Hoo boy, it’s the big one. Strap in folks, because not only is this the biggest ever battle scene in the history of television, but it’s also the biggest episode of Game of Thrones ever at a whopping 82 minutes long.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready with my waterproof mascara for the inevitable feels when EVERYONE I LOVE PROBABLY DIES GRUESOMELY AND MY HEART SHATTERS.
I’m okay, I’m okay. I am channelling little Lyanna Mormont’s utter badassery as I steel myself to watch and write this - so here goes.
This post has been sponsored by Telstra.
And They’re Off
We open upon Sam’s hands shaking. It’s basically the mood of the episode - everyone is on edge. I’M on edge. We’re all just waiting for the inevitable.
And then the dragonglass weaponry is thrust upon him and we begin. We see Tyrion, preparing. Theon wheels Bran out of the castle, heading towards the Godswood. It’s a flurry of movement so precise that it seems almost choreographed (which obvs it was but you KNOW what I MEAN).
Soldiers line the battlements overlooking the army’s formation, with Ser Davos, Sansa and Arya atop with them. Meanwhile, Jaime, Brienne, Tormund, Beric, the Hound, Gendry, Sam and Edd man the frontlines (at least three of these people are absolutely going to die and I already feel sick). Behind them, Grey Worm holds firm with a legion of Unsullied.
The Dothraki are ahead of the pack, and Jorah leads the charge with Ghost (HOW DARE YOU GIVE HIM BACK TO US ONLY TO INEVITABLY TAKE HIM AWAY).
High up overlooking it all on a cliff stand Jon and Daenerys (which is kind of a dick move given that Jon is totally used to being right in among the action - but I’ll give it time).
From the expanse of darkness comes a single horse - Melisandre has returned. The Red Woman. Priestess of the Lord of Light. Creepy old woman disguised as hot young snack.
First of all, can I just say that I totally called that she’d come back - but the manner of her return? She calls to Jorah to demand the Dothraki raise their weapons, lays her hand upon them and ignites them in a burst of flame - spreading down the line.
HELL YEAH for the BIG MAGIC FIRE SWORDS. Melisandre finally seems useful and let this be a lesson to her that leeches are probs not the best avenue for assistance.
A moment of silence for Jorah though, because I definitely thought he’d get his big Theoden moment at the front of the pack but all the boys are preoccupied with their big ol’ swords (what else is new?) and he doesn’t get to.
Melisandre heads inside the castle, and Ser Davos (who totally hates her and yeah, fair tbh) eyes her off as she approaches. She reads him like a book and answers his suspicions with a mocking, “There’s no need to execute me Ser Davos, I’ll be dead before the dawn”.
Look, she’s absolutely batshit, but I’m inclined to believe her. What’s she gonna do to a white walker; peg leeches at their undead bodies? She gon’ die.
But we’re off - big running fire boys are everywhere as the Khalassar sets off screaming into the darkness.
(Note: this episode is actually darker than any of the others, I had to up my brightness even more than usual - and even Jon/Daenerys looked like they were squinting to see from up on their private clifftop where only incesty lovers get to go).
If I was mad that Ghost was out on the front lines before, BELIEVE YOU ME that I am royally pissed now, as we see the lights of the fire swords slowly but surely go out as they battle in the distance.
The last lights are gone and look, this episode needs a, “does the dog die” type warning. I’m gutted already and we’re barely into the episode.
The dead, having decimated the Dothraki force (and are probs thinking “oh hey, easier than expected even with the burning hooks”) advance in a tidal wave, pouring undead bodies in cascades of violence.
It’s already looking pretty bloody dismal if I’m honest, until Daenerys swoops in on her dragon, blasting the dead with fire and allowing the soldiers to fight back.
On the battlements, Arya tells Sansa to head down to the crypts immediately as the white walker army advances, handing her a dagger in case of emergencies.
It’s a really nostalgic moment, as Sansa insists she doesn’t know how to use it, Arya takes a leaf out of Jon’s book and tells her, “stick ‘em with the pointy end”. And I swear to the Seven that if this means either of them die, I will combust into smithereens, burn fragments into a weapon and stick the directors with the pointy end myself.
As the sisters part, down on the battlefield things are looking murky, literally, because huge clouds of white ash and smoke are swirling like enormous hurricanes in the air. It’s impossible to see - the dragons are flying blind.
Jorah finds himself de-horsed, as Jaime, Brienne, Tormund, Pod, the Hound, Edd and Sam all fight for their lives on the ground.
Precious Sam is no warrior, so he’s lost on the battlefield. He freezes, caught in the eye of a white walker who’s advancing towards him, only to be saved at the very last second by his good mate Edd.
Except he doesn’t have time to even breathe a sigh of relief at this point because in a manner of seconds Edd’s body is skewered by a white walker’s weapon. Edd’s dead, baby, and with that, we have our first documented kill of a main character.
His watch is ended.
One Down, Many To Go
Edd’s not the only one falling either. It’s too dense - nobody can see and the battle is getting too heavy, so they retreat beyond the walls of Winterfell as the Unsullied knit back into formation like a hive mind, safeguarding the troops as they withdraw..
The dragons can barely see where they’re flying, so Jon lands, trying desperately to scope out what’s going on, but failing. In the past I’ve mocked the fact that he spends so much of his time squinting and brooding, but look, maybe his eyesight really is just shit.
The army hustles its way back inside, as literal swarms of the dead advance on them. It’s time to light the trenches. Ser Davos waves his torches high, his attempts to signal Daenerys to direct her dragon fire onto the trenches are all in vain - the fog is too thick.
Just as my heart resigns itself to the fact that Grey Worm is the only one still out there who’s able to sacrifice himself and light the trenches, out strolls Melisandre, super casually.
She walks straight through the middle of the remaining Unsullied, and yep the gal wasn’t lying when she said she was going to die before dawn because this was STUPID.
But we all should praise the Lord of Light because in one of the first true WHOA moments of the episode, just as the dead reach the trenches, her feebly mumbled spell erupts into a gigantic wall of fire, encircling Winterfell in a crown of dancing flames.
Everyone gazes in awe - everyone that is, except the Hound, who’s none too fond of flames and runs inside the castle, clearly affected by the crackling wall of orange.
In a brief moment of quiet, we move away from the battle, taking respite in the crypt where Sansa and Tyrion discuss their history. “You were the best of them,” she tells him about their marriage. “What a terrifying thought,” he replies.
I’m saying it: Sansa has been through so much and if she dies here then it better be in a goddamn blaze of glory that rivals Melisandre’s magic.
Meanwhile in the Godswood, Theon and the Ironborn lie in wait, guarding Bran (who still just looks frankly indifferent to the whole situation - you could spill wildfire on this guy and he’d barely register, tbh).
And to continue his utter vacancy, when Theon tried to apologise he basically shuts him down, telling him that everything has brought him here for a reason and finishes with, “I’m going to go now” - which, I won’t lie, gave me extreme Commander Shepard, “I should go” vibes.
Off he goes, warging into a bunch of ravens who fly through the mist and the fog, only to alight upon the exact location where the Night King sits atop his dragon.
The Night King gives an order from above and the dead start throwing themselves onto the flames. More and more bodies pile, creating an icy bridge of flesh as they dampen the fire enough for the army to pass through.
Little Lyanna Stark’s voice echoes through the courtyard, calling for everyone to man the walls. Honestly her being there makes me so happy but also anxious because we all know GoT ain’t afraid to kill the kiddies.
The orange light of the fire is strangely welcome, because suddenly we can see clearly. Our faves man the walls, as the dead start climbing.
There’s a ticking noise in the background that only serves to heighten the anxiety we’re all feeling, as Gendry stands waiting. He then embraces his inner Yzma as the dead finally reach the top of the wall and he SMASHES ‘EM WITH A HAMMER.
Brienne and Jaime are atop the walls too, fighting back-to-back against the raging tide of white walkers. There’s violence and bloodshed everywhere.
The only person not participating is the Hound, who’s still cowering behind the wall in the face of the fire. Even Arya is causing destruction with her newly forged weapon, and holy hell she’s a goddamn boss. She’s traipsing all over the castle battlements leaving a trail of bodies strewn in her wake - and Ser Davos is suitably impressed.
Below, Lady Lyanna is standing in the courtyard with her men and a LITERAL GIANT WHITE WALKER comes swinging through the door.
They’re everywhere, and Arya can’t handle them up there anymore. Beric coaxes the Hound out, begging him to come fight - to which he refuses, until Beric points out Arya, fighting for her life and he IMMEDIATELY moves to save her which is so goddamn endearing.
Back in the courtyard, my heart is breaking into SMITHEREENS as little Lyanna Mormont, light of my entire life and reason for my existence, runs full tilt at the LITERAL GIANT WHITE WALKER and oh my heart is swelling as she screams her tiny little battlecry.
He picks her up in his hand, crushing her body with a sickening crack. As we loom into the giant’s face, ready for him to eat her broken little body, she screams one last time and with all her strength stabs him brutally through the eye.
Let me repeat that: SHE STABS HIM IN THE EYE. After having her entire body crushed to death, the littlest and fiercest warrior has taken down the biggest ENTIRELY ON HER OWN.
Let us all take a moment for the blessed scowling angel.
Meanwhile, Arya is hiding in the castle in a way that can basically be described as a stealth RPG meets the unsettling discomfort of Hereditary.
She finds herself in the library, darting from aisle to aisle as a bunch of the white walkers slowly loom around her, listening for sounds of life.
Rushing under a table on all fours, her face gives away her fear - but the bleeding wound on her forehead drips to the ground in an audible splash, catching the ears of a passing zombie dude.
She moves quickly from under the table and grabs a nearby book, hurling it away from her; the clatter of it making white walkers swarming. And suddenly this feels like a genuine zombie movie.
She strides swiftly out of the library, plunging her knife through the skull of a white walker lady as she goes. She closes the door, and oh god that unease is right back.
I swear if anyone makes a clicking noise with their tongue around me I will JUMP out of my SKIN.
Turns out we were absolutely right to feel sick to our stomachs because the door shatters from the weight of the white walkers bursting behind it and off she goes, sprinting away.
We take a brief interlude to hear the reactions of those in the crypt to the echoing violence and madness above, and honestly the look of determination on the face of that little girl from last week is heartbreaking.
Above, we find Beric Dondarrion and the Hound trawling the corridors of the castle (the giant flaming sword doesn’t help the stealth aspect if you ask me), seeking Arya, before she blasts in front of them, with a white walker pinning her to the ground.
Beric throws his big bright flame sword at it, saving her, but leaving himself weaponless in the process. The Hound drags Arya away as the walkers swarm over Beric, stabbing him over and over as he holds his arms out wide, braced against the walls.
Somehow he manages to follow Arya and the Hound into another chamber, where the door locks behind them and DAMMIT YOU FOOLS, he’s going to come back as one of them if you’re not careful.
Inside the room, Melisandre lies in wait - and for half a second I thought she was going to bring Beric back again (history tells us he’s not exactly fond of staying dead once he’s carked it, really), but nope: “The Lord brought him back for a purpose. Now that purpose has been served,” she says.
Taking this moment to remind you that Melisandre was absolutely on Arya’s list (and also tried to bone her brand new boyf Gendry in the weird leech ceremony), the two stare each other down. They speak of the prophecy that Melisandre made when last they met - that Arya would kill many - which, to be fair, she has.
And just when you think Arya is rightfully gonna get peeved with this chit-chat, she says the one thing that Arya can work with, before the latter strides off out of the room.
“What do we say to the God of Death?”
But sadly, for a whole bunch of peeps, the GoD is super stubborn and is totally going to get his way, because not only are the white walkers finally reaching Theon in the Godswood, but the battle is heating up in the skies too.
Astride their dragons, the Night King and Jon tussle mid-air. Their dragons, no longer recognising each other as brothers, are jostling and snapping at each other, with Jon very nearly bitten off in the crossfire.
The beats collide in a massive crash, as the Night King falls and Jon careens off, his dragon stuttering to a halt on the ground like a weird goose that hasn’t stuck the landing. I realise how bizarre that simile sounds, but trust me.
On the ground, Jorah hears the dragons roaring. The Night King stands amid the battlefield, looking up at Daenerys as she gazes angrily back.
With a smug, satisfied expression, she utters, “Dracarys”.
Jon’s attention is caught by the plumes of billowing flame that engulf the Night King, as he moves towards it.
The fire clears, and Jon advances, expecting to see a charred husk ripe for a final blow. But the Night King? No, no. He’s COMPLETELY unharmed which leaves me wondering if this is magic or if he’s somehow actually a Targaryen after all!?
Editor’s Note: Girl, he definitely is. That flaming wall symbol around that kid in episode 8.01 was extremely the Targaryen house seal/a plate of prawns - Tegan
— ✨Blue Jesse ✨ (@Pheonix_frost) April 15, 2019
Sensing Jon’s presence, the Night King turns, readying himself. Slowly he raises his arms in a seemingly innocuous kind of “come at me bro” gesture, until the penny drops and you realise that in that single movement, every single corpse is being woken up.
White walkers, Dothraki, Unsullied and men of the north alike, they are all awoken to fuel his crusade and form a new army of the undead. Lyanna Mormont’s eyes open to an icy shade of blue - so too, do Edd’s.
Piles of bodies squirm with renewed vigour, our heroes (rightfully exhausted after a mammoth effort) appear despondent. Jon runs headfirst at the Night King, desperately trying to reach him before a wall of dead warriors separates them.
They swarm Jon, leaving him to battle countless undead as the Night King advances on Winterfell.
Back in the crypts, everyone’s stomach sinks as we realise that the Night King hasn’t just summoned those above. They’re in literal crypts - there are bodies EVERYWHERE (which honestly, they should’ve seen coming).
We switch quickly, from Jon’s fight outside the trenches, to Theon and the Ironborn in the wood, back to Jon sprinting into the castle as Daenerys and her dragon are overrun with creepy crawly white walkers.
You know the feeling you get when there’s a bug on you? Imagine a really stabby bug with blue eyes, then multiply them and you’ve got this situation. The dragon bucks, and off Daenerys falls. Is this the moment the Mother of Dragons perishes?
A white walker advances quickly upon her, but JUST IN TIME Jorah sweeps in with his father’s sword, lopping the head off the white walker with all the ease and speed of someone cutting butter with a guillotine.
The Prince Who Was Promised
Back in the Godswood, things are starting to look dire, too. Theon reaches for his arrows, realising all too quickly that not only is he out, but he’s the only one left protecting Bran (who is still inconveniently in warg state, doing who knows what as a raven).
The shots are interspersed with different areas of battle - Jorah encircling Daenerys to protect her as Theon does the same in parallel with Bran. Sansa and Tyrion hide behind a monolith in the crypts together as the undead wreak havoc on stray women and children.
It’s a sweet moment, as they share a glance of recognition - this is the end. They stand, still technically husband and wife, as Sansa pulls out the knife that Arya gave her. He kisses her hand, and with an exhale, turns to leave their hiding place.
The music deadens, and all we hear is a mournful piano over the dampened violence. Above, Jon is chased down by the icy flames of the Night King’s dragon as it tears Winterfell apart.
Jorah is struck on all angles as he protects Daenerys; Jaime, Pod and Brienne are pinned to the walls; Tormund stands tall on a pile of bodies as he continues fighting. Sam cries, exhausted, practically given up surrounded by bodies.
We settle back in at the Godswood, where Theon is defending Bran with naught but a spear, as the Ironborn lay dead at his feet. He fights until none are left.
But then, just as he’s taking his breath, they emerge. The Night King has arrived.
Theon gazes into the eyes of the extremely old mate, clearly frightened but ready to defend Bran no matter what it takes. He turns as Bran calls to him.
“Theon,” he says. “You’re a good man. Thank you.”
With tears rolling down his cheeks (and mine, shut up okay), that’s all Theon needs and he turns, clutching his spear as he starts to charge.
He runs, full speed towards the Night King with a battle cry, hoping desperately to save the life of the boy he grew up knowing, the key to all of this.
But just at the very last second, the Night King catches him, spins the spear and sinks it into Theon’s torso, impaling him on his very own weapon with a bloody gasp.
At long last, Bran is unprotected.
The Night King advances on Bran, nobody in his wake - yet Bran stays, staring blankly into the abyss as always. When NK is finally upon him, he turns and looks up.
Almost imperceptible, Bran’s gaze drops down. Tilting his head slightly, the Night King slowly reaches for his weapon and time seems to stand still. All we see is the rustling of a breeze through the hair of one of the Night King’s lackeys...
And HOLY SHIT Arya comes leaping out of nowhere, dagger poised to stab the Night King in the back. He whirls, catching her by the throat. He grabs her left arm and her dagger drops.
ONLY FOR HER TO CATCH IT IN HER OTHER HAND AND PLUNGE IT STRAIGHT INTO HIS TORSO THROUGH A GAP IN HIS ARMOUR.
The Night King shatters, crumbling into ice as Arya falls to the ground and we see his legions of undead crumbling in a similar fashion.
ARYA. FUCKING. STARK. IS. THE. PRINCE. WHO. WAS. PROMISED.
We head back to the castle to see the army fall into literal pieces, the looks of confusion on everyone’s faces reflected back in our own. It is done.
Outside the trenches, Jorah falls. He’s exhausted, stabbed and utterly spent - cradled in the arms of Daenerys as she holds him crying. The last dragon curls itself around them like a vanguard as he passes.
Those in the crypt stand, staring at the fallen. Arya and Bran face each other, neither saying a word. From the depths of the castle, the Hound emerges with Melisandre.
She sees that Arya has fulfilled her destiny to become Azor Ahai, and slowly begins walking beyond the castle onto the icy tundra - her cloak and necklace falling.
Ser Davos watches as she treads further, transforming into the old creature we’ve known her to be for some time, before she crumbles and falls, dead.
And now we all collectively let out the big breath we’ve been holding.
Valar morghulis and holy shitballs.