If there was an award category for a series that possesses the power to leave your jaw on the floor multiple times throughout a single episode, then Game Of Thrones would possibly be the only candidate nominated for it. The hit HBO series has produced some truly immense hours of telly in the past — including ‘The Rains Of Castamere’, ‘Hardhome’, ‘Battle Of The Bastards’ and ‘The Spoils Of War’. In spite of this, however, the fantasy drama’s latest instalment spoke to viewers around the the world in a way that few of these previous episodes have been able to do. What did it say, you ask? Hold my ale. Yes — much like Drogon did to of the Army of the Dead — ‘The Long Night’ obliterated pretty much all of its predecessors to become not only one of the greatest GoT episodes of all time, but one of the greatest — and most intense — hours of television the world has ever seen.
Picking up from where the previous episode left off, this instalment — which is the longest to date, running at 83 minutes approx— finds our protagonists at Winterfell heading to their posts in preparation for the arrival of The Night King and his army of White Walkers. Before that, Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) rides into the Stark stronghold, and bestows upon the Dothraki screamers flaming swords — courtesy of the Lord of Light himself apparently. However, the flames prove useless against the undead army. The wights destroy almost all of Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) Dothraki men, leading to the Mother of Dragons mounting Drogon and heading into battle to help out. The fire-breathing dragon removes much of the initial threat, and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) follows her lead as he rides Rhaegal overhead.
Again, the intensity never ceases throughout the entire episode — even a general viewer would have trouble slowing their heart rate down during this one. One of the main reasons why so many viewers felt like their heart was about to explode out of their chest was down to the amount of mainstays who met their maker during the battle. Little Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) — who stood bravely to the very end — was an unexpected casualty. She was killed by a giant wight — but not before she stabbed the beast in the eye with a Dragonglass sword, neutralising the threat almost immediately. She was a badass to the very end, and Westeros won’t be the same without her sassiness.
Having fulfilled the mission that the Lord of Light had set out for him, Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) died in battle, as he protected Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) from getting torn to shreds by a bunch of wights. Theon Grejoy (Alfie Allen) was arguably the biggest casualty, and after everything he’d been through on the show, he went out a hero — a changed man. What is dead may never die… but he gave The Night King a pretty damn good shot anyway. A tremendous character arc.
Jon and Dany kept the army of the dead at bay with frequent bursts of dragon fire, but it soon became apparent that they weren’t alone in the night skies. Before long, The Night King appeared — on the back of his ice dragon, Viserion — and chased Dany and Drogon with the intention of murdering them both. The most chilling moment arrived when Dany — in her usual awesome way — uttered the powerful “Dracarys” word, prompting Drogon to roast The Night King alive, only for the iced being to emerge from the flames — much like Dany herself had done several times in the past — before smiling at her, and throwing an iced blade towards her dragon. David Benioff and D.B Weiss — both of whom wrote this excellent script — certainly weren’t afraid of putting our heroes in predicaments where death was the likely outcome. Dany was almost killed at least three times — and Drogon almost lost his life too. There’s only so much the human heart can take, guys!
In the end it was the honourable and loyal Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glenn) who would die while trying to protect Daenerys — a moment which was undoubtedly the saddest in the episode, and Drogon’s attempts to console Dany made it all the more heart-breaking. A second while we weep once more. But wait there’s more… You good? Okay, let’s carry on.
I think I speak for everyone when I say that at one point, it was looking like The Night King was actually going to win. Dany couldn’t beat him, nor could Jon. In a shocking turn of events, however, it was Arya Stark who was able to drive a dragonglass spear through his heart. How? Well, remember all of the sword-fighting she did opposite Syrio Forel (Miltos Yerolemou) back in Season 1? Remember he told her that we say “Not Today” to the God of Death? Turns out that The Night King is, in fact, the God of Death. Another example of sheer excellence in regards to both foreshadowing and storylining. In this respect, GoT is on a whole other level to anything else. With a single thrust of the special blade, the young Stark girl killed the menace — a move which inadvertently destroyed all of the Wight soldiers too.
In typical GoT fashion, we were given next to no time to process what happened before the credits rolled, but the stage is well and truly set for the final war — as the war for the throne finally begins.
The sheer scale and intensity of ‘The Long Night’ is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, or likely will ever see again. In an era of Netflix, iPlayer and on demand entertainment, the world gathered together to watch this heart-racing instalment at exactly the same time. Game Of Thrones is arguably the last water-cooler TV series there ever will be — and with only three episodes left, we had better relish in it while we can.
Game of Thrones continues Monday at 2am on Sky Atlantic with a more regular showing at 9pm.