We’ve finally stopped screaming long enough to write this episode recap. Screaming shall resume once you’re done reading.
*WARNING - SPOILERS AHOY*
Setting the scene
It’s an amazingly tense first 10 minutes, as we see all of our major players take up their positions and get ready for battle. Sam’s fingers weren’t the only limbs nervously twitching in the run-up to the fight..
Melisandre Makes Her Return!
After wandering the countryside for a season or so, Mel makes a surprise appearance at the beginning of the battle. Using magic, she lights up the arakhs of the Dothraki, giving them a boost of encouragement as the battle is about to get underway.
Not that it did them much good...
The Battle Of Winterfell - Phase 1
We could do an entire essay on how badly positioned the forces of the Living were, and how dumb their tactics were. The Dothraki charge into any other army on the planet would have worked. Against the Dead, who do not tire, waver or ever give up, it was a waste of resources, as they were quickly decimated.
Jorah, having led the initial charge, calls for a retreat as the Dothraki are literally extinguished.
Next came the Unsullied, who arrayed themselves in a phalanx-ish formation that barely held up against the first charge. Soon, the sheer weight of numbers pushed through their ranks. Jaime and Brienne held the line on the left flank, Sam and Edd less successfully so.
Samwell found himself trapped under wights, where he was saved by Edd in a last heroic act before falling in battle.
Here lies Eddison Tollet, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. And now his watch is ended.
Dany and Jon, overlooking the battlefield, ended up in a mini war of wills. Jon wanted to stick to the plan. Dany, in another show of how unfit she is for command, throws the plan out the window by riding Drogon into battle.
Jon mounts Rhaegal in pursuit, determined to make sure that his Queen would not face the Long Night unprotected. The two proceed to destroy wights with dragonfire - although that was little consolation to the broken ranks of Dothraki.
Jon then makes an opportunistic dive for the White Walker lieutenants, which is exactly what the Night King wants - he proceeds to blanket the battlefield in a snowstorm, cutting Dany and Jon off from acting as air support for the besieged ground troops.
The battle has gone from bad to worse.
The Battle of Winterfell - Phase 2
Correctly assessing the hopelessness of standing up the the wights’ charge, Tormund, Brienne, The Hound and Beric call for a ground troop retreat. In a display of bravery that got us all slightly misty-eyed, Greyworm beseeches his troops to protect the retreat.
The remaining Free Folk, Stark bannermen, and Dothraki are ushered through the gates. Sansa heads down to the crypts.
Greyworm is on standby to activate the barrier, knowing full well he is sacrificing his men to protect the rest. He’s clearly heartbroken at seeing them die, and pulls the lever to try and save what few that are already inside.
Davos, upon hearing the command to light the trench, tries to signal to Dany to get Drogon to do his thing but the Night King’s plan to cut them off is working. Archers try to light the trench, but the wind is too strong, leaving Greyworm and the rest of the remaining Unsullied to protect Melisandre as her sputtering magic finally ignites a ring of fire around Winterfell - as the wights just stand there, unnervingly and terrifyingly motionless.
Could it possibly get any worse than this?
In the Godswood…
Bran and Theon exchange words, with Bran giving Theon a bit of a pep talk, and reminding him that all of his decisions brought him here to this moment. Bran then… wargs into ravens, flitting off into the blizzard in search of the Night King. We find him flying over the battlefield, his hand raised.
The Battle Of Winterfell - Phase 3
The wights start throwing themselves on the flames, creating a bridge of the dead so that the remaining army can cross. They start scaling the ramparts. The call goes out to man the walls.
Our heroes do their best, but there are near-misses for Brienne, Jamie, Sam, Gendry and Jorah. It’s obvious that the tide is not in their favour. The swarm continues, and wights are now in the courtyard.
Arya showcases all of her amazing skills, but even she is no match for the horde. A wight giant shatters the courtyard gate, sweeping aside Lyanna, injuring her badly. The Hound completely freezes up, with Beric doing his best to cajole him into the fight.
He’s finally shocked into action by watching Arya struggle for her life.
The Legend of Lyanna Mormont
She died as she lived - being a badass that put the men around her to shame. Already gravely injured from the wight giant’s first attack, she rushes it, and ends up trapped in a death grip, her body being broken by its grasp.
It turns out that was her plan, as she stabs the giant formerly known as Wun Wun in the eye with dragonglass. They both fall. She is gone, and our heart is now in pieces.
Here lies Lady Lyanna Giantsbane of House Mormont, Matriarch of Bear Island and giant slayer of the North.
A Dance of Dragons
Dany and Jon bring their dragons above the clouds to face down the Night King, but he’s clearly a better flier and far more cunning adversary than the both of them can handle.
All three of them go at it, with the Night King diving back down towards the battlefield, goading them to follow.
The Water Dancer of Winterfell
The wights have broken through and have infiltrated the castle. Arya does her best to evade them in the library, before making a run for it as they catch on to her presence. She is saved by The Hound and Beric, as the mad dash for safety continues.
They manage to make it to the relative safety of a locked room, and happen across the Red Woman. However it is all too much for the one-eyed warrior. He had stood in the way of the wight charge, taking several fatal blows to save Arya.
Finally, the Light left him.
Here lies Lord Beric Dondarion, of the Brotherhood without Banners, warrior of the Lord of Light.
Melisandre tells Arya that the Lord of Light brought Beric back many times just for this purpose - she needed to survive. They both recall what was said during their last meeting.
"I see a darkness in you, and in that darkness, eyes staring back at me. Brown eyes. Blue eyes. Green eyes. Eyes you'll shut forever. We will meet again."
It dawns on Arya what she must do.
“What do we say to the God of Death?” Not today.”
Arya makes her escape.
Back in the Godswood
Theon and the Ironborn ready themselves for the wights. The end is nigh.
A Dance of Dragons - Part 2
The Night King swoops down on Winterfell, and commands Viserion to breach the walls with blue flames. Pretty much the entire western side of Winterfell is now gone. Rhaegal and Drogon descend on Viserion, with Drogon managing to partially rip Viserion’s throat and jaw.
The Night King is forced to the ground, as are Jon and an injured Rhaegal.
Dany seizes her chance, and commands Drogon to burn the Night King… who emerges unscathed! She hightails it out of there as the Night King launches an ice javelin attack.
Jon, less than 200m away from the Night King, can only unsheath his sword and go for a running attack.
The Night King responds by casually raising all of the dead Targaryen-Stark army, and turning it against Jon and whatever resistance is left.
We were treated to some banter between Tyrion and Sansa earlier, which Missandei did not take kindly to when they made an offhand remark about the Dragon Queen stopping them from ever being a couple. Their problems go from bad to worse as the Night King also reanimates the dead that are lying in the crypts of Winterfell.
We are treated to the comedic yet dangerous and tragic sight of generations of Starks reanimated as wights, killing women, children and non-combatants.
Tyrion, Sansa, Varys and others manage to hide as the rest get slaughtered. The formerly wedded couple share a knowing glance as Sansa pulls out a dragonglass dagger. Are they going to indulge in murder-suicide? No! They try to make a run for it.
The Battle of Winterfell - Phase 4
Jon fights off the newly reinforced wight army, and is saved by Dany and Drogon. Drogon uses dragonfire to clear a path for Jon to the castle - he makes like hell for the Godswood, knowing that Bran is in danger.
Dany shows her command naivete again, staying too long on the ground and allowing the wights to swarm Drogon. Her dragon attempts to flee with hundreds of wights attached to him, and tries to shake them off like a dog gets rid of water after a shower. It seems like it's all over for the Dragon Queen… until Ser Jorah of House Mormont rushes in to defend her!
Heartsbane is swung with all of his might as wave after wave of wights are fended off.
Dany, for the first time in her life, picks up a sword, and joins the fight for the living.
Jon is running through a haze of blizzard and smoke, barely keeping himself alive as friends turn foe. Sam is pinned down by wights - and yet Jon knows he can’t save him, continuing his seemingly futile quest to get to the Godswood. Everywhere he looks, his comrades and friends are seemingly trapped in a hopeless battle for survival. Brienne, Jaime, Podrick, Gendry, Greyworm, Tormund, Sam… Is this the end?
Just as it seems that Jon might make it, Viserion descends on the courtyard and eviscerates everything in a titanic deluge of bluefire! Jon is pinned down!
Winterfell - Western Wall
Jorah is taking blow after blow, wound after wound. He’s barely able to stand as he fights with every single last ounce of his being to protect the love of his life, his Khaleesi. Dany intervenes on several occasions to save Jorah’s life - returning the gift of survival several times over to her most loyal confidant.
This is what he was born to do, wielding valyrian steel and serving a queen worthy of unflinching loyalty. This is the Jorah that House Mormont birthed in the heat of battle, tempered by rediscovered reserves of honour. But even so, he is just a man.
Surely Jorah can’t keep this up?
The Night King and his lieutenants are slowly making their way to Bran. The Ironborn fall, ripped to shreds by the Dead. It is left to Theon Greyjoy to hold the line.
He is magnificent, a tour de force of martial prowess scything down wights with the ferocity of a direwolf and the will of an ironborn. This is where he belongs, fighting for the living alongside the brother that he grew up with. This is his destiny.
This is home.
But there are just too many, and eventually they stop swarming him, as the Night King makes an entrance.
Bran returns from his warging, as Theon struggles to stand upright. They are surrounded by Death.
Bran has one last thing to say to his adopted brother. “Theon… you’re a good man. Thank you.”
With a soul-aching war cry, and legs regaining their strength for one last push, Theon makes his charge at the Night King - choosing to face Death head on.
The Night King deftly sidesteps the intended blow, and stabs Theon in the gut with half of Theon’s own spear. He sinks to his knees as blood drains from his being. His journey is complete.
Here lies Theon of House Greyjoy, born of the Iron Isles, protector of House Stark.
The One Who Was Promised
The Night King makes his way to Bran, and motions to kill him. There is nothing to stop him from achieving ultimate victory. His goal is within arm’s reach. Bran looks up into the face of Death… and the Night King hesitates. What does the Three-Eyed Raven know? What is the Night King missing?
Jon can’t save him - Viserion has him trapped in the courtyard.
Theon has exhaled his dying breath.
Jorah and Dany are outside the Winterfell walls.
All of the warriors we’ve come to know and love are besieged by the dead, moments away from certain doom.
And yet Bran moves not one inch - as though this was his plan all along. Could it be…?
A whisper of wind is all that gives away what happens next.
Leaping from the shadows like a dancer of death, the Night King seemingly manages to stop her in time. He has her! One hand around the throat, another around the wrist of her left hand. Is another Stark about to die? Hang on a minute, Arya has a free hand, we’ve seen this before…
The switch! The dagger falls from her left to her right hand, and before we can even breathe, it pierces the Night King’s heart. He shatters into a million pieces! And so as the Night King falls, his army falls with him.
It’s over! The Battle of Winterfell is over!
We see the survivors of the crypts. Tyrion, Varys, Missandei, Sansa, Gilly - they have all made it through the long night.
Ser Jorah takes his last breaths, cradled by his beloved Khaleesi, having restored his honour by defending her with everything he has, including his life. He would not have chosen to die any other way. For once the Queenly exterior breaks, and Daenerys Stormborn openly weeps as the light in Jorah’s eyes fades away.
Here lies Ser Jorah Mormont, last of his House, Knight of The Dragon Queen.
Melisandre steps out into the open, walking past the Hound into the open fields outside Winterfell. Ser Davos chases after her with his sword drawn, intent on fulfilling his oath to execute her should she return to the North. Melisandre chooses to end her life on her own terms, having fulfilled the prophecy of aiding the One Who Was Promised. She removes her magical necklace, and steps out into the cold. It takes her into its icy grasp.
Here lies Melisandre, Priestess of R’hollor, believer of the Lord of Light, and saviour of the Living.