This week’s episode was titled “The Long Night,” and it is a very apt description of the episode. Fans watched 82 minutes of heart pounding, darkly lit battle scenes as the living finally faced the dead.
The episode picks up just moments after the last one ended with an understandably frightened Samwell Tarly. He is given two knives and then heads to the courtyard of Winterfell where troops are preparing for battle. And Bran heads to the Godswood where he plans to wait for the Night King.
A sense of determination as the calm before the storm settles on everyone, now in their places as they wait for the approaching wight army. Sansa and Arya are on the wall of the castle with the archers. The front line of armies includes Brienne and Jaime, Tormund, the Hound, Gendry, Sam, and Grey Worm commanding the Unsullied. Jon and Daenerys are nearby watching the scene with the dragons behind them.
In the moments before battle, Melisandre (The Red Lady) appears. She approaches the Dothraki army and ignites their arakhs, which they hold aloft. Melisandre enters Winterfell as the entire Dothraki army charge forward.
From the walls of Winterfell, they watch as the flames of the Dothraki meet the wight army head on, and are slowly but surely extinguished completely. As troops on the ground watch the darkness, horses and no more than a handful of fighters come running back.
Shaken by what she sees, Daenerys refuses to watch them be slaughtered and abandons their plan to wait for the Night King. When Jon tries to stop Daenerys she retorts, “the dead are already here,” and walks away to mount Drogon.
On the ground, the troops brace themselves as the dead charge forward out of the darkness. The front lines fight as person after person is pulled down by the wights. Jaime and Brienne enter the fray, but Brienne is taken down. Jaime kills enough of the dead to allow her to regain her footing, and they fight on.
Overhead, Daenerys rides by on Drogon blasting fire at the wight, which gives a view of just how massive their army is. Jon follows close behind on Rhaegal, and the dragon fire seems to make a (very) slight dent in the army. From above, Jon spots the line of white walkers near the trees, but as he and Daenerys fly, a huge wave of wintery winds, snow, and sleet hits them. They are rendered all but blind in the air.
Seeing the true expanse of the army they face, Arya turns to Sansa and demands she go to the crypt, even giving her a knife. “Stick em with the pointy end,” she tells Sansa who argues she can’t use a knife. Sansa takes it and goes.
On the battlefield, Sam is tackled to the ground and nearly stabbed by a wight. Eddison Tollett saves him but is almost immediately stabbed in the head and drops dead. Understandably shaken, Sam turns and runs. The troops realize the enormity of the battle, and both Tormund and Brienne call for a retreat. Grey Worm, seeing the retreat and the advancing line of the dead, commands the Unsullied to protect the retreat.
In the skies, Drogon and Rhaegal collide midair from the thickness of the storm. Jon attempts to call to Daenerys, but his voice is lost in the wind.
The Unsullied are slowly overwhelmed by the dead as they protect the retreating fighters, and Lyanna Mormont calls for the gates to close as the final fighters make their way inside. Grey Worm pulls a rope breaking the bridge over the trench and the wights’ progress stops. With the bridge broken, the wall signals to Daenerys to light the trench, but she cannot see through the storm. Before the gates close, Melisandre approaches the trench and uses magic to light it. The dead halt completely, allowing those still alive to retreat.
In the crypts, everyone is completely silent. Tyrion is upset about being in the crypts. “If we were up there, we might see something that no one else does, we might make a difference.” Sansa tells him plainly that he would die if he was out there.
Theon and the Ironborn stand ready to defend Bran who is waiting near the Weirdwood Tree. Theon briefly tries to apologize to Bran, but Bran says everything Theon did brought him home. Bran then wargs into ravens and through them finds the Night King riding the undead Viserion.
The wights closest to the burning trench start to lay down on it, forming a bridge of bodies, allowing other wights to cross. Those watching yell to the others to man the walls, and troops hurry into position. The dead flow in and climb on top of one another, slowly making their way up the walls of the castle. Jon and Rhaegal watch from atop the wall near the Godswood when Jon finally spots the Night King and gives chase.
Swordsmen begin hacking at the dead as they reach the top of the wall. Not surprisingly, the wight quickly overwhelm fighters yet again. Jaime is knocked over as Brienne battles her way to him and together they fight. Though the troops fight valiantly, wights jump into the courtyards of Winterfell in no time.
Panic takes over for the Hound as he watches fighters die. Arya battles the dead on top of the wall with her spear. Davos calls to Arya, but as he watches her he realizes she doesn’t need protecting. She drops her spear and is attacked, smashed in the head, and overwhelmed. The Hound sees Arya cornered on the roof by wights, and he begins to fight his way to her.
In the courtyard, an injured Lyanna Mormont gives a battle cry with her sword in hand and charges at the wight giant. It grabs her and begins to squeeze her to death as it brings her near its face. Her final act of heroism is to stab the giant in the eye, killing it as it kills her.
Daenerys and Jon look to take on the Night King as he attacks with dragon fire, chasing Daenerys. He then dives away again.
Arya finds herself in the library filled with wights. She silently creeps along the bookcases toward the door. She hurries under a table but the sound of her dripping blood gives away her position to a nearby wight. Arya, thinking fast, hurries to a corner of the library and slams a book down. The noise draws the wights’ attention while she creeps away. She slowly closes the door but hears a noise and slowly starts backing away. The door at the far end of the hall bursts open, and the hall is swarmed with wights. Arya has no choice but to run for her life as they follow her through the maze-like halls of Winterfell.
The Hound and Beric creep through the same halls searching for Arya. A door slams to the ground, and they see her pinned down by wights. They grab Arya and run. Beric is stabbed repeatedly as he tries to block the hall with his body so the Hound and Arya can escape. All three make it into a room and barricade themselves in, but Beric dies almost immediately.
Little did they know that Melisandre is also in the room with them. She and Arya discuss what Melisandre told Arya (she’d shut many eyes forever). Arya seems nearly defeated, but Melisandre asks, “What do we say to the god of death?” And a spark ignites in Arya’s eye as she answers, “Not today,” and runs across the room to leave.
Bran continues to wait as Theon warns his troops that the dead have come. “Make every shot count,” he says as they begin to fight.
The Night King atop Viserion flies toward the castle and blasts it with fire. Rhaegal and Jon battle them, leaving Rhaegal seriously injured, and both Jon and the Night King are knocked off their dragons. Now the only one with a fiery advantage, Daenerys blasts the Night King with dragon fire.
Jon stumbles his way over to where the Night King is hopefully dead, but as the flames die away, he and Daenerys see he is still alive. Daenerys rides away when she realizes this, but Jon follows the Night King on foot as he walks away. The Night King hears Jon approach and turns to face him, but as Jon charges forward the Night King lifts his hands. Slowly, all the recently dead fighters rise up with bright blue eyes and are now agents of the Night King. (How is that not cheating?!)
In the crypts, bodies of the dead begin to crawl their way out of the crypts. The defenseless begin to run, screaming as they are attacked.
Jon, in total badass mode, battles wight after wight when Daenerys appears, hitting them with dragon fire. He yells to her about Bran, and she tells him to go. He takes off running (and fighting) toward Winterfell. As Daenerys watches him, the dead begin to crawl on Drogon, stabbing him and nearly overwhelming him. Daenerys falls to the ground and watches as Drogon launches into the sky trying to shake off the dozens of wights crawling on him. Now all but defenseless, she turns to face the dead. As one rushes her, Jorah appears, cuts off its head, grabs Daenerys, and they try to run for the castle. Daenerys finds a sword and they try to fight together but are utterly surrounded.
In the crypts, Sansa and Tyrion hide together behind a statue. Sansa takes out the knife Arya gave her, and they share a look knowing this is probably who they are going to die with. They hold hands and Tyrion kisses hers in a gesture of comfort and solidarity.
Wight Viserion has taken up residence in the courtyard, shooting fire at Jon as he tries to reach the Godswood. Surviving troops try to fight Viserion but to no avail.
A quick succession of images shows Jorah and Daenerys fighting, Tyrion and Sansa hiding with a few others, Jon nearly burnt by Viserion, and Theon continuing to valiantly defend Bran. Theon is the last Ironborn standing as the Night King enters Winterfell. Bran returns to his body when the Night King reaches the Godswood.
As Theon realizes he is about to die, Bran calls to him, “You’re a good man. Thank you.” Theon briefly tears up and then makes a final stand, charging at the Night King with his spear. The Night King snaps it in half and stabs Theon through the chest with it. As he falls, Bran looks away.
Outside, Jorah jumps up again, is stabbed, and fights on his knees to defend Daenerys. He stands one final time as Daenerys reaches to steady him.
The Night King finally reaches Bran’s side, and they look at one another for several long seconds. The Night King then reaches over his shoulder to grab for his sword, but before he touches it, Arya appears behind him, leaping with her Valyrian steel dagger raised. The Night King turns and grabs her by the throat, holding her aloft as he looks at her. Arya seems to drop her dagger, but as it falls she grabs it with her other hand and plunges it into the Night King’s chest.
He ices over and bursts apart as Arya lands on the ground. (Fans everywhere cheer!) In the courtyard as Jon faces Viserion, the dragon ices over and bursts apart. Throughout the castle and battleground the wight fall, once again only dead corpses. Those who remain including Brienne, Jaime, Sam, Tormund, and Gendry looking around in disbelief. Bran doesn’t react.
Daenerys watches the dead fall around her, then rushes to Jorah, crying as he dies in her arms. Drogon returns, laying down next to her, and encircling her with his wings as she weeps.
The Hound and Melisandre emerge from their barricaded room. Melisandre continues walking out past the gates of Winterfell into the dawn light where she collapses as the sun rises.
Couldn’t keep track of all those deaths? Here is a run down of who survived The Battle of Winterfell and who didn’t:
Survived: Daenerys, Jon, Sansa, Arya, Bran, Tyrion, Davos, The Hound, Gendry, Grey Worm, Missandei, Drogon and Rhaegal, Ghost.
Dead: Theon Greyjoy, Jorah Mormont, Eddison Tollett, Lyanna Mormont, Beric Dondarrion, and Melisandre.
Game of Thrones returns next Sunday at 9/8c on HBO.