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Game of Thrones' epic Battle of Winterfell is a frozen bloodbath
Last week on Game of Thrones, the Night King and his frosty army of the undead arrived at Winterfell. This week, the consequences of that arrival played out in the most brutal way imaginable.
**SPOILER WARNING: This story contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 3.**
This week, the dead amounted to a large number of characters, as we knew it would.
Again, spoiler warning. You ready?
The dead: Countless soldiers. Ghost. Edd Tollett. Lyanna Mormont. Beric Dondarrion. Theon Greyjoy. Jorah Mormont. The Night King. Melisandre. And maybe some others? Hard to totally tell.
Each of the characters takes his or her place ahead of the battle, most noticeably nervous, the others solemn.
Brienne, Jaime, Podrick, Greyworm, Tormund, Beric, the Hound, Sam, Jorah, Ghost, and essentially all the remaining fighters gather in wait at the front lines as Daenerys’ two remaining dragons take off so Dany and Jon can look over the battlefield before it all begins. Arya and Davos wait at the top of the wall. Melisandre rolls up on a horse and tells Jorah to order the Dothraki to lift their swords. He does, and she grabs one sword, utters some magic words, and lights every blade on fire like the true patron of the Lord of Light she is.
Once she enters Winterfell’s gates, Melisandre informs Davos that she’ll be “dead before dawn” — which means she absolutely knows who will live and who will die from here on out. She shares a meaningful look with Arya just as the Dothraki start up their war cry and speed off into the darkness with their flaming swords held aloft, led by Jorah. Their swords extinguish one by one until nothing but darkness is left, as the audience is left to presume them dead.
A few return, but that’s not good enough. Jon tells Dany that “the Night King is coming,” but Dany informs him “the dead are already here,” and she goes to mount her dragon.
The dead attack, brutally. Brienne demands her soldiers stand their ground, and just as they start to seem overwhelmed, Dany and Jon arrive on the backs of their respective dragons to reign fire down on their enemy. Sansa and Arya look on from the wall in amazement.
Just as Jon and Dany move to attack the Night King himself (who is hanging in the background with his generals), a winter storm arrives and blasts them back.
Arya tells Sansa to go down to the crypt, giving her a knife so she can defend herself.
The storm batters Winterfell’s forces in that moment, and our main heroes struggle against the dead. It’s dark, harrowing, and backlit by flames. Sam nearly dies, Edd Tollett saves him but then dies as a result.
In the crypts, Sansa and Tyrion wait and worry.
Jon flies through the snowstorm and Dany’s dragons get tangled up in each other by accident. Just then, Lyanna Mormont demands the gates be opened so the injured can retreat. The Unsullied stand their ground to protect the retreat.
Chaos reigns and Arya manages to shoot an arrow straight through an undead’s head to save the Hound. Winterfell moves to light the trenches they’ve dug but when they try to signal to Dany to light them, she can’t see them.
Melisandre appears out of nowhere in the storm and stares down Greyworm. The Unsullied form a barrier so she can step forward to the trench. She performs magic as the soldiers struggle to keep the undead back and away from her and the walls of Winterfell. Just as all hope seems lost, she lights the wooden barrier on fire, stopping the dead just in time. From above, Jon and Dany can see a fire barrier surround Winterfell. Their dragons keep working to kill the dead.
In the crypt, Sansa and Tyrion bond. Tyrion suggests perhaps they should have stayed married. “You were the best of them,” Sansa tells Tyrion, of his Lannister name. A terrifying thought, he scoffs.
Sam nearly dies (again) but is saved just as the wights are beginning to scale the walls. That’s when Arya enters the fold, stabbing the dead left and right and holding her own. Of course, that’s when a giant enters the game and begins stepping all over people. One of the people killed in the giant attack is Lyanna Mormont — but she doesn’t go down without a fight, taking the giant down with her by stabbing it in the eye.
For all the big, evil men in this series, the smallest women have turned out to be the fiercest warriors.
Meanwhile, Arya is dealing with a wight infestation. As she tiptoes around the castle, she’s stalked by wights who eventually become so numerous as to chase her through the halls.
Below, the crypt's residents look up as they begin to hear some of the battle. Things are getting closer. Sansa remains calm, but looks to the door and breathes hard.
Beric, the Hound, and Arya get cornered and the Hound drags Arya off before she can be hurt too badly. Beric is injured and dies as Arya looks on once they get to safety. Melisandre is there and says the Lord of Light wanted him back.
“I know you,” Arya tells her.
“And I know you,” Melisandre answers.
Melisandre tells her that she’ll end up killing many wights, just as she knew she’d kill many people since the last time they met. “What do we say to the god of death?” she asks.
“Not today,” Arya says, and she runs off with a clear plan in mind.
In Winterfell’s woods, Theon and his archers ready their flaming arrows to take on the wights that have invaded that part of the castle.
And then the ice dragon, Viserion, enters the fold, with the Night King riding him. Jon and Rhaegal are the first to make contact. The two dragons fight mid-air, taking chunks from each other’s hides. Jon struggles to stay mounted and just when all hope seems lost, Dany arrives with Drogon, the two knocking the Night King from Viserion’s back.
Dany finds the Night King again as he stands on the ground, somehow uninjured. “Dracarys,” she says, ordering Drogon to light the Night King on fire. Jon approaches the Night King’s location on foot, and as the flames dissipate, Dany sees with horror that the Night King is somehow unfarmed by Drogon’s flames.
Jon runs at the Night King as he slowly walks toward Winterfell. The Night King notices Jon’s approach, turns slowly to meet him, and raises the dead in Jon’s path to stop him. Jon is surrounded by the dead members of his own army. Inside Winterfell’s wall, Jaime Lannister and the remaining forces fight off the dead. Our own dead heroes — including Lyanna Mormont — rise with them. The dead march through the front gates.
In the crypts, the dead also rise.
Theon and his archers fight valiantly to keep Bran safe.
Back to Jon, Dany arrives with Drogon to take down the dead surrounding Jon, giving Jon the chance to run off and look after bran. Dany and Drogon battle the dead, but they’re surrounded. Dany falls off Drogon, who flies off in pain, still covered in wights. A wight runs at Dany but Jorah stops the wight just in time, cutting its head off.
Jon passes the other remaining warriors on his way to find Bran, barely managing to fight off wights, many of which are now falling seemingly from the sky.
Theon valiantly fights off the wights from reaching Bran.
Dany and Jorah fight their way back toward the castle.
And in the crypts, the innocent are ripped apart. Sansa and Tyrion hide together, exchanging panicked looks. He kisses her hand as she takes up the knife Arya gave her.
Viserion falls upon the castle and begins destroying it. Tyrion takes cover with Varys and the little girl from the previous episode who Davos protected. And as Bran continues to warg, the Night King approaches. Jaime and Podrick fight, Sam is covered in soot, Theon isn’t giving up, the last one standing between the Night King and Bran.
And when the Night King does arrive and the dead surround Theon and Bran, Bran tells Theon he’s a good man as he exits the warg.
“Thank you,” Bran tells Theon. It's equal parts a thank you for what Theon's already done and for what Bran expects Theon to do next for him. When the Night King steps forward, Theon runs at him with his pike as Bran looks on. And the Night King runs Theon through without hesitation.
Meanwhile, Jon still runs about trying to avoid Viserion’s attacks.
Outside Winterfell's walls, Jorah is stabbed through the chest trying to protect Daenerys just as the Night King approaches Bran. The two stare at each other as the music builds. The Night King tilts his head.
Jon faces Viserion, yelling in defiance.
And Arya, coming out of nowhere, leaps at the Night King and stabs him through the stomach with her blade. He explodes in a blast of frost and snow, and Viserion and the Night King's army collapse.
As they do so, Jorah dies in Daenerys’ arms. Melisandre turns to dust.