How are we feeling, people? If you’re, like me, over-caffeinated and still bouncing around after last night’s episode, who can blame you? Alternatively, if you’re still playing around with the brightness and contrast settings on your TV or laptop in an attempt to make out anything from that poorly lit episode, know that you’re not alone. “The Long Night” was a wild ride, and although there are sure to be many takes on what it all means for the final few episodes, plus a few how-to guides on increasing the contrast settings for your $1,000 television set, we’re here to talk fantasy draft.
Unlike last week, which featured little to no violence, meaning players saw most of the points bestowed on their characters for quirky or punchy one-liners, last night’s episode was all about carnage. I mean, just death after death after death. Then those dead people came back to life just to die again! There were few mic-dropping one-liners in this episode, but the number of people who could deliver those snarky comebacks was literally cut down, and most of the rest of the cast didn’t have the breath for wisecracks.
That doesn’t mean they were totally gone, though. The episode opens with an army of petrified soldiers effectively preparing for their death (and, ironically, their battle with death) while being greeted by a totally nonchalant Melisandre. She rides into Winterfell on horseback, ready to give the Dothraki army some much-needed fire to add to their arsenal. (+50 for magic) Her black magic is mostly welcomed by the anxious soldiers, who are just chilling in multiple rows in front of Winterfell’s walls, but there is one person who isn’t as so happy about her arrival: Ser Davos.
“No need to execute me, Ser Davos,” Melisandre tells him. “I’ll be dead before the dawn.” (+10 for a brutal one-liner, +20 for prophecy)
This is where the pleasantries end. There’s simply no time for talking, Ser Davos! The dead are coming! Or, as Daenerys tells Jon later in the episode, “The dead are already here.” (+10) She jumps on a dragon (+20) to head off into battle. We stan a true queen. Jon, who up until now has been absolutely useless at mediating the tension between his aunt-girlfriend and his sister, also jumps on a dragon (+20) in an attempt to be less useless. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work. Jon spends his time flying around on a dragon next to Daenerys, performing synchronized dragon aerials in the sky, while his friends and family bleed to death on the ground below. Complicated times!
The majority of the battle between good and evil, living and dead, zombies with obscenely cool blue eyes and those with regular sad eyes, took place between wights and Winterfell’s army. I don’t know how to put this any more simply: it’s a bloodbath. Combine every major battle you can think of in cinematic and television history, and it still doesn’t hit the scale of what transpired during last night’s episode. Thousands of soldiers on both ends died. They fell into fires, they were bitten to death, they were stabbed with swords and daggers, they had arrows shot through their chests, or they faced the fiery wrath of angry dragons. All of these are bad ways to die — especially if you’re not already dead.
We tried to count how many wights, White Walkers, Dothraki, other humans, and other mythical creatures died. My friends, we could not. We have a very near-accurate, rough idea of how the point breakdown should work. Here is a list of characters who will receive points (+50 each, the per-episode max) for killing a wave of wights during the Battle of Winterfell. Is it the most eloquent way of working it into this piece? No. Is it the most coherent? Yes, which is more than I can say for myself right now after that long, emotionally draining episode and a can of Monster Energy.
- the Hound
- Grey Worm
Congratulations to everybody who simply picked a character at the start of this season, apparently! If you have a character on the board, there’s a good chance they earned 50 points for slaying some chalky skeleton bastards! They weren’t the only ones, though. Even Podrick was able to take down two wights (+20) by our calculations. When it comes to killing wights, it’s not about quantity so much as… no, it is about quantity. But characters also get metaphorical cool points for style. Edd took down one wight (+10) and, in the process, saved Samwell from dying. He was killed immediately after, but what a way to go out. (+25 for a memorable death) This is the type of friend you want — someone who has your back. Where was Jon? Oh, right. He was auditioning for Winterfell’s Royal Ice Dragon Capades in the Sky. Riding dragons isn’t even that special, Jon! The Night King does it later in this episode, too. (+20)
I’m not trying to harp on Jon Snow, but even Sansa is ready to jump into battle on the ground if she’s needed. Arya hands her a dagger (maybe one Gendry made?) and tells her sister to “stick them with the pointy end” (+5 for a witty one-liner) if she comes across any wights in the crypts. Ah, the crypts. The last “safe place” at Winterfell. But just as The Verge’s Chaim Gartenberg predicted, that’s not actually true. If I’ve learned anything from horror movies, Home Alone, and the critically acclaimed second Goosebumps book, Stay Out of the Basement, it’s that going underground is actually not the smartest thing to do in times of distress. As Varys astutely declares, “At least we’re already in a crypt.” (+5) Has no one at Winterfell heard of foreshadowing?
No one in the crypts is safe. Although the setting does give us a chance to laugh a little, shake off the anxiety that has wrapped its cold hand around our frantically beating hearts, and cool off for a second. Tyrion even manages to take a swig of a drink (+10) while listening to the pained, terrified cries of soldiers dying just a floor above. As Thor would say, “The gates of hell are filled with the screams of the Night King’s victims.”
There are even a few adorable quips shared between ex-husband and wife, Tyrion and Sansa. Tyrion tells Sansa that he simply can’t die and join the Night King’s army of resurrected soldiers: “I could think of no organization less suited to my talents.” (+5) It may not be much, but it’s enough for Sansa to sink back into an easy rapport with Tyrion, joking, “It wouldn’t have worked between us.” (+5)
In our first Game of Game of Thrones piece for this season, I confessed that I’m a messy person. I live for characters’ interpersonal drama. It’s why I spend so many hours watching Vanderpump Rules and any Real Housewives show. Friends, I can not express how much joy it brought me to see Sansa bring up her ongoing hatred for Daenerys to Tyrion while sitting in the crypts during the middle of a battle. I damn near applauded! You better believe I did applaud, however, when Missandei chimed in from across the room to defend Dany: “Without the dragon queen, there’d be no problem at all. We’d all be dead already.” (+10)
More crypt drama, I say! Unfortunately, I am not in charge of Game of Thrones, as I have been told many times. We must leave the crypts and check in with everyone’s favorite weirdo. Bran is waiting in the godswood with Theon. He’s not much use to anyone from his current position, so he decides to become one with the raven (+50 for magic use) and check out the battle from above. Nifty trick! Who needs a dragon when you can literally just become a bird? Unfortunately, with Bran out soaring through the skies (in a slightly more useful way than his brother Jon), Theon is left to defend Bran’s defenseless body more or less on his own.
By now, you should know that if I can throw in an Avengers reference, I will. The whole scene plays out like a combination of Hawkeye and Gamora defending Doctor Strange while he’s off doing magical things. Theon jumps back and forth between firing arrows and swinging a spear to defeat any wights that come toward Bran’s body. It’s a magnificent display of swordsmanship, friendship, and testosterone. Theon literally slays (+50 for max wight kills) and metaphorically slays, too. This is his Beyoncé moment, and he owns it.
Elsewhere in Winterfell, the battle against the wights is only getting more intense. There are giant creatures now pounding their way through the castle. Lord of the Rings fans can think of these wights as the Uruk-hai versions of the undead race — bigger, stronger, and meaner. The only person who can stand up to one of the most ferocious-looking colossal beasts is the tiny but undeniably badass Lyanna Mormont. Remember how Lyanna told her cousin she was going to fight by her men? She did more than that in this episode. She owned that hideous beast’s ass. She manages to kill the giant in a moment of blazing glory (+10), but she dies gruesomely in the process. (+25) You win some, you lose some.
In the case of Winterfell’s first line of defense — see? Avengers references galore — it’s a case of losing quite a few soldiers. Beric Dondarrion gives up his life in an admirable move to save Arya’s life (+25 to Beric), giving her and the Hound a chance to escape a horde of angry zombies making their way through Winterfell. This is what Beric was brought back to life so many times to do, as Melisandre reveals. Then she reminds Arya of another piece of Game of Thrones history and not-so-subtly lays down the plans for what’s going to happen next. She asks Arya what they say to the god of death, a reference to Arya’s earliest training days. Arya remembers: “Not today.” (+10)
Arya isn’t the only one evading death. Jon, after trying to charge the Night King and end this war, winds up running around like a chicken with his head cut off. He’s basically swiping at wights and running away from an angry Viserion, who is burning down soldiers and wights and walls and whatever else is in his way. (+50) This is typical Jon. He could have tried throwing a dagger or something at the Night King. Instead, he has to take on the Night King face-to-face like he’s Harry bloody Potter. Guess what, Jon? It didn’t work. You’re not Harry Potter!
I could ramble on about Jon’s absolute uselessness in this episode for days, but it’s time to move on to the grand finale of our longest episode this season. The Night King has come for Bran, with six of his White Walker lieutenants, and he’s not looking particularly worried about Theon, Bran’s last guard. A skinny soldier, haggard from taking on a small army of wights, standing between the Night King and a strange teenager? Easy peasy, right?
Well, kind of. The Night King does take out Theon (+25 for killing a drafted character), giving Theon the memorable death scene he so earnestly deserves (+25), and he makes his way toward Bran. Back from warging through the skies, Bran and the Night King stare at each other. I imagine they’re trying to figure out who is actually the more terrifying of the two. (Sure, the Night King is dead, but Bran is, like, dead inside.) Before the Night King has a chance to do anything, Arya (+20 for being the episode’s unquestionable MVP), comes leaping down from above.
Thank Thor this scene was properly illuminated — more than I can say for the majority of the episode — so we could see Arya’s one-two move with the dagger in her hand as it plunges into the Night King’s heart. (+25) If only this worked with Thor and Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. The Night King explodes into a pile of ice cubes (+25) that Tyrion could probably use for future drinks before his surrounding White Walkers also collapse into piles of nothing. (That’s a staggering +90 to Arya for accumulated White Walker kills, which aren’t capped like rando wight kills.)
As the scene changes to showcase the effect of the Night King’s death, with wights everywhere fading into nothingness, we also get a fantastic shot of Viserion going down. (+25) It’s like Arya snapped her Infinity Gauntlet fingers. She’s effectively killed them all with one blow to the Night King’s chest. She may not have actually killed Viserion (that honor goes to the Night King last season), but she still managed to take him down again, so she gets the points (+25) for re-killing a named character.
As the Night King and his army fall, so does one key figure on Winterfell’s side: Jorah Mormont, who dies saving the Khaleesi he solemnly swore to protect with his life. (+25) It’s a touching scene, as queen and friend fight to defend each other, prepared to die but hoping for something better to happen. It’s the closest I got to feeling a little teary. Rest in peace, Jorah. You’re a good man.
Jorah deserved to have the last death on-screen, but unfortunately, he didn’t get it. That went to Melisandre, who walked out into the vast field and effectively committed suicide by removing a magic piece of jewelry. (+25) In all fairness, Melisandre did tell Davos that she would die before the next day truly came. She just didn’t mention it would be by her own hand. (+25)
It’s exhausting, isn’t it? Between trying to actually make out what happened on-screen by frantically messing with contrast settings and engaging in the longest cinematic battle of all time, I think we all need a week-long nap. I don’t know about you all, but I’m wiped — and I didn’t do any fighting at all! I just sat by and watched all of my friends try their best. In that way, I guess Jon Snow and I have more in common than I thought.
THE VERGE FANTASY LEAGUE STANDINGS
Shannon Liao, 370 points
Top scorer: Melisandre — 180 points
Note: Melisandre really helped Shannon jump into the top spot. Tormund’s 50 points for killing all those wights helped a little, too.
Sarah Bishop Woods, 365 points
Top scorer: Arya — 225 points
Note: Obviously, the person who drafted Arya was going to see a ridiculous amount of points added to their scoreboard. Congrats, Sarah!
Chaim Gartenberg, 360 points
Top scorer: Theon Greyjoy — 75 points
Note: Unbelievably, Theon outscored the Night King! I’m so proud of my beautiful, sad son!
Julia Alexander, 330 points
Top scorer: Beric Dondarrion — 125 points
Tasha Robinson, 310 points
Top scorer: Four-way tie between Gendry, Sam, Brienne, and Bran!
Note: That’s what I call working together to get it done. One could argue it smells like team spirit after the battle at Winterfell.
Liz Lopatto, 255 points
Top scorer: Daenerys — 70 points
Andy Hawkins, 185 points
Top scorer: Jon Snow — 70 points
Note: Even though I think Jon is totally useless, he managed to bring Andy some much-needed points. Good job or whatever, Jon.
Adi Robertson, 135 points
Top scorer: Jorah Mormont — 75 points
T.C. Sottek, 100 points
Top scorer: Tie between Drogon and Viserion — 50 points
Note: T.C. is finally on the scoreboard! This is a big moment for his drafted dragons. Sorry one of them is dead again, T.C.