"The Long Night" is the third episode of the eighth season of Game of Thrones. It is the seventieth episode of the series overall. It premiered on April 28, 2019. It was written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss and directed by Miguel Sapochnik.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Summary
- 3 Appearances
- 4 Production
- 5 Notes
- 6 In the books
- 7 Memorable quotes
- 8 Preview
- 9 Gallery
- 10 See also
- 11 References
The cavalry charge
Night has fallen at Winterfell. Samwell Tarly is fearful and his nervous hands are filled with a pair of dragonglass daggers by an unseen benefactor; Tyrion Lannister takes several wine casks from the provisions to take with him to the crypts below, where the non-combatants are hiding. Bran Stark is wheeled to the Godswood to wait as bait, accompanied by Theon Greyjoy and his detachment of ironborn, as well as Alys Karstark. Sansa and Arya Stark oversee one section of the castle wall while Davos commands another. Lyanna Mormont commands defense of the main courtyard. Outside the gates, Brienne of Tarth commands the left flank, accompanied by Jaime Lannister. They are joined by Podrick Payne, Sandor Clegane, Gendry, Eddison Tollett, and Samwell Tarly. Grey Worm leads the formations of Unsullied, while Jorah Mormont and Qhono ride along with the Dothraki cavalry - accompanied by the direwolf Ghost. Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow ride their two dragons away from the castle, to not alert the enemy to their presence.
The moonless darkness is impenetrable and eerily silent -- until a lone rider appears: Melisandre, the Red Priestess. She rides up to Jorah and asks him to command the Dothraki in their language to raise their arakhs. When they do, she starts praying to the Lord of Light in High Valyrian. The army's arakhs suddenly burst into flame, sweeping from one side of the field to the other. Melisandre withdraws within Winterfell; Davos is about to kill her for Shireen, but she tells him not to bother, as she expects to be dead by dawn anyway and leaves before staring at Arya.
Emboldened, the Dothraki cavalry charge ahead into the night, their fiery arakhs visible in the distance - until they crash into the seething undead horde of wights. The infantry around Winterfell can hear their shouts and watch, in the shadowy distance, as Dothraki war cries turn to screams of terror and the flames from their swords are quickly extinguished. A stray horse or rider manages to flee back through the castle, one of them a haggard-looking Jorah. The Army of the Dead advances in earnest.
The Unsullied form up into phalanxes, while catapults start shooting flaming barrels into the night. By the light of the fires, the true size of the undead horde can be seen. They rush down from the north and slam into the defenders around Winterfell. They are quickly overrun by the wights, who swarm over and on top of each other and infantry formations like a tidal wave. A savage melee sees most of them surrounded: they are killing wights with their dragonglass weapons, but not nearly enough, as the living dead drag down and overwhelm the defenders through sheer weight of numbers.
Viewing the battle from the west, Daenerys is upset at the slaughter of her Dothraki and wants to strafe the wights. Jon tries to stop her because the plan is to locate the Night King, riding Viserion, who is being lured by Bran into the godswood, at which point Jon and Daenerys can attack the Night King -- but the Night King won't appear if they reveal their two remaining dragons. Daenerys shakes off Jon's arm and tells him, "The dead are already here," and she takes off on Drogon. Jon follows Daenerys on Rhaegal.
The two dragon-riders make strafing runs on the undead army, just behind the faltering human forces. Thousands of wights are incinerated: for a short time this stems their tide, but more keep coming. The White Walkers themselves do not engage, instead staying in a mounted line far behind the front, content to throw wave after wave of pawns at the castle. Jon Snow sees the White Walkers and tries to make a bombing run at them: they might not be the Night King, but any of the hundreds of undead wights each of them has raised will instantly die again if he can kill them. Before Jon can even reach their line, however, a massive cold blast of air forces him back: the White Walkers have magically summoned a huge snowstorm. Both dragons can barely stay in the air, and nearly fly into each other during the whiteout.
As Jon and Daenerys struggle to find one another in the storm, Jon calls Daenerys's name and they eventually reunite above the storm clouds. As they try to get their bearings, the Night King appears riding Viserion and pursues Daenerys and Drogon. Jon tries to follow them but is knocked out of the way while Daenerys manages to evade the attack. When Daenerys and Jon find each other again above the clouds, the Night King is gone. The Night King makes his way to Winterfell.
The remaining infantry is badly affected. The only infantry still holding up reasonably well by this point are the lockstep legions of the Unsullied, horrifically trained to strip away all fear and robotically follow their battle formations. They hold in their phalanxes, but even these are slowly but steadily being consumed by the scrambling mass of wights. A full retreat into the castle is ordered, and Grey Worm commands the Unsullied to form up a rearguard to protect the withdrawal of their few remaining forces. Samwell Tarly is nearly killed in the retreat, but Dolorous Edd saves him - only to be stabbed from behind and killed. The wights gradually slaughter their way forward, even as new Unsullied step forward to take the place of each the falls.
The Unsullied are on the verge of being overwhelmed, when the last of the main host gets back through the gates. Desperately, Grey Worm orders that the entrenchments around the castle - which have been filled with flammable pitch - be set on fire. Grey Worm himself is with the last remaining rearguard, who cannot abandon the earthworks if they are not set aflame. Attempts by Arya and the other archers to shoot the pitch with flaming arrows are blown away by severe winds while the snowstorm prevents the dragonriders from seeing their signal to light it. Melisandre appears, laying her hands on the trenchworks and repeats her prayers to the Lord of Light, straining with the massive effort. At the last moment, the entire trench ringing Winterfell bursts into flames. Grey Worm and his few remaining men withdraw behind the castle gates, which close. Many wights burn, but then they all robotically halt - instead of mindlessly charging ahead to their destruction. The White Walkers can afford to wait them out.
Seeing the fight approaching, Arya tells Sansa to flee to the crypts, as she'll only get killed if she remains but Sansa protests she can't abandon her people. Arya gives her sister a dragonglass dagger to defend herself with and when Sansa says she doesn't know how to use it, Arya advises her to "stick them with the pointy end". In the crypts, Sansa meets other women, including Missandei, and children, as well as the infirm and non-combatants (Tyrion and Varys). Tyrion laments that he should at least be up on the battlements, even if he can't fight well: just like at the Battle of the Blackwater, he and Varys could still use their great intellects as commanders, to try to see something other people wouldn't. Sansa chides that witty remarks won't make a difference, and the bravest thing they can do now is "look the truth in the face". Tyrion is moved and quips that maybe they should have stayed married - to which Sansa responds, "You were the best of them." Tyrion remarks that is a terrifying thought. Sansa continues a marriage wouldn't work out between them because of his loyalty to Daenerys and Tyrion being divided between herself and Daenerys would be a problem. Missandei defends her queen, saying that without the Dragon Queen, they'd all be dead by now.
In the godswood, Theon Greyjoy can also hear the approach of the undead army. He starts to apologize to Bran, but Bran politely cuts Theon off, saying that everything he did led him to where he is now: "Home". Theon is moved, but Bran must "leave" now - warging into flocks of ravens around Winterfell. Through the ravens' eyes, he sees the Night King on Viserion, and the Night King sees him through them. Bran is the last Three-Eyed Raven, mystical focus of all the powers of the Children of the Forest and memories of the entire world - the Night King's archenemy for thousands of years. The urge to finally end his enemy is too great, and as Bran hoped, the Night King is spurred into pressing his attack.
Instead of the hordes of wights rushing through the fiery trenches everywhere, the Night King psychically directs them into a concentrated charge across one spot: many hundreds burn, but eventually their sheer mass extinguishes the flames, breaching the outer defenses. Thousands of them start swarming around the base of Winterfell's great stone walls, then climb over each other in a mass, using their strength to grip into stone.
The Night King makes another run towards the godswood, but Jon and Daenerys knew where he was headed. Jon spots the Night King and pursues him. When the Night King approaches the castle walls directly and is just about to strafe Winterfell, Jon attacks him from atop Rhaegal. Rhaegal clashes with his undead brother and a battle between the two factions ensues in the skies above Winterfell.
Despite having lost so many men out in the field, the castle's walls are a major force multiplier for the defenders, and they kill many more hundreds of wights as they reach the tops of the battlements. Even so, more keep coming, as the snowstorm reduces the castle to a whiteout amidst the flames. Jaime Lannister is nearly overwhelmed by a dozen wights, but Brienne carves her way to him using her Valyrian steel sword and saves him. Jorah Mormont, similarly, manages to save Samwell Tarly using Heartsbane - the ancestral Valyrian steel sword of House Tarly that Samwell lent him for the battle. Arya manages to pick off many wights with flaming arrows. Sandor Clegane, with his severe fear of fire, is left frozen as Beric Dondarrion urges him to keep fighting. Sandor pleads that they can't beat death itself, to which Beric points to Arya and says, "Tell her that."
The tide of battle turns against the defenders again, and as Lyanna Mormont tries to organize the defense of the main courtyard, a large wight-giant bashes its way through the main gate of Winterfell. More wights flow in behind it, leading the advance, knocking Lyanna to the side and taking out any of her soldiers still standing. Recovering, young Lyanna grabs a dragonglass blade and charges the undead giant while letting out a battle cry. The wight-giant casually snatches her up in his hand, however, and holds her up to his one remaining blue eye. The wight-giant clenches his fist, crushing Lyanna's chest in as her bones snap. Yet her hand is still free, and with one last defiant cry, she stabs the dragonglass into the wight-giant's eye: it instantly dies and topples to the ground. Lyanna falls free of his grasp, but dies from her injuries.
The entire courtyard is overrun, and all remaining order to the siege collapses, as the wights spread to surround any remaining pockets of resistance here and there around the castle. Arya, who was knocked out against a stone wall, recovers some time later, stumbling into the Winterfell library. The fighting has moved away from this part of the castle, as wights shamble about looking for survivors to pick off. Using her stealth training from the Faceless Men,
Arya slowly sneaks past all of them - only for the wights to burst through the door after her as soon as she leaves. She runs into Sandor and Beric, however, also fleeing wights, and help fight them off. The trio make a running retreat through the narrow hallways of the castle's interior. Eventually, Beric is stabbed multiple times and barely manages to drag himself after them into the great hall, whose heavy doors hold after they shut them. Once inside, Beric succumbs to his injuries, but in the hall, Arya and Sandor also find Melisandre, waiting; she remarks that in saving Arya, Beric has fulfilled the purpose the Lord of Light had for him. Arya recalls that they met before, and Melisandre said they would meet again. Melisandre reminds Arya that she said Arya would close many eyes forever, including "blue" ones (of the White Walkers), and asks Arya what they say to the god of Death. Arya responds, "Not today." She departs, newly determined in her goal.
Meanwhile, the dragons are locked in battle in the sky above Winterfell with Jon and the Night King fighting in fierce close quarters mid-air brawl on their dragons. Viserion badly claws Rhaegal's belly, while the Night King readies another one of his dragon-killing ice javelins - but the dragons are swirling around so chaotically he can't get a clear shot from his mount. Despite his wounds, Rhaegal manages to land a bite on the other dragon, and tears the left half of his face off - but this is not enough to stop him. It is, however, enough to significantly distract the Night King, who doesn't notice Daenerys's approach on Drogon: they collide with Viserion with such impact that the Night King is spilled from his mount, while Drogon tears into Viserion. Rhaegal, however, is badly wounded enough that he needs to make a forced landing, dropping Jon on the ground again before fleeing.
Drogon sends the badly injured Viserion crashing into the castle while Jon regains himself on the ground, finding he is on the abandoned outer battlefield -- and not far from the Night King, who is proceeding on foot to the breach in the walls leading to the godswood and Bran.
Daenerys reaches the Night King, and with a command of "Dracarys!" has Drogon blast him with dragonfire. When the smoke dissipates, however, Bran's warning is proven unfortunately correct: even dragonfire cannot kill the Night King, who is completely undamaged. He still has one ice javelin left and as he readies to throw it at Drogon, Daenerys flees and manages to narrowly dodge the shot.
Jon pursues the Night King but just as he is about to reach him, the Night King silently turns to him and raises his arms, resurrecting all of Winterfell's defenders who died in the battle up to this point (including Dolorous Edd, Lyanna Mormont, and Qhono) into wights. Jon finds himself surrounded again and struggles to fight off the new wights, as the Night King continues into the godswood.
In the crypts, Sansa and the others can hear a handful of living men desperately pounding on the heavy doors to let them in, but they know they cannot risk a flood of wights passing the barricade. They hear the men's cries which are quickly silenced. The wights themselves cannot find a way in - but there are already plenty of dead bodies in the crypts for the White Walkers to reanimate. Suddenly, many of the interred corpses rise as wights and start clawing their way out of their tombs. They're fairly old and not in the best shape, but the women and children are totally unarmed, and many succumb to the wights. Sansa and Tyrion hide behind one tomb, contemplating on helping the women and children in the fight against the newly made wights in the crypt, with the dragon glass that they were given.
As Jon fights off the surrounding wights, Daenerys appears with Drogon and burns them up from the air. Jon calls to Daenerys, planning to pursue the Night King, and Daenerys tells Jon to go. After Jon follows the Night King, Daenerys and Drogon land but stay on the ground for moments too long, finding Drogon being swarmed by dozens of wights. He just barely manages to fly away still covered in them, but Daenerys is knocked off his back in the process. However, Jorah appears and helps Daenerys fight off the wights. Daenerys picks up a dragonglass dagger from the ground as well, but they are both exhausted and more wights surround them again.
Jon, meanwhile, fights his way back into the courtyard of the castle on foot - only to be pinned down by the grounded, but still very dangerous Viserion. A stab from Jon's Valyrian steel sword might kill the undead-dragon, but it is simply too volatile to approach: badly wounded beyond the point a living dragon would have expired, the huge rents in his body leak great bursts of fire, as it continues to crash around through the rubble. Jon is hastily forced to dive for cover, as Viserion catches sight of him and lets loose a torrent of fire, incinerating the courtyard which barely misses Jon. Facing certain death and with the battle seemingly lost, Jon emerges from his hiding place and, resolving to die with what courage he can muster, bellows defiance at Viserion as the undead dragon's jaws gape open, either to devour Jon or blast him with flame.
Wights advance through Winterfell's godswood, and are picked off by Theon's archers. One by one each of the defenders is killed, including Alys Karstark, until only Theon is left, taking out a dozen more wights until he runs out of arrows. Suddenly the wights stop, forming a ring around the Weirwood tree - then step aside to make a path for the Night King himself, followed by all of the other White Walkers and a horde of wights, some of them temporarily halted by the Night King. Bran Stark turns to Theon and says "You are a good man. Thank you." Finding redemption for his past crimes against Bran and Winterfell and no longer afraid of dying, Theon grabs a spear and courageously charges forward at the Night King. It is not enough, as the Night King easily blocks the blow, snaps the spear in half, and uses one piece to impale Theon, who slowly dies on the ground.
With no one left to defend Bran, the Night King walks slowly towards him at the base of the tree. Bran looks up at his foe with pity, the Night King staring down at his age old nemesis the Three Eyed Raven in triumph.
As the Night King draws the sword sheathed on his back for the killing blow, a sudden wisp of wind catches the attention of one of his lieutenants and Arya leaps at him from behind, her Valyrian steel dagger drawn. The Night King instantly reacts, spinning around to catch her by the throat in one hand, and her left wrist in the other. He only has a moment to leer at her before she drops the dagger out of her left hand and catches it with her still free right hand - and drives the blade into the center of his chest. The Valyrian steel makes contact with the ancient dragonglass shard empowering the Night King, and kills him - shattering him into ice.
With the Night King destroyed, the other White Walkers shatter as well, and in turn, every wight falls. All around Winterfell, the few surviving and surrounded defenders see the wights suddenly drop and fall apart, the magic animating their dead flesh and sinews departing.
The undead Viserion dies for the final time in the courtyard, saving Jon Snow. The wights attacking Jorah and Daenerys drop dead, but Jorah is fatally wounded defending Daenerys. He dies in the arms of the woman he loves as Daenerys cries while holding him. Drogon, who survived the wights, curls himself around them to comfort her as she mourns. The wights fall in the crypts as well, saving Tyrion, Sansa, and the others. The ancient threat of the White Walkers has been destroyed forever.
Dawn finally breaks over the devastated castle. Melisandre walks out of the gates removing her cloak, and Davos follows, ready to kill her with his dagger. Melisandre, however, removes her magical choker and drops it on the ground, the glow from its gem fading out - and Davos is astonished to see from a distance that she is now a centuries-old woman (her glamored image of youth removed). Melisandre used up all of her magical power summoning the fires to defend the castle: she takes a few more faltering steps, then collapses, and her body crumbles away into dust.
- Eddison Tollett
- Lady Lyanna Mormont
- Lord Beric Dondarrion
- Lady Alys Karstark (off-screen)
- Fergus (off-screen)
- Theon Greyjoy
- Night King
- White Walkers
- Wilding Girl
- Ser Jorah Mormont
- 20 of 22 starring cast members appear in this episode.
- Starring cast members Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) and Jerome Flynn (Bronn) are not credited and do not appear in this episode.
- This episode is the final appearance of starring cast member Carice van Houten (Melisandre) due to the death of her character.
- Boian Anev, Mark Archer, Kristina Baskett, Rachelle Beinart, Ferenc Berecz, Richard Bradshaw, Adam Brashaw, Annabel Brook, Katy Bullock, Andrew Burford, Michael Byrch, Dacio Caballero, Yusuf Chaudhri, Nick Chopping, Jonathan Cohen, David Collom, Rob Cooper, Jon Costelloe, Chris Cox, Jake Cox, James Cox, Tom Cox, David Cronnelly, Matt Crook, Matt Da Silva, Tim Davies, Rob de Groot, Levan Doran, Dom Dumaresq, Josh Dyer, Clint Elvy, Dan Euston, Rachael Evelyn, Bradley Farmer, Pete Ford, Josie Forman, Dave Fox, Luke Gomes, Oliver Gough, David Grant, Dan Griffiths, Angel Gomez, Lawrence Hansen, Richard Hansen, Nicklas Hansson, Rob Hayns, Lyndon Hellewell, Mike Homick, Jessica Hooker, Gergely Horpacsi, Paul Howell, Radoslav Ignatov, Rowley Irlam, Erol Ismail, Dave Judge, Filip Kadlec, Robbie Keane, Troy Kenchington, Norbert Kovács, Paul Lowe, Leigh Maddern, Kai Martin, Leona McCarron, Kim McGarrity, Stella McGowan, Carly Michaels, Casey Michaels, Nikita Mitchell, Theo Morton, Camilla Naprous, Chris Newton, David Newton, Jason Oettle, Pete Olivant, Bela Orsanyi, Ivan Orsanyi, Antonio Ona Sanchez, Radoslav Parvanov, Joseph Paxton, Ian Pead, Oleg Podobin, Josh Ravenscroft, Marc Redmond, Andrej Riabokon, Zach Roberts, Doug Robson, Louis Samms, Fabio Santos, Stanislav Satko, Fenix Searle, Paul Shapcott, Mark Slaughter, Sam Stefan, James Stewart, Jonny Stockwell, Ryan Stuart, Gáspár Szabó, Lukas Tomsik, Marek Toth, Teodor Tzolov, Gyula Toth, Andy Wareham, Calvin Warrington-Heasman, Joe Watts, Richard Wheeldon, Belle Williams, Charlotte Williams, Will Willoughby, Annabel Wood, Leo Woodruff, Ben Wright, Lewis Young, Neil Frazer and Gemita Samarra were stunt performers in this episode.
- The episode title refers to the Long Night, a winter that descended upon the world 8,000 years before the Targaryen Conquest, and lasted an entire generation. It may also refer to refers to the long Battle of Winterfell, which lasted a night long.
- The Title sequence has once again been slightly updated from the prior episode, now with the ice representing the undead army of the White Walkers stretching down from the breach through the Wall past Last Hearth to Winterfell itself.
- With a runtime of 82 minutes, this episode is the longest episode of the television series overall.
- Despite its long runtime, this episode has minimal dialogue in it. It may be the least proportionate dialogue per minute, on average, in the entire TV series.
- This episode had the highest ratings in the history of the TV series, and HBO as a whole, with 17.8 million overnight viewers - up from 17.4 million for the Season 8 premiere.
- This episode also broke a Twitter record, as according to that site's internal analytics it was the most Tweeted-about scripted television episode of all time.
- This episode entirely takes place at Winterfell.
- Although it wasn't clear by the end, the preview for the next episode confirms that Ghost survived the battle, as did Daenerys's remaining Dragons.
- The status of House Mormont after the battle is unclear: Lyanna and Jorah Mormont die, but in the books there are younger branch members of each family: Lyanna has three other sisters in the books by this point, but none were introduced in the TV show. Similarly, Ned Umber died in the season premiere, but there were younger branches of House Umber in the books. Given that the invasion of the White Walkers has been defeated, someone will have to rule over Bear Island and Last Hearth.
- As for House Karstark: it is actually uncertain if Alys Karstark is alive or dead. She was never shown dead in the aired episode - and curiously, the HBO Viewer's Guide update after this episode did not list her as "deceased", even though it was updated for other characters who clearly died on-screen in it. Indeed, attempting to access her specific profile page resulted in the website simply freezing (as of April 29th). After the episode aired actress Megan Parkinson posted on her Instagram a vague message implying that she had more scenes which were cut for time - it's been revealed a death scene had in fact been filmed for her. A scouting group of Karstark soldiers led by Alys proceed further into the Godswood, and are ambushed by wights, as a call back to the Season 1 Night's Watch scouting group, where we see the wights for the first time.
- It remains to be seen what will be done with the remaining lands and forts around The Wall. The few remaining Night's Watch members may disband - freeing Samwell from his vows of chastity and landholding, to take up leadership of House Tarly.
- The Brotherhood Without Banners apparently ceased to exist with the death of Beric Dondarrion. When they returned in Season 6, they had fewer members, but they were still traveling as a large group by the beginning of Season 7. By the time they reappeared at Eastwatch, however, Beric and Thoros were the only ones still present, the others having simply disappeared. The TV writers may have simply dropped this subplot without thinking through the repercussions.
- None of the White Walkers, even the Night King, have ever had a single speaking line in the entire TV series, through their destruction in this episode. They've had a few screeches that sound like cracking ice, but in terms of "dialogue" leading to characterization, they never said anything. Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss said that they did this on purpose, feeling that the Night King is basically "Death" incarnate, and Death shouldn't talk (it would only diminish him).
- The novels have hinted that the unusually long seasons Westeros experiences - often 2 to 3 years, sometimes 10 years long - are somehow tied to the White Walkers. George R.R. Martin himself has said that there is a "magical" reason behind the long seasons, which will be explained before the books end. It is possible this means that the seasons in the story will shift to what we would call a normal length (four seasons every solar year).
- The novels have made mention that during the Long Night 8,000 years ago, the White Walkers rode on giant Ice spiders as big as hounds - not spiders that live in icy regions, but magical constructs made out of living ice and shaped into spider-forms. Despite being mentioned in the TV show as late as Season 5's "Hardhome", with the destruction of all White Walkers, they will now never appear in the TV show.
- In a post-episode interview with Entertainment Weekly, showrunner Dan Weiss was directly asked about the lack of ice-spiders, to which he gave this flippant response: "Big as hounds..." [sighs] "...Didn't we talk about that for 30 seconds? 'Ice spiders' sounds good. It would look good on a metal album cover. But once they start moving, what does an ice spider look like? Probably doesn't look great."
- Keep in mind that, in the behind-the-scenes video's for Season 7's "Beyond the Wall", Benioff and Weiss discussed at length how they'd been pushing the special effects team for years to make a "zombie polar bear", which they kept resisting because of the exact same complaints about design and practicality. As for what an ice-spider looks like, there is already commissioned artwork for the A Song of Ice & Fire novels depicting them.
- It is unknown if the White Walkers even could raise the bodies in Winterfell's crypts as wights. Many of them have been dead for hundreds of years and have withered away to only bones. The White Walkers can reanimate dead flesh, dead muscles, but they can't make a mere skeleton magically walk around with nothing to move them.
- Dragons are said to be very intelligent creatures in the books, perhaps a different kind of intelligence more attuned with "nature" or "magic", alien from our own, but they are not just dumb animals. In this episode, Drogon is seen to be mourning Jorah and comforting Daenerys in her grief by curling around her. There is a precedent for this in the novels, that dragons do know what death is and mourn their dead (like real life elephants). During the Dance of the Dragons, Silverwing is said to have mourned the dead dragons after the Second Battle of Tumbleton, futilely nudging their wings with her nose as if to rouse them awake.
- When Melisandre departed in Season 7, she said that she was going back to Essos to retrieve other magic-wielding Red Priests - but in this episode, she inexplicably returns to Winterfell, alone. There may have been external pressures on her plotline: actress Carice van Houten became pregnant during the break between seasons, then suffered from post-partum issues for a time afterwards and could not film, which may have impacted scenes they originally intended for her to appear in.
- Country singer Chris Stapleton has a cameo appearance as a wildling who is reanimated as a wight, with his bassist J.T. Cure and his tour manager Jason Hecht also appearing a soldiers who are reanimated as wights. Stapleton is a fan of the show and reached out to the showrunners and expressed his wishes to appear on the show however small the part was, as well as his willingness to fly wherever he was needed in order to film the cameo.
- Some reviewers have accused that there is a continuity error when Lyanna Mormont stabs the wight-giant, as she started her charge holding an axe, but stabs it in the eye with a dagger. Actually, Lyanna drops her axe when the giant grabs her, but then pulls a dagger from her belt. In earlier shots when the giant first appears, the dagger is already visible tucked into her belt - thus there was no error. The confusion was probably due to the dark lighting of the scene.
- Actor Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont) nearly faced a personal tragedy while filming this episode. While he was on location getting ready to film his big final fight scene, his wife suffered a brain hemorrhage (while she was in a live rehearsal for a play that night). She later made a full recovery, but at the time Glen was totally overwhelmed, as he said: "The nature of it, after it was all said and done, means it’s never going to happen again, and she’s fully recovered, but I was completely on the floor at the time, a total mess." Emilia Clarke, his partner for these scenes, was very moved and empathetic - given that, as she revealed right before the Season 8 premiere, she herself actually suffered a near-fatal brain aneurysm during Season 2. Clarke, Director Sapochnik, and producer Bernadette Caulfield all told him to immediately go and get on a flight to see his wife. Glen came back two weeks later to film his final fight sequence - thus Glen really was deeply rattled from a near-death situation when he filmed the scene of Jorah being overwhelmed.
- Actor Richard Dormer explained in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that Beric Dondarrion actually had quick dying words, but they were deleted from the final cut of the episode. As he filmed it, after Beric staggers into the great hall, he chokes out the simple command "Live!" to Arya, and then dies. Some review sites have pointed out that Beric had a crucifixion-like pose in the hallway when the wights were stabbing him, as if to reference his sacrifice and how he has been resurrected before. Actually, as Dormer explained it, the idea was that Beric was barricading the narrow hallway with his body, to block off the seething horde of wights from advancing. he jokingly referred to it as his "Beric-ade" moment. THR pointed out that this was similar to how Hodor died, which Dormer thought was interesting, and he did note that Beric's sacrifice was "Christ-like".
- According to the Game Revealed behind the scenes video, the entire sequence of Tyrion and Sansa in the crypts was supposed to be drastically longer, but most of it ended up as deleted scenes. In the behind the scenes video, they are clearly shown sneaking around tombs to attack wights from behind using their dragonglass daggers. Sophie Turner even emphasizes this, describing the crypts as her "first action scene" - even though she doesn't really do anything in the aired episode. The camera just cuts away when the wights start overwhelming everyone, only to return to the crypts when the Night King's death makes all the wights die - with no clear explanation of how they survived.
- In the third book, Jeor Mormont tells Sam as he is about die, "Tell my son. Jorah. Tell him, take the black. My wish. Dying wish. Tell Jorah. Forgive him. My son." This was omitted from the show; yet, although Jorah was never told his father's last wish and did not formally join the Watch - he fiercely fought alongside the Watch against the army of the dead (which is the reason the Watch has been founded for in the first place); by that, in a sense, Jorah fulfilled his father's last wish.
This episode includes several callbacks to prior episodes and events:
- In the second episode of Season 1, "The Kingsroad", Catelyn Stark showed the Valyrian steel dagger to her main household members, meeting in the relative privacy of the godswood, at the heart tree in the middle. On hearing her speculation that the Lannisters were behind the assassination attempt on Bran, Theon said that he would stand beside Robb to defend the Starks - at which Maester Luwin interjected, asking if he thought a war would break out in the godswood. In this episode, the war literally comes to the Winterfell godswood, the same dagger comes back to the heart tree, and Theon dies defending Bran Stark.
- It is unknown if George R.R. Martin told the showrunners in Season 1 that any of this will happen in a future book. He later did tell them his outline for future books, after Season 3 - though he might have included some early setup in Season 1 that they didn't know the significance of at the time. Alternatively, if the events surrounding the defeat of the White Walkers were drastically changed from how it will happen in future books, then the earlier Season 1 scene couldn't have been meant as foreshadowing when it was made (as the new TV ending could only have been made after Martin told the showrunners the book ending, after Season 3). It is still unknown if the showrunners were intentionally referencing the scene from Season 1's "The Kingsroad".
- Arya reminds Melisandre what the latter told her in "The Climb" - that they would meet again, that Arya would shut many eyes forever.
- Melisandre refers to Davos's threat to kill her if she ever returns to the North ("The Winds of Winter").
- Arya hands Sansa a weapon. Sansa says she does know how to use it, and Arya gives her the same advice Jon gave her in "The Kingsroad" - "stick them with the pointy end".
- Tyrion and Varys relate to battle of the Blackwater; the Hound is dismayed by the fire, as happened to him in that battle ("Blackwater").
- Melisandre and Arya say the same sentences Syrio Forel and Arya told each other in "The Pointy End" - "What do we say to the God of Death? Not today".
- The trick Arya uses to kill the Night King is the same trick she used while sparring with Brienne in "The Spoils of War".
- Tyrion's prediction made during the vigil in "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" comes true: all those who were present at the vigil (Jaime, Podrick, Davos, Brienne, Tormund and Tyrion himself) survive the battle.
Does the Night King even exist in the novels?
Game of Thrones Wiki Admins directly reached out to George R.R. Martin during Season 6 to ask about the Night King, and he gave a response: his phrasing was cryptic, but seemed to imply that there is no "Night King" in the novels, one central leader of the White Walkers. That the TV show made this up to not only give the main villains a face, but to introduce the plot element that they are a "Keystone Army" (killing the Night King instantly destroys their entire race).
The issue was whether the "Night King" is the same as the "Night's King", a legendary early Lord Commander of the Night's Watch who turned to evil, conducted human sacrifices to the White Walkers, and had to be defeated by the Starks and wildlings. The "Night's King", however, was never a White Walker. The "Night King" (without the apostrophe-"S") of the TV show, however, is presented as being literally the first White Walker, created by the Children of the Forest, and thus an entirely different figure.
The direct quote of Martin's vague response to GoTWiki was:
- "As for the Night's King (the form I prefer), in the books, he is a legendary figure, akin to Lann the Clever and Brandon the Builder, and no more likely to have survived to the present day than they have."
Will characters die like this in the novels?
In the Inside the Episode featurette, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss admit that many character deaths were "our" ideas - as in, not based on future events in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Some of these characters might still "die" in the books - but whether or not under similar circumstances is unknown:
- There might not even be a Night King in the novels, but if there is, they state that having Arya Stark kill the Night King was their idea - thus, not what will happen in Martin's story. Benioff remarks that they knew "for about three years" that Arya would kill the Night King. Given that this video was made weeks before the episode aired in 2019, that must mean they came up with this idea around 2016: when Season 6 was airing, and they were writing Season 7. They've even said they consider Seasons 7 and 8 two halves of one big season. When George R.R. Martin started to realize that the TV show would outpace the books, he had one last big sit-down meeting with Benioff and Weiss, to reveal to them the general outline of the future books: this meeting took place between the writing of Season 3 and Season 4, around Christmas break 2012. Thus, if Martin told them his ending in 2012, and they "knew" that Arya would kill the Night King in the TV show since 2016, this cannot be what happens in the future novels.
- This episode tries to establish that Melisandre's lines to Arya in Season 3 were prophesying that she would kill the Night King - but the simple chronology of this doesn't match up. Benioff stated that they only got the idea Arya would kill the Night King "three years ago", thus when they were writing Season 7 - thus they could not possibly have known Melisandre was talking about the Night King in Season 3 (Melisandre doesn't even meet Arya in the books).
- By extension, if the Night King doesn't exist in the books, the entire defeat of the White Walkers in this manner may be an invention or extreme condensation by the TV series.
- The showrunners say in the Inside the episode video that they took some time "deciding" how to kill Jorah Mormont - implying that his death now, or at least in this manner, isn't what happens in the books. It is still entirely possible that he "dies defending Daenerys" in some other context.
- The showrunners also explain that Lyanna Mormont was originally a one-episode character in Season 6, but they liked actress Bella Ramsey so much that they turned it into a recurring role; thus, they explain in the Inside the Episode video, they wanted to give Lyanna a big and memorable death scene. Therefore, this isn't how Lyanna Mormont dies in the books - and she might not even die at all. So far, however, Lyanna Mormont hasn't appeared on-screen in them, just the defiant letter she sent to Stannis. Moreover, she has three other sisters in the books, and TV-Lyanna is somewhat of a condensation of all four sisters.
- While Theon Greyjoy dying to defend Bran Stark in Winterfell itself has thematic resonance, we have no idea if this is how he will die in the novels - or if he even does die in them. If there is no Night King in the novels, the context of Theon's death would be at least somewhat different: if he just "defends Bran from White Walkers" in general. The same can be said for Eddison Tollett and Melisandre. Unlike the Mormonts, however, the showrunners gave no indication if their deaths were purely an idea they came up with or somehow based on the books.
- According to "Theon I" sample chapter of the sixth novel, Theon is currently held captive by Stannis, who intends to execute him for the atrocities he committed against the north, the actual (the sack of Stony Shore, the capture of Winterfell, killing many innocent people) and the alleged (the murder of Bran and Rickon). In view of Stannis's harsh sense of justice, there is no way he'd let Theon get away with his crimes. Even if Theon somehow escapes, the chances that he'll die similarly to his analogous show character are extremely low: he is a total wreck, due to Ramsay's torturing, so he cannot fight or shoot arrows.
- As for Beric Dondarrion, he can't die like this in the novels because he already died for the final time, back in the third book - corresponding to around early Season 4. In the TV show, the Brotherhood storyline simply got shelved and they didn't reappear again until an invented storyline in Season 7.
The Prince That Was Promised
- Given that the TV showrunners said that Arya Stark killing the Night King was their idea, they may have simply abandoned all of the setup across multiple seasons of The Prince That Was Promised, also known as Azor Ahai in the novels. It is heavily implied that Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen may be this messiah figure. The entire reason Jon Snow was born is because his father Rhaegar Targaryen was convinced he needed a third child to fulfill the prophecy of the Prince That Was Promised.
- Although the legends vary, it seems that during the Long Night 8,000 years ago, the White Walkers were pushed back and defeated by a lone hero who rallied the forces of humanity, wielding a flaming sword called "Lightbringer". It was prophesied that when the White Walkers eventually returned, this hero would be reborn to defeat them once again: thus, the prince that was "promised" to return (the actual term in High Valyrian is gender-neutral, better translated as "Prince or Princess That Was Promised", etc.).
- This raises some issues for the proposed Long Night prequel TV series headed by Jane Goldman: if the central focus of the Long Night prequel was on "the Prince That Was Promised"...yet the main TV show abandoned this storyline, then it wouldn't have as strong of a connection to the original TV series.
- The TV series might not have "abandoned" the prophecy about the Prince that Was Promised, but changed it so Arya is the Prince/Princess now, in the TV continuity. However, they haven't directly stated that, nor addressed how to reconcile this with the prophecy yet.
- On the other hand, another entirely plausible scenario is that maybe Arya is the "third head of the dragon". The books give more detail about the prophecy, that the "Prince" might actually be three separate people, acting together to stop the White Walkers. It seems heavily implied that Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen are two of these - but the identity of the third person is still unclear, and heavily debated by readers.
- While the "Night King" as such might not exist in the novels, it is still entirely plausible that Arya "does something really vital in the final fight against the White Walkers", and this is just the TV show's condensation of that. For all we really know, Arya might actually be revealed as the "third head of the dragon" (a reference to how the Targaryen sigil is a three-headed dragon, the Prince might be a trinity of people).
- Arya being the "third head of the dragon" would even it out: one third (Daenerys) would be full Targaryen, one third would be Stark (Arya), and one third a mix of Stark and Targaryen (Jon). The two families represent "ice and fire" coming together, and Arya would balance out Daenerys.
- It is heavily implied that the Prince That Was Promised needs to be of the bloodline of House Targaryen. Stannis Baratheon thought he could be the Prince, because his great-grandmother was a younger Targaryen princess. Jon Snow was, of course, revealed to actually be Rhaegar Targaryen's son. This part might not be strictly true for all three "heads of the dragon", not necessarily ruling Arya out.
The military tactics used in this episode do not make a lot of sense. Characters seem almost willfully ignorant of what they know about the Army of the Dead, in order to set up dramatic tension.
- In the preceding two episodes, emphasis was put on all of the new defensive works being built around Winterfell - including a ring of caltrops spiked with dragonglass. When the battle starts, however, all of their forces are positioned in front of their defensive fortifications. With no attempt to funnel the dead into choke points. Time and effort was put into adding dragonglass to the caltrops, which ultimately had no impact on the battle.
- No reason is given for why all the infantry didn't form up behind the flaming trench. Indeed, the trench filled with flammable pitch was only set on fire after they retreated inside the castle - the only effect being to cover their retreat for a time.
- On a related note, bafflingly, the infantry also form up behind their artillery. The catapults firing flaming ammunition are only used briefly to support the cavalry charge, but in the subsequent shots, as the undead horde races towards the defenders, all of the catapults are in front of the infantry. The catapults seem to be simply abandoned, even though their range is shown to be so great that they could still have hit the enemy horde from behind the infantry - or even from behind the ring of earthwork defenses.
- The Unsullied are the only force that employs organized tactics, by forming up as a rear-guard to cover the retreat of their other forces, and making a phased withdrawal.
- Some reason can be given for the Dothraki not forming up behind fortifications, as they are mobile cavalry - but they still charge headlong into complete darkness, with only their flaming swords for light, and are promptly overwhelmed. In the Inside the Episode featurette, the showrunners make no attempt to explain the in-universe reasoning behind this - just that they wanted a dramatic beat of the audience thinking the Dothraki might have some hope with their flaming Arakhs, only to then subvert this by having them wiped out. Traditionally, as mounted archers, the Dothraki have an established history of flanking attacks against large infantry forces.
- The showrunners do mention in the Inside the Episode featurette that the dramatic point of explaining the battle plan in the previous episode is that everything would go wrong: they wanted to lure the Night King into attacking Bran Stark in the godswood, then surprise him with two dragons against his one - but then Daenerys couldn't stand to see the Dothraki being slaughtered, so she rushed into the battle to defend them. All this did was alert the Night King that they had two dragons at Winterfell, so he held back from engaging on Viserion and sent forward his army of pawns - exactly as Daenerys was warned to avoid during the battle plan in the preceding episode. The goal was to let enough of their men get killed that the Night King felt confident enough to risk exposing himself. Whatever the case, the showrunners did intend this to be a failure on her part.
- The physical mechanics of the final battle against the White Walkers probably won't be like this in the novels, due to established changes in how Wights function in the TV show.
- Wights in the novels aren't capable of running (though they can lunge), while TV-Wights are "fast zombies", capable of running and swarming over enemy infantry formations like a mass of driver ants. It's also unclear if wights in the books are capable of scaling the walls of Winterfell like this.
- Wights in the novels are not vulnerable to dragonglass weapons. Only their masters, the White Walkers, are harmed by obsidian weapons. TV writer Dave Hill confirmed last season that this was officially a deliberate change from the novels (apparently in order to have engaged action sequences with wights - it would be impractical for all the actors to be fighting them with flaming swords).
- Even within the TV show, wights are very vulnerable to fire. In the books, it is explicitly demonstrated that they are unnaturally more flammable than a normal corpse, as if their very flesh was made out of pitch. As Sam finds out by trial-and-error (immediately after discovering that dragonglass is useless against wights), even a single spark is enough to set an entire wight ablaze and destroy it very quickly. While wights are seen being killed by fire in this episode, it isn't as effective as it was in the past: if anything, a tightly bunched mass of wights should be easy to set on fire, as the flames spread from one to the next. It's also unclear if wights could breach a flaming trench as they do in this episode, by just sending so many forward that they somehow smother the flames: it would only add more fuel to the fire.
- Lyanna Mormont's death doesn't make much sense: it has been established that the TV show changed the rules about wights, to make them vulnerable to dragonglass when they are not in the books. Generally, what was seen up to now is that dragonglass is a one hit kill against wights - they can survive being decapitated or losing limbs, but a single stab with dragonglass anywhere on their body will instantly kill them, even in a place that wouldn't be fatal for humans. In the episode, Lyanna charges the wight-giant, but it grabs her in its hand, slowly crushes her body in its fist, raises her to eye-level, but only then does she stab it in the eye. Given that it is an undead wight, however, she could have simply slashed it in its hand to kill it, before it crushed her ribs.
- The castle walls themselves aren't equipped with any standard, fire-based anti-siege weaponry, such as boiling oil that can be set on fire (as was actually used in the Battle of the Blackwater). The production team even went to the trouble of building wooden logs covered in dragonglass shards, left hanging over the walls ready to drop on the wights, but which don't actually get used in the battle itself. The tops of the battlements themselves are covered in dragonglass shards and a few wights do get killed by being shoved into them.
- In the novels, it is unclear whether the Others can be destroyed by fire, which is the best weapon against the wights. In old records that Sam finds, it is briefly mentioned that "fire will dismay them"; it is not specified whether the sentence refers to ordinary fire, wildfire or dragonfire. The fact that the White Walkers in the show are unharmed by fire - does not necessarily mean it is the same with the Others in the books; after all, in the show wights can be destroyed by dragonglass, but the books make it very clear they are not.
- The battle at Winterfell plays out like a combination of elements from the Battle of the Bastards and the Massacre at Hardhome:
- In the Battle of the Bastards, the leadup emphasized the battle plan that they wanted to lure the Bolton army into attacking their defensive formations but when Ramsay brought out Rickon Stark, Jon rushed out of formation to try to save him. When Ramsay killed Rickon, Jon charges the Bolton forces alone - at which point the Stark formations devolved into a melee, and ultimately had to be saved by an external force (the Vale army). In this battle, it is Daenerys who rushes ahead and breaks formation because she is upset upon seeing the Dothraki being killed, ruining their entire, pre-stated battle plan - and ultimately they have to be saved by an external force (in this case, Arya sneaking up to kill the Night King).
- At Hardhome, the White Walkers near instantly slaughtered all of the wildlings who happened to be outside the town walls, and then they advanced in seething swarms that overran their positions. Jon Snow was there, and saw this - yet now at Winterfell, he still chooses to put all of their forces in front of their new earthworks and caltrops.
- The defenders should have expected that anyone who'd get killed would be reanimated on the spot and turn against the defenders - because this is also exactly what happened at Hardhome, which Jon Snow personally witnessed.
- Note that Eddison Tollett has always been concerned about that issue: in "Oathbreaker", after Jon executed the mutineers, Edd told him "we should burn the bodies"; in the previous episode he said "last man left, burn the rest of us". His fear proves to be correct in this episode, as he and others are reanimated as wights after being killed.
- The production team made frequent remarks leading up to this episode's premiere that they wanted the "battle" for Winterfell to really be a "survival horror" (even though a field battle isn't like that). As this played out, halfway through the episode, after Winterfell is largely overrun the fighting shifts genres into characters sneaking around the interiors of Winterfell trying to run from the wights.
- The scene of Arya Stark sneaking through the Winterfell library avoiding wights lasts a full four minutes with no dialogue or music, just playing off reaction shots on Maisie Williams' face. No sounds of external fighting outside the castle can be heard, treating it as a horror scene, even though later scenes show that Jaime, Brienne, and others are still fighting in the courtyard.
Schola Gladiatoria, a major YouTube channel by medieval military arms recreationist Matt Easton, made an analysis video leading up to the premiere of this episode, in which he basically advised that the defenders should do the exact opposite of everything they actually did in the battle.
- Throughout the battle, multiple characters near-miraculously survive being gang-piled by nearly a dozen wights, hugging onto them, only to then fight them off with no major injuries. This happens regardless of how much armor they are wearing. When other characters have to die due to the plot, however, they are shown being stabbed through their metal plate armor. Jorah gets repeatedly stabbed through the middle of his breastplate - though the argument could be made that the wights are just stabbing with such inhuman force that they are able to puncture through with their swords. When Theon dies, however, the Night King snaps his spear, then grabs one half and completely impales him on it, through his breastplate and back plate: he impaled him using the wood end of the broken spear, not the metal tip, yet the wood doesn't break against the metal.
- After the Night King is knocked onto the ground, Daenerys desperately flies Drogon away to avoid his ice-javelin, the same kind that killed Viserion. He only had one javelin, however, and it missed - but no explanation is given why Daenerys just continues to flee.
- She may have not known he had only one javelin (and he wasn't knocked on the ground when he threw it). Also, with the realization that he is immune to dragonfire, she might have felt that it wasn't worth risking Drogon and taken time to regroup (since there's not much else Drogon could do to the Night King that wouldn't put him directly in harm's way).
- No explanation is even given for how Arya physically managed to sneak up on the Night King, and jump down on him from some unknown height. First, she would have to have passed a horde of wights and other White Walkers who had totally surrounded Bran Stark in the godswood. It isn't simply a matter of "sneaking up" on him, unnoticed, as they had formed a solid ring around the heart tree. Second, she is clearly shown descending from some height above him in a flying leap: she couldn't have jumped off a castle wall because there aren't any that close to the heart tree, in the center of the enclosed wood. The camerawork almost makes it look like she jumped from somewhere but with no walls it seems more like she made a flying leap.
- As it turns out, behind the scenes extras reveal that to achieve this shot, Maisie Williams jumped off of a raised stunt platform, which is not part of the actual set - and even then, physically had to be pulled along through the air using stunt wires. The implication is essentially that she vaunted a full 20 feet into the air over the ring of White Walkers to reach the Night King. Consider how much time and effort it took by a full stunt team to set up that platform, and assemble all the wirework - but none of them has (as of yet) put forward a plausible explanation of where Arya jumped from to attack the Night King. The implication might be that she somehow climbed up a nearby tree, using her stealth training.
- Footage from the table read shown in Game of Thrones: The Last Watch features Bryan Cogman reading from the script that Arya vaults off a pile of dead wights. While this may have been the plan at the time, the episode itself does not show any pile of wights near the Night King that would enable Arya to jump at him the way that she did. It remains unknown if the wight pile was consciously left out or if it was just forgotten about with all productions efforts aimed at the actual leap instead of the circumstances that would make it possible in the first place.
Linguist David J. Peterson posted extensive notes about the constructed language lines used in this episode. As he explained, the languages, in general, were quite limited in Season 8, due to fears about security: the scripts and audio files needed to train the actors would be easier to leak out. Thus they mostly limited Dothraki and Valyrian to short phrases already used on the TV show, generic enough that it didn't give away plot points ("form up!", "retreat!", etc.). Peterson provided transcriptions and translations of the new lines in this episode:
- Jorah: "Livano arakh shafki!"
- Translation: "Raise your arakhs (swords)!"
Peterson noted that the script he was given attributed this line to Daenerys, not Jorah. He said he wasn't sure if this meant that Daenerys was the one Melisandre encountered in an early draft but this was later change - or, if the writing staff intentionally mislabeled the script, to spread disinformation to potential leakers.
- Melisandre: "Āeksios Ōño, aōhos ōñoso īlōn jehikās! Āeksios Ōño, īlōn mīsās! Kesrio syt bantis zōbrie issa se ossȳngnoti lēdys!"
- Translation: "Lord of Light, cast your light upon us! Lord of Light, defend us! For the night is dark and full of terrors!"
Melisandre says this full prayer when she lights the swords on fire. Later when she strains to light the trench on fire, she repeats, "Āeksios Ōno, ilōn misās!" ("Lord of Light, defend us!")
Astapori Low Valyrian:
- Grey Worm: "Mizadá vi zdaguno! Jemel ovadá he ji ghamvaz!"
- Translation: "Protect the retreat! Stand your ground!"
Peterson has always maintained that actor Jacob Anderson has pronounced Valyrian better than anyone else in the cast, and he made sure to pick out a good line to show off his good pronunciation in this episode. Peterson did note, however, that some of the background Unsullied extras repeated "zdaguno!" - technically incorrect, as this means the noun, "(a) retreat!", not the verb "retreat!". Peterson noted that the command form of the verb would be "zdagó, or probably zdagodó".
- Director Miguel Sapochnik said in interviews that the showrunners insisted on filming the biggest TV battle in history - as in, with the largest number of actual extras fighting on-location, avoiding the use of CGI as much as possible. Moreover, they actually filmed at night, and only used natural lighting from the fires, instead of using a day for night light filter in post production. The end result, however, is that many major review sites (New York Times, Variety, etc.) pointed out that it was frequently difficult to see what's going on during the battle.
- The showrunners also said they wanted to give the episode a tone similar to the Battle of Helm's Deep from the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. That battle was filmed at night, but used set lights so the action could be clearly seen on camera. This raises another comparison, with the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in the third movie: in the books, that battle indeed takes place at night, but in the film version it takes place mostly during the day. In the DVD commentary, the LOTR producers explained that change by pointing out that if the battle took place entirely at night, it would be difficult to see the size of the armies or discern the action on-screen.
- The day after the episode premiered and generated widespread criticism about the screen being too dark to see, Slate.com ran an article explaining how several recent trends in television technology have impacted this:
- First, the shift to digital cameras (which happened between the filming of the unaired pilot and Season 1) actually makes it easier to film in low lighting, so there has been a widespread shift among prestige drama to show off that they can do this.
- Second, the shift from older cathode ray TVs to High Definition digital TVs: ironically, it is actually more difficult to see a high definition, digitally filmed night scene on a newer HD TV than on an older cathode ray one. However, few industry insiders seem to realize this, only judging by the optimized screens they have in their production departments, not what consumers might be seeing at home. So there is a push to show off that they can film night scenes, even though displaying them has become more difficult without the right equipment.
- Third, the massive shift to streaming service platforms in the past few years. Streaming services use a compression/decompression cycle for information, to use as little bandwidth as possible. But every time a video file goes through this "lossy compression", the image quality gets worse - and the effect is particularly drastic when it comes to low-light images.
- The combined result is that they filmed the entire episode at night, with only natural light (nearly none), to show off that they could - and many viewers are watching it on High Definition TVs, using streaming services such as HBO Now - a "perfect storm" for poor image quality. Slate points out that this is an industry-wide trend, though Game of Thrones is a particularly egregious example. They recommended that production teams should test video on off-the-shelf displays and run it through streaming compression, to check what it will actually look like for consumers. Their only other suggestion is that the light levels coming off a Blu-ray disc will be a lot better than over streaming services, and you may need to simply adjust the brightness levels on your display.
In the books
[This section will be updated with comparisons when the sixth and seventh novels are released.]
Sansa Stark: "The most heroic thing we can do now is look the truth in the face."
Jon Snow: "The Night King is coming."
Daenerys Targaryen: "The dead are already here."
Brienne of Tarth: "Stand your ground!"
There is a range of promotional images and screen captures from "The Long Night" featured in these galleries.
- Game of Thrones Battle Episode Breaks Ratings Record, EW.com
- Game of Thrones battle becomes most-tweeted-about scripted TV episode of all time
- Winterfell Battle: Where are the Ice Spiders? EW.com
- Wait, What?! Country Star Chris Stapleton Made A Cameo As A White Walker On ‘Game Of Thrones’
- ‘Game of Thrones’: Yes, That Really Was Chris Stapleton
- Iain Glen interview, Making Game Of Thrones blog.
- Richard Dormer interview, The Hollywood Reporter
- The Game Revealed, starting at 18:20.
- Conlang Dialogue: Game of Thrones, Episode 803
- [ https://variety.com/2019/tv/news/game-of-thrones-dark-battle-of-winterfell-cinematography-1203199892/ Game of Thrones fans complain About Battle of Winterfell’s Dark Cinematography,] Variety.com
- Why You Couldn’t See a Damn Thing on This Week’s Game of Thrones