells Sansa to go down to the crypt. Sansa insists that she’s not going to abandon her people. Arya gives her a dragon glass dagger and insists that she go, telling her to stick ‘em with the pointy end. Sansa goes, and Arya prepares to join the battle.

There’s a lot of chaotic chopping of body parts and cut shots. We see Jorah knocked from his horse, Tormund fighting, and Jaime seemingly overrun. Edd and Sam are fighting together. Sam goes down and it looks like he’s about to be knifed through the eye when Edd saves him – only to be killed himself. It’s perhaps fitting that he dies saving a member of the Night Watch, but it’s also sad that instead of avenging him, Sam runs away.

The poor visibility causes Jon and Daenerys to have a mid-flight collision. Meanwhile, the army pulls back into Winterfell. It looks like it’s just a route, but it’s part of the plan. Tormund calls the retreat, we see Sam run into the keep, Lady Mormont is directing people inside, and Grey Worm holds the Unsullied to guard the retreat. Brienne, Pod, and Jaime make it back inside. Tormund, Gendry, and the Hound are among the last back in. And I loved that Arya saves the Hound as he retreats by shooting the dead behind him with a flaming arrow. Just for one second, I wondered if he were still on her list. The Unsullied lines have been pushed back against the trench – Grey Worm calls for them to light the trench and collapses the bridge, trapping the remaining Unsullied.

The trenches won’t light, however, and Daenerys can’t see where they are. Beric and Tormund are among the very last outside the gates along with Jorah. The Unsullied from a protective guard for Melisandre to get through. She prays to the Lord of Light as chaos reigns around her. I did love the shots of her face in extreme close up with her eyeing how close the dead were getting and we hear her voice start to quiver – and then the trench bursts into flames – and the dead are brought to a halt.

Down in the crypt, we finally see Gilly (Hannah Murray) and Varys (Conleth Hill) who remarks – in typical Varys fashion – “at least we’re already in a crypt.” Tyrion stands looking at the doorway. He’s still upset to have been relegated to safety. He points out that if they were up there, they might see something everyone else was missing. Tyrion points out that he made a difference at the Battle of the Blackwater – and Varys points out that Tyrion also got his face cut in half. Tyrion doesn’t care. He made a different, and if he were out there right now… Sansa cuts him off and tells him that if he were out there, he’d die. She assures him that there’s nothing he can do. She tells him that witty remarks won’t do anything. She tells him that’s why they’re down there – they can’t do anything. The most heroic thing they can do now is look the truth in the face.

Tyrion is impressed. This isn’t the girl he remembers. He tells her maybe they should have stayed married. She smiles and tells him that he was the best of them. He replies, “What a terrifying thought!” I loved this scene between the two of them as they finally appreciate who the other really is. Sansa, however, points out that it wouldn’t work between the two of them – because of Daenerys. His divided loyalties would become a problem. And then Missandei pipes up with, “yes. Without the Dragon Queen there’d be no problem at all. You’d be dead already.”

Theon continues to guard Bran. They are surrounded by a circle of guards. Theon tells Bran that they’ve lit the trench. He then takes a moment to try to tell Bran how sorry he is for the things he’s done, but before he can spit it out, Bran cuts him off and points out that everything Theon did has brought him to this moment. Where he belongs. Home. It’s perhaps the kindest thing that Bran could say to him – and it belies his dispassionate persona as the Three Eyed Raven. Bran then tells Theon that he’s going to go – and his eyes roll back in his head and he flies off to find the Night King.

Who is on his way… But be also commands his army of the dead to cross the flaming trench – and like ants, they use each other’s dead bodies to form a bridge… Davos calls for them to man the walls – and our brief interlude is over.

Jon watches from his place atop the wall by the godswood as the dead breach the trench and the Night King descends on his own dragon. And then Jon takes flight. As the dead work their way up the wall, the swordsmen take the place of the archers who are sent higher. Sam is back fighting alongside Jaime, Jorah, Gendry, Brienne and the others. Brienne returns the favor and saves Jaime – who saves her again. Jorah saves Sam.

The Hound struggles with his own PTSD as Arya makes good use of the weapon that Gendry made for her. I loved Davos watching her fight with utter amazement. Meanwhile, a dead giant breaches the gate. He knocks Lyanna Mormont flying and begins to decimate her men. Beric tries to pull the Hound back into the battle. The Hound insists that it’s hopeless. They can’t beat them – they’re fighting death and you can’t beat death. Beric succeeds in pulling the Hound back in by pointing to Arya and telling the Hound to tell her that – as she flees from the dead. It’s the Hound’s turn to save her.

Meanwhile, Lyanna Mormont refuses to give up too. Already injured, she limpingly runs at the giant, screaming. He reaches down and picks her up, slowly crushing her breastplate and chest. As he lifts her up to look at her, she stabs him in the eye with her dragon glass and kills him. I was really, really hoping she was just badly injured…. But it was really one of the best hero deaths that we’ve had in the show.

The dragon fight above and in the clouds was amazing. The parts above the clouds moreso because you could actually see what was going on.

For the first time in several seasons, we actually see Arya look her age and show fear. She’s alone and trapped in the library. Williams is simply brilliant throughout this episode. Was anyone else worried that she’d take the face of one of the dead and one of the living would kill her? How ironic as well that her training to be completely silent is defeated by the dripping of her blood – what sets her apart from the dead. She makes it out of the library – and I loved her coming around the one shelf to find and silently kill one of them. But then, the dead are everywhere and she’s desperately running through the halls of her childhood home – and maybe that is what is preventing her from being completely stoic? Where else would she feel the pull of childhood?

The Hound and Beric search the halls for Arya – and I loved the way the two moved together. Beric throws his sword to save Arya and begins his slow death of a thousand cuts. I loved the beautiful shot of him as the Hound drags Arya away from trying to save Beric as he’s shown with his hands outstretched as the dead stab him – almost like Christ on the cross. Beric manages to stagger in to the room they take refuge in and Arya watches striken as he dies.

Melisandre is there and intones, “The Lord brought him back for a purpose.” I won’t lie. I was really hoping that she would bring Beric back again… Melisandre finishes that Beric’s purpose has now been served. And of course, at the time, I was wondering ‘what?’ – but it’s clear from her voice that Melisandre knows Arya’s importance. Arya remembers Melisandre who also remembers her. Arya tells Melisandre that she was right about them meeting again and about Arya shutting many eyes forever. Melisandre recites, “Brown eyes, green eyes, and blue eyes.” As soon as she said blue eyes, I knew exactly how this episode was going to end! And so did Arya. Just like Theon, everything that Arya has been through has brought her to this moment. Beric was saved to save her. The Hound and she bonded – whether either of them liked it or not. Her training in Bravoos and her thirst for revenge. She would have to revenge Beric’s death because he died for her. But most importantly, she’s a trained assassin. The best in the world as she killed the other two who were also the best. Melisandre reminds her of her training when she asks, “What do we say to the God of Death?” and Arya replies “Not today.” And yes, I have a t-shirt coming!

Arya and Melisandre share a look, and again, Williams is brilliant here as all the fear and age-appropriate emotion drains from her face. She trots past the Hound without a word and he watches her go – stunned. I loved how much physicality Williams brought to her character here – she simply glides silently out of that room, having been carried in squeaking. Her anguish over Beric is gone and replaced with a single minded purpose. Brilliant.

Theon prepares as the dead begin to breach the godswood. I loved that he remained steadfast throughout, rallying his men to the end.

Meanwhile, the Night King strifes Winterfell with blue fire. The dragons truly engage again with the Night King prevailing over Jon. Rhaegal crashes – is he dead? We don’t see him reanimate later, so I’m hopeful. Drogon seriously injures Viserion and knocks the Night King to the ground… right by Jon, of course. Jorah pauses in his fight to note where Daenerys is – and to head in her direction. Daenerys seemingly has the Night King at her mercy and commands dracarys – it’s a beautiful shot as Drogon lights him up.

But when the fire ebbs, the Night King simply smiles at her – and narrowly misses her with an ice lance. It looks like this is going to be the big standoff between Jon and the Night King. They are alone among the heaps of the dead… until the Night King raises his arms… and the dead. Just when you thought things were finally going our way.

It’s actually a nice moment of calm in the episode. They’ve almost won and then they are faced with a new army – their own best fighters coming back to kill them. It also featured a nice moment to make sure that we hadn’t missed anyone’s death along the way. We see Jaime still fighting with Brienne. Sam is with Grey Worm, and Tormund is with Gendry. And then – this truly broke my heart. Lyanna Mormont and Edd both wake with blue eyes. The Night King and his Knights arrive at the gates of Winterfell…

In the crypt, the very, very dead also rise. I loved the scene between Sansa and Tyrion as they hide behind a crypt. They can hear the others being killed. Neither really wants to go out, and yet, both know that they have to try to fight. The two pull their daggers and share a look. Tyrion kisses her hand takes a deep breath and runs out. Is there something there? Could they truly be a good match? Sansa is smart enough to keep up with Tyrion and she’s seen what true ugliness looks like now. I think I just may ship them!

Jon fights alone until Daenerys and Drogon arrive. She sends him – on foot! – to go to Bran and the dead swarm Drogon. Why land if you aren’t going to fly Jon to Bran? It was a very stupid and silly thing to do. Daenerys is thrown as Drogon attempts to shake the dead from himself. Daenerys is now alone and surrounded by the dead – until Jorah is there to save her. Jorah does get a hero’s death in saving Daenerys and is one of the first major characters to die leading to the finale.

Jon doesn’t pause – even when it seems like Sam is about to be killed – on his way to the godswood…. Until his path is blocked by Viserion.

As Tyrion and Sansa leave their hiding place, the music comes up again and the sound of battle fades to the background. We get closeups of everyone fighting, fighting for each other – Daenerys and Jorah; Tyrion and Sansa protecting those in the crypt; Jon trying to get past Viserion – who is actually somewhere that matters! – Theon for Bran; Jaime, Pod and Brienne; and Sam is still alive at this point too!

Theon is the last one standing as the circle of guards is now replaced by a circle of the dead, which opens to let in the Night King. Bran finally returns to his body. He calls Theon and tells him he’s a good man – and it’s all he’s ever wanted to hear. Bran thanks him. And these are the last words heard in the episode. Alfie Allen is just fabulous here. His tears are not really tears of fear for his own death – which he meets bravely. I knew he had to die here in order to truly redeem himself, but Allen has done magnificent work with this character!

The soundtrack plays as Bran and the Night King stare at each other. Both are completely impassive. It looks like Bran is looking him up and down and the little cock to the Night King’s head is a nice touch – is he slightly offended? But I think that Bran was making a quick check on where everyone was at that point. We see that Jon is about to be incinerated by Viserion, so no help there. The Night King raises his arm as the music crescendos.

We get a beautiful shot of the Night King reaching over his shoulder for his sword into which Arya is suddenly flying! He swings around and grabs her by the throat instead. It looks for the world to be a repeat of Lyanna Mormont and the giant, but Arya drops the knife – the knife Bran specifically gave her – the one that was supposed to kill HIM – from her LEFT hand to her RIGHT hand and thrusts into him! The Valerian steel does its job. And he shatters – taking all his followers with him just as they all hoped.

Once again, we get a beautiful shot of the entire battlefield. Winterfell is a mess! Jorah collapses with the dead. I loved the shot of Viserion collapsing in front of Jon – who looks stunned, clearly wondering who has stolen his hero moment! Tormund, Gendry and Grey Worm are still at the gate. Pod, Jaime, and Brienne are still backs to the wall. Sansa, Tyrion, Varys, Missandei, Gilly, and little Sam are safe in the crypt. And finally Arya and Bran are safe under the weirwood. Drogon returns to Daenerys and curls around her as she mourns for Jorah.

      The Hound emerges with Melisandre who walks out of Winterfell, dropping her cloak and then the necklace that gave her life. Davos trails after her determined to make sure that she dies as he promised. He watches stunned as the effects of the necklace wear off and she turns to dust in front of his eyes.

This was a beautifully shot (dark editing notwithstanding) and scored episode. So many satisfying conclusions here. We knew that we had to lose a few characters, but they went out gloriously. I love how the threads of the story are continuing to fold back in upon themselves and truly pay off. How will our characters make out going forward, however? How much of an army do they actually have left? It seems inevitable that another battle is on the horizon – really, we know there’s at least one of the remaining episodes that is also all battle. So, I’d say next episode is regrouping, then the battle episode, and one final episode to bring it home for the remaining characters – because we know that no one is safe… What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


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