‘Game of Thrones’: The Battle of Winterfell

Arya Stark fights in the Battle of Winterfell.
Arya Stark fights in the Battle of Winterfell. Helen Sloan/HBO via AP

The third episode of Game of Thrones Season 8 was as epic as we had hoped.

With an 82-minute running time, it was the longest episode in the final season, and there was good reason for it, as it featured one of the bloodiest battles in the show’s history and was too good to fit in an hour. David Benioff and Dan Weiss know what the fans want, and they delivered with an episode that reportedly took 55 days to shoot.

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There are tons of spoilers below so if you’re not caught up with Game of Thrones, stop reading now…you’ve been warned.

Episode 3 starts with everyone in Winterfell getting ready for a war they think they have no chance of winning. A single camera shot pans over a nervous Samwell Tarly to little Lady Lyanna Mormont calling the shots to a group taking Bran Stark to the woods. Sansa and Arya watch from above. The dragons soar overhead as the Unsullied march out, and the Dothraki are lined up and ready to fight alongside the Wildlings with The Hound, Ghost and Jorah. This was the last breath the audience really had until the end of the episode.

READ MORE: ‘Game of Thrones’ — A chance to say goodbye

Melisandre arrives in Winterfell and exchanges some tense dialogue with Ser Davos, promising that she’ll be dead before the dawn. Using the powers of the Lord of Light, she ignites all the arakhs of the Dothraki army, giving them an extra leg up in the battle with the wights. She locks eyes with Arya and pauses for a moment, remembering their last encounter.

With that, the battle begins — the Dothraki are the first to charge. They storm towards the mass of undead, and within 20 seconds, spirits are dashed at Winterfell as those guarding the castle watch the lit arakhs burn out, one by one. The undead chewed through the Dothraki effortlessly, and orders are shouted to fall back immediately, leaving the Unsullied to hold off the enemy.

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WATCH: Game of Thrones fans, including a dog, react to moments in the Battle of Winterfell

Game of Thrones fans, including a dog, react to moments in ‘The Battle of Winterfell’
Game of Thrones fans, including a dog, react to moments in ‘The Battle of Winterfell’

Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow watch from above on their dragons, Drogon and Rhaegal, challenged by a new problem: winter. Snow and wind make visibility non-existent. The dragons still manage to help defend the castle by burning up several wights as they attack the Unsullied and the rest of our favourite characters.

The battle is fierce, bloody and almost lost for Samwell, who is saved by Dolorous Edd just minutes before another wight takes Edd down, killing him in front of Samwell.

READ MORE: ‘Game of Thrones’ — Season 8 starts back in Winterfell

As our heroes rush back to the supposed safety of Winterfell, the army of the dead literally crawls over the Unsullied and storms towards the castle, prompting Ser Davos to place the order to light the trenches. Arya spots The Hound having trouble in the battle and saves him with an arrow. With Daenerys unable to see the signal through the snowstorm and the wights getting closer, things are not looking good. That is, until Melisandre shows up and uses the power of the Lord of Light to fire up the trenches, successfully keeping the wights at bay — or so it seems.

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While all of this is happening, Tyrion Lannister, Sansa Stark, Missandei, Varys and Gilly are in the crypts with the women and children. Tyrion and Sansa mend their relationship, with Sansa admitting that of all her forced marriages, theirs was the best. Tyrion wishes he could be out of the crypt and able to take a look at what was unfolding in an attempt to make some sort of difference for the better.

In the Godswood, Theon Greyjoy and his army stand guard around Bran, nervously awaiting the arrival of the Night King. Theon apologizes to Bran, and he brushes it off before warging into some crows. Through Bran’s warging ability, we see the Night King is approaching, and sure enough, he’s riding his new toy — the undead dragon Viserion. Things are going downhill fast for our heroes, and even the trench of flames proves ineffective when the wights cleverly toss their own bodies down to smother the flames and make a bridge across it. The dead are now in Winterfell.

READ MORE: Don’t watch ‘Game of Thrones’? It probably doesn’t matter

In Winterfell, The Hound is struggling with some PTSD and pyrophobia due to all the fire everywhere, but as he notices Arya Stark fighting fearlessly with her new weapon, he gains the courage to not only fight but save her with the help of Beric Dondarrion. As our heroes continue to battle within the walls of Winterfell, an undead giant storms in, swiping at the living. He picks up little Lyanna Mormont, and in her one final heroic moment of leadership and strength, she takes him out by stabbing him in the eye with dragonglass before being crushed to death.

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Arya is now down in the bottom of Winterfell, getting increasingly worn down and still fighting off wights from every direction. We see her put some of her Braavosi training to use as she hides before finally running into Beric and The Hound, who are there to help her. Beric sacrifices himself to ensure The Hound and Arya survive, and suddenly, Melisandre is back. She reveals that the Lord of Light has been bringing Beric back to life over and over for this very moment. His role was to make sure Arya did not die. She then asks Arya: “What do we say to the god of death?” — a direct callback to Arya’s training with Syrio Forel in Season 1. Arya runs off after replying: “Not today.”

READ MORE: Meet the Vancouver VFX team that brought Game of Thrones’ dragons to life

During this time, a different battle is happening in the sky as the Night King, riding Viserion, tries to take down Jon Snow on Rhaegal. We get a full-on dragon-versus-dragon battle in the skies, and neither gives up easily. Jon is tossed off his dragon, as is the Night King, and in the end, Viserion rides on to continue destroying Winterfell while Rhaegal dies. Daenerys takes this opportunity to approach with Drogon and absolutely torches the Night King, but when the flames clear, it’s evident that no harm was done. He cannot be destroyed by dragon fire, begging the question: how do you kill the Night King?

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Jon intends to find out and takes off on foot after the Night King, which becomes a feeble effort as the Night King uses his power to raise every single corpse in the vicinity for his army. All those dead bodies lying around? They’re not part of the army of the undead, and Jon is swarmed while the Night King heads off into Winterfell. He’s not the only one in grave danger, however, as Daenerys and Drogon get overwhelmed by attacking wights, causing Drogon to ride off without her. The Mother of Dragons is left alone in a sea of bloodthirsty zombies. Luckily, Ser Jorah moves in to help fight them off, but they are greatly outnumbered. In Winterfell, the undead arise from all over — including the crypt. They are literally smashing through the headstones and attacking the women and children as Sansa and Tyrion hide together. This final move from the Night King seems to have cemented his win and takeover of the Seven Kingdoms, and his next target is Bran.

READ MORE: ‘Game of Thrones’ fans upset about how dark — literally — the Battle of Winterfell was

Theon is the last line of defence for Bran when the Night King arrives, and Bran thanks him for his service, calling him “a good man.” Theon dies at the hands of the Night King, but just as the Night King approaches Bran to finish his job, out of nowhere, Arya leaps onto him. He grabs her by the throat, and for one second, you think everyone’s favourite assassin might be done for — until she cleverly slams her Valyrian steel dagger into his chest, the same place where the Children of the Forest placed the dragonglass to create the Night King. He explodes in a sea of ice, and with him, his entire army falls one by one.

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As everyone catches their breath, the episode closes on Daenerys crying over the body of Ser Jorah while Drogon rests beside her, and Melisandre removes her necklace, walking off into the snow as an old lady before falling and dying.

The Night King has been defeated, but there’s no time for rest as the war for the throne — and the battle against Queen Cersei Lannister — lies on the horizon.

On the latest podcast, hosts Jeremy Baker and Meredith Geddes also chat about some of their favourite theories and hopes for the next six weeks and the final season of Game of Thrones.

If you enjoy Merbear and the Maiden Jer, please take a minute to rate and review it on Apple Podcasts, and be sure to tell a friend about the show.


Jeremy Baker

@Jeremy_Baker on Twitter

Meredith Geddes

@MeredithGeddes on Twitter


Thank you, Joanna Robinson, senior writer for Vanity Fair and member of the Cast of Kings podcast, and also Dr. Robert Rouse from UBC for joining us this week!

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