Spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 3: “The Long Night.”
For many who watched Game of Thrones‘ epic Battle of Winterfell episode, officially titled “The Long Night,” it was hard to see exactly what was happening. There was a lot of purposefully confusion visual chaos to simulate the horror of battle, but also, the episode was shot only at night and, well, things were dark. So it was hard to tell who was dead, or almost dead, or about to die for most of the episode. However, thankfully (or not, depending on what you wanted from this hour), not many main characters actually died. In fact, no “marquee” characters died at all. But still, we must pour one out for the dead (although we don’t have to burn their bodies anymore):
The Armies: Before we get to individual deaths, I really want to point out that almost all of the Dothraki and the Unsullied were snuffed out by the Army of the Dead. These sequences were some of the most harrowing of the entire episode, as swarms of zombies overwhelmed the ranks. Having the Dothraki’s fire-lit swords quickly and almost silently extinguished by the wights was terrifying, and seeing the Unsullied continue to close ranks to protect those fleeing into the castle while they just got wrecked by the Night King’s forces was especially sad. To add insult to injury, they were all then conscripted into the Night King’s army, although only briefly before he was ultimately defeated.
The Night King: Goodnight, sweet prince. Slain by a stealthy Arya Stark via a Catspaw dagger made of Valyrian steel, the Night King flexed a little too much at the end, and waited just a minute too long to kill Bran Stark to achieve …. well, we aren’t exactly sure (to destroy the history of men, Bran had postulated, but it was never really clear). Regardless, the Night King was a badass who knew how to ride and control his dragon way better than Dany ever did, and was a much better tactician than any of the living, He was the Big Bad of the entire series, and … he kinda went out with a whimper. Alas.
Jorah Mormont: No one could have been surprised by Jorah’s heroic death to save his beloved Khaleesi, and honestly, he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. He saved her life, yes, but he also was given back a Valyrian steel sword (completing his narrative journey of exile back to Westeros), and came to terms somewhat with Tyrion being Dany’s preferred advisor. You served your queen well, and you will be remembered as a hero, Jorah.
Theon Greyjoy: Like Jorah, Theon had a redemptive arc to complete. Although his was, of course, much more specific to Winterfell and the Starks, a home and family he had betrayed. He had a quasi-heroic finish, protecting Bran from the wights and ultimately dying at the hands of the Night King’s spear (both things were callbacks to earlier moments in the show, where Theon mentioned making a stand in the godswood, as well as potentially dying by a spear to the belly in the Battle of Winterfell — albeit the earlier one where he took over the castle for himself). Like Jorah’s death, it was both sad and earned, and it felt like the satisfying completion of a journey.
Dolorous Edd: Poor Edd, essentially brought back to remind us he was alive just so he could be killed off. He specifically asked Sam Tarly to burn his body if he died, something Sam did not do (running away in fear instead), which meant Edd was briefly turned into a White Walker. He deserved better.
Beric Dondarrion: Beric dying is nothing new, but him staying dead is something different. The follower of R’hllor, the Lord of Light, had lost his priest Thoros last season, which meant that he could not be resurrected again. But, according to Melisandre, that was just fine — he fulfilled his duty to the Lord of Light by saving Arya Stark, who eventually defeated the Night King. Beric, most people who watched the show and didn’t read the books never full appreciated you in terms of your lore, but your flaming sword was always dope af.
Lyanna Mormont: Little Lady Mormont was a formidable force, one who became an instant fan-favorite for being smarter and braver than almost anyone else on the show. The series wisely kept her around, and gave her a hero’s death against a giant wight, who crushed her — but not before she stabbed him in the eye and ended him first.
Melisandre: The Red Priestess of R’hllor showed up to light a few things on fire and give Arya a pep talk, but as she revealed to Davos before the battle began, she knew she would be dead before the dawn. How she was tied into the Night King and his own death is unclear, but what we do know is that it was the completion of her own story with the Lord of Light, as she ultimately took off her red stone necklace, walked out into the snow aging back into her crone self, and fell over dead. What does it all mean? Who knows, but thanks for being a Deus ex machina in this battle, Mel.