- "They're coming. We have dragonglass and Valyrian steel. But there are too many of them. Far too many. Our enemy doesn't tire, doesn't stop, doesn't feel. We can't beat them in a straight fight."
- ―Jon Snow
The Battle of Winterfell is the final battle of the Great War between an alliance of living armies, including the forces of the Starks, Arryns, and Targaryens, against the army of the dead led by the White Walkers. The battle takes place at Winterfell, the seat of House Stark and regional capital of the North.
The living face heavy casualties but ultimately prevail when Bran Stark draws out the Night King in the Winterfell godswood, where Arya Stark destroys him with a Valyrian steel dagger, causing all of the White Walkers and the wights to fall and ending the army of the dead.
Jon Snow, King in the North, prepared the North for the White Walkers, who rose again after thousands of years during his time in the Night's Watch. He negotiated with Daenerys Targaryen during her invasion of Westeros, eventually cultivating an ally in her. After Cersei Lannister, who held the Iron Throne after the War of the Five Kings, agreed to a parley in King's Landing, Jon ventured beyond the Wall with a team to capture a wight, which nearly failed until Daenerys rescued Jon and the survivors, though at the cost of one of her dragons, Viserion, who died at the hands of the Night King. The wight was presented by Jon, Daenerys, and their followers at the Dragonpit Summit before Cersei, Euron Greyjoy, and their entourage. While Euron declared he would retreat to the Iron Islands, Cersei agreed to a truce, and later further agreed to send her armies north to assist in the Great War after negotiating with her brother Tyrion, the Hand to Daenerys.
After Jon and Daenerys began sailing back to the North following the parley, Cersei Lannister revealed to her brother Jaime that she and Euron Greyjoy plotted to betray the truce that they agreed to, and that Euron was ferrying the Golden Company from Essos to Westeros on the Iron Fleet in order to help the Lannisters reconquer the Seven Kingdoms. Seeking to uphold the vow he made at the parley, Jaime abandoned his sister in King's Landing and rode north alone to help in the Great War against the White Walkers and the army of the dead. Upon arriving at Winterfell, Jaime was put on trial for his actions against Houses Targaryen and Stark, but was ultimately allowed to stay in Winterfell while Winterfell prepared for the army of the dead.
Meanwhile, after rescuing his sister Yara from their uncle Euron, Theon Greyjoy set sail to Winterfell with some ironborn warriors whilst Yara and the rest of their followers sailed to the Iron Islands to take them back from Euron in Daenerys's name, allowing the living to retreat to the Iron Islands should Winterfell fall. Theon and the ironborn were also allowed to stay at Winterfell to partake in the great battle.
Elsewhere, the Night King breached the Wall with a reanimated Viserion, nullifying its magic and allowing the White Walkers and the army of the dead to cross into the realms of men, heading first towards the North. The White Walkers first attack Last Hearth, the seat of House Umber, where everyone is killed, including Lord Ned Umber, unable to escape Last Hearth before the army of the dead arrived. By the time Tormund, Lord Beric Dondarrion, and acting Lord Commander Eddison Tollett arrived at Last Hearth with the other survivors of the fall of the Wall, the castle had been abandoned, indicating that the White Walkers and the army of the dead were getting close to Winterfell. Tormund, Beric, and Edd, alongside the other surviving Free Folk, members of the Brotherhood Without Banners, and members of the Night's Watch, reached Winterfell before the army of the dead did, and warned Jon Snow that the White Walkers would be there within the night.
As the Dothraki prepare to charge against the wights, Ser Jorah Mormont notices Melisandre approaching from the dark. Melisandre asks the Dothraki to raise their weapons and, with the help of Valyrian chants, light their weapons on fire to fight against the army of the dead.
The Dothraki begin their attack, charging with their flaming arakhs led by Jorah and Ghost. At the same time, catapults and trebuchets launch a flaming barrage onto the undead army. However, as the Dothraki horde fades into the dark, all the flames vanish; only a few Dothraki, Jorah and Ghost manage to escape and flee to Winterfell.
After the failed cavalry charge, the wights surge forth colliding with the armies of the living. Daenerys and Jon fly over the battlefield on Drogon and Rhaegal respectively, and burning many of the wights with dragonfire in order to aid in the retreat. However, the Night King conjures a blizzard, causing the dragons and their riders to become lost and cutting off any further support for the defenders on the battlefield. Lord Commander Eddison Tollett is killed after saving Sam, and the sheer number of wights causes the defenders, with the exception of a number of Unsullied covering the retreat, to pull back into Winterfell, so that the protective trench filled with heavy wooden spikes could be ignited.
Davos Seaworth tries to signal Daenerys with lit torches to light the trench. However, Daenerys and Drogon cannot see the signal. In an attempt to ignite the trench, archers shoot flaming arrows into it, but to no avail. The extreme cold and the wind extinguish the arrows. Men are sent out to ignite the trench with torches, but are attacked by wights. A group of Unsullied then escorts Melisandre towards the trench. After a few failed attempts, Melisandre ignites the trench, thus buying the living a few moments reprieve.
At the Night King's command, individual wights fall into the flaming trench, building up enough bodies to smother the flames and allow the other wights to cross. The wights climb over one another to scale the walls, and the defenders are quickly forced to fight them on the ramparts and within the walls. At the gate, an undead giant smashes through it, allowing more wights direct entry, and inflicts heavy casualties before being killed by Lyanna Mormont, who stabs it in the eye with a dragonglass blade, as she is fatally crushed in its grasp. The wights manage to breach the castle's interior, and Beric Dondarrion is slain for the final time, rescuing Arya Stark with the Hound.
In the skies, the Night King, riding the undead Viserion, Daenerys, riding Drogon, and Jon, riding Rhaegal, engage in battle. For the first time in 150 years, dragons fight one another. Rhaegal and Viserion clash in the air, both taking heavy injuries. The Night King tries to kill Jon, but is knocked to the ground by Daenerys. Rhaegal is forced to land, being too injured to remain airborne. Jon falls off his mount as Rhaegal loses consciousness. Daenerys locates the Night King and attempts to kill him with dragonfire. To her shock and horror, he is left unaffected by the flames. Daenerys and Drogon retreat, narrowly avoiding being hit by an ice spear thrown by the Night King.
Seeing the Night King alone on the battlefield, Jon charges him, hoping to end the battle quickly. However, realizing Jon's presence, the Night King reanimates everyone who has died in the fighting, as well as the long-dead Starks in the crypts beneath the castle. While Jon is forced to contend with the newly risen wights, the Night King makes his way to the godswood with the rest of the White Walkers in order to kill Bran. Daenerys returns with Drogon, saving Jon from being overwhelmed by wights. Jon rushes off to pursue the Night King, more wights arrive and swarm Drogon. Daenerys is accidentally thrown off and left on her own as Drogon flies away, shaking off the wights still clutched to him. Jorah Mormont arrives in time to save Daenerys, and the two fend off the wights in the battlefield.
In Winterfell, Jon fights his way through the castle until he encounters Viserion, who is wreaking havoc in the courtyard, blue flames pouring from the wounds he has sustained. Jon struggles to get past Viserion, but is pinned down by the dragon's blue flame.
In the godswood, Theon Greyjoy, Alys Karstark, and a group of ironborn and Karstark soldiers manage to hold off the wights and defend Bran. Eventually, only Theon is left standing. Wights surround him and Bran, as the Night King arrives with the White Walkers. Theon makes a last ditch effort to kill the Night King, but the latter impales him with own broken weapon. The Night King approaches Bran, who is now defenseless against him. Arya manages to slip past the White Walkers and attack the Night King with a Valyrian steel dagger. The Night King grabs her mid-air, stopping her attack. Arya drops her dagger from the arm he was restraining, catches it in her free hand and plunges it into his chest, causing him to shatter into icy shards. With his death, the White Walkers shatter, and the horde of wights and Viserion drop dead. The magic animating them has died with the Night King and his lieutenants, bringing an end to the White Walkers and the Long Night forever.
- "We have won the Great War. Now we will win the last war."
- ―Daenerys Targaryen
The battle was ultimately a victory for the North and the living as a whole. With the Night King and the White Walkers dead, the threat they posed is ended forever and the Seven Kingdoms no longer need to fear them. However, the battle was still very costly to the defenders: the initial charge of the Dothraki resulted in the horde being almost entirely decimated, with a few stragglers barely escaping, and the Unsullied took heavy casualties during fighting and their defense of the retreat, removing much of Daenerys Targaryen's forces and may affect her ability to successfully continue her planned conquest of Westeros. One of her most experienced commanders and dearest friends, Ser Jorah Mormont, also perished in the final stages of the battle, depriving her of both a good friend and a man whose military experience she could count on. On the other hand, most of her council survived, including Grey Worm, who commands the Unsullied, and she still maintains command over the surviving Unsullied and two remaining dragons, who survived their injuries during the fight. The battle leaves Rhaegal greatly injured, causes him to be an easy target for Euron Greyjoy to kill.
The battle was also costly for the Northerners, both in terms of manpower and culture. With the deaths of Ser Jorah and Lady Lyanna Mormont, House Mormont, one of the oldest and most loyal northern houses, has been rendered extinct, leaving their seat of Bear Island without a ruling lord and House Stark without one of its most loyal and dependable retainers. House Karstark has also been rendered extinct as its ruling lord, Lady Alys Karstark, is confirmed to die at the battle; if so, this marks the end to another ancient house, and a relation of House Stark as well. House Stark's ancient seat of Winterfell, their castle and regional capital of the North, also took heavy damage in the course of the battle, putting it in an uncertain situation for riding out the remainder of winter.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, an equivalent battle has not occurred. The TV show has surpassed the timeline of the books, so it is unclear if such a battle will occur. It is also unknown if the Others (the name of the White Walkers in the books) will share a similar, if not the same, fate as their counterparts do in the TV series.