Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3 Review: The Long Night

The highly-anticipated third episode doesn't disappoint with a truly epic battle between the living and the dead.

We continue our breakdown of the final season of Game of Thrones with an in-depth look at the fantastic third episode. Fans can catch-up with the previous two via the NOW TV Entertainment pass. 

Spoilers ahead. 

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The biggest and most expensive battle sequence to ever be broadcast on TV or film didn’t disappoint. With The Long Night, director Miguel Sapochnik has created what is easily one of Game of Thrones’s best ever episodes. 

It was an incredibly epic, beautifully shot and almost unbearably tense hour and a half of TV which completely lived up to the immense hype surrounding it as The Night King (Vladimír Furdík) and his army of the dead descended on Winterfell. 

There’s a huge amount going on in this episode and it’s a testament to the quality of the show’s writing how seamlessly all the individual setpieces are weaved together. 

We start on the ground panning over the thousands of soldiers stood ready outside Winterfell. Conspicuously absent for these last two episodes, Melissandre (Carice Van Houten) casually rides up like she’s been around this whole time and sets the waiting Dothraki’s swords ablaze. 

Some fans have complained about the decision to set the entire battle at night saying that they’d struggled to make out what was going on but from an artistic standpoint, it’s a brilliant decision and allows for all kinds of visually striking shots. 

This is exemplified in what happens next as the Dothraki thunderously charge into the waiting blackness only for us to see their sword lights rapidly extinguish. It’s an incredibly eerie sight and one that only serves to imbue everything with a terrifying sense of dread. 

It only gets worse as the Army of the Dead crash into the waiting soldiers. Compared to The Night King with his slow menacing Darth Vader-like walk, the rest of the wights are more like an all-consuming horde of zombies. They simply steamroller everything in their path and quickly advance over Winterfell’s walls. 

Again, the darkness proves effective here combined with frantic jump cuts to really hammer home the intensity of the situation. We see Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Sam (John Bradley) almost completely overwhelmed, being dragged to the ground and then struggling back-up to hack and slash at the never-ending stream of wights.

Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Jon (Kit Harrington) are MIA for most of the episode but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’s been the centre of previous battles so it’s good to see others take focus. She’s glimpsed up on Drogon triumphantly commanding him to release plumes of fire down onto the battlefield and later sobbing over Jorah (Iain Glen) who touchingly dies protecting her.

Back in Winterfell, secondary characters are dropping like flies. Lyanna Mormot (Bella Ramsey) dies a hero’s death stabbing a wight giant through the eye before being brutally crushed while Beric Dondarrion (David Michael Scott) sacrifices himself to let Arya (Maisie Williams) and The Hound (Rory McCann) escape. 

Their relationship has always been one of the series’s most interesting ones and there’s a moment of genuine joy here as we finally see him demonstrate his true affection for her. It’s a brilliantly emotional performance from McCann as The Hound is able brave his paralyzing fear of fire to come to her rescue. 

During all of this, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) is sat in the Godswood under the protection of Theon (Alfie Allen). He wargs into a raven which, as far as I could tell, doesn’t achieve anything. It seems as though he’s there only to ensure poor broken Theon can prove he’s a good before being killed by the approaching Night King. 

Just as it looks as though Bran is about to be killed, in leaps Arya from absolutely nowhere to kill the Night King with a Valyrian steel dagger. 

Such a sudden, shocking death for the series’s Big Bad has naturally caused a huge division amongst fans. Some have argued it’s anti-climatic, that this immensely powerful figure who’s been built up as this terrifying harbinger of destruction has been dealt with so quickly, but to me at least it makes perfect sense. 

Nobody really wanted to see Jon kill The Night King did they? Part of what makes Game of Thrones so great is its ability to subvert generic fantasy tropes and having him do it would’ve played right into the boring chosen saviour idea. 

Arya, on the other hand, has been training years for this moment and is easily deadly enough to take out The Night King. Ever since she first appeared onscreen she’s proven herself to be a formidable fighter who’s only got stronger and more lethal.

Starting with her training with Syrio Forrel (Miltos Yerolemou) and leading all the way through her many brutal experiences on the road with Lannister soldiers to The House of Black and White, where she became an assassin so skilled that the sound of her blood hitting the floor makes more noise than she does. 

After the sheer intensity of this episode, it looks as though things are set to slow down ever so slightly next week as Daenerys and Jon turn their attention south to start planning what is sure to be the violent removal of Cersei (Lena Headey) from the Iron Throne.

Watch episode 4 on Monday 6th April, 9pm on Sky Atlantic with the Sky Entertainment Package.

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