The third episode of the eight season of Game of Thrones is the most expensive episode of the entire run of the series. With a run time of 82 minutes, “The Long Night” also marks the longest of the six remaining from the final season — and what an amazing spectacle it is! With Miguel Sapochnik at the helm— the director of two of the best episodes, “Battle of the Bastards” and the “Hardhome”— “The Long Night” took 55 days to film, with a crew of 750 people on set and features the longest battle sequence in film or TV history. Despite some criticisms, this was one of the best episodes of HBO’s extraordinary fantasy drama – filled with plenty of surprises, last-second heroics, devastating character deaths and an unbearable amount of suspense, not to mention an incredible score by composer Ramin Djawadi and the least predictable way imaginable to end the great war. Never have the stakes been higher and this time around, everything goes wrong leaving the least likely of heroes to save the day.
After all, is said and done, the battle with the dead is over and the Night King is defeated. It wasn’t easy, even if Arya made it look that way and it took an army of brave soldiers from all walks of life to come together and put aside their difference to fight side by side. In celebration of this incredible feat of storytelling and filmmaking, I’ve decided to grade every main character’s performance based on how well they fought and how important they were to winning the war.
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The White Walkers: Grade F
When the Night King arrived with his White Walker lieutenants, he didn’t look too concerned that the only person standing between him and Bran Stark was Theon Greyjoy, and that’s probably due to the fact that he expected his entourage to watch his back. Instead, the White Walkers made a very brief appearance, stood in the background and literally did nothing but stare into the distance while Arya snuck in and saved the day.
If “The Long Night” could be criticized for just one wasted opportunity, it should be that the filmmakers and writers chose not to include the White Walkers in the actual battle. Unlike “Hardhome” which featured an action-packed and well-choreographed fight between a White Walker and Jon Snow, “The Long Night” relegated them to the background. It’s a shame really, especially since our heroes went out of their way to find dragonglass and make weapons out of it – not to mention that the series-long emphasis on the several weapons made of Valyrian steel, seems like a lot of wasted time since all but one, were used in the battle.
Bran Stark: Grade F
I’ve been a huge fan of Bran Stark since season one, but now I regret ever standing up for the young lad since the dude was pretty much useless in this episode. I do understand that because of his current situation, he can’t exactly get up and fight alongside the rest of humanity but how does that excuse him for not putting his mind to good use? I just don’t understand how slipping into a temporary coma just so he can ward into a raven and soar through the skies, helps anyone? Bran literally allowed everyone, including poor Theon Greyjoy, to sacrifice their lives so he can be saved – and in the end, all he did was sit there and grin. What’s the point in having such great powers and being able to see everything past, present and future, if you can’t even share any of that information with your loved ones and put it to good use? Sure he was literally used as bait so the Night King would be put in a position where Arya could sneak up from behind and stab him with the Valyrian steel dagger, but here’s the thing – if you take away Bran’s vision, nothing would have changed. If Arya was meant to kill the Night King, even if Bran couldn’t foresee it happening, it still would have happened. What is meant to be, is meant to be.
Sansa Stark, Tyrion Lannister, and Lord Varys: Grade D-
Some of the best scenes in “The Long Night” took place in the crypts of Winterfell but unfortunately, I can’t be too generous when grading those who took shelter down below. For starters, this episode once again proves that Sansa is rarely of any help. I understand that Sansa isn’t trained to fight but after taking shelter during the Battle of Blackwater, you would think she could at least do something to make her people feel a bit safer. Meanwhile, Tyrion and Varys are supposed to be two of the smartest men in all of Westeros, yet neither realized the crypt was a terrible place to hide given they were at war with the undead and the crypt is where the Starks bury their dead.
Jon Snow: Grade D-
After running around like a mad man and flying a dragon as if he was driving under the influence, Jon Snow came so close to charging the Night King and finally putting an end to the war, but before he could, his little sister swooped in and stole his thunder. In a way, it is somewhat disappointing that he didn’t have a bigger moment since we’ve not only seen him evade death several times but we’ve witnessed him also come back from the dead. Fan theories and various clues led most people to believe the Jon was the prince that was promised and that he would end the great war but alas this was not the case.
Yet, let’s give credit where credit is due. Jon Snow did massacre more wights than I can count and he did help Rhaegal knock the Night king off of Viserion’s back, not to mention he was surprisingly good at riding a dragon. It’s just too bad he wasn’t given a one-on-one fight scene with any of the White Walkers. As mentioned above, it feels like a wasted opportunity to not show them in action one last time.
The Hound: Grade D-
The Hound really disappointed his fans in this episode since he spent a good portion of the battle crouched behind a wall. I realize the Hound’s biggest fear is fire and unfortunately for him, he was surrounded by fire but I know I speak for many of his fans in saying that I wish he powered through his phobia and helped out a bit more. Thankfully he had Beric Dondarrion by his side to encourage him to charge into Winterfell and help save Arya from the sea of wights. For that, I’ll cut him some slack and give him a passing grade.
Qhono and the Dothraki: Grade D+
When Qhono and the Dothraki’s (arguably the Winterfell strongest group of warriors) swiftly charged into battle, it left most viewers scratching their heads in trying to understand what exactly their strategy was. Sure it wasn’t necessarily the best plan of action but in that opening moment of “The Long Night,” director Miguel Sapochnik did a terrific job of building up the tension as the Dothraki forces, swords ablaze, ride out into the distance only to vanish into the dark void. Witnessing the entire Dothraki horde get wiped out in under a few minutes while hearing the horrific screeching sounds of the horses retreating in fear, sent shivers down my spine.
Despite now knowing any of their names aside from Qhono, their sacrifice will not be forgotten. Their deaths were a necessary casualty, but unfortunately, their loss will also play a huge factor in the final few episodes, as Dany’s forces will no doubt be at a disadvantage when they face the upcoming threat that is Cersei and her newly recruited army at King’s Landing.
Brienne of Tarth, Tormund Giantsbane, and Jamie Lannister: Grade C-
It is somewhat disappointing that we didn’t’ get to see much of Brienne, Tormund and Jaime in action, but this episode wasn’t about them. Besides, we’ve already seen them show off their fighting skills plenty of times in the past and seeing as they will no doubt face Cersei and her army in the upcoming three episodes, we can sleep well knowing that they will back in action soon.
Dolorous Edd: Grade C-
One of the last remaining originals from the Night’s Watch is also the first major character to die in the great battle at Winterfell. His watch may have ended but Dolorous Edd managed to take down a few wights while saving Samwell Tarly before getting stabbed through the back of the head.
The Night King: Grade C
For eight seasons, we’ve seen the Night King destroy everything in his path. He’s spent thousands of years attempting to wipe out humanity, and for a moment, it seemed possible that he might succeed. We watched him destroy the world’s largest structure; kill Viserion; resurrect the dragon; even telepathically connect himself to the Three-Eyed Raven. And yet despite all of his power, the Night King couldn’t save himself from one tiny dagger. I guess everyone makes mistakes. Nobody said the dude was perfect.
A part of me wants to give the Night King a lower grade since his death came all too quick and all too easy but unlike the White Walkers, the Night King pretty much wreaked havoc throughout the entire episode. It’s safe to say that he had a better strategy than anyone in Winterfell and he did survive Drogon’s flames. He also raised the dead, thus turning all of Winterfell’s soldiers into his own undead puppets and shifting the odds once again.
Beric Dondarion: Grade C+
We don’t have to feel too sorry for Beric Dondarion since he managed to cheat death more than once and was brought back to life by Thoros of Myr several times in the past. As Melisandre pointed out, the man (who had once kidnapped Arya and attempted to hold her hostage) had a larger role to play in the show’s endgame and so it was only a matter of time before he would bite the bullet. At least, Beric sacrificed his life in an admirable move to save Arya. Unfortunately, in the process, he suffered a gruesome death courtesy of multiple stab wounds by the wights. “The Lord of the Light brought him back for a purpose,” Melisandre said as he fell to his death. “Now that purpose has been served.”
Gendry Baratheon, Podrick Payne, and Samwell Tarly: Grade C+
Sam, Podrick, and Gendry all deserve a medal for bravery. Unlike their comrades, they each have little experience in fighting and have never participated in any war or battle, yet they all stared death right in the face and not only survived but fought to the very end.
Greyworm: Grade B-
We watched Greyworm, the man who knows no fear, tremble at the sight of the undead charging towards him, yet Greyworm never once backed down. He led the Unsullied into battle and bravely aided Melisandre out to light the trenches. Most fans were certain he wouldn’t survive including me, but he defied all expectations and he lives to see another day. Chances are, he will play a big part in the battle against Cersei and her army in the upcoming final three episodes.
Melisandre: Grade B+
It’s unclear why Melisandre decided to wait so long to return to Winterfell. It’s also somewhat convenient that she arrives right before the army of the dead begin their attack. How she manages to go unnoticed and walk right by the army of the dead to arrive at the fortress is also unclear, but do we care? The answer is no because we can all thank Melisandre for helping light up the set.
I understand that the battle is supposed to take place at night and filming the longest and most expensive battle scene in the history of TV and cinema isn’t an easy task but you would assume the filmmakers would have done a better job in allowing viewers to see what is actually going on. That’s not to say that it was all terribly lit but more often than not, the battle was frequently incomprehensible.
That aside, Melisandre, unlike most of the Winterfell soldiers, knew exactly where she was needed, and helped prevent the walking dead from entering the castle too soon. She provided the Dothraki army with some much-needed fire to add to their arsenal and she guided Arya to her destiny. The sequence in which she lights the trench is one of the most nail-biting moments of the episode, and before her mysterious and quiet death, Melisandre is the one and only character in all of Westeros who as of right now, was able to accomplish her ultimate goal. And who can blame her for wanting to call it a day? After living for a few centuries, she wasted no time in taking off her ruby necklace in hopes that she can now rest in peace.
Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion: Grade B+
It was great to watch the “dance of dragons” between Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion as they fought in the skies above Winterfell. Unfortunately, Rhaegal struggles to catch up and doesn’t get as much screentime as the other two dragons but at least we were treated to some incredible visuals including the dragons flying high above the clouds and that one standout scene in which hundreds of wights attempt to climb and devour Drogon like maggots. In the end, both Drogon and Rhaegal fought as hard as they could and if not for them, the army of the dead may have won the war.
Daenerys Targaryen: Grade A-
Can we just give it up for Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons.
Daenerys did more than pull her weight, she fought side by side with Jorah as hundreds of wights surrounded them. Even without her dragons anywhere nearby, Daenerys survived the battle which is especially impressive since she was never trained to use a weapon in war. When Jon and Daenerys first meet up on a cliff, she wasted no time in jumping in on the action and even when she realized the Night King is immune to dragon fire, she didn’t give up. More often than not, people will say that her greatest strength is her dragons but in reality her greatest strength his her will to survive; her determination to win and most importantly, her ability to adapt. Here, she proves herself worthy of sitting on the Iron Throne once again!
Theon Greyjoy: Grade A-
Let’s just get this out of the way for all the Theon haters out there: The dude lost more than any other character on the show. He lost members on two sides of his family; he lost his home; he lost Winterfell; he lost his respect and his dignity, and he even lost his manhood. It was quite a journey for Theon over the years, to say the least. He suffered unspeakable humiliation at the hands of Ramsay Bolton and worse, he betrayed those closest to him. Yet despite all the wrong he did and all the torture he endured, Theon bounced back better than ever – and what better way of making amends to those whom he has wronged than by returning to his old home and defending Winterfell. Theon’s arc boils down to wanting to feel loved, and once he found forgiveness, he was prepared to die for those who accepted him for who he is. He did an admirable job protecting Bran and was given a memorable death which he truly deserves. The people of Westeros will long discuss the legend of Theon Greyjoy and remember him as the last man who died at the hands of the Night King while trying to protect everything living. Rest in peace Theon Stark Greyjoy. You will be missed.
Ser Jorah Mormont: Grade A-
Despite a rocky start, Jorah Mormont is one of the few characters who has been consistently loyal towards Dany and her quest to claim the Iron Throne and so it seems only right that he dies saving the Queen he solemnly swore to protect. He has saved Daenerys on multiple occasions in the past of course but never before had the stakes been raised so incredibly high. As we watched him charge unto the breach to protect Daenerys from an endless sea of walking dead, we knew it wouldn’t end well, but at least he went out fighting for the woman he loved. There is no character more deserving of such a grandiose end than Ser Jorah Mormont. Watching him die in his Queen’s arms, is not just the most touching scene of the episode, but one of the saddest scenes of the entire series.
Lady Lyanna Mormont: Grade A
The young, fierce Lady of House Mormont stayed true to her word and refused her cousin Jorah’s advice to wait out the battle in the crypts and instead joined the fight. It shouldn’t be a surprise that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss decided to kill off Lady Lyanna Mormont, if for no other reason than she is more or less a creation of the show and serves no purpose moving forward. Still, what a way to go out!
When the tiny but undeniably brave Lyanna Mormont came face to face with a wight giant in the midst of the castle grounds, she did not back away. Instead, she stared Death in the cold blue eyes, and in a moment of blazing glory, killed the ferocious beast 100 times her size with a shard of dragonglass. The House of Mormont’s bloodline ended when the wight lifted Lyanna and crushed her like a grape but at least she went out fighting.
Ghost: Grade A+
I know what you are all thinking. You’re asking yourself why is Ghost on this list and why does he get such a high grade. The answer to those two questions is simple really: All Ghost has to do is show up and survive. That’s it. That’s all we fans need right?
Alright, maybe that isn’t true. It would be great if the writers would make the direwolves do more on the show but you can’t blame Ghost for his lack of screentime. Blame the writers. The bottom line is, the direwolf joined the Dothraki cavalry and charged into the void to attack the army of the dead. He’s a brave animal and thankfully, the teaser for next week’s episode offers a brief glimpse of Ghost, so we know he survived which is more than what thousands of others can say. I’m just saying …
Arya Stark: Grade A+
I suppose Arya should be at the top of this list since she literally and figuratively shattered expectations! It was Arya after all, who with the help of her trusty Valyrian steel dagger, brought down the mythical foe known as the Night King (ironically the only name not added to her kill list). It was the very same dagger that’s been kicking around Game of Thrones since season one – the same weapon that she also used to kill Lord Baelish, and the same dagger that Lord Baelish claimed was stolen from him by Tyrion Lannister, which was the lie that helped kickstart the war between the Lannisters and the Starks – the same dagger that triggered the War of the Five Kings and ended the Great War. I cannot help but admire how Game of Thrones set this up way back in season one when Syrio Forel, during an early sparring lesson, showed Arya how to switch weapons between her right and left hand. “What do we say to the God of Death,” he asked Arya. She replied, “Not Today.”
Arya single-handedly saved the entire world, or at least those in it still among the living. But it wasn’t just because of that one swing of the dagger that she tops this list – Arya, unlike many of her companions, fought hard and strong from the start of the episode right down to the very end. She made good use of the Valyrian spear Gendry made for her and she showed us just how much of a badass she truly is by killing dozens and dozens of wights along the way!