Previously on Game of Thrones: Jon decided the perfect time to break the news to Daenerys that everything she knows is a lie and that she has dedicated her life to a pointless farce is minutes before a gigantic battle between the living and the dead that will determine the fate of the very world itself. Way to break a girl’s focus, Jonny.
While Jon was breaking new records for bad timing, everyone else sat around in Winterfell talking about what they were going to do for summer vacation. Except for Arya and Gendry, who porked each other instead.
Oh, and all the people who can’t fight went to sit in the crypt, which is the safest place to be, especially when you’re about to be invaded by people who can reanimate corpses. You know, like the ones in the crypt?
This week: the Battle of Winterfell (Redux).
Sam is stressing out because even though he’s killed a White Walker before, he’s not sure he can do it again, and he’s suffering mad performance anxiety. Tyrion is walking around looking grumpy. Bran rolls past and gives him a significant look. Or maybe it’s just a look. Bran has a permanently significant expression on his face these days, so it’s impossible to tell whether he’s looking significantly at you or just checking out your acne scars.
As the defenders of Winterfell wait in tense silence on the ramparts, a screech from overhead tells us that the dragons are about, and hungry for zombie flesh. Also, they’re in a bad mood because they’ve had to watch Jon and Dany bonking so much lately, so they’re really in battle mode.
The defenders are lined up and ready for battle and so poorly lit it’s really pretty hard to tell who we’re looking at. I hope someone’s about to set fire to something so I can see what’s going on. Of course, this is very realistic, as actual battles are often fought in poor visibility and confusion and uncertainty are frequently a feature: but it’s a bit inconsiderate of them, given there are millions of people watching.
For a while we just get various shots of main characters looking nervously out at the frozen wastes. And then…
Bloody hell, Melisandre just showed up. What’s SHE doing here? Looking for another little girl to burn to death? She rides up to Jorah and tells him to instruct his men to lift their swords. He does so. She says something to the Dothraki in witch language, and suddenly all their swords burst into flames. And everyone gives thanks to Melisandre, who in our hour of need showed up to make sure the battle scene was visible.
“Valar Morghulis,” she says to Grey Worm, meaning: “All men must die”.
“Valar Doharis,” Grey Worm replies, meaning: “How come they get fire swords and we don’t?”
Melisandre rides into Winterfell like it ain’t no thing, and Davos goes down to greet her and ask what the hell she thinks she’s playing at. Melisandre tells Davos he doesn’t need to kill her because she’ll be dead before the dawn anyway, which overlooks the fact that Davos really, really wants to kill her.
Out on the plain Jorah urges his Dothraki hordes forward, flaming swords and all. From the walls of Winterfell, catapults begin slinging what I assume are enormous balls of burning garbage. From the walls, everyone watches as all the fires go out, which is a pretty bad sign.
There is silence. The audience waits tensely for a cat to jump out of a cupboard or something.
From the distance sounds of horses are heard. They’re riding back towards the fortress. But living horses or dead ones? It’s all dark again. Why can’t Melisandre light some more fires?
“The Night King is coming,” says Jon. “The Dead are already here,” replies Dany, in the voice of someone who’s still pretty pissed off at you.
Grey Worm puts on his helmet to signify that shit’s about to go down. And then … shit goes down.
Dany was right. The Dead ARE already here. And they’re hitting the Living with swords. As the two armies clash and hack mightily away at each other, suddenly everything is illuminated by a stream of flame from the dragon that Dany is riding over their heads, the queen determined that her people shall not die tonight without getting a good look at who killed them.
Jon is riding a dragon too and it’s a bit confusing.
Back at the castle, Arya tells Sansa to go to the crypt. Sansa says she won’t abandon her people. Arya gives her a knife and tells her again to go. Sansa says she doesn’t know how to use it – which is exactly WHY she needs to go to the bloody crypt. “Stick ’em with the pointy end,” says Arya, but doesn’t specify who to stick, so Sansa may well go to the crypt and stab Varys to death now.
Meanwhile they’re still fighting the zombies out on the plain, and Dany is still dropping fire on zombie heads. Dragons aren’t that easy to aim though, so there’s a good chance she’s hitting a lot of living people too, but like they say, you can’t make an omelette without burning your friends to death.
There follows some really cool shots of people and zombies slashing each other, silhouetted against the smoky light of dragon fire. Then Sam is knocked down by a zombie and is about to be killed, but is rescued by Edd, who is then totally killed by a zombie, and turned into a zombie himself.
Faced with this unspeakable horror, Sam makes the best decision any character in this show has ever made, and runs away.
Meanwhile, Jon is still riding his dragon, and it’s still hard to figure out what’s going on. Jon is there. Dany is there. The dragons are there. That’s all I can say for sure.
The defenders of Winterfell fall back as more of them are killed by zombies, which means of course that there will now be more zombies to kill. Grey Worm orders the Unsullied to stand their ground to protect the retreat, and the zombies dive in for a bit of Unsullied tartare.
The Living are flooding back towards Winterfell, hoping to take refuge behind its strong walls for the few minutes it will take for the Dead to break through and slaughter them all. Meanwhile, out in the darkness – that is, the bit of the darkness that is slightly darker than the main darkness in which the entire episode is taking place – something ominous is brewing. More ominous than what’s already happening? I assume so: the music sounds like it.
The Hound is fleeing from a zombie that is just about to zombify him when it’s hit by a flaming arrow from the parapet. It was fired by Arya, who in saving the Hound’s life has done something very significant, narratively speaking. Character arcs and so forth. Well played, Benioff and Weiss. Satisfying. Also, it was foreshadowed when Arya was practising archery last episode, so you can’t go oh, how come Arya is suddenly a great archer? Chekhov, bitches.
The defenders need to light the trench around the castle. They can’t light the trench around the castle. But you know who can light the trench around the castle? Melisandre. She says her special magic words over and over again, and just like SuperTed, it works. The trench is lit. The zombies charge headlong into a wall of fire. From above, Jon sits on his dragon and sees the flames with relief, and reflects on how little he has contributed thus far.
Why can’t Melisandre just set all the zombies on fire directly? There’s probably a good reason. It’s probably in the books.
Ah, we’re down in the crypt. “At least we’re already in the crypt,” says Varys with his typical impish, dark, Bill Burr-esque sense of humour. Tyrion complains that if he was up there he could totally win the battle. Sansa tells him to shut his dumb yap, he totally couldn’t. She points out that the reason they’re all down in the crypt is that they are all completely useless.
Tyrion jokes that they should’ve stayed married. Sansa says that he was her best husband, because the others were psychotic murderer-rapists. But she says they could never work as a couple because Tyrion is loyal to the “Dragon Queen”. She has a NAME, Sansa. Missandei breaks in to point out that they’d all be dead if it weren’t for the Dragon Queen.
BOOM! Sansa, you just got MISSANDEI’D!
Elsewhere, Theon – remember Theon? – tries to apologise to Bran, and Bran spouts his usual monotonous philosophical bullshit that I’m sure he does specifically to make people feel uncomfortable. But this conversation isn’t that important compared with…
The zombies, who have figured out a way to break through the firewall: Westeros’s first hackers. Some zombies lie down on the fire like it’s barbed wire, and other zombies walk over the top of them. Up on the rampart, Davos, who is heartily sick of this kind of shit happening, gives the order to man the walls.
Up on his dragon, Jon looks up to see another dragon approaching. But it ain’t Dany’s dragon. It’s the Night King’s zombie dragon, and it is Bad News. There’s a lot of it about: the zombies are climbing the walls and the air is all orange.
As the zombies reach the top of the wall, Jaime and Gendry and Brienne and some less important characters hack and slash valiantly at them. They’re doing very well, but there are too many zombies. They’re everywhere, swarming all over the ramparts, and Sam can only be miraculously rescued a second before getting zombified so many times – the army of the Dead seems unstoppable.
The Hound is feeling pretty tense, given that his two greatest fears are zombies and fire, and that is literally all this episode is. He’s in no great condition to fight, but luckily Arya comes along with her spear and some Jackie Chan moves she’s been working, and starts kicking some authentic arse. Even without really being able to see what’s going on because everything is dark and orange, it’s still pretty damn impressive.
They could make a spin-off called Arya Stark Kills People With A Spear For An Hour Each Week and I’d subscribe to a streaming service purely for that one show.
A zombie giant comes in and slaps Lady Mormont, which is awful because she’s just a KID, for god’s sake. Lady Mormont charges at the zombie giant. The zombie giant picks her up and starts to crush her. Just as he’s about to squash her head or eat her or something, Lady Mormont stabs him right through his zombie giant eye, and he’s dead for the second time and respect to the wee lass, seriously.
Back to the skies, where the two good dragons are fighting the bad dragon which is spitting evil blue fire instead of good Christian orange fire. Jon and Dany get away and fly beneath the clouds, communicating only through agonised pants so as to avoid interception by enemy agents.
The next scene is set in a very dark place. Arya – I think it’s Arya – is hiding from, I guess, a zombie? It’s hard to follow because seriously, it’s dark. It’s like David E. Kelley’s The Practice in here, nobody is turning on the lights. The zombie continues to stalk Arya in the manner of the velociraptors in the kitchen of Jurassic Park, until finally, Arya stabs it in the guts because she’s Arya Stark and you do not fucking mess with her.
But then there are MORE zombies, and Arya runs like hell through Winterfell’s corridors as they chase her relentlessly, never tiring or flagging in their lifeless lust for human blood.
Down in the crypt, the useless people can hear stuff going on above and they do not find it reassuring. Varys in particular is quite concerned, especially when people start banging on the crypt door and begging to be let in. Sansa decides not to let them in, and pretty quickly they stop begging, so probably they decided they were fine and didn’t need to come in after all. Glad THAT ended well.
Somewhere else, One-Eyed Jack and the Hound hunt for nasty wights. They have the advantage of One-Eye’s fire sword, which he gets to have because he worships the same nutso god as Melisandre. They stumble across Arya being attacked by a zombie, which One-Eye hits with his fire sword. A bit of frantic dimly lit action, and the Hound and Arya flee while One-Eye gets overwhelmed and killed by the zombies.
“The Lord brought him back for a purpose,” says Melisandre. “Now that purpose has been served.” That is bloody cold-blooded, Melisandre. Though to be fair, the dude has been killed like twenty times already so he can’t complain he’s had a bad run.
Arya tells Melisandre she knows her. Melisandre tells Arya she knows her too. So that’s all sorted. Arya remembers Melisandre saying she’d shut many eyes forever. Melisandre remembers that too. The main point is, these two are very much on the same page re: things they both know and remember.
There’s a limited amount of time for Arya and Melisandre to catch up, because the wights are coming in. Do you like how occasionally I call them wights like I’m supposed to? It’s good because it lets you know that I actually do know the real name, I just call them zombies to be kooky.
Anyway, Melisandre says, “What do we say to the God of Death?” and Arya replies, “Not today” and it’s an absolutely badass callback.
The zombie dragon attacks and blows a big chunk of Winterfell away with its ice-fire-breath. Jon and Dany attack the zombie dragon with his non-zombie-dragon and it’s confusing as hell, but they manage to knock the Night King off the zombie dragon, but Jon is hurt too, I think. Maybe?
Dany spots the Night King on the ground looking up at her and is all like, “Dracaris”, and her dragon breathes fire all over the Night King. But brace yourselves for a MASSIVE surprise: the Night King is totally fine. Fire doesn’t kill him. Dany flies away so he doesn’t kill her dragon with his big icepick.
The Night King walks towards Winterfell. Jon chases him. The Night King turns. He finds Jon irritating yet amusing. Jon runs at the Night King, but there is a problem: the ground is littered with corpses, and the Night King now brings them all back to life. Jon stops running, suddenly cognizant of just how utterly bollocksed he is.
Back at the castle, there is a sudden eerie lull. The corpse of little girl Lady Mormont wakes up with creepy blue eyes. Out on the field, Jon is surrounded by zombies. The Night King leaves them to it and recommences his march to Winterfell. Everyone is completely screwed.
Down in the crypt there is a horrible stirring. Turns out the crypt wasn’t so safe after all. Hey ho, you live and learn.
Meanwhile out on the field, Theon shoots zombies with arrows and Jon hits zombies with swords, but he’s got no chance of fighting them all off. Until, that is, Dany arrives and her dragon burns them all. Which is nice, but as Jon sets off in pursuit of the Night King, zombies start attacking her dragon, causing her to fall off and the dragon to fly away in terror. Dany is just about to be claimed by a zombie when Jorah fortuitously cuts its head off. Jorah is always there for you Dany. Why don’t you bang him instead of Jon? Added bonus that you are not Jorah’s aunt.
Theon is still shooting zombies with arrows, but the thing about arrows is, they run out. In this case, Theon’s arrows have run out well before the supply of zombies does, and he is forced to begin hitting zombies with his bow. Elsewhere, Jorah and Dany fight zombies off too. I’m starting to think “fighting zombies” is the theme of this episode. I mean, a VERY large percentage of screentime has been devoted to it.
Down in the crypt, Tyrion and Sansa hide from the zombies that are trying to kill them, but they also give each other affectionate glances and that makes it all worthwhile really.
Throughout Winterfell zombies are attacking and humans are desperately fighting overwhelming odds and the zombie dragon is smashing stuff up and the soundtrack has turned to sorrowful piano that makes it clear that this is the montage of everything going to hell and all hope being lost unless something unexpected happens. Everyone starts fighting in slow motion, which is particularly bad news. Jorah falls – poor Jorah.
The Night King makes his advance. He is triumphant.
But what’s this?
Bran? Gazing impassively?
Bran tells Theon he is a good man, which doesn’t really seem to be supported by the evidence, but I guess at times like these you need to keep up morale. Inspired, Theon charges at the Night King, who runs a spear through him like he’s satay chicken.
The Night King continues his approach to Bran, who has only his wheelchair and general sense of smug superiority to defend himself. Elsewhere, Jon hides from the zombie dragon and Dany stabs some zombies, and Jorah somehow, though mortally wounded, gets up and continues to fight.
But the main game is Night King Vs Bran, and here we freaking go. They gaze into each other’s eyes. You can see that despite everything, they still love each other. The Night King reaches for his icepick to strike the three-eyed raven down. But as he does, from behind comes a scream…
As Arya leaps through the air, dragonglass dagger raised, ready to strike…
But the Night King suddenly turns, before Arya hits him, and grabs Arya by the throat…
She gasps in surprise and pain, and drops her dagger…
As the life is choked out of her…
Before the dagger hits the ground, she catches it again…
And thrusts it into the Night King…
And the Night King shatters…
And the Night King is DEAD!
ARYA KILLED THE NIGHT KING! God DAMN, Arya Stark, you are the business.
Of course, all the army of the dead were commanded by the Night King, so with him dead it’s kind of like the end of The Avengers and they all sort of fall over and everything is fine. Apart from all the dead people, obviously. Dany cries because Jorah is dead. Davos watches Melisandre walk away across the battlefield, before she falls to the ground and is also dead. As she foretold.
And…that’s the Battle of Winterfell. It was brutal, it was bloody, it was tragic, it was epic, but most of all, it was poorly-lit. The deeds that were done this day will be sung of by generations hence, but never with all that much clarity because nobody is quite sure what happened to be honest.
Tune in next week when it’s time to kick Cersei’s uppity arse.
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