The promise of Game of Thrones Season 8 was two battles, one for the Iron Throne (with Cersei finally getting what she deserves…) and then the battle against the Night King. After two episodes of waiting, the battle against the Night King has come, and as you’ll see in this Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3 Review, it wasn’t perfect, but it was one of the most impactful episodes in Game of Thrones history.
The problem with teasing a battle like this is that you live and die by the sword you create. And the showrunners openly admitted that this would be the longest continuous battle sequence in cinematic history (take that Endgame), they had to make it interesting, compelling, deliver emotional beats, while also being true to the show. And for the most part, they did that.
Let’s focus on the spectacle first, shall we? This battle was MASSIVE, and it was done to make sure it would be different from all the other battles. Especially Hardhome, which was the last time the army of the dead got into a massive conflict. The way the battle “ebbed and flowed” as the showrunners stated it made it all the more compelling as we got deeper into things. I loved how we want from a charge, to a defensive strike, to Arya’s solo battles, to a stealth evasion, to a rescue mission, to a survival mode, and on and on and on.
Love or hate this episode, you will respect that they dared to show you as many battles within the battle as possible. Not many can do that and pull it off, but this one did.
On that note, the team also did a splendid job of making it so that all the main and supporting characters had moments regardless of whether they lived or died. And for the most part, it really worked. There were some very odd pieces, like the exchange between Sansa and Missandei about Daenerys, and Tyrion begging to be let out so that he could “see something” that the others missed…and then have him do nothing. But for the most part, it was good.
And dear gosh, the tension as things started to fall apart. People have been talking for a week about who would live and who would die, and with every new scene, every twist in the battle, you started to feel the fear more and more. You felt that the character you loved would be the next one to die, it was horrifying and tragic and awesome in all the right ways.
Special shoutout to the composers for this episode, they drilled it from top to bottom. With my favorite being the “Night King’s March” (that’s what I call it) as he went to Bran and the battle is just dissolving around everyone as things go from bad to worse. That was the moment I almost cried, because I couldn’t think of how it would end without Bran dying.
BUT HE DIDN’T! AND THE LEGEND THAT IS ARYA STARK CONTINUES!!! Seriously, I loved how they did that. The slow draw of the sword, to Arya appearing in the shot, to the Night King catching her, to the dagger trick!!!! If you SOMEHOW didn’t love Arya before, you do now.
Oh, and the triple threat dragon match? Yeah, that was tense. It did fizzle out a bit at the end, but hey, they couldn’t focus on them forever!
However…all that being said, putting all the technical wonders and magic (aside from the episode being too dark at times) aside, there were some very key problems with “The Long Night” that need to be addressed.
Let’s start with the obvious ones. First up, the Dothraki. How in the heck did that charge get approved? They KNOW they’re fighting an army of the dead, they KNOW that the Night King has a dragon, and they KNOW that the army of the dead outnumbers them even with the Horde. So…their opening move is to let the Dothraki charge to their doom? That doesn’t sound like something Dany would do. And even the showrunners admitted that this charge was “essentially the end of the Dothraki”, which is insane to think about in regards to Dany literally leading them to their doom. Sure, they had the “fire hope” moment as the showrunners say, but from a military standpoint, AND the queen standpoint in regards to Dany’s relationship to the Dothraki, that just seems totally out of whack. Cause basically all of them are gone now. Minus the ones that SOMEHOW were able to avoid the army of the dead, get off their horses, and run back to the army.
Second, and just as important, while the battle was BEAUTIFUL in how it showed the both open areas and claustrophobic nature of the battle, there were times when characters CLEARLY were getting overrun, or were vastly outnumbered, and yet SOMEHOW they all lasted until the end.
Which…brings me to the final problem. Six characters of some importance died in the episode. Numerically, that actually feels like a fair number. That is, until you realize who all died. Edd died, Beric died, Lyanna Mormount died (epically), Theon, Jorah, and then Melisandre. So in terms of “important characters,” you COULD say that three of the six fill that role. And I’m being generous with Melisandre because of her role in recent seasons.
The past week has been a debate about who would live and who would die, and yet, when all was said and done, two were heavily telegraphed with Jorah and Theon, Beric and Edd dying was nice, but they had no real stories so they didn’t mean much, Lyanna by the showrunner’s admission was a specially crafted seen because they loved the actress so much, and then Melisandre…well…she chose to die depending on how you looked at it. Oh, and the Night King died, but you knew that would happen too.
Jon, Dany, Sansa, Arya, Tyrion, Jamie, Brienne, and basically all the “top tier” characters remained. Granted, both Jorah and Theon died heroically and uniquely, and I even perfectly called Jorah’s death. But in terms of “shocking deaths”, we honestly didn’t get it, and I know a LOT of people aren’t happy about that because this is kind of what Game of Thrones does.
So between these things, I honestly can’t give “The Long Night” a perfect score, but that doesn’t mean that this wasn’t a visual and emotional spectacle from nearly top to bottom, because it was. And this will be one of my favorite Game of Thrones episodes of the series.
Game Of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3 Review
While not a perfect masterpiece, “The Long Night” delivered on many promises. And while a key one wasn’t given, this episode still holds up in nearly every way that matters.