Game of thrones season 8 episode 3 review: the long night


“The Long Night” was full of brilliant moments — as well as moments that were completely incomprehensible.

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Yeah, baby, Ghost is here! It’s Ghost! He should be a winner! HBO
Emily St. James is a senior correspondent for, covering American identities. Before she joined in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.
Game of Thrones season eight, episode three, “The Long Night,” contains the biggest, most important battle in the history of the series. It’s filled with thrilling moments, last-second heroics, and characters escaping death by the skin of their teeth.

It’s also frequently completely incomprehensible. Sometimes, this is intentional — a lot of the episode takes place under cover of a snowy blizzard cloud the white Walkers điện thoại tư vấn in lớn disorient the living, for example. But at other times, it seems incomprehensible for the sake of being incomprehensible.

It also creates a situation where Game of Thrones essentially has khổng lồ reboot itself with three episodes left in its run. That’s not the over of the world — Game of Thrones, of all shows, knows how lớn completely reset its dramatic stakes — but after “The Long Night,” it feels a little harder to imagine that Cersei Lannister will pose much of a threat khổng lồ the characters who remain alive.


game of Thrones, Season 8, episode 3: Who died and who lived

Yes, she has the numerical advantage as far as armies are concerned, but the folks who survived the Battle of Winterfell have the narrative advantage, what with having survived this massive showdown between the living và the dead. & since all these people live inside an epic story, well, having the narrative advantage is almost more beneficial than anything else at this point.

Anyway, I hesitate to hotline “The Long Night” a winner or a loser. I was enraptured by long swaths of it, frustrated by other long swaths of it, & deeply confused by certain parts. But other winners & losers? That I can do.

Winner: Arya Stark

Arya is the true hero of the night. Helen Sloan/HBO At times, “The Long Night” plays like an Arya Stark highlight reel. There’s a lengthy sequence where she recreates the “velociraptors in the kitchen” sequence from Jurassic Park in what appears khổng lồ be the Winterfell library, with some wights. She has a few bonding moments with the Hound. She fights off wight after wight after wight, then flees for her life narrowly ahead of the forces of the dead.

And, oh yeah, she kills the Night King.

I bởi vì think the episode’s struggles with incomprehensibility rear their head with Arya’s storyline. For instance, I’m not immediately clear on why she left the front lines of the fight to hide out in the library, nor am I clear on just how she made it out to the godswood so she could kill the Night King with her cool little dagger thing (a weapon I was pretty sure she had lost entirely until I saw she had it again when she killed the Night King).

But boy, oh boy, bởi I not care. Game of Thrones has lost track of Arya’s arc here & there, particularly when she headed across the sea lớn Braavos, but it mostly does a skillful job of guiding the character toward her final moment with the Night King, providing an explanation for the perpetual resurrection of Beric Dondarrion (a role that I bet will be filled by Lady Stoneheart in the books) & taking her off the board just long enough that when she sails out of the night and onto the Night King’s back, you’re both thrilled and surprised.

Anyway, if Game of Thrones had an MVP, it would be Arya. Good work, kiddo.

Loser: understanding what’s happening

For roughly the first 15 minutes of “The Long Night,” director Miguel Sapochnik did a terrific job of balancing light & darkness, particularly in a striking, eerie shot of the Dothraki forces, swords ablaze, riding out into the unholy void.

Sapochnik cut lớn a wide shot from Jon và Dany’s vantage point atop a ridge, watching this wave of fire cross the darkness. & when the Dothraki finally met the wall of wights, he cut back to lớn Winterfell to lớn watch as the fiery swords were all too quickly extinguished. It was a pretty effective way to lớn build tension.

But then things started lớn fall apart. Once the army of wights advanced upon the Unsullied & others, it became all but impossible to lớn tell who was doing what & when and where. Game of Thrones did a mostly okay job of showing the deaths of well-known characters like Dolorous Edd, but much of the rest of it was chaotic for the sake of being chaotic.

Again, some of this was acceptable. The hunt for the Night King in the middle of the snowy cloud needed lớn be hard lớn understand for the story to lớn work. & to some degree, a big battle requires a certain amount of chaos khổng lồ convey just how desperate & lost the characters must feel.

But, boy, Game of Thrones leaned awfully hard on quick cuts between moments of excitement và despair, rather than trying lớn establish a clear, concrete geography of what kích hoạt was happening where. We didn’t need this geography to follow the story, but I could feel my interest slowly drifting away at several points during the episode, simply because it was all sensation, with none of the establishing shots that would give it texture and heft.

This tendency toward incomprehensibility extended even to lớn sequences that I mostly enjoyed, like Arya evading the wights in the library. At one point, she’s hiding under a table, và a wight ducks down to lớn look at her, and the camera cuts to lớn reveal that she has left that spot — an effective way to lớn build suspense about how she’ll escape, but one that largely elides how she did so.

That particular choice wasn’t a deal breaker. None of the episode’s particular choices were. But if you add them all together, you have an episode where the overall effect was lượt thích getting hit over & over again. & it’s hard khổng lồ tell a largely coherent story in between hits. That “The Long Night” got as close as it did is a testament khổng lồ Game of Thrones’ skill (and some amazing sound kiến thiết that found ways lớn position characters geographically for our ears more than our eyes). That it still missed the mark here and there is a testament lớn how difficult it is to lớn tell a story amid chaos.

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Winner: Ramin Djawadi

Composer Ramin Djawadi has but one Emmy for the music he writes for Game of Thrones. And he’s only been nominated for his composition work on the show twice. Game of Thrones has been rather over-recognized by the Emmys, which makes the awards’ inability to honor Djawadi — one of the most integral elements of the series — all the more frustrating.

Anyway, the last 10 minutes of “The Long Night” are borne up by Djawadi’s beautiful, haunting music, which drops into a solo piano with minimal orchestral backing for the section when it seems like all hope is lost.

It’s lovely work, & even if its themes are a little reminiscent of Djawadi’s work on Westworld, well, I’m not going to hold that against something that was so starkly moving.

Loser: the army of the dead

At least he learned how to smile again! HBO Look, if you’re going lớn defeat the living in any given story, you have lớn be committed, yes, but you especially have to follow through!

The Night King và his pals had what seemed lượt thích a mostly solid plan, and it was only bolstered by the fact that the Jon/Dany alliance’s plan largely revealed itself to be nonsensical, save for Bran apparently foreseeing that the only way khổng lồ kill the Night King was khổng lồ lure him out into a place where his sister could accomplish the task.

However, “close,” as they say, only counts in horseshoes & hand grenades. The Night King killed a whole bunch of Jon and Dany’s forces, but in the end, his death led khổng lồ the deaths of every other member of his army, which feels lượt thích the kind of tactical weak point you’d maybe correct for somewhere along the line. (And, just as I fretted about last week, Game of Thrones leaned on this hoary old trope of “kill the leader, kill everybody else.” Boooo!)

And, like, I want to give these guys credit! The episode’s early images of a wave of wights crashing toward the forces of the living were properly terrifying, & the Night King proved himself lớn be a better tactician than Jon và Dany in just about every way. Yet in the end, the army of the dead almost entirely existed as a narrative contrivance. They were mysteries, & they die mysteries. Yes, yes, we’re supposed to lớn watch the eventual Game of Thrones prequel series to get a sense of where they came from. But it would have been nice to have a sense of their personality & motivation beyond, “Sometimes the Night King cracks a half-smile.”

But hey, you know what? It doesn’t matter. The dead are dead for good now, và Jon and Dany are headed south to giảm giá with Cersei. Speaking of which...

Winner: upending audience expectations

I will say this: If you had asked me before season eight started whether the Night King would die in episode three, I don’t know that I would have put my money on such a thing happening, even though it’s very George R.R. Martin khổng lồ set up a massive, existential threat và then get rid of it with several chapters khổng lồ go in your final book.

We can’t know, of course, whether this is Martin’s ultimate plan. But can’t you see him smiling, a twinkle in his eye, as he nods toward his imagined readers và says, “And then the Night King died!” It’s exactly the kind of moment that he would great joy out of, & even if it’s not his plan, he has khổng lồ appreciate the troll, you’d think.

That said, I’m not sure the season so far has done much lớn build up the idea that Cersei is Game of Thrones’ ultimate villain, beyond, well, all of the bad stuff she’s done so far. It’s going khổng lồ be really odd when episode four has khổng lồ work double time to recalibrate the show’s stakes khổng lồ focus not on the army of the dead but on Cersei’s hired army, the Golden Company. And for as much as the army of the dead barely existed as a concept within the show, the Golden Company has remained almost entirely offscreen.

Plus: How is it possible that after this existential battle between life & death, everybody will be ready & raring lớn dive back into battle for the Iron Throne, something that has increasingly been revealed to be largely pointless & empty, a symbol of an order that needs to be replaced? Maybe the difficult task of replacing it will be the focus of Game of Thrones’ final episodes, but somehow, I doubt it.

Good luck resetting yourself, Game of Thrones.

Loser: big character deaths

The expectation among most viewers was that this episode would be a bloodbath. But only a handful of major recurring characters lost their lives, and few of them were actors in Game of Thrones’ main titles. Jorah and Theon were probably the “biggest” deaths, in that both characters had been around since season one.

But beyond the two of them, you had folks like Dolorous Edd, Lyanna Mormont, & Beric Dondarrion, all important characters in the life of the show, but hardly on the màn chơi of some of the biggest, most important characters. Yeah, characters like the Hound & the brothers Lannister essentially had lớn survive to fulfill certain requirements of the plot back in King’s Landing. But really, if “The Long Night” was a bloodbath, it was one taken in the sink.

Oh, right, there was one more major death ...

Winner: Melisandre

Where did Melisandre come from? Who knows! How did she know to show up at Winterfell this night? Who knows! How did she get past the army of the dead khổng lồ arrive at the door of this fortress? You guessed it — who knows!

But this is the kind of storyline where narrative incomprehension was largely just fine by me. Having Melisandre know exactly where she was needed, exactly when, was a perfectly acceptable use of the character’s final appearance on the series. The sequence where she lit the trench was one of the most tension-filled of the episode, & her words of wisdom for Arya made me wonder just how much she knew about how the evening was going to lớn play out. (Maybe Arya is the one who was promised!)

And then, to đứng top it all off, the episode gave her a heck of an image to go out on. Davos watching her old, withered size collapse into the snow surrounding Winterfell was lovely & poetic, và it said more about the cost of the battle than just about anything else.

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