‘Game Of Thrones’ Season 8, Episode 3 Recap: Battle Of Living Vs. Dead Starts Messy But Ends Magnificently
Sunday night saw millions of fans tune in to HBO again for the third episode of Game of Thrones for the long-awaited battle between the living and the Army of the Dead at Winterfell, and wow… the hit series delivered once again.
When we last left off, practically every living soul in Winterfell — or in the North in general — had braced for the dangerously imminent war against the Dead and their leader, the Night King. Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) had managed to get along better, although Dany did not explicitly pledge to save the North specifically after the battle against the Dead, even after Sansa asked her point-blank if she would fight for the Starks even after that. Also, Dany learned of her nephew Jon Snow’s (Kit Harrington) true identity as Aegon Targaryen and thus the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, and was unsurprisingly shocked beyond belief.
Episode 2 also saw Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) — who is now 18 years old — lose her virginity to Gendry (Joe Dempsie)! Fans had already begun speculating about this after HBO posted a cryptic tweet about the younger Stark girl in the days leading up to the second episode. Although it feels strange to see the series’ youngest main female character — whom we’ve come to love as a loyal girl but also a brave and dangerous assassin — have sex, at least it was completely consensual, unlike her sister Sansa who was raped by Ramsay Bolton for her first time in Season 6. Arya explicitly told Gendry she wanted to know what it was like to “be with” a man before she was potentially killed by White Walkers or Wights or any other member of the Army of the Dead, and you have to admit, it’s pretty great for her that she got that completely natural wish granted.
Episode 3 — aptly named “The Long Night,” as its running time was 82 minutes for the season’s longest episode — began almost exactly as many hard-core fans had surely imagined: with a lengthy silence and dramatic music to accompany scenes of the living — which included the Unsullied and the Dothraki — lining up for the literal fight of their lives. The calm before the storm was portrayed with a chilling darkness and sense of terror. Finally, the living and the dead clashed for an all-out skirmish that lasted more than 40 minutes, thus beating the Helm’s Deep battle from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers for the lengthiest war portrayed in film or on television. Many fans complained that the opening scenes were far too blurry, dark and confusing, and there is some truth to that. The cinematography certainly rendered it difficult at first to clearly see who was still alive and who was dead, but at the same time, it’s likely that this was intentionally done and edited so as to demonstrate the magnitude of the chaos and violence unfolding in the world of the Seven Kingdoms.
The majority of the victims killed at the start of the battle included the Dothraki, most of whose ranks were annihilated by the Night King and his army. The Red Priestess Melisandre (Carice Van Houten)provided some much needed help by reciting some incantations to set parts of the battle ablaze, but it evidently wasn’t enough. Then, over the course of the war, several brave souls were lost: Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) went out in a glorious way, killing a giant Wight by stabbing it in the eye as it picked her up before she ultimately died. Lyanna’s cousin Jorah (Iain Glen) also perished later in the battle, fighting until the bitter end and being destroyed by Wights and White Walkers. Jorah fought by Daenerys’s side all along just as he always promised, and the Mother of Dragons wept over Jorah’s corpse in a heartbreaking scene at the end of the episode.
Speaking of dragons, both of Dany’s children appear to be safe and alive! Although we only see one at the end of the episode after the war ends, the preview for episode 4 seems to show two dragons if you look closely, so it looks like Drogon and Rhaegal are both safe.
Arya shows off her bad-ass side once again by killing a few Wights and other Dead soldiers after playing a game of hide-and-seek with them within the fortress at Winterfell. Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann) comes in to help his Odd Couple-like partner Arya, as does Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), although Beric doesn’t get lucky enough to be revived by the Lord of Light for the sixth time in this moment and gets demolished by the Dead. Edd Tollett (Ben Crompton), also known as “Dolorous Edd,” remains faithful to the Night’s Watch until his last breath, as he dies protecting his fellow brother Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), who visibly remains terrified for much of the battle.
Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) also dies in valiant fashion, running straight toward the Night King in the woods after surrounding Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) to defend the Three-Eyed Raven by the weirwood tree. The Night King easily kills Theon but is then charged at by Arya, who leaps in with a furious howl. The Night King catches the young Stark girl by the throat, and Arya struggles briefly but then stabs the Army of the Dead’s leader in the heart with a Valyrian steel dagger while suspended in mid-air by dropping her weapon into her other hand, just before he goes to attack Bran — who is protected by the Ironborn. Jon Snow had initially tried to kill the Night King — following a long and brutal battle between the Night King’s ice dragon Viserion and Daenery’s other two dragons — but the Dead’s leader had used his powers to resurrect many of the living who were killed in battle and turn them into dead souls to join his side (An extremely cowardly move, if you ask me. Just fight Jon man-to-man instead you cheap bastard!) Viserion and the rest of the Dead were instantly killed, however, after Arya murdered the Night King, shattering him into a million pieces. The Night King had also proved impervious to the fire breathed by Drogon, whom Daenerys was riding.
Meanwhile, Sansa, Tyrion, Gilly (Hannah Murray)and her son Sam — as well as dozens of other residents of the North — had been hiding below-ground in the crypts of Winterfell, but this hideaway spot did not prove as safe as it seemed, at least momentarily. As the Night king resurrected the Dead, many of the long-dead members of the Stark family also came back to life after being kept in Stone for years, decades and centuries. However, Ned and Catelyn Stark were never shown resurrected, unlike what some fans speculated. Sansa and Tyrion even shared a tender moment and recalled their brief time as a married couple. Before going underground, Arya gave her sister Sansa what looked like a Valyrian steel dagger, and upon Sansa’s confuison as to how to use it, Arya used her lovable catchphrase: “Stick them with the pointy end.”
Head writers David Benioff and Dan Weiss revealed in the Inside the Episode behind-the-scenes featurette for Episode 3 that they had planned for three years for Arya to be the one to kill the Night King, and several fans noted that Bran had also “predicted” this as the Three-Eyed Raven. In season 7, Bran gave his sister the Valyrian steel dagger she used to kill the Army of the Dead’s leader under the weirwood tree, in the same exact location the latter died. Peter “Littlefinger” Baelish, who was killed off at the end of last season, had also been in possession of this dagger for some time.
The final major character to die in this episode was Melisandre, who took off her necklace and, just as she told Davos, died before the dawn, walking way into the wintery landscape and dissolving after turning into her alternate old-person form. It seemed completely fitting for the Red Woman to die this way, especially as her presence no longer seemed necessary given the end result of the war.
The preview for Episode 4 does not reveal much, other than the obvious: now that the threat of the Night King and the Army of the Dead has been eliminated, that war is won but the work to save the Seven Kingdoms is far from over. The forces at Winterfell, including Daenerys, Jon, the Starks and more, will now band together again to face another common enemy: the extremely stubborn, arrogant and crazy Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), who currently sits on the Iron Throne.
What will happen in this next conflict? Who will emerge alive and who will be killed off next? Tune in next Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on HBO to find out!