FUCK YES, ARYA!
That was EPIC.
A bit confusing in some of the more chaotic actions scenes, but epic.
This episode was a masterclass in visual storytelling. There was almost no dialogue through the entire hour and a half. Most things were conveyed with looks and gestures, close-ups on people acting their hearts out, long scenic shots and so much atmosphere that it was hard to breathe while watching it.
The episode built up tension beautifully. The show took lessons from The Two Towers, I think, in how to build epic pre-battle tension, except then it improved on it. The first ten or so minutes had almost no dialogue and almost no action. It was just people preparing, people waiting… and it was some of the tensest, most gripping TV I’ve ever seen. As the tension built and built, you couldn’t help wishing the battle would come so the tension could release, while simultaneously dreading it with every fibre of your being.
The show offered us and the characters a brief reprise from the tension when Melisandre appeared and lit all of the Dothraki swords on fire. As we see the fire sweep across the army, lighting up the battlefield, we’re inspired. Maybe, maybe, they have a chance. And then we have to watch the Dothraki ride off into the dark, and see every one of those hope-giving flames slowly flicker out.
And then, finally, the hoard swarms out of the dark, and all hell breaks loose.
It’s hard to write cohesively about the hour-long chaos that follows. Every character got their moment of heroism, and every character set up another character for their epic moment of heroism too. Everyone was fighting desperately for their lives. Everyone saved others, and was saved themselves.
So let’s do this by character, starting with…
Sansa Stark (and Tyrion Lannister)
Oh my god, my wonderful Sansa. Going into this episode, I felt fairly confident that Sansa would survive. Halfway through, when the dead rose in the crypts and Sansa seized her dagger, I suddenly realized she might sacrifice herself to help save her people, and I have never been so scared for a character in all my life.
But she was AMAZING. (I’m going to say this about a lot of characters, but Sansa is my favorite, so we’ll start with her).
It took 20 minutes for Sansa to head down to the supposed safety of the crypts, and I love both that she argued to stay — she won’t abandon her people — and that she accepted Arya’s wisdom and left. Arya got the opportunity to initiate Sansa in her own form of badassery, teaching her to “stick em with the pointy end,” and god, my heart. Part of my terror here was that this felt like Chekhov’s dagger, although I think, in the end, Sansa didn’t have to use it.
And then Sansa was down in the crypts, with Tyrion, showing the same kind of badassery we’ve seen in her from the beginning. It made me think back to her waiting with the noblewoman in Season 2, trying her best to inspire and distract them. She accepts that the crypts are the safest place for her to be, no matter how much she wants to help. Unlike Tyrion, she accepts that all she can do is stay calm and wait. “The most heroic thing we can do now is look the truth in the face,” she tells him.
Honestly, I don’t know what to make of the first scene between Sansa and Tyrion, when they discuss their marriage, and Sansa smiles and says “it wouldn’t work between us,” because of Daenerys. Meaning, of course, that she thinks things would work if Tyrion didn’t have divided loyalties. I thought there were some vague hints of respect and possible future shippiness in the previous two episodes, but this escalated things far quicker than I expected. The scene treated them like they were a series-long end-game, which I’m not a fan of.
But Sansa smiled. We actually saw Sansa Stark SMILE. Maybe it’s worth it for that.
And at least Missandei got to point out Sansa’s unfair prejudices, by telling her that without the Dragon Queen, they’d all be dead. So Missandei got her badass moment too, fighting with words, as she always does.
The later scenes were a lot more rewarding. The dead in the crypt rose, as the whole internet assumed they would, and things pretty much looked like all was lost. Sansa and Tyrion ended up hiding together, and they shared that “well, we’re about to die” connection that all the fanfics love. They looked at each other, like, “well, we’re fucked.” Sansa pulled out her dagger, ready to fight. Of course she would fight, even though she was crying with fear. She’s Sansa Stark. And then Tyrion grabbed her hand and kissed it, and the music was beautiful, and… it was a lot.
But they lived! Thank god. I chose my favorite well.
Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister
How happy does it make me to be able to put them in one category together? SO happy. Jaime and Brienne fought side by side throughout the entire episode. They were perfectly in sync with one another as they battled the dead. They saved each other’s lives so many times. I have a lot of feelings about how perfect this all was, and how hopefully they’ll get to talk about their true love before Jaime inevitably dies in Episode 5.
Brienne was a BADASS. We’ve always known she’s a badass, but this was really her finest moment. She was a true knight, a leader, and Jaime was too, inspiring his men, refusing to stop fighting until the very end.
They didn’t get much to do, plotwise, but they needed a mention either way.
I’ll admit, I never fully got on the Lyanna fangirl train. But she was amazing in this episode. She was fearless and strong, a true commander of her men despite being so young. I do wonder why none of the women braided their hair, when the show likes braids so much, and seriously, you don’t want your hair getting in your face in battle, but apart from that… go, Lyanna.
Because it turns out Lyanna is the biggest badass of them all. When the giant breaks into Winterfell, she’s knocked aside, and left bleeding on the ground, crumpled, possibly dying. So what does she do? Save herself, like everyone else is doing? Lie there to regain her strength? Nope. Lyanna gets up, screams, and runs STRAIGHT FOR THE GIANT.
To be honest, I thought this was going to be a brave suicide, basically. The giant picked her up and crushed her in his hand, and I thought this was going to be a gruesome and pointless death I definitely did not want to see. And then she STABBED HIM IN HIS FREAKING EYE. She stabbed him in his eye and KILLED HIM, and then was dropped to the ground, where she died.
Lyanna Mormont for the Iron Throne. Except, not, I guess, since she’s dead. 🙁
DANY <3. MY WONDERFUL DANY. <3 How can anybody hate Dany, after an episode like this?
I’m not sure what her and Jon’s plan was, exactly, but the beginning certainly made it sound like she went against it to fly out and join the fight. So, okay, maybe some people could criticize her for that and for not thinking big picture. But as she says, “the dead are already here.” She is fierce, and she will protect whoever she can with whatever power she has.
She’s not the Prince that was Promised — at least not in the way she expected. She bravely faced down the Night King and tried to use Drogon to destroy him, but her attempt failed, and she was pulled down by the dead.
I didn’t think she was likely to die this week, but once she ended up on the ground, dragonless and weaponless, I really started freaking out.
But she was saved, perfectly, by Ser Jorah. Everything came back to the beginning. She grabbed a sword, fierce survivor that she is, and then it was her and Ser Jorah against everything, just as it has been from the start. She fought bravely, desperately, while Ser Jorah gave his life to protect her.
And when Drogon landed behind her and curled around her while she cried over Ser Jorah’s body, I started crying too. After so much pain and death, that was the shot that set off my tears.
Or should that be Aegon Targaryen? There’s got to be a Targaryen in there somewhere, since Jon went full dragon rider this week. Like Daenerys, he tried to destroy the Night King in his epic Prince that was Promised moment, and like Daenerys, he failed. He ran at the Night King, not very gracefully, as they stood alone among the chaos and the flame. And the Night King simply raised the dead around them.
Jon was saved by some well-placed fire from Dany, and then he… didn’t really get to do much else this week. He provided a lot of the preparation necessary to help them face the Night King, including the dragonglass weapons and bringing along Dany herself, but after all the prophecies, he had very little to do in the actual fight. And unlike Dany, he didn’t really get much chance to be badass either — or if he did, it was in those really dark dragon-fighting scenes and I missed it all. His most epic moment was when he faces down Ice Viserion, but honestly, that didn’t actually seem to have been necessary. He didn’t need to step out and challenge Viserion face to face. But he needed something to be facing when all the dead collapsed, and a dragon is cooler than most other possibilities.
Still, I’m left wondering what role Jon has left to play in the rest of the season. Either his destiny is subtle (which is possible — he was necessary for victory, he just wasn’t very showy about it), or it didn’t happen here.
This one hurt the most. It was clear even before this episode began that Theon was due for a heroic sacrifice. But his final moments with Bran were a worthy end to his traumatic and morally complicated character arc. He didn’t apologise to Bran, exactly, but he began to voice his regret, until Bran told him no. “Everything you did brought you where you are now. Where you belong. Home.”
Even more heartbreaking was his final scene, when Bran told him, “You’re a good man. Thank you.” And my heart broke, as Theon nodded, raised his weapon, and charged at the Night King.
My one question, Bran, is why? Maybe I missed something in all that darkness. But it feels like Theon only charged the Night King because Bran implied that he was going to charge the Night King, and fight to protect Bran, and die in the process. But did Theon make any sort of difference? Did he slow the Night King down enough to help Arya? Or was there something else I missed. Otherwise, it was a heartbreaking end to a powerful character arc, but it loses some of its heroicness in its futility.
“No need to execute me, Ser Davos. I’ll be dead before the dawn.”
Holy. Shit. Melisandre in this episode.
I made a note when Melisandre first appeared, wondering why she was staring so ominously at Arya. WELL, NOW I KNOW.
Melisandre got to have her true, tense hero moment, when she went out into the battle to light the trenches. This was another masterwork of tension, as she repeated the spell again and again, as the dead got closer and closer, and the fire failed to light. When it finally burst into flames, it was a huge emotional release, a much needed break of hope after all the chaos and darkness.
There are a lot of candidates for the best shot of the episode, but the moment when we saw the fire reflected in Melisandre’s eyes is definitely up there.
Melisandre also got to be the queen of the cryptic callback — again saying things that didn’t make sense to me until after seeing the ending. “The lord brought him back for a purpose,” she says to Arya, after Beric’s death. “Now that purpose has been served.” Beric had to save Arya’s life.
When Melisandre told Arya she would shut blue eyes forever, I thought she just meant “go and kill more zombies, you badass.” Luckily, Arya understood better than I did.
And once the episode was done, so was Melisandre’s mission. She kept Arya safe long enough for Arya to kill the Night King. Her purpose is over. And so she walks off into the night, taking off first her cloak, and then her necklace, before collapsing to the ground, dead.
Melisandre has always been a very complicated and mysterious character, and part of me wishes we’d learned more about her before her demise. But this episode was really concerned with arcs of bravery and redemption, and so it is fitting, really, that Davos is the one to watch her die, with no real resolution to any of his fury towards her, except the knowledge that she played her part in saving them all.
YES, ARYA, MY HERO! She got to show off all her of badassness — fighting the dead with her amazing new staff, showing off her badass rogue stealth skills in the walls… and, of course, saving the whole goddamn world.
The past few episodes have made me love Arya again. I’ve never really disliked Arya, exactly, and it’s not her fault that she became so emotionally closed off and terrifying… she had to become the person she became, in order to survive. But it is so rewarding to see her emotional richness back in play — her love for her siblings, her bravery in the face of death, all of it. She’s recovered from the abuse she faced at the hands of the Faceless Men, and god, I love her so much.
What do we say to the god of death? Not today. The Night King is the god of death. And she is the one to destroy him.
And she does it with a true rogue stealth attack. When the Night King grabbed her by the throat, I thought she was dead. But Arya performs the ultimate sleight-of-hand, dropping her dagger into her free right hand and stabbing him straight in the stomach.
And so Arya is the true hero. And she still maybe has “green eyes” to go.
I’m already seeing hints that the internet at large is disappointed that they Jon didn’t fight the Night King in hand-to-hand combat, and arguments that it was anti-climactic for Arya to kill him. But things never work out in Game of Thrones like they do in songs, and prophecies are not ever what they seem. Arya was an absolute badass, and she saved the day.
My one lingering doubt is the fact that, if the Night King is truly dead (and he definitely seems to be), all that’s left to resolve is Cersei and the Iron Throne. Since the Night King always felt like the greater threat (since he is, you know, death itself), it makes me worry that the final few episodes will be anti-climatic. It’s suggesting that who sits on the Iron Throne is truly the most important thing, when before it seemed like the series was strongly pushing the message that arguing over a chair is stupid when literal death is coming to destroy them.
Except, of course, that winter is not just a metaphor. Literal winter is still here, with Winterfell mostly destroyed, and most of the armies and citizens of the North lying dead. Their problems don’t end with the Night King, even without Cersei in play.
We’ll see how things play out in the next few episodes. But now I feel I can breathe a sigh of relief that some characters I love, at least, are pretty much guaranteed to survive. And I can’t wait to see where their stories will go in the aftermath.