Our mass attention deficit disorder has been accelerating for decades. Digital technology merely super-charged the process.
You can probably think of older analog technologies that nudged us out of our collective deep thought long before the iPhone moved the seat of human agency from mind and soul to fingertip. That’s right. I’m looking at you, TV remote.
I have no data, no research, not even a dodgy web link, but I can’t help feel everything went sideways for the human race when we could flick between four or five channels without even burning four or five calories to haul ourselves up out of the couch and all the way across the room to turn a dial.
Dials are what we had instead of Siri and Alexa, kids. And they worked every goddamn time. You even got a little cardio bump from using them because in the olden days they were always on the far side of the room.
But even as our technology accelerated, so did our imaginations. If you bother to sit through a much-loved TV show of your childhood — OK, my childhood — let's say Thunderbirds, you’ll be horrified at just how slowly it moves.
Like, literally. I haven't deactivated or deleted my account. I simply logged out. I did delete the app from my phone (and wrote about it) last year, but I found myself sliding back to the toxic bird's nest via Safari. So I tried to delete Safari.
I looked for site blocking options. Not possible on iOS.
So instead I've logged out, hoping that the simple speed bump of having to log back in will prevent me from mindlessly scrolling my time line, especially during the election. It is almost entirely shit. And toxic political shit at that.
I have books to write. I don't have time for shit. I do have reason to turn the fire hose of Twitter traffic on at Blunty or even here sometimes, but I know I can just login to do that. Then log back out.
Oddly enough, I feel zero compunction to browse Facebook. But I logged out there too on general principles.
To be fair, for thousands of people it actually *was* today, given the catastrophic death count from the Battle of Winterfell. For the Dothraki, the Unsullied, the Knights of the Vale and other ragtag members of the Winterfell Massive, it wasn’t quite a perky occasion.
THE KING IS DEAD.
LONG LIVE…. THE QUEEEEEEEEEN!
Yes, in a metaphor for what Swedish teen Greta Thunberg is trying to do in real life, our own murder baby stuck the pointy end into Captain Climate Change himself.
Sure, the Night King was more a baby doomer than a baby boomer, but I’m sure he’s still the kind of guy who would bitch about young Westerosi people and their smashed avo toast while driving a 4WD he never even takes off-roading.
After all this time, he’s gone, and along with him the entire White Walker threat. The world, it seems, has been saved from never-ending winter. Memory and truth have been protected. Humanity has lived to see the light of dawn.
And yet, I HAVE A LOT OF F***ING QUESTIONS.
Why did the Dothraki charge the walking dead? Surely somebody could have worked out that was a terrible use of resources?
How did the resurrection in the crypt not claim more lives? Confined spaces and all that?
Where the hell was Bran when he was warging? We saw him disappear into ravens and/or crows - but then what?
What did the Night King really want anyway? Was there *any* deeper purpose beyond “f*** shit up just ‘cause”?
And most importantly...
HOW IN SEVEN FLIPPING FLAMES OF F*** DID SO MANY FAVOURITE CHARACTERS SURVIVE THAT NIGHTMARE?
Let us look to the sky, Hunger Games-style, to pay tribute to our valiant dead: Dolorous Edd (bittersweet tears); Lyanna Mormont (F*** YEAH BUT NOOOO); Ser Beric Dondarrion (service rendered, salute); Theon Greyjoy (weeps openly), Ser Jorah Mormont (timely, apt, totally in character, but still - NOOOOOO) and Melisandre (hey girl, where you been? Oh nope, never mind, save the day then collapse, keep the mystery).
But also…mark the survivors, many of whom were in real danger yet made it through: Grey Worm; Brienne; Jaime; Pod; Gendry; Sam Tarly; TORMUND GIANTSBANE?!?!
We were LUCKY, people. LUCKY.
Which means it’s either all over in terms of character stakes, or there are going to be some QUICK and CHEAP deaths in the final three episodes to shock us.
Now if super-tragic-show-fan-Mother-of-Kittens-me is reflecting on these questions, and the possibilities versus realities, I suspect there are going to be hundreds of book wonks and deep dive theorists upset that some of their more elaborate conspiracies didn’t pan out.
Or at least, didn’t pan out YET. Who knows, maybe Bran really WAS the Night King, and that final stare-off between them was Bran saying “It’s OK to die, I will carry on your work” and Bran will warg into Cersei and make her throw herself off the roof of the Red Keep...
My point is I understand if there is some frustration with this episode, particularly in the immediate aftermath, before we see what happens next.
The Big Bad has been conquered; surely that was all we were building towards?
I posit that yes, it was - but primarily for the North. For Jon Snow, the Night’s Watch, the Free Folk and Bran storylines were always intertwined with The Great War. Other plots/characters were folded in along the way - Melisandre, Daenarys, Tyrion, Jaime, and to a lesser degree Sansa and Arya (being Starks, they were always going to end up there, but had detours).
For the North, the war against the White Walkers was the alpha and omega.
For Cersei, bitch don’t give a shit. She ain’t never given a shit.
"And this is my sincere face."
While Jon was getting acquainted with shuffling undead zombies at Hardhome, she was getting in too deep with the mindless zealot zombies of the Faith Militant. Cersei’s focus has always been on the meat sack side of history. In fact the only bit of supernatural interference in Cersei’s life has been that damn Maggy the Frog prophecy about her kids all dying and being eventually offed by a younger brother.
And who even knows if Maggy the Frog was real; or just making stuff up like that dodgy tarot card reader I once got a free sitting with (I wouldn’t have done it if I’d had to pay, believe me), who made me draw three cards and told me “Looks like there are good things ahead for you” and hello, buddy, tell me something very specific about lottery numbers or winning horse names or what’s the point of you?
So for Cersei, and her related plotlines: the War of Five Kings; the internal bitchiness with the Tyrells; the Faith Militant; dealing with foolish allies like the Freys and Euron Greyjoy; making false promises to the Jon/Dany alliance; losing Jaime; her loosening grip on motherhood and subsequently her own humanity - all of that is very much of this earth.
Yes, the book series is called A Song of Ice and Fire, a more poetically fantastical title.
But the TV show is called Game of Thrones. And it looks like now The Great Game, NOT The Great War, was always what counted most.
Now this is all just a thought bubble I’ve blown out of the bucket of detergent that is my brain. I understand if some want to rant about the White Walker storyline not culminating in something… more. Indeed, as I said above, there’s a frustrating mystery to Night King and his goals that has me grinding my teeth like I’d grind Jon’s… nevermind.
Prussian military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz’s famous philosophy holds that war is the continuation of policy by other means. In the case of this show, perhaps it’s the other way around - that politics is the continuation of the war by other means.
Also, maybe we could just be happy that a sprawling battle meant there was absolutely no time for funny business between Jon and Dany, and you know I am always onboard them not getting onboard.
All right, let’s get on with the horrorshow.
S8E3: “The Long Night”
A long night indeed, with a running time of 82 minutes, making this the longest episode of Game of Thrones yet, and the longest battle sequence ever filmed. Pretty impressive stuff, and I want to start by acknowledging the crazy talents of the production team to make it happen. There have been complaints about the darkness of the fight scenes; again I can appreciate that, but there is no doubt this was a ballet of grim spectacle and a technical achievement that should win ALL the Emmys.
The highlight of course was Arya’s victorious ninja attack, which makes it hard to work out how to recap such a rapacious, rampaging battle when its final result was so remarkable.
I think, because of the breakneck speed of action, what follows is going to be part play-by-play commentary, part stream of consciousness, and part narration for the visually impaired. It may help to read it aloud in the voice of some frenetic meth-fuelled sportscaster.
Wish me good fortune in the battle recap to come.
Welcome to Winterfell and what looks like a perfect foggy, moonless night in which to launch a last-ditch defence of humanity.
In the pre-dawn, the Winterfell forces are readying their positions. Tyrion Lannister picks up a swag and heads to the crypts; Theon and the Ironborn push Bran to the Godswood past the courtyard caltrops.
Ser Davos Seaworth stalks the battlements, Sansa and Arya wait and watch. The air is quiet; even those dragons are keeping schtum.
The Unsullied stand as one, a world away from their origins as slave warriors in Essos, about to fight an enemy so different to what they would have expected from their training. Grey Worm is at the head; after fond talks of beach holidays with his best girl Missandei, he’s a big risk of falling on the field tonight.
The line-up for Team Winterfell continues to impress: Pod, commander Brienne, and new recruit Jaime Lannister on the left flank; the Hound joining Tormund and Beric on the front line; Sam Tarly squeezing his way forward to join Gendry and Dolorous Ed, who welcomes him with the episode’s apt first spoken words, “For f***’s sake.”
Ser Jorah sits astride a horse out front with the Dothraki vanguard, a seemingly-much-bigger-than-last-week Ghost alongside him.
There’s a shot of an awkward Jon and Dany before they mount Drogon and Rhaegal (thankfully not each other, no time for love, Dr Jones) and fly off silently to a nearby bluff to watch the action below.
All are readying for the coin toss and kick-off.
But what’s this? Out of the gloom, a lone rider approaches the defensive position.
It’s KATE BUSH! The reclusive singer-songwriter hasn’t been seen since the beginning of season seven, working her contacts to bring Jon Snow and Daenarys Targaryen together as part of a Lord of Light brand merger initiative.
It’s unknown when the Red Woman transferred to Winterfell. It’s possible she’s a recent arrival; perhaps she’s been there for the pre-season, just camped out creepily in the snow drifts waiting for the right moment to sneak back into the team.
That right moment has now become a LIGHT moment, am I right listeners, as she’s had Ser Jorah instruct the Dothraki to raise their arakhs, over which she casts a spell and sets them all ablaze.
Ser Jorah of course is playing this match with Heartsbane, the Tarly family’s Valyrian steel sword, so even though his weapon doesn’t light up (saddening some fans of the long odds Ser Jorah-is-Azor-Ahai bet), he doesn’t need it to play ball here tonight.
It’s a beautiful sight as the flames travel across the Dothraki horde, giving us a moment of sparkling visibility into what is otherwise going to be an exercise in squinting through the darkness to follow the action.
Melisandre approaches the gates; taking particular note of Arya Stark on the battlements. The Red Priestess’ record with young women is not great; we all remember that unnecessary and frankly dispiriting play she pulled on Shireen Baratheon before Stannis’ campaign for the Iron Throne collapsed more heavily than the Australian cricket team’s batting order against Pakistan.
Ser Davos Seaworth is not happy to see Melisandre, but she assures him he will not need to silence her beautiful soprano voice tonight as she’ll be dead in just a matter of hours. Now generally you want to take a positive mental approach into a battle, but clearly Kate Bush is walking to the beat of her own 80s-style synthesiser.
It’s time for the Dothraki to begin play, and in a mighty show of power, the entire mass of Screamers pushes forward in tight formation into the darkness. Ser Jorah is up there, along with Ghost, but it’s not long before we start seeing those flaming arakhs extinguished. It’s like the crowd waving lighters at the Rolling Stones at Altamont in ‘69, with the wights playing the part of the Hell’s Angels.
Now one would think a team captain such as Daenarys Targaryen might have anticipated her loyal bloodriders would be wiped out by the zombies, but as stragglers and horses and Ser Jorah Mormont return to the main army, she gets angry and decides to bring forward her showstopper move.
“The Night King is coming,” Jon Snow tells her. “The dead are already here,” she fires back, before firing up Drogon into attack mode. Not to be left behind, the greenhorn dragonrider Jon mounts Rhaegal, and it’s all a bit Daddy issues considering that dragon was named after Jon’s real Dad, and he’s switched from his typical on-foot, front-of-the-action Stark combat style to an airborn Targaryen assault.
Back on the ground, consistent performer Grey Worm is at the head of the Unsullied as they face a sweeping tsunami of the undead opposition that truly is a sight to be seen - if in fact you can see it due to everyone wearing black uniforms for heritage round.
Tormund “Flame-haired Angel Man” Giantsbane only gets a glimpse of the wave before it slams into him; something he no doubt wishes Brienne would do, if she wasn’t busy calling on her forces to stand their ground against the wight-wing attack.
Ser Beric Dondarrion is in there with his own flaming sword; and despite his hand-icap, Jaime Lannister manages an impressive early rescue of his commander Brienne.
Annnnnd here comes Drogon!
That familiar stirring music swells and Dany has Drogon strafe the front lines, with Jon following behind on Rhaegal in a beautiful sweeping double strike.
Jon spies the White Walker generals at the back of the Wight army and drops Rhaegal into a quick descent, but is caught up by a sudden roll in of a mist more disorientating than Lynx body spray.
Up on the battlements, Arya and Sansa are much impressed by seeing the dragons’ mouth-iwork for the first time. Arya knows her call-up is coming, so she orders Sansa to the dugout (aka the crypts), hands her a dragonglass dagger, and advises her sister to “stick ‘em with the pointy end”. It’s a classic callback, perfectly timed, another hallmark of this great series.
Let’s take a look at the battle cam: as Dany’s fire eases off temporarily, we can see Brienne, Jaime, Tormund, Pod, Gendry, the Hound and Ser Jorah still in the game, albeit covered by a fine sheen of falling ash.
To everyone’s surprise, rookie reserve Sam Tarly is still standing, managing a few points here and there. Longtime teammate Dolorous Edd saves him from a forward strike and makes him get back on his feet; only to be stabbed through the heart and crash out of contention.
VALE, DOLOROUS EDD.
Jon is struggling to get Rhaegal out of the mist, but is almost taken out by Dany herself, as the two dragons slam into each other over a forest. On a personal note, friends, I for one am glad it was just the dragons banging into each other, but back to the action.
Tormund is first to call for the home side to fall back; he’s backed up by Brienne, and Lyanna Mormont orders the gates opened.
Grey Worm orders the Unsullied to protect the retreat, and columns of fighters with no need for jockstraps form up block by block in a strong rearguard action.
The scrappers flood back into the castle as the wights continue to fling themselves onto the Unsullied’s spears. Brienne, Jaime, Tormund, Pod, Gendry, Beric and Sam are still in play; and Arya Stark puts her dog in the fight, firing a flaming arrow into a wight threatening the Hound.
The Unsullied also begin to retreat, but after reaching the gates Grey Worm can see there’s only so much his men will be able to achieve against the onslaught of the undead. He calls for the trench dug in around the castle walls to be lit.
This is it: Ser Davos’ one job. Becoming Winterfell’s air traffic controller, he waves flaming torches to indicate to Dany that now would be a great time for Drogon to give them all a light.
But oh no! Dany can’t see! Her head is too far in the clouds!
Jon is no use; he’s already landed Rhaegal on the walls of the Godswood after losing Dany in the literal fog of war.
Archers and foot soldiers are deployed to light the trench, but it’s either too cold for the wood to burn, or they get tackled by wights before getting their torch over the line.
Enter once more Melisandre, helped by Grey Worm and the Unsullied, who form a scrum to protect her. She repeats her earlier incantation to create another in-FLAME-mation, am I right friends, setting the caltrops alight in the nick of time before the wight buzzers blow. You’ve got to have a lot of faith to be an elite acolyte, but you’ve also got to have a lot of faith… in yourself.
The trenches are blazing like college kids on April 20, which is good news for everyone except the Hound, whose lifelong fear of fire sees him quit the field, much to Ser Beric’s chagrin.
It’s hard to be on the sidelines during a championship game, and being stuck in a subterranean gravesite with a crying baby has got to hurt. Tyrion may be a Most Valuable Thinker, but he’s convinced he would be of assistance as a battle commander. To be fair, he may be right - so far the tactics used on ground level would make Sun Tzu blush.
Varys gives him a verbal slap down, saying he was lucky at the Battle of Blackwater Bay, that’s all. It’s Sansa who delivers the truth bomb - they’re all useless. The most heroic thing all those out-of-condition “normal people” can do is accept their fundamental inability to contribute to their side’s prospects of victory and wait for death looking tense but dignified.
Where Tyrion does have a win is in Sansa’s declaration that he was the best of the men she was either married or betrothed to. Being better than Joffrey or Ramsay? A low bar, but still an important one to have jumped.
Sansa tells Tyrion it wouldn’t have worked between them; Tyrion seems disappointed by her certainty. “The Dragon Queen,” is her explanation. An alliance with Sansa would divide Tyrion’s loyalties and become a problem for Dany. Interesting that Sansa should mention such a thing at such a time - she’s indicating their teamwork is purely for this match, and she will be pursuing an independent Norths home ground should the odds be ever in their favour.
Missandei gets her one slam dunk of the evening when she claps back at Sansa dissing her girl boss Dany, saying without the Dragon Queen, none of you useless also-rans would even be alive to bitch about divided loyalties. After two episodes of being stared at like some sort of terrifying alien, no wonder she was ready to give some white people a Narth Maul.
To the Godswood.
Theon Greyjoy and Team Kraken have been keeping a close ear on the action. Theon knows with the trench lit, the game will come to them before long. He takes a quick time out to let Bran know how sorry he is about his earlier defection from Team Stark; but Bran is magnanimous in creepiness, and tells him everything he did led him back to his home stadium, so it’s all good. The message here is that they’re a team, they’ll stick together, they’ll have each other’s backs.
Annnnnnnd Bran is OUTTA THERE.
“I’m going to go now,” he says, and wargs for the first time in what seems like a long time. He takes over control of a bunch of ravens and/or crows, who flap up and over the battle scene and castle, flying south until they find...yes, it’s the Night King on Viserion!
Here he is, Captain of the Undead, Chief White Walker, The Icy General, Mr Freeze - finally off the bench and into the sky.
Despite his relatively long distance from the action, NK flexes his frigid fingers (watch out, fellas, there are kids listening!) to inflict his first intervention of the match.
The wights have come to a standstill in front of the burning caltrops, a massed pile of unthinking, unfeeling menaces to society, sounds much like the current government, am I right, friends?
One by one they start throwing themselves onto the fire, slowly building a body pile to extinguish part of the fire. It’s kind of like that M. Night Shyamalan film “The Happening”, where trees go mad and make people kill themselves, except this isn’t completely shit.
So after some setbacks in the form of being savaged by dragonfire, the wights have literally built a bridge and got over it, ha ha, can you believe it, Winterfell’s not the only thing on fire here tonight, friends.
Ser Davos gives the signal to man the walls, as the game moves into its second phase - attacking and breaching the castle walls.
Jaime, Brienne, Pod, Tormund, Gendry, Grey Worm and Jorah all make for the battlements as archers ready their bows.
A World War Z-style zombie pyramid begins forming against the stone walls, with wights proving themselves pretty well adept at climbing for creatures with not much muscle tone left. One wonders how they’ve been working out enough, but clearly the NK has access to a bunch of ‘roids. That kind of drug abuse is normally frowned upon in the world of high sports, but we all know Mr Freeze is the Lance Armstrong of the fantasy world.
Speaking of which, Mr Diestrong is spotted by Jon Snow, who nudges Rhaegal back into the air.
There’s much effusion of blood as our A-Team slam their swords, spears and axes into the climbing vine of zombastardry.
If we take in the wide shots, that is only absolutely f***ing terrifying image there of the onslaught.
Clearly it’s too much for our home side, and the opposition start penetrating gaps in the defences, spilling into the castle proper.
There’s some beautiful paired fighting between Brienne and Jaime, both saving each other from wights in quick succession. Sam Tarly is clearly wearing a magic wightproof vest as he is plucked once more to safety by veteran forward Ser Jorah Mormont.
The dragonglass caltrops work well as the wights spread into Winterfell like that STD I picked up after last year’s Mad Monday, but it’s a sheer numbers game at this point and those wights have a real advantage in being able to throw themselves several metres to the ground and just get back up again like Ben Cousins pre-rehab. And post-rehab, come to think of it.
Now you might be asking, where in all of this is valuable running back The Hound? Well, as is so often the case in these major events, panic has got the best of him, and he’s quietly freaking out in a corner.
Nevermind that now though because HERE COMES ARYA STARK!
Yes, the Diminuitive Despoiler has fired new energy into the game, using her recently-acquired new bit of kit to slice and dice her way through the wights on the wall.
The Hound is still freaking out like Cougar at the start of Top Gun, unable to get back in the game due to anxiety. Beric tries to coach him out, saying they need him, but the Hound is fairly confident they’re all just f***ed at this stage.
“Tell her that!” Beric roars, pointing at Arya who has just barrel-rolled down a staircase full of bodies then thrown herself onto a canopy to escape the undead.
ENGAGE HOUND PROTECTIVE MODE! Nicely done, Beric, just the right amount of pressure at the right time, and Hound is back in the game, dashing off to help Arya.
It’s sad to see former Team Life hero Stampy the Giant, aka Wan Wan, burst into Winterfell as a zombified nightmare tower. The last time he did that was to help finish off Ramsay Bolton at the Battle of the Bastards, before dying heroically. You would have thought somebody would have burned his body, but apparently not.
It’s up to little Lyanna Mormont to stand and face this walking Eiffel Tower of Ewww, and boy, can the girl scream a battle cry more fiercely than Mel Gibson in Braveheart. The Not Friendly Giant picks her up, squeezing her tiny body, and makes to bite her head off like she was a stick of kebab.
AND SHE HAS GOT THE BLADE OUT! With one last elemental scream, the Little Bear thrusts her dagger right in the giant’s eye, totally Cyclopsing him to death.
VALE, LYANNA MORMONT.
Let’s check in on our airborne battalion. Jon and Dany are trying to flush out the Night King, but the stealth creeper jumps them first, chasing Dany down with Viserion’s hot blue fire. Just as quickly, he’s gone again, leaving Jon and Dany to nosedive to try to catch him.
Arya Stark is inside the castle now, bleeding from the face, making her way into the library for a quick break and perhaps a Gatorade bath. But there’s no time, as somehow a bunch of wights have found themselves in there, possibly looking for self-care and wellness tips now their flesh has rotted away.
It’s interesting to note the use of sound, particularly the lack of sound, in this sequence. It highlights in case we’d forgotten that Arya, like the worst kind of flatulence, is both silent and deadly.
Only the sound of blood dripping from her forehead onto the stone floor alerts a wight, but before it can grab her, she’s gone again. She does the old dropped-book-switcheroo, before silently dispatching a lady wight through the jaw on her way out.
It’s looking like a clean escape, until a nearby door breaks under a wight onslaught, followed swiftly by a similar action out of the room behind her. We leave Arya for the moment running through the corridors for her life.
Bored and scared. Tyrion drinks. Loud noises and a battle outside the doors. Silence.
The Hound and Beric search the corridors for Arya; she eventually appears through a door with a wight bearing down. Beric throws his flaming sword into the wight, and the Hound grabs Arya and runs. The pair smack down wights as they go, with Beric under siege behind them, but ordering them to keep going.
And BERIC IS DOWN! Stabbed multiple times by a group of zombies, he still manages to stumble into a hall behind the Hound and Arya. With no Thoros of Myr around, Beric is done for. Arya, who once put him on her kill list, is now saddened by his loss.
VALE LORD BERIC DONDARRION.
But there’s no time for black armbands right now, as Arya has someone to meet.
That’s right, Kate Bush has returned for the reunion she once told Arya they would have. “Here we are, at the end of the world”.
With the Hound watching on carefully (one might even call him “The Man with the Child in His Eyes”), Arya informs Melisandre that she was right when predicted Arya would close many eyes forever.
With an encouraging nod, Melisandre repeats “brown eyes, green eyes...and blue eyes”, and Arya’s own peepers show a glimmer of recognition. As the wights start to bash down the door, Melisandre whispers to her a maxim she learned long ago.
“What do we say to the God of Death?”
ARYA IS ON THE MOVE. REPEAT, ARYA IS ON THE MOVE.
In the Godswood, Theon orders his Ironborn to “make every shot count” as the wights approach.
Overhead, the Night King fangs it towards the North Gate, letting Viserion rip through the stone with his mouth fireworks.
Then BANG! Jon Snow on Rhaegal sideswipes Viserion, obviously having learned a lesson on timing from Tormund’s hug last episode.
The two get locked in a midair dogfight not unlike Maverick and Goose and those MiGs in the aforementioned Top Gun.
"The G-forces, the G-forces!"
Jon is having a hard time hanging on, and it’s a real shame he didn’t think to invent some sort of rope harness to help him stay onboard Rhaegal. Thankfully, Dany barges in and forces the Night King off Viserion. He falls, every so gracefully backwards, into the cloud below, his icy spear besides him.
But the damage has been done to Rhaegal, and the big lad crash lands into the snow outside the castle walls. He doesn’t seem to be dead; perhaps just concussed. The team doctor will be called for a full evaluation.
Annnnnnnd it’s on - Dany spies the Night King alive (a-dead?) and well, standing on the ground below her. She issues a firm “Dracarys” to Drogon, who proceeds to roast the frosted miscreant like single origin coffee beans.
Turns out the Night King is 85 per cent asbestos, and the flames have no effect on him, answering everyone’s question last week at the battle planning session as to whether dragonfire can kill White Walkers.
The dude is more smug than Donald Trump post-Mueller-report, and reaches for his javelin to throw at Drogon. Dany manages to weave to the side and retreat; but the Night King doesn’t seem to care. He sets off towards the castle, likely in search of Bran, his intended target.
Over to Jon Snow, who’s drawn his Longclaw, ooer, am I right friends, and begun running down Napoleon Chill-to-the-Bonaparte.
Now I don’t like to say that Jon Snow sometimes acts impetuously, without a full contemplation of likely outcomes against enemies he’s met before on the field of battle.
Perhaps he suffered a slight brain injury in the fall off Rhaegal, and that has elevated his heart rate and resulted in a somewhat rash decision to go charging into a field of bodies near a creature well regarded for bringing bodies back into operation. Perhaps he felt this was his best chance of engaging with the NK one-on-one, his Valyrian steel sword now key to victory.
Even when he sees the Night King turn and begin his trademark “Come at me bro” Evil Jesus manoeuvre, he doubles down, breaking into a sprint to try to close the gap between him and the goal posts.
But it’s no use, with wights - including many freshly killed Unsullied, Stark and Arryn knights - surrounding him about ten metres from the scoreline. One of them is in fact Dolorous Edd, who was most insistent his body be burned if he bought it. Sadly there was no time.
Inside the castle walls too, there is a great sense of “Ohhhhh, get FARRRRRRRRKED” as the small advantage the A-Team had started to build was kicked into kingdom come by the resurrection of everyone just dead, including sweet Lyanna Mormont, and the march through the gates of the White Walker generals.
It was a big question ahead of this game - would the Night King recruit more dead from the Winterfell crypts? Surely there had been too many comments about it being “the safest place” in the castle for it to be any more secure than a rugby league player’s pants after two drinks.
Gilly’s the first to find out, turning around to see, oh yes, a bony hand burst through a sarcophagus. Now once again, it’s not entirely clear how a long dead collection of bones has the strength to punch through a stone coffin, but magic is once again happening on the field and off here tonight.
Everyone seems to react far too slowly, which I guess makes sense if you were new to the phenomenon of The Walking Dead, which is fair as this is HBO and that show’s on rival network AMC.
Eventually Tyrion calls on the crypt crew to run, but not before a victim is claimed and dragged out.
In the Godswood, Theon is gradually losing all of his Ironborn to wights, while Bran is who the f*** knows where.
Jon is saved from certain death by Daenarys, who clears a path through the opposition with fire, and orders him to go to Bran.
Now if Dany were so inclined, she totally could have let Jon buy the farm at that moment, slyly getting rid of a rival to the Iron Throne in such a way that no one would call the umpire over.
But for all her faults, Dany is not a cold-blooded killer like Cersei, and I do believe she loves Jon and would hopefully try to work things out in a way that would be favourable to her, but not hurt him too much. If nothing else, she’s smart enough to realise at this moment they’re on the same side, and Jon Snow alive is still more valuable than Jon Snow dead.
Sadly, she’s not watching her tail, and wights start piling on to Drogon’s back and sides like flies on a sheep’s dag. He manages to shake a few off, but in the confusion Dany slips off and falls onto the ground. Drogon takes to the skies in pain, yelping as he attempts to flick the wights off, giving the impression of a very large dog after an unwanted bath.
Jon’s inside the castle now, with bodies and balconies falling around him. Tormund is there, slashing away, seemingly untroubled by the never-ending mass of death coming for him. All that giant’s milk has done wonders for his stamina, and no doubt there’s a team sponsorship deal waiting to happen.
Jon also has to walk past Sam Tarly in a seriously dangerous position - you can see Jon wants to help his friend, but has got his radar set on Bran and cannot diverge from the plan.
Grey Worm is still in the game; Brienne is still in the game.
Theon is still in the Godswood game, but rapidly running out of Ironborn and flaming arrows.
Bran “Three-Eyed Raven” Stark is still who the f*** knows where.
Outside, Jorah and Dany are still in the game, Dany picking up a dragonglass sword in an attempt to help her main man out.
It’s chaos down here, with God knows how many long-dead Starks coming back for another bite at life.
Tyrion and Sansa are hiding behind a sepulchre, trading deep and meaningful looks as their peers are brutally slaughtered behind them. Tyrion even kisses Sansa’s hand in a gesture of affection and protection. Facing imminent death is always a good time to put past enmity aside. Perhaps that's what The Don and Douglas Jardine needed after Bodyline. Topical sporting reference.
"It's the end of the world as we know it... and I feel fine."
Viserion lands on the battlements and proceeds to make like Jim Morrison and trash Winterfell like a hotel room.
Dany and Jorah are still holding off the hordes outside, barely. Theon stands by Bran, fighting by hand now.
Brienne, Jaime, Pod and Gendry struggle to stay upright. Sam weeps on the ground.
It’s unmitigated chaos; no direction, no group plan, just sheer fight or be killed adrenaline.
The music’s turned all somber and muted, the screams muffled and echo-y, always a good sign we’re reaching peak despair in a match. All that has to happen now is a move to slow-motion and we know we’re at the endgame.
Annnnnnnd here comes the slow motion.
The Night King strides into the Godswood like a villain in a western; this town ain’t big enough for the both of them.
Theon brings down wight after wight, until eventually they all stop moving in on him, and the circle opens to let the Night King and Entourage approach.
Bran returns to the present to give Theon a message, an absolution, knowing what Theon is about to do:
“You are a good man. Thank you.”
Once, Theon saved Bran from a wildling by shooting him down with his bow. Now, he takes up a spear to try to defend the little lord once more. He charges at the Night King, hollering in pain and anger and grief and regret and a small measure of peace that this is him done, that he can be both a Stark and a Greyjoy, and that he has proven it now.
The Night King seizes his spear, snaps it, and drives half of it through Theon’s middle. The last son of Balon Greyjoy, famous rebel against the Starks, dies on Stark soil.
VALE, THEON GREYJOY.
Jon’s way to the Godswood is still blocked by Viserion, and the one-time King in the North is almost on the verge of losing hope, as every attempt to push forward sees him take cover amidst piles of bodies.
Jorah is taking hit after hit for Dany, and still getting back up, each and every time. There is nothing to do but get back up, and back up, and back up, for his Khaleesi. Long has his personal love for Dany transformed into something higher, more pure - an intense desire to protect her life beyond the boundaries of normal ability.
The Night King stands over Bran, and finally Bran has met his match in terms of intense staring capability. There’s some sort of non-verbal communication between them - the NK tilts his head at one point. Is he gloating? Or recognising something in Bran? Either way, he reaches back for his sword - just as a wisp of air catches one of his general’s hair.
Jon tries one last time to get past Viserion; summoning all his strength, all he can do is let out a primordial scream.
The Night King’s arm is lifting his sword.
Behind him, out of the gloom, from nowhere, comes ARYA STARK.
He flips, grabs her by the throat. In pain, she releases her left hand, her dominant hand, in which she’s holding Catspaw, her Valyrian steel dagger. There’s a song of steel on the wind as it drops into her free right hand, a bait and switch move similar to one we saw her pull on Brienne when they sparred together.
Arya takes a breath and uses her last remaining strength to plunge Catspaw into the Night King’s gut.
He shatters, he shatters!
What a finishing move by Arya Stark.
The dagger once used to attempt to kill Bran, has now been used to save him.
A dagger that Bran handed Arya when they reunited, as it was of no use to him. Now we know why.
The White Walker generals follow suit in an explosion of ice shards.
The wights begin collapsing all around the castle.
Viserion roars one final time and falls.
The wave of wight death spreads out of the castle into the battle scene.
They fall in front of Ser Jorah, no more bad guys to shield Daenarys from.
Immediately, he hits his knees, overcome.
Dany cradles him as the last Bear takes his last breaths. He struggles to say something, but fails. All energy is gone now, only love remains, and that is eternal.
Dany cries, and Drogon lands behind her, wrapping his wings around her in protection and sorrow as she marks the death of her longest-serving, most loyal and most brave adviser.
VALE SER JORAH MORMONT.
In the courtyard, Grey Worm, Tormund, Gendry, Pod, Jaime and Brienne are still alive.
In the crypts, Tyrion, Sansa, Varys, Missandei, Gilly and Baby Sam are still alive.
Out of the corridors, the Hound, Davos and Melisandre are still alive.
As dawn breaks on the horizon, the Red Woman strides out amidst mountains of bodies, pulling the red stone necklace from around her neck. It falls to the ground, and the light in the stone fades.
She walks out to where there is no more death, shrugging off her rich robes to reveal her true self, aged, broken with white hair. It is time to die.
The sequence is Arthurian in its majesty - Morgan La Fey taking herself out to Avalon.
Well, I’m exhausted, and I didn’t even fight in that thing.
Some key conclusions:
We probably should have lost a few more of the A-Team: Jaime, Brienne, Tormund, Gendry, Grey Worm, Pod, Missandei all survived. Surely not all of them will make it through the final three episodes alive?
I’m keen to see if anything further develops between Sansa and Tyrion after their sweet moments together in the crypts.
My expectation/longtime personal fantasy scenario that Jon Snow would face down the Night King in an epic sword battle was flipped totally on its head. Jon was essentially neutered in the fight by the sheer weight of enemies blocking his way to the Godswood. I was thrilled to have my predictions pulled out from under me. Oh, if only I could pull Jon Snow from out under me…
For those pondering how Arya made it past all those White Walkers and wights to get to the Night King, remember her key stealth skills were brilliantly set up in the library sequence. She was trained by Syrio Forel to chase cats, and learned how they moved without noise. Don’t think it wasn’t poetic justice too that she used Catspaw to kill the Night King. As the Mother of Kittens, this is a brilliant victory for all cat lovers.
The Azor Ahai prophecy is either all fancy bullshit fairy stories - or at least doesn’t apply to Arya. Arya is a highly trained assassin protecting her brother and home. That’s what gave her strength; not some mystical “princess who was promised” narrative. If Azor Ahai is still something to be dealt with in the show, it’s entirely related to Jon, Daenarys, and their relationship to each other and the Iron Throne.
Follow-up point - the fall out from Jon’s true origin story hasn’t even begin to hit yet.
I'm keen to find out what the hell Bran was doing while warging, and whether there's any further backstory to the Night King, the White Walkers, the spirals, the dismemberments... surely there is stuff he can tell us?
And most of all…
The Night King may have been an unknowable supernatural force of evil with the ability to raise the dead and cause untold destruction… but the real villain is still Cersei F***ing Lannister. And I could not be more delighted.
"It's a nice day for murder. But then, that's all days."
Yay! Best Moments
Arya Stark, obvs
Zing! Best Lines
For an episode very light on humour, Varys came through with some existential drollery:
"At least we're already in a crypt."
Everything was horrific and full on about this battle, but nothing super gross, you know? More just intense violence, not creepiness. This category was dominated by Littlefinger, and since his demise we’ve been bereft of truly skin-crawling moments.
Losing some dear favourites was always going to hurt, but there was a certain triumph to all of them. They all got a moment, and we farewell them with pride, not the horror we did with Ned Stark or Robb Stark or Oberyn Martell, whose journeys were cut short.
To finish this recap, let’s have a celebratory song, to honour the memory of one in particular: Ser Jorah Mormont.
Beloved readers, thank you so much for your patience as I got this epic blow-by-blow recap done - I will have to check numbers but I believe this is my longest one yet. I probably need to learn how to edit.
Once again, thank you to my amazing Patreon subscribers. I honestly couldn't do this without your support. This week, my particular kisses to Mark F, Lisa B, Heather H, Peter B, Phillipa S, Damien M, Pam M, Alison G, Barbara C, Nan H, Ed D, Cathryn, Monica K, Elle W, Karen J, Heidi Anne M, Irene K, Keith C and Heather F. Bless you sweet hearts.
If you'd like to join my Patreon, you can click here to sign up. There are some tiers you can join, but honestly, I am just grateful that people read and enjoy my recaps. Throwing me cash is the cherry on top.
Until next week, when Cersei re-enters the fray!
6 Responses to ‘GoT Raven On Recap: S8E3 "The Long Night"’
Thank you so much for giving Harlequin Romance the opportunity to consider your manuscript DEATH CAME WITH TENTACLES. While I really enjoyed reading about Dave Hooper’s fight with an army of demonic squids, I'm sorry to say I can't offer you a contract with Harlequin Romance at this time. Dave is an engaging character and you have a compelling writing style, but neither Dave nor this particular story are quite right for our readers. May we explain why?
Harlequin Romance, as implied by our name, is a long time publisher of romantic fiction, mostly for women. Over the years our most beloved stories have been told by our most relatable heroines. Dave, while no doubt relatable to a number of men, is not by the strict dictionary definition, a heroine—what you might call a lady hero. He is arguably not even much of a hero. His character arc does not so much progress along a hero’s journey as it aimlessly weaves from one drunken encounter to the next, behind the wheel of a stolen pickup truck, which is filled with unstable explosives.
While Dave’s unexplained sexual magnetism does mean that a great many of these ‘encounters’ are with ‘super hot bitches’, the ensuing relationships are, to be honest, rather too numerous, random and short in duration to really qualify as ‘romance’; at least as far as our readership understands the word. As the only other encounters in DEATH CAME WITH TENTACLES tend to involve Dave wrestling with gigantic evil calamari monsters, there does not appear to be much room for his character to grow or for the story to unfold as a traditional Harlequin Romance reader might expect.
It is true that even in romance, story and character cannot evolve and advance without conflict, but our most successful authors tend to define such conflict in terms of emotional disconnect between a relatable heroine and the man of her dreams. Whilst you do briefly mention Dave’s one serious emotional issue—his love for Sparky, his morbidly obese hunting dog, and Dave’s distress when Sparky is eaten by a demon squid—we felt that this issue lacked depth and nuance. Dave’s response to the loss of his one true love (pulling all of the tentacles off the demon squid that ate poor Sparky, tying them into a giant calamari ball, and throwing it into an exploding oil refinery, which previously had not been mentioned anywhere in the text) did quite deftly reveal character through action, but we did not feel it was the sort of character which would appeal to our readers.
We are sorry to disappoint you on this occasion, but it is always possible that future manuscripts not involving Dave, Sparky, horror squids and quite so many super hot bitches, may find a home with us, and we hope you'll consider us for future submissions.
Joanne St. Lucia. Editorial Department Harlequin Romance.
I dips me lid to Havoc for bringing this to my atention over on the Book of Face. DANGER CLOSE, a retelling of the Battle of Long Tan. Not sure how I missed it before. I cant tell if the script is any good from this clip (although I'm amused by the need for subtitles.) I think the actors and producers have done well to capture the character of the soldiers from that era. They look normal, eve a bit vintage, not like the muscle mountains of the present day.
I will be interested to see whether the Vietnamese get to be three dimensional characters or simply bullet fodder. I thought the Mel Gibson film (We Were Soliders Once, And Young) did reasonably well for a Hollywood effort on that front, even if the humanisation of the Other was all invested in one character.
TORMUND IS A FEMINIST HERO, GENDRY IS NEKKID AND #BOATSEX IS NO MORE!
Sure, the imminent demise of the entire North is upon us, Bran “Three-Eyed Raven” Stark is about to play Captain Catfish in the Tinderfell Godswood and forget Mance Rayder, Arya Stark just lit THE BIGGEST FIRE THE NORTH HAS EVER SEEN, but wowsers, that in-the-nick-o-time confession from Jon Snow that threw Dany almost to The Wall itself made for buttock-clenching viewing.
I mean, sure, Jon could have just LIED and held off telling the truth until AFTER the carnage. He had been slightly avoiding Dany for most of the episode anyway, and why not just see how the ultimate boss battle plays out first? No need to distract Dany’s focus when we all need her and her dragons at Peak Barbeque Readiness.
But as we know from the Dragon Pits last season, Jon Snow is the Al Gore of Westeros - full of inconvenient truths. It’s never been My Beloved’s style to be backwards in coming honorably forwards, even when, let’s face it, his timing could be better. Except for me, who thinks it’s perfect, because there’s nothing less of a turn-on than finding out not only your bed-buddy is your nephew but has a better claim to Your Iron Throne than you do.
"I have chosen... poorly."
Did you notice? Yes, that’s right. I said it. MY BELOVED. Welcome back.
NOW, YOU STAY ALIVE. NO MATTER WHAT OCCURS, I WILL FIND YOU.
Sorry, I just came over all Last of the Mohicans there, which was sort of the Taken of the early 90s with longer hairdos.
Gosh, imagine if you’d never read a Raven On recap before. You’d think I was entirely mad.
Imagine if you HAD read a Raven On recap before. You’d think I was entirely mad.
But mad is as mad does, and we’re going to start this week’s rocking Raven On recap with some MAD DANCE TUNES.
All hail the Homecoming, for it is Queen Bey we bow to, as we praise our favourite Men of Westeros.
All the Jon Snow ladies (All the Jon Snow ladies) All the Tormund ladies (All the Tormund ladies) All the Gendry ladies (All the Gendry ladies) All the thirsty ladies Now put your hands up
Up in the crypt, feeling whipped From trying to save Winterfell Well, I got the blues, but you gonna bruise 'Cause another brother broke the spell Lyanna Stark, her story arc Breaks with normal convention She cried her tears, but faced her fears You can’t be mad at me
'Cause Rhaegar liked her and he really put a ring on it Rhaegar liked her and he really put a ring on it Don’t be mad ‘cause your face has got Aegon it Westeros, well I should be the king of it Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh-oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh-oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh 'Cause Rhaegar liked her and he really put a ring on it Rhaegar liked her and he really put a ring on it Don’t be mad ‘cause your face has got Aegon it Westeros, well I should be the king of it
I got milk on my lips, an axe on my hips There’s a giant running through my genes Kissed by fire, my one desire The Big Woman to notice me Jaime’s decision, did I mention? Don’t give me apprehension ’Cause I applauded When she got lauded And I really think she loves me beardy
'Cause if you like it, then get Pod to sing on it If you like it, then get Pod to sing on it We’re gonna live so she’ll have my offspring on it Come on Pod, why don’t you just sing on it Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh-oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh-oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh 'Cause if you like it, then get Pod to sing on it If you like it, then get Pod to sing on it We’re gonna live so she’ll have my offspring on it Come on Pod, why don’t you just sing on it Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh-oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh-oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Don't treat me like I’m wearing skirts that twirl I’m not that kind of girl Your love is what I prefer, as much as murder Before death comes to take you, I shall shake you And deliver you to your destiny, thanks for my new magic wand Petite mort we now dance Say, you’re still wearing pants I swear I’ll use no leeches If you just ditch your breeches
All the Jon Snow ladies (All the Jon Snow ladies) All the Tormund ladies (All the Tormund ladies) All the Gendry ladies (All the Gendry ladies) All the thirsty ladies Now put your hands up Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh-oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh-oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh Whoa, oh, oh, oh
'Cause Rhaegar liked her and he really put a ring on it ‘Cause my origin has got quite a sting on it Dany’s mad ‘cause her face has got Aegon it But Westeros, well, I should be the king of it Whoa, oh, oh, oh ‘Cause Jaime knights her and her smile’s all bling on it Fight’s a-coming and Pod will sing on it The God of Death says might as well fling on it Gendry made a weapon now go swing on it Whoa, oh, oh
And that’s all without mentioning Señor Narrativa de Redención himself, Jaime Lannister, who demands a few thirst-quenchers in his own right.
S8E2: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
I know I began with a fair bit of fan fanfare, but this episode could also be called “All Quiet on the Winterfell Front”. It’s a pre-war war movie, in which people made up for quarrels that seem so remote now, talk about hopes for a future they will (gulp) likely not have, and say their farewells to loved ones without ever actually using the phrase “goodbye”.
So yeah, Cersei’s non-existent elephant in the room is... not *that* much happened.
But dammmmmnnnnn, we are going to get slammmmmmmmed with death next week. I hate the thought of it, but they prepped us good and hard. Tyrion, Tormund, Beric, The Hound and Arya were just some of our favourites to ruminate about impending doom. So for gods’ sake, let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings, at least until The Hound threatens to throw us off the f***ing battlements. Next week we’ll get plenty of action.
All in good time, all in good red-hot-Gendrya-hook-up time.
For now, let us muse on the line that Tyrion says to Jaime midway through the episode: “The perils of self-betterment”. This for me carries through for all of our characters; from often murky, self-serving and/or treacherous beginnings, they forged alliances, learned from mistakes and now stand at the edge of the world ready to die. Becoming a better person might give you a moral salve, but as Tyrion further remarks, you might end up being torn apart by dead men for your troubles.
Someone who may be in need of rapid personal growth is Daenarys Targaryen.
She begins this episode as she ends it: PISSED. OFF.
Jaime Lannister is responsible for the death of her father and numerous other crimes Daenarys would consider treason. Now he’s brought the news his one-time lover/close genetic relative Darth Cersei has given them a bigger royal brush-off than Megan Markle’s Dad. There ain’t no Lannister forces coming to help fight the army of the dead; just one man with one hand.
He's not even this useful.
Tyrion pleads on his brother’s behalf, but given Jaime’s history with the Starks, it’s no surprise Sansa is onboard with Dany’s plan to hobble the Kingslayer permanently. It’s only when the GLORIOUS WONDER that is Brienne of Tarth gets up to defend him, that Dany finds herself on the outer.
Brienne describes Jaime as a “man of honour” - a touching callback to the time in the Harrenhal bathtub when she called him out as a “man without honour” before he explained the tragic events leading up to his king-slaying moment, and their whole relationship began to change.
Sansa trusts Brienne, and so if she vouches for Jaime, that’s good enough for her. Jon Snow, ever practical, only cares about the body count that can help reduce the body count.
(Sidebar: it’s interesting that Jon and Sansa seem to have reconciled titles for the moment; he is the Warden of the North and she is the Lady of Winterfell. Every kid gets a prize!)
Jaime looks rather adoringly at Brienne, and with good reason. He later says he used to be Tyrion’s only friend; in fact, Jaime didn’t really have a non-related friend either, until Brienne. Brienne though, keeps her gaze firmly on Dany and Sansa; if she were to look at Jaime who knows what OUTPOURINGS OF LOVE might spill forth. Actually, there probably wouldn’t be anything, just more repression. Brienne is at such Jane Austen levels of broody we may as well dub her Mr Tarthy.
There’s a moment when Bran chirps up with the old “The things we do for love” rejoinder, which floors Jaime, but which everyone else seems to treat like Bran’s attempt to start a 10cc karaoke singalong and ignores.
Dany is forced to accept Jaime’s heartfelt apology and pledge to fight on the side of the living. Tyrion breathes a sigh of relief, and with not much of a word, Jon nopes out of there.
Dany stalks out, with Tyrion readying himself for the oncoming tongue-lashing, a very different type to those received earlier in his career.
Predictably, Dany is so cheesed off it’s almost too much to camembert. Tyrion decries himself as a fool not a traitor, but Dany says his recent run of foolish decisions means she might be in the market for a new Hand of the Queen. Jorah and Varys have some visible sympathy for Tyrion, whose voice near trembles when he says one of them might be wearing the badge soon enough.
Jaime begins his Winterfell Apology tour, making the rounds to atone for some of his sins. He interrupts Bran interfacing with the weirwood tree to say soz for the pushing and the paralysing. But, as I predicted (sorry to brag, but if you can’t give yourself the odd pat on the back, what’s the point), Bran’s nonchalant about his Lannister-inflicted loss of limb function. “I’m not angry at anyone,” he deadbrans, proving he’s on some sort of supernatural sedative (Diaze-bran?)
Branadol tells Jaime he needed him to fight the White Walkers, not be murdered, which is why he didn’t dob him in. Jaime’s interested in what might follow the battle. “How do you know there’ll be an ‘afterwards’?” Bran responds, confirming to Jaime that he really isn’t Bran anymore, because sure, Bran may have spied on Jaime rooting in the tower back in the day, but that wasn’t nearly as creepy as now.
Jaime wanders back into the courtyard to meet his lil’ bro, still smarting from his dressing down from Dany. He tries to convince Tyrion that Cersei pulled the wool over his eyes, but Tyrion says Jaime let Cersei get the leg over him.
Tyrion’s cranky he underestimated Cersei; but Jaime confirms that she is, in fact, preggers, a question that’s been doing the rounds since last week’s episode intensified theories that she might just be making the whole baby thing up.
There’s a lovely moment when Tyrion calls back to when he was trying to convince the Hill Tribes of The Vale not to murder him, saying he always pictured dying in his own bed, with a belly full of wine and a women’s mouth wrapped around his, well, downstairs chicken. Jaime joins in on the quote halfway through; clearly an old joke between the pair long before the events of the show began.
Tyrion gets a bit ironically bleak, picturing himself being ripped apart by dead men to deprive Cersei of that honour, then marching on King’s Landing to do the same to her. But Jaime has eyes for someone else… the MIGHTY PRINCESS, FORGED IN THE HEAT OF BATTLE, SHE WAS XENA… no, wait, sorry, my other favourite ass-kicking hero, Brienne of Tarth.
Things have gotten quite… tender… between these two, in a way that only YouTube mash-up fanfic can capture.
As the trenches are dug outside the castle walls, Brienne is watching Pod help train other fighters, and quick sidebar to say HELLO, PODRICK PAYNE, I’M STARTING TO SEE WHAT ALL THOSE GIRLS WERE KEEN ON. Seriously, Brienne’s specialised form of H.I.I.T training is paying off.
Jaime tries to be respectful, but Brienne can’t believe the old sarcastic Jaime will burst out with another insult like all the other boys. The Kingslayer is genuinely trying to be a bettter dude, and is not joking when he steps down in status to simply be a soldier at her command. Brienne is touched, although not quite as golden-hands-on as I would like.
Goodness, why am I SO onboard the Jaime traime? He was SUCH an INCESTUOUS GIT early on, but he’s turning more noble than Don Quixote, and I can totally understand why Brienne might want to tilt at his windmills.
We’ll get back to those two and their fireside moment later, because it’s a KNIGHT TO REMEMBER.
"Congratulations on your 659th Terrible Pun."
Ser Jorah Mormont now seems to be in the pinnacle position of his career, and one he would have thought impossible a few seasons ago: being the only person who can make Daenarys smile.
It’s Jorah, using his many years of very personal experience, who suggests that as Dany forgave him, perhaps she needs to forgive Tyrion for his muck-ups. Jorah says his heart was broken when he found out Dany had appointed Tyrion Hand of the Queen over him, even though he was off in the Citadel being de-scaled by Sam Tarly. But he now thinks she made the right call, and even though Tyrion’s a motor mouth he often wished he could throw into the sea, he is the right dude to be by Dany’s side, because he learns from his mistakes. AND LEARNING FROM MISTAKES IS GOOD, DANY.
He has another suggestion too: Girl Talk with Sansa Stark.
This scene was a beautifully played chamber drama, with the stakes tipping back and forth and back again - and not in Dany’s favour.
Sansa reiterates her trust in Brienne re: Jaime, and backs Tyrion as a good man. Dany’s still a little bit peeved, wanting Tyrion to have been ruthless not good, but Sansa points out nobody should have trusted Cersei, even Dany.
Sidebar: Can I just reiterate again how much I love that Game of Thrones has these big, momentous events - that sometimes turn out to be giant mistakes? We were all so excited for the Dragon Pit sequence at the end of season seven, and sure, it was a great spectacle, but really, had Jon sent a raven to Sansa after capturing the wight up north, she would have told him straight away that Cersei wouldn’t give a shit, and to hightail it to Winterfell without buggerising around down south. Arya is right: Sansa really is the smartest person in the room.
As I grow older, it’s the one thing that becomes clearer to me - that the world is just full of people either learning or not learning from previous mistakes. And because it’s impossible to soak up all possible mistakes made by all sorts of people, it’s no wonder we repeat them. Throw in different types of personality conflicts and it’s a small miracle that humans have things like wheels and hospitals and sprawling multi-arc fantasy television series.
Sansa softens towards Dany a little when the Dragon Queen highlights their shared victories - being leaders, being women leaders, and being damn good women leaders. But what could POSSIBLY be cock-blocking their friendship?
"Who has two thumbs and is THIS GUY?"
Sansa doesn’t hold back telling Dany she thinks men in love can be easily manipulated. But Dany fires back, Targaryen eyes flashing, that all she has wanted is the Iron Throne, and yet here she is in the godforsaken north about to risk everything she’s worked for to potentially die at the hands of some crypto-fascist zombie climate polluters. “Who’s manipulated whom here, Sansa? Huh?”
"Men, am I right?"
Sansa concedes the point and the glacier between them seems to thaw again. But then Sansa queries what will happen to the North if the battle against the dead is won and Dany takes the Iron Throne. “WHAT ABOUT THE NORTH, DANY? WHAT ABOUT IT?”
Dany’s face, so smiling and warm a moment before, turns icy again. The Wall goes back up between them.
Luckily an attendant enters just before the WWE-style scrag fight can begin.
Dany takes his return quite calmly, even though technically he abandoned the fleet he and Yara had pledged to serve her when Euron attacked. But hey, at least he rescued Yara, who’s on her way to claim back the Iron Islands.
Sansa is a quiet presence in this exchange until Theon declares he wants to fight for Winterfell. I must admit I wasn’t expecting as much emotion from Sansa, as she flings herself into his arms, tears in her eyes.
Theon ruined life for the Starks for a few seasons there, but he saved Sansa’s life from BOO HISS Ramsay Bolton. It’s an example to Dany of what gaps Sansa has had to bridge to forgive; gaps wider than, say, Tyrion under-estimating Cersei.
Ser Davos Seaworth’s Soup Kitchen is open for business, serving the finest bowls of brown in the North. The Onion Knight’s job is to tell reluctant refugees that they’re going to have to fight, as may as well head to the forge to get suited up.
There’s a sweet moment with a young girl with a scarred face, bringing to mind lost little Shireen Baratheon. She wants to fight the zombies, but Gilly asks her to come to the crypts to protect her and Baby Sam. The girl accepts this proposal, and hurries off with her food, just as a horn sounds.
TIME FOR A HAPPY REUNION!
Jon rushes over to embrace Dolorous Ed from the Night’s Watch, but before he can get there, is crash-tackled by everybody’s favourite everything, TORMUND GIANTSBANE.
There are hugs all around, and it’s genuinely charming to see Jon Snow smiling. Like with his face. You can see his teeth. The gang’s all back together - at least until dawn the next day, which is when the Night King is bringing his Endless Rave to the gates of Winterfell. Of course, Tormund has his priorities right - is The Big Woman still here?
It’s time for Everybody We Love in The Known Universe (Except Bronn) to gather for a Giant War Room Tabletop Strategy Meeting.
I actually got goose flesh seeing so many of these dearly loved people all standing together preparing for what could be a final stand.
Jon thinks their best chance is taking out the Night King, which should cause all the others to cark it, but it’s Bran who realises he will be the key to victory, as the Night King will be coming for him.
We’ve been trying to figure out what the Night King actually wants for about four seasons, but it appears to be nothing more complex than deleting Bran’s internal hard drive. I once fried a motherboard by tripping and accidentally throwing a full glass of Pepsi Max over my Mac, but I’m not sure if the Night King’s thought of that cunning plan, or if Bran is susceptible to attack by cola products.
Oh, that is in very poor taste, shame on you.
Sam says it’s more than just erasing memory; it’s about erasing the humanity that memory creates. Bran’s plan is to park himself in the Godswood and dangle his big juicy all-knowing humanity-inspiring brain out as bait.
Sansa and Arya aren’t up for that idea, but Theon quickly shows you don’t need testicles to have balls. He volunteers to be Bran’s bodyguard, explaining “I took this castle from you. Let me defend it now.” Again, another flawed Thrones character who it’s just become too hard to hate. There’s a moment while everyone accepts that Theon is going to die, a few quiet coughs, then planning continues.
Tyrion says he and Davos will be on the walls to give a signal for Jon to light the trench (ooooh, foreshadowing!), but Dany’s having none of it. Tyrion may be keen to fight alongside everyone else, but he’s also the smartest adviser she’s got. With Jorah listening, Dany indirectly apologises to Tyrion for ranting at him, and says he must stay in the crypts so at least one brain survives to help post-battle. Well done, Dany, that seems to be a decent bit of tempering your temper.
The group hopes dragon fire will assist, but the dragons can’t be too far away from Bran. Arya questions whether dragon fire will defeat the Night King, but Bran’s like “Dunno, mate, no bastard’s ever tried, but first time for everything, ay?”
“We’re all going to die at Winterfell,” chirrups Tormund. “But at least we die together!”
He’s ever the optimist our Tormund, hoping this last ditch pitch might sway Brienne to climb aboard his ginger love beard for the evening. But as always, she’s just mildly disturbed by his penetrating gaze.
Jon urges everyone to get some rest, but nopes out on Dany once again, refusing to meet her eyes as she clearly was hoping for a late night snuggle post battle-planning. It’s a moment Tyrion notices and notes, before pulling up a chair and asking Bran to spin him a yarn about his bizarre career change.
It’s then that the goodbyes begin.
Grey Worm tells Missandei he’s loyal to Dany, but once she’s won the battle and the Iron Throne, he’s keen to pack up and just take a vacation. Missandei is not averse to the idea of a Contiki tour to her homeland of Narth, and Grey Worm is confident his men will bring the muscle. It’s a benign, couple-y type of conversation, the sort of other plans you make while life is busy happening.
Jon and Sam keep watch on the battlements, something they would have done time and time again at Castle Black. They’re joined by a white dog which surely, SURELY, can’t be Ghost?!?! He looked too small to be Ghost. The last time we saw Ghost was in season six, and he was much bigger. I know Ghost was the runt of the litter, but he was still a direwolf. What’s going on?
Don't tell me this is a Milo & Otis situation.
Sam ribs Jon about not yet dropping his origin story bombshell on Daenarys, but Jon is not here for his “biding your time” jokes. Dolorous Ed joins them, and Jon suggests Sam join Gilly and Baby Sam in the crypts. Sam’s ego is dented by this slight on his physical ability - after all, he was the first dude to dust a White Walker in the current era. He also stole a bunch of library books, he’ll have you know, and he’s capable of zinging Ed about his lack of boning action.
“Sam Tarly, Slayer of White Walkers, Lover of Ladies. If we needed any more proof the world was ending.” Ed Tollett really is the driest son of a bitch this side of the Narrow Sea.
The trio remark on how they’re the only ones left from the Night’s Watch, and pledge that any survivors burn the corpses of the others.
We travel now, ladies and gentlemen, to the Great Hall, where the Brothers Lannister are enjoying an aperitif or seven before the final fight. After all, who can sleep? Tyrion would like to see the look on their father’s face, to see both of his sons facing impending death defending Winterfell. They reminisce about the good old days, which weren’t that good, really, what with all the sister-shagging. But they’ve come a long way, with Tyrion also giving up his shagging habits. So here they are, two celibate bros, about to die for a woman from a rival house. Now that’s progress.
Brienne and Pod show up, looking for somewhere warm to “contemplate their impending deaths”. Brienne allows Pod half a cup of wine, but Tyrion of course fills it up for his one-time squire. Davos rushes in to embrace the fire; and I love the fact that he stood immediately with his back to it, which is EXACTLY what I do if I’m somewhere cold and want to warm up. The butt must come first.
Tormund prowls in next, with eyes just for Brienne. This moment with Tormund is one of the greatest virtuoso comic performances I’ve ever seen, and this is a character rich with them. His story about the origins of his Giantsbane name are hilarious, and the way he caps it by downing a full horn of Farmers’ Union Iced Coffee is spectacular.
Once again, thank you, Reddit geniuses.
The rest of the cast watch on in the most delightful confusion, until Davos relents and says maybe he will have a drink after all.
Tyrion remarks that most people in the room have fought against the Starks at some point, but here they are now, all together, fighting for them. He also lets a glimmer of hope in, and starts to think they might live. After all, they have each survived many battles - I loved Jaime pointing out he was the “fabled loser” of the Battle of Whispering Wood. Tyrion misnames Brienne as Ser Brienne, and she has to explain to Tormund that women can’t be knights.
Why not? Tradition. “F*** tradition!” declares Tormund, instantly rocketing to the top of the Feminist Hero charts. Brienne’s like “I don’t even WANT to be a knight”, and Pod shoots her the best “Bullshit!” look in the show. Tormund, ever out to impress Brienne, says he would knight her ten times over if he were a king, and one imagines there’s some subtext to that offer.
It’s Jaime who brings the conversation back on track. “I’m a knight, I can make another knight,” he says, bringing up a rule I wasn’t really aware of, but maybe it’s a special Westerosi tradition.
Brienne doesn’t move at first, and it’s not hard to see her processing whether this is yet another bad joke at her expense. But Jaime is serious, and she kneels before him. Citing the Warrior, the Father and the Mother, he charges her to be brave, just and defend the innocent (Well Ser Gregor Clegane never took that oath to heart). “Arise, Brienne of Tarth, a Knight of the Seven Kingdoms!”
Applause breaks out, and no one is more enthusiastic than Tormund, clapping his great paws together like the bear he allegedly once copulated with.
But Brienne’s eyes shine with love at Jaime, and he recognises that light. He sees in her the kind of knight he wished he could have been, the kind of knight who would fill the pages of those dusty biography books back in King’s Landing that had his major achievement of note as being the “Kingslayer”. His father Tywin once told him a lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinion of sheep; but in this moment Jaime realises that is totally wrong. Brienne has given him the standard of knighthood he should have had all along; it is her gift to him. His knighting her is but a small recognition in return.
"This is the first time I have ever smiled in my life and it HURTS my FACE."
Down in the courtyard, we FINALLY see Ser Jorah Mormont talking to Lady Lyanna Mormont, his cousin and BETTER. He’s gently urging her against fighting in order to protect the future of their house, but Lyanna is like “Sorry, cous, duty calls, and I’ve got some zombie ass to kick.”
Lyanna wishes him well and stalks off, leaving Sam to fill the conversational gap. He’s brought along the Tarly Family Sword he stole from Dad Randall before the old grouch got roasted more savagely than Barnaby Joyce at a summertime outdoor Family Values conference with happy hour rum cocktail specials.
Sam wants Jorah to have Heartsbane (Heartsbae, remember?!), because he basically can’t even lift it, and it would make sense to have a kick ass fighter be armed with Valyrian steel in this take-no-prisoners battle royale. Sam also has Jorah’s dad Jeor for helping him in the Night’s Watch, and Jorah says he will wield it in the old Bear’s honour.
Now this, I think, marks a full circle for Jorah. He’s given up any claim on Dany’s affection, told her she’s right to trust others, and now has had his honour restored. He betrayed his father and was not entitled to Longclaw, but now Sam, a protege of Ser Jeor, has closed the gap.
Which means Ser Jorah is likely to be No More-ah next week. I know, I know, he’s stuck around this far! But if I had to bet on one character carking it in the battle, I would throw those golden dragons on Ser Jorah. I’M SORRY, JORAH THE ANDAL. I have loved your gravelly voice and devotion beyond measure and that yellow shirt you don’t wear anymore because it got too sweaty. I will remember you, I promise.
"Look at the stars, look how they shine for you"
Let’s talk GENDRYA, which was the hook-up we all wanted, and yet were strangely uncomfortable with.
The foreplay starts with forge-play, as Arya visits Gendry all sweaty at work, demanding he hurry up and finish her specialty weapon (ooer). She wants to know what the White Walkers and wights are like, and the best Gendry can come up with is that they’re like Death, coming at you. Arya casually describes how she knows Death, and how it has many faces, and she’s super chill to meet this one, all while flinging dragon glass knives at the wall like she just escaped a circus. Gendry is like “Cool, well I’ll get right on that weapon, then, you strangely flirty nutbag.”
"It is hot in here, and I'm not talking about the forge."
Later Arya chills for a bit with the Hound on the battlements. He’s confused by her newfound stoic silence, which replaced the non-stop nattering she used to do when travelling with him. Beric Dondarrion soon joins them, having returned with Tormund. He’s still a believer in the Lord of Light, even if the Hound reminds him that Thoros of Myr is dead and the Lord of Light will be pretty pissed to have brought Beric back 19 times only to see him be flung over the castle walls by the Hound for trying to pray.
All this is nice, and all, but Arya isn’t keen to spend her final few hours on earth with these miserable old bastards. What, and miss out on that sparkling Hound banter? Yes, because she’s got a better idea about how to employ her mouth.
Obviously knowing he would magically locate her, Arya practises with bow and arrow in what seems to be a grain storage room, judging by all those sacks piled around the room. Gendry shows up with the new weapon, which Arya judges as being good enough. She then subjects Gendry to a series of emotionless questions about The Red Woman, better known as reclusive singer-songwriter Kate Bush. Gendry gets all flustered as she pumps him for information on what she wanted with him; and to her credit Arya is actually surprised when Gendry confesses he is Robert Baratheon’s bastard son. But then, Robert had a son, Ned had a daughter. It seems this is the real way they’ll join their houses.
“We may both die tomorrow; I ought to know what it’s like,” Arya declares, before jumping Gendry. “I’m not the Red Woman,” she says as she disrobes. “Take your own bloody pants off.”
Yes, Arya is a grown woman, but she’s still a LITTLE GIRL! We’ve watched her since she was 12, and NOW LOOK THERE’S SOME SIDEBOOB. It’s awesome and empowering for the character, but awkward for us as viewers. I’m sure I’m not the only one who blushed and did some mental arithmetic around their ages.
For a cherry-popping scene, it was intimate and cosy, but hey, I guess it was a nice time to show the joy of sacks.
Back at the big fire party, Tyrion’s keen for a song, which you know is the sign when everyone should pack up their eskies and head home. Nobody’s stepping up until Pod opens his mouth and starts warbling a tune about a girl named Jenny dancing with ghosts (or possibly goats, who knows). The man has a golden tongue, after all, I shouldn’t be surprised he has a golden voice.
The maudlin melody prompts more introspection from our late night partygoers, and opens up to a montage of where everyone else is: Sam and Gilly deep in shared thought as Baby Sam sleeps between them; Sansa and Theon having a last meal as friends; Arya pondering her first sack race while Gendry sleeps; Grey Worm kissing Missandei before leading a column of Unsullied out to prepare; Ser Jorah checking the defences on horseback. The final refrain of the song is “never wanted to leave” repeated over and over, a reminder that all these people are making sacrifices they’d rather not, but do out of duty.
Dany ventures down to find Jon Snow standing in front of the statue of Lyanna Stark. She reaches for him, but he makes no move to embrace her. She’s awkward as she tries to understand how her brother Rhaegar, famed for being kind and artistic, could also have raped Lyanna.
"I swear to the old gods I did not get this from InfoWars."
“He didn’t,” Jon says, the first blow struck at the lie that has held the Seven Kingdoms in its grip for more than 20 years.
“He loved her. They were married in secret. After Rhaegar fell at the Trident, she had a son.”
In an echo of Sam telling Jon the truth last week, the camera stays on Dany’s face as she takes it in - the threat to the child, Ned’s promise to Lyanna, Jon’s real name of Aegon Targaryen.
Dany is disbelieving. A secret nobody knows - except Jon’s brother and best friend? But it is true, Jon says, the acceptance in his voice. It must feel right to him, despite last week’s shock upon hearing it. All this time, his whole motherless life - his mother was underneath him at Winterfell all along. Suddenly his inside-but-outside life made sense. Not that he necessarily wants to be the King, of course, but in true Jon Snow-style, the truth is always his best path.
“You would have a claim to the Iron Throne,” is the last statement Dany utters before the horns herald the approaching army of the dead. Jon turns at the sound, but Dany’s gaze is still on him, steely. In just a few moments, her whole identity has changed; and she doesn’t have the luxury of a day or two to get used to the concept before charging into war.
The pair join Tyrion on the battlements, and once again he notices the emotional space between them. But they rush off to get in position, leaving Tyrion still on the wall, staring down the massed army of doom.
Out in the snow, the White Walkers on horseback line up side by side, at the head of their mighty army. There is no sign of the Night King; waiting further back on Ice Viserion, perhaps?
Either way, everything’s changed, and nothing will be the same again. Let’s hope the work our characters have done to survive stands them in good stead at this moment.
Yay! Best Moments
Tormund crash-cuddling Jon as he’s trying to hug Dolorous Ed is a memory I will retreat to whenever I need a happy place.
I’m not sure if he really is a bear-f***ker, but there’s no doubt he’s a bear-hugger.
He also claims the title of Most Disconcerting Milk Drinker since Robin Arryn, and that whole sad drinking and knighting scene was glorious.
Zing! Best Lines
So much of the Arya/Hound/Beric banter was great, but I think I have to go with the girls:
Dany: I’m here because I love your brother, and I trust him. I know he is true to his word. He’s only the second man in my life I can say that about. Sansa: Who was the first? Dany: Someone taller.
With no Cersei or Euron this episode, there really wasn’t that much to get grossed out by this episode. A brief reprieve, perhaps, before the inevitable.
SO MUCH DEATH TO COME OUR WAY MY BODY IS NOT READY.
Finally, a random thought that occurred to me, and gave me a certain degree of strength facing down next week’s likely bloodbath. A metaphorical stiff dram, if you will.
I’ve never known the origins of the name “Winterfell”, and I’m certainly not going to look into it now, lest it ruin my sense of self-satisfaction at finally coming up with a potentially possibly plausible theory.
But what if the location of the Winterfell fortress was chosen because it’s literally the place where winter… fell? Perhaps this is the location of the defeat of the White Walkers the last time round, more than one thousand years ago? I know Bran the Builder, one of the early Stark kings, built both The Wall and Winterfell. Perhaps the name has been giving us the answer the whole time - that this is the place where winter - aka, the Night King - falls?
Again, there are probably 549 YouTube channels with deep dives already on this theory, but I’m terrible at foreshadowing, so dang it, I’m proud of myself.
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