In this age of fractured viewing, where PVRs and streaming services make “appointment television” seem like an antiquated notion, episode 3 of the final season of HBO’s fantasy series Game of Thrones was as close to a water-cooler moment as you can get these days.

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This article was published 1/5/2019 (902 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In this age of fractured viewing, where PVRs and streaming services make "appointment television" seem like an antiquated notion, episode 3 of the final season of HBO’s fantasy series Game of Thrones was as close to a water-cooler moment as you can get these days.

It was the episode everyone had been waiting for: after two talky instalments of heartfelt reunions and catty infighting, the Battle of Winterfell was finally upon us, as the united forces of the North, the Dothraki, the Unsullied and two badass dragons prepared to take on the Night King and his army of wights.

Unfortunately, the Night King takes his name seriously, so the battle took place after dark; the murky lighting meant it was a challenge to keep track of whether you were winning your office dead pool. (Real battle nerds should check out Wired.com’s The Battle of Winterfell: A Tactical Analysis for a breakdown of myriad failed strategies employed by the allied forces.)

Four Free Press GoT fans sat down to unpack the many high points of the episode aptly titled The Long Night (as always, spoilers await).

 

Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) tends to a dying Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer). (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) tends to a dying Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer). (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Erin Lebar

Something finally happened!

Everyone

Hurray!

Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

Everything happened.

Alan Small

I normally watch television lying on the couch, but I had to sit up and grab onto something; it felt like a roller-coaster.

Ben

You also had to lean in — it was pretty dark.

Jill Wilson

This is the main take-away many people had, post-show, that it was very dark. I didn’t have any clue what was going on in those dragon scenes. I didn’t know which dragon was which or who was riding whom.

Ben

Yeah, were they above the clouds or below?

Jill

That’s a big pet peeve of mine, that kind of quick editing of battles, and then the darkness did drain some of the impact.

Erin

I get that they’re trying to make it really chaotic, because that’s what it would be like, but sometimes they don’t take into consideration the viewer experience. Of course, battle, killing, bodies everywhere, but if I don’t know what’s going on, I’m not invested.

Jill

The Battle of the Bastards, on an open field in the daytime, was superior, I thought. But quibbles aside, there were some great moments.

Alan Small

Earlier in the week, I had watched the Hardhome episode again, and that was really well done, too. I don’t know if this one was done better, but there was way more tension in it.

 

Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramse) killed the giant. (HBO)

Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramse) killed the giant. (HBO)

 

Jill

Did anyone see Arya’s big scene coming?

Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

That was a pretty good moment, though the buildup was so slow — the Night King is just reaching for his sword so slowly, you knew something was going to happen. I actually thought Theon Greyjoy might make one last stab.

Erin

Me too! And the whole time I was screaming at the TV, "Open your eyes, Bran! Do something!"

Alan

The Night King obviously isn’t a watcher of Game of Thrones or he would have known: like when the Mountain fought the guy from Dorne, you don’t sit around gloating about your victory — you get it done.

"Oh, I will saunter over to the guy in the wheelchair and pull my sword out very, very dramatically..."

Ben

And he could have killed Arya, too, if he’d been quicker. That was a nice move on her part, though; I feel like I’ve seen it before in another action movie.

Erin Lebar

I was very happy with the "girl power" aspect of the episode. It was all women doing everything: Melisandre did the flames, Arya killed the Night King, Lyanna Mormont killed the giant, Sansa was down in the crypt with her stick; it was great.

Ben

I was sad to see Lyanna die, and Jorah Mormont — he’s been one of my long-standing favourite characters.

Erin

You knew he had to go, though.

Jill Wilson

Did anyone predict who died correctly? I thought there would be more. I was really surprised how many major characters survived.

I did not predict Theon; I hoped he would live to see another day, although it was clearly the perfect way for him to prove he’d changed to a better person.

Alan

He gets a nice, heroic death. A lot of them got heroic deaths; nobody died because of their own stupidity.

Jill

There were some sweet parts, too — I liked that little interaction between Tyrion and Sansa.

Erin

When he kisses her hand? That was nice; I always forget that they were married.

 

Arya killed the Night King. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Arya killed the Night King. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

 

Ben

I liked the Hound’s reaction.

Erin Lebar

He had a little PTSD there. But I wanted Sam to die so badly. He’s such a little wiener and everyone is dying trying to save him because he keeps falling down — "Oh, I can’t get up, uh."

I know that his arc is to become the Maester, so he can’t die, but it was very frustrating.

Jill

This has been the case throughout the show, but I’m a fan of the "fast zombie" effect. They seem all creaky and slow and then, bam, they spring into action. It’s very scary.

Erin

My favourite shots were the aerial, bird’s-eye views — you could see the fire and then this wall of people.

Ben

The standoff between Jon Snow and the Night King was very good, when you realize, oh, he just has to raise his hands and everyone on the battlefield rises.

Jill

Yes, you’re caught up in the battle and you forget, the more people die, the more you’re creating new warriors.

Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

So next week, where does it begin? With cleaning up all these bodies?

Jill

That’s the first thing I thought: "Ugh, who has to clean this crap up?"

Erin

Ah, they just get a dragon to blow fire on it all.

Jill

That’s another question I had: how much collateral damage is there from just dragon-firebombing the battle lines? It didn’t seem like there was any sort of strategy involved.

Ben

I guess when you’re fighting the dead, you just go for it.

Jill Wilson

I thought maybe it was a comment on U.S. military tactics.

Ben

C’mon, it’s not Game of Drones.

Jill

In a way, I felt it was almost anticlimactic. It wasn’t over fast — it was a long battle...

Ben

It was the longest episode, I think.

Jill

And the longest battle scene ever filmed, for movies or television. But just — stab! stab! — and the Big Bad is dead. We’ve been building up to this episode for so long and now it’s just over.

Erin

That’s what I said to my partner. You’ve spent eight seasons leading up to this moment, then one jab and it’s done.

 

Arya, right, and Melisandre (Carice van Houten). (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Arya, right, and Melisandre (Carice van Houten). (Helen Sloan / HBO)

 

Alan

You know the next three episodes will be a repeat of the first three. They’ll be building something up again, because they’ll have to go back to King’s Landing, and then the second one will be the buildup to the big battle and then the third one will be the battle.

Erin

I can appreciate that symmetry though.

Ben

How many dragons are left?

Jill

Who can say?

Alan

I think one of them is OK, and one is not-so-OK.

Jill

I guess we’ll find out next week on... Game of Thrones.

Alan Small

They’re going to have to do some kind of inventory to find out how much they have left to take on the Lannisters.

Ben

There’s probably about 12 of them left alive. And two of them are Lannisters.

Erin

I was so upset when all the Dothraki went out and you saw all their (flaming swords) get snuffed out. You see a few come running back and you know, if they’re retreating, we’re in s---.

Jill

That was a beautiful dramatic moment, those lights going out.

Erin

It just made my stomach sink.

Alan

That’s some great military strategy there. That’s probably what it was like in the First World War — they’d go over the trenches and then there’d be none left.

Jill

Despite the confusion, it felt very visceral, very real.

Ben

Except for the dragons.

Erin

I was hoping for a more intense interaction between Bran and the Night King. Some kind of mind-reading thing or "You can’t kill me, I’m the three-eyed raven, I will destroy you."

Ben

Or even a single word from the Night King.

Jill

We all know what the Night King’s goal was, but his motivation was never really revealed.

Alan

His death was almost as much an anticlimax as Darth Maul’s was in the fourth Star Wars (The Phantom Menace). So much hype built up about how cool he looked and his two lightsabers, and then he just got killed.

Ben

Nerd alert: he doesn’t actually get killed; he comes back in The Clone Wars.

 

Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen (Kit Harington), Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Arya Stark. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen (Kit Harington), Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Arya Stark. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

 

jill.wilson@freepress.mb.ca

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca

ben.macphee-sigurdson@freepress.mb.ca

alan.small@freepress.mb.ca

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Manager of audience engagement for news

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson
Senior copy editor

Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.

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Alan Small

Alan Small
Reporter

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.

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