The third episode of the final season of Game of Thrones was billed, many times over, as the “longest battle scene in history.” In other words, shit was going to go down, for a very long time. As viewers, we’ve had eight years to prepare for this; the Game of Thrones characters have had, hm, centuries? (I can’t speak to the timeline on Game of Thrones as Cersei’s hair has not grown in what appears to be years and Sam’s child is perpetually a baby.) However, somehow, we viewers were more prepared for this battle than the characters themselves. Everybody showed up at the battle and seemed to be really winging it. Despite everyone spending all of that time moving all of those tiles around last week, the battle plan seemed to be: “Yeah, we’ll see what happens! See you out there! Gonna go grill out with the family tonight and we’ll catch you tomorrow.”
The other people who did not seem prepared? Amanda Peet’s husband and everyone who works for him. Seventy percent of this episode was lit like the inside of a human mouth. I am going to attempt to recap the battle scenes below, but please know that I, like you, am looking at them through what is essentially a flooded underground tunnel.
The castle is hustling and bustling. Everyone is preparing for the arrival of the zombies. Arya is sharpening her swords, Sam is being a nerd, the armies are stomping cutely, the napkins are folding themselves, the candelabra is scolding the clock, and all of the silverware is rehearsing for the big musical number. Bran is heading to the office to hold a brainstorm.
Unfortunately, nobody seems to be planning for the actual battle, but instead, just standing quietly and appearing like they are planning. From personal experience, I can tell you that this works in a college lecture but not in war. All of the main characters are standing next to each other as they wait to be sieged, which seems both unlikely and dumb. Jon and Dany tried to put Bachelor filming on hold, due to the apocalyptic zombie war and their awkward Hometown Date, but they were contractually obligated, so Chris Harrison made them promise to stay in the same frame as much as possible. As such, they stand silently, uncomfortably, overlooking their armies, each waiting for the other to say something. Anything.
Melisandre rides up out of literal nowhere. She explains that she was at Costco. There was a sale on hot dogs. Everyone nods. By way of apology, she asks everyone to look under their seats, where they will all find their own special flaming sword. Upstairs on the wall, Davos is not convinced. “There wasn’t a sale on hot dogs,” he says under his breath. “I checked.”
The two confront each other in the hallway. “There was a sale on hot dogs,” says Melisandre. “But don’t worry. I’ll die later tonight and I’ll give you my card.”
The battle ostensibly begins. First, the human armies hurl flaming balls of fire into the air, then go running in the same direction as the fireballs. The Dothraki, who go first, are almost instantaneously felled by the wights because, for some reason, the humans decided not to kick things off with the fire-breathing dragons. Again, I have not personally been to war with the dead, but why … the fuck … didn’t they start with the dragons?
Dany and Jon have a brief, perfunctory conversation for the cameras after Chris Harrison threatens them with a lawsuit. “The Night King is coming,” says Jon. “The dead are already here,” says Dany. These are both facts. Dany storms off, leaving Jon and his little perfectly gelled hair poof bereft. Jon stares out into the night sky, just above the space where thousands of his comrades are being slaughtered by skeletons with blue eyes. Why can’t I make this work? he thinks, raking his hands through his hair, totally destroying it. Chris Harrison clears his throat. Jon blushes, realizing he’d spoken aloud. Chris pats him on the back 12 times, hard, until Jon pukes. “There,” says Chris. “Now you’re ready for your next one-on-one.”
Everyone is just standing around, watching their co-workers get violently slayed. Now would be a great time to make other war plans with tiles, maybe? Instead, they sit and wait until they are attacked by the indiscriminate horde. Here is where things become truly incomprehensible, visually. I think the directors were going for an apocalyptic-survival-horror, 28 Days Later–type vibe, but achieved more of a “very muddy clothes being tossed around in a washing machine” vibe. Everyone is moving about 15 times faster than they normally do, I think in an attempt to partially obscure the action, so things are even more “disturbing” than they’d be if we could see what was going on. “Let’s disorient the viewers so they feel just as disoriented as our characters,” Amanda Peet’s husband probably said, eating a bowl of plain caviar. However, when you already light your television series like an underused suburban garage during a tornado, you do not have the luxury of disorienting your viewers further.
Anyway, finally, the dragons show up. About 40,000 deaths too late, but we’ll take it. Even though Dany and Jon cannot look at one another, they simultaneously instruct the dragons to alight the wights below. But because things weren’t annoying enough from a visibility standpoint, a snowstorm begins. Arya directs Sansa, who is deep in the throes of incestuous lust/the sort of petty jealousy only ascribed to women on this show and is now copying Dany’s hair, to the crypt.
Theon is presenting Bran with some new market research about Bran’s latest start-up, an app that tells you how many times a month you should cry. “It’s not being received … well,” says Theon cautiously. “People want to decide for themselves how often to cry.”
Bran looks at him. “No, they don’t,” he says.
“Shhh.” Bran smiles at Theon, his smile getting wider and wider until his face begins to tear at the seams. Theon starts to cry.
“See?” says Bran.
“Now, carry on with your presentation.”
Theon pulls up the next slide.
Lotta stabs, lotta horses neighing. Lotta sounds of men saying “Hyugggghhhhhh.” Sam falls to the ground and has enough time for a nice reflection, watching his friends get murdered. He thinks about the one time he had sex. He thinks about the day he learned to gel his hair. He thinks about his outfit — it’s flattering! It’s a nice time for Sam. Suddenly, Edd grabs Sam, pulling him out of his reverie just so he can watch Edd get stabbed and die.
Sansa, still in her domme outfit, heads down to the crypt. Everyone stares at her; nobody talks. They have already formed a little rude clique, the Crypt People. Except for her husband Tyrion. “I absolutely love that domme outfit,” he says. Sansa lets out a sigh of relief, but then begins to choke. “I forgot I am not supposed to sigh in this outfit,” she sputters.
Back upstairs, Jon and Dany’s dragons bonk into each other, because nobody thought about making up little hand signals for dragon-riding or about coming up with snow precautions in a town literally called Winterfell. They spend several scenes passive-aggressively riding dragons near each other, refusing to admit they are having a fun time, like a married couple having a tiff on an expensive vacation. Chris Harrison steps into the frame. “Love is about communication,” he says. “It’s important, when riding your lover’s son into battle, that you remember to stay in touch with each other. Check in.” Dany and Jon both say, “Shut up!!” at the same time, cutely, like the Olsen twins. They smile at each other, then remember they’re supposed to be mad. They fly off in separate directions.
It’s flaming arrows time on the battlefield. Nothing is going well. Everyone is dead, dying, or absolutely losing it. Davos is doing rhythmic gymnastics on the balcony. Where are the fucking dragons dot blogspot dot com? Melisandre walks calmly to the front of the castle, repeating a spell over and over again, growing increasingly panicked. Everyone looks at her like, “You kidding me rn??? This is like, your one thing?” Melisandre is like, “I just need to remember … the last five numbers … of my Costco card for this to work!” Finally, she does, and a ring of fire encompasses the castle, lighting the way for Dany and Jon’s horrible date and also killing a lot of wights.
Down in the crypt again. Gilly’s hair is looking fucked up as hell, even though she hasn’t done anything; meanwhile, Dany has not one single flyaway. Sansa and Tyrion are flirting about their sham marriage. I cannot, and I mean I simply cannot!! deal with another Fuck Plot, especially between two legally married people. We have three episodes left, Amanda Peet’s husband. Please let Sansa keep her domme outfit on the entire time.
Back at Bran’s office. He’s just ordered Theon to redo the presentation, this time without using any vowels. Theon turns to him. “I’m sorry for stealing your house and pretending to burn you to death,” he says. Bran’s like, “We don’t have time for this. We go live on the App Store in 30 minutes. I’m gonna go now. Please have this ready by the time I’m back.” Bran pops a molly and wargs into a bunch of ravens so he can spy on the Night King, his primary competitor in the start-up world.
The wights are throwing themselves on top of the fire now so that the other wights can walk on top of them. Inspirational! We can all learn something from the wights, who are clearly socialists. Men scream unintelligible things at each other under a blood-red sky. Soon they will begin to play beer pong and it will be a direct replica of my Big Ten college experience.
We’re 40 minutes in now. Say it with me now: “Wow, it really is the longest battle in history!” Arya is cracking skulls and taking names while the Hound is freaking out in a corner. Same. But we both have to do our jobs. Unfortunately, so does Lyanna Mormont, whose job includes getting absolutely railed by an undead giant before stabbing him in the eye, then dying. Dang. I’ll miss Lyanna deeply, but I’ll never forget the good times we had, making men on the internet very angry.
Dany and Jon are still on their terrible sky date. Chris Harrison keeps pointing out the scenery below in an attempt to lighten the mood. “If you look just left, you’ll see your sister, dangling from your house,” he says, smiling. Jon and Dany take a brief break in the clouds, finally alone, but still can’t think of shit to say to each other. Jon takes a deep breath and opens his mouth to speak, but the ice dragon interrupts by breathing ice all over them.
Arya is browsing the castle library. She darts behind walls and and prances between bookshelves, rolls underneath benches and elegantly pas de bourrés into corners. Demonstrating an utter disregard for literature, she hurls a book onto the ground. The wights, starved for good content, run after it. Unfortunately, the book is The Da Vinci Code, and the wights lose interest quickly. They pursue Arya around the castle, begging for better reading material.
The Hound and Beric bump into Arya in the corridor. “Quick,” she says. “Do you have anything by Curtis Sittenfeld?” They shake their heads. “I loved Prep, though,” says The Hound. Beric looks in his pocket. “I have a People mag?” he says. Arya screams. A wight descends upon her, ravenous for a good yarn. Dozens follows. Beric holds them off, imploring Arya to run. They tear him to bits, but save the mag for later. RIP Beric. A real one.
Melisandre pops up from the back of the room. “Costco has nice sales on books,” she says. Arya looks at her. “I know you! From Game of Thrones.”
Melisandre looks pleased. “Yes. One of the most highly rated shows on television.”
Arya smiles. “It’s okay. This episode is unusually good, though. I’ll give it that. Save for the total lack of battle-planning, which doesn’t line up with anything we’ve seen on the show so far. But I’ve loved following your storyline. Are you still old?”
Melisandre laughs. “You have to go wrap up your arc. So I’m going to say something that reminds you of how your story began, and then you’ll understand innately what I am asking you to do right now. Okay?”
Arya nods and runs out of the room.
It’s snowing inside of Bran’s office. “This is a feature, not a bug,” he says to his staff. He is still rolling. The wights approach the door, snarling. “Uh, please check in with security first,” he says, chugging an Evian.
The Night King, meanwhile, flies over the castle on his ice dragon, looking extremely smug. Like he invented ice dragons! Please. All three dragons begin bonking into each other very rudely. Just three brothers having a fight in the air. Jon is exhausted. How did I let this woman drag me into her family drama? he thinks. Chris Harrison clears his throat. “Did I say that out loud again?” asks Jon. Chris laughs and reaches over to pat him on the back. Jon recoils reflexively and falls off the dragon.
Dany tries to kill the Night King with fire, but he survives. Dany flies off, freaked. I must pause again to ask why they have the two most important characters riding around, vulnerable as hell, on dragons? Nobody else was available to sit on the dragon? Pursued by Jon, the Night King catwalks very casually past a row of dead bodies. He begins to reanimate them. But he makes it fashion.
In a turn of events none of us could ever have predicted, a wight breaks out of its tomb down in the crypt. Sam’s weirdly aged baby begins to cry. Another nerd on our hands. Back in Bran’s office, Theon refuses to let the wights get through security without signing an NDA. “Everything we do here is top-secret,” says Theon. “I can’t let you through without your express agreement to our terms.”
Meanwhile, Dany saves Jon at the last minute by breathing fire onto the fresh wights around him. Again: The dragons could have solved this whole thing … immediately!!!! Dany and Jon speak for only the second time in the entire episode: “Bran!” says Jon. “Go!” says Dany. Jon heads to Bran’s office. He needs to get in on this app at the ground level if he has any shot at raising a family with Dany. He laughs, hearing the thought ring in his brain. “I guess I do love her,” he says, this time out loud, on purpose. Chris Harrison raises his hand to pat Jon on the back. Jon punches him in the throat. Dany, distracted by Jon’s sudden display of integrity, falls of her dragon. Fortunately, Jorah is conveniently behind her, and saves her ass. Unfortunately for Jorah, she is still sprung for her nephew exclusively.
Sansa and Tyrion stare at each other meaningfully in the crypt. He kisses her hand. I swear to God … oh, it turns out it’s just a minor suicide pact. Jon continues running to Bran’s office, practicing his sales pitch in his head. “I’m good with my hands, and I love people,” he recites. The ice dragon gets in his way, breathing chilly blue flames onto his dangerously flammable gelled head. Elsewhere, all of our favorite major characters are conveniently battling White Walkers but not dead. Just workin’ very hard! Doing their jobs. And Bran is coming down from his trip just in time for the Night King’s approach.
The music gets very Titanic-y at this point, so we know someone is about to die. Yep. It’s Jorah. Jorah, who sold some slaves and loved some dragon queens. Jorah, who I cannot stop confusing with Davos. Let’s pour one out for Jorah, who is the one who once had greyscale. Dany weeps openly over his body. “I’ll never let go!” she screams. Chris Harrison clears his throat. “Actually, you’re contractually obligated to let go,” he says. Dany kicks him in the balls.
The Night King is at Bran’s door now. Theon has gotten all of the other wights to sign the NDA, but the Night King refuses. Theon charges toward him, ready to guard Bran’s start-up’s secrets with his own life. And he does. Die, that is. Theon was a cutie with some personality problems, but fundamentally alright. I think we can all agree about that. But all Bran can muster is, “Theon, you’re a good man. Thanks.”
The Night King is about to murder Bran solely for his proprietary data on how often people should cry each month. It’s important for a Night King to have that sort of intel. He and Bran stare at each other for a long time, the way only two men with an abundant self-importance can. Everyone is like, “Uh, should we wait, or … ?” One of Bran’s assistants asks the Night King if he wants a matcha latte. He considers it. Suddenly, Arya pops up from behind the Night King and moves to kill him, but he grabs her by the throat, mid-air. She drops her knife from one hand to the other, and stabs him in the gut. In other words, she alley-oops herself. She Michael Jordans the Night King. It’s incredible. It’s iconic. It’s genuinely surprising. It’s moving. It’s almost worth the price of admission (90-plus hours of our mortal lives; permanent brain damage).
Bran looks at Arya. “Can you grab me a Soylent?” he asks.
Her work done, Melisandre wanders into the snow. She removes her choker, which has been keeping her young and hot, and becomes instantly old — ahh!! Knowing she is no longer useful to this show without the potential that she could hop into a Fuck Plot at any moment, she collapses into a snowbank and dies.