Episode #70 is the first of the four consecutive ~80 minute long episodes that will end the series. One of the major conflicts of the series, hinted and teased at since the show’s first scene, is resolved, possibly a bit quicker than would have been expected. Characters on both sides of this conflict are given their final acts. But all of the Tier 1 characters survive to see another episode, which oddly makes this large, almost preposterously expensively-created, episode feel like it doesn’t actually play for keeps.
As I have done for previous installments, I assume any audience reading about Game of Thrones has read a lot about A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones. I will not be held responsible for any information about these fictional settings, characters, and plots that you may gain as a consequence of reading this article. That said, I do not address leaked information.
I will assume that since there is no longer an Army of the Dead to ‘follow’ as it marches south that this title sequence will change for next episode.
This episode is assumed to begin immediately where GoT #69 ended: everyone in Winterfell is aware that tonight is the night where the Army of the Dead arrives and tries to kill them all. Our first sight is Samwell Tarly rubbing his hands together because Winterfell is cold. Someone sees that his hands have no weapons in them, so they give him two dragonglass daggers. Eventually that someone (or another someone) tells Samwell to ‘move’. Samwell moves and the camera follows him, in so doing we see various groups preparing for the battle. Unsullied troops march out of the courtyard, Northern troops run around between different areas of Winterfell, civilians get ready to descend to the crypt. Lyanna Mormont shouts orders to her troops, which Samwell responds to with a brief flinch. He is a member of the Night’s Watch, and he stated last episode that he would fight this battle, but he is an audience surrogate in the sense that most of us are not prepared for the kind of night that is coming.
I haven’t read any other takes so I don’t know if anyone talking about this episode has mentioned the music. The score, which starts to make its presence known here, is this ominous ambient mix that is decidedly different than the usual audio the show works with. It, along with the very questionable film post-production choice to make this heckin’ dark and the very high stakes that our fictional protagonists are facing, helps push the episode into a dread-filled place.
Samwell passes by Tyrion, who the camera now chooses to follow. Tyrion walks through the courtyard in another direction to a supply cache, where he grabs some waterskins. Maybe they’re wineskins instead. On his way from the cache he encounters the Bran Defence Envoy on their way to the godswood, which appears to consist of Bran, Theon, Alys Karstark (!?!?), and some unnamed ironborn. Tyrion watches them go; since Tyrion is (as far as the series has shown) the only person in Winterfell who has spent time hearing Bran’s story I think the audience is supposed to assume Tyrion is heavily invested in Bran’s fate. But it just looks like Tyrion thinks Bran is going to die sitting by a tree, which is not how Tyrion would himself prefer to die.
The camera follows the BDE for a bit and then moves upwards to show the walls of Winterfell. The camera snaps up here to show archers along the walls. They are tense and preparing to have the fight of their lives. Davos places a bucket of arrows near some. Davos looks outwards towards the still well-out-of-sight undead lines, the camera shifts from him in the foreground to another wall in the background which has Sansa and Arya Stark on it, who are looking out at the night. A dragon’s roar is heard. That’s Drogon, followed by Rhaegal (who also roars), who are being ridden out by Dany and Jon respectively.
We follow Unsullied soldiers marching into a very tightly-organized formation outside Winterfell. The camera moves past the Unsullied formation to give us a look at what the front half of Dany’s armies looks like: Dothraki riders are in front of siege engines (some catapults, mostly trebuchets) which are themselves in front of the Unsullied.
The camera takes a few shots to establish what those two armies look like at rest and also look at the Northern/Vale combined army, which has Podrick, Brienne (she’s a knight now!), and Jaime at the front. We check in with Grey Worm at the front of the Unsullied forces.
Lastly we check in with the Miscellaneous army. It’s mostly Free Folk, which explains why Tormund is in front of it. But the scene starts with him standing next to Beric. Then Sandor (gruffly) and Gendry (not-as-gruffly, maybe because he had sex recently) walk up to the front of it. Dolorous Edd is already standing there. Samwell finally shows up. Edd has words for him.
That’s the forces for the living. The camera goes to a wider angle above the left flanking army to show the immensity of the forces. Horses make occasional noises. The camera switches to the front of the Dothraki forces to show Jorah and Ghost. Ghost, the direwolf, is going into the battle, because he knows that the Army of the Dead is a major threat to dogedom. The camera switches to Jorah, who is looking into the night.
Somewhere on a hill overlooking this entire battle field, Jon is dismounting Rhaegal. He is walking over to Dany, who already dismounted Drogon, and who has an excellent position to look out onto the entire field of near-future battle. Neither of them says anything; they have very important things they must discuss, but there’s not much point in talking if they don’t survive this battle.
The camera briefly returns to the wall where Sansa and Arya are standing. Then it jumps to a lone figure on horseback who is riding towards Winterfell. The camera shifts to see Davos looking at this figure. He leans closer to the wall to get a better look. We switch to Jorah, at the front of the Dothraki battle lines, who this mounted figure is moving towards. It’s a woman in red. It’s the Red Woman! Her leitmotif shows up to remind you it is her. I don’t recall Melisandre and Jorah meeting so I don’t think he recognizes her, but he’s been in Essos for a while so he probably recognizes a priestess of R’hllor. I don’t know if any of these Dothraki recognize her either.
She asks if Jorah speaks their tongue and Jorah nods and she tells him to tell them to lift their swords. And he doesn’t understand why, so he doesn’t at first. But she keeps looking at him, so he does what he was told to do. The Dothraki lift their swords; arakhs if you want to get technical. Jorah looks at Melisandre like ‘well?’ and she looks at him like ‘just gimme a second’ and she rides her horse over to the frontleftmost Dothraki, Qhono. She gribs his arakh and she begins incanting in Valyrian. She’s casting a spell!
It’s a spell that sets all of the arakhs on fire. The very well-trained Dothraki horses do not panic when there are suddenly thousands of fires where there were none before. Sansa and Arya watch the line of fire sweep down the Dothraki lines, maybe really excited to know a high level cleric has shown up for their side. Davos watches like ‘wait I know someone who likes fire, is a magic caster, and who I said I would execute if I ever saw her again.’ The camera lets us get reaction shots from Jaime and Brienne, Grey Worm, Tormund and Beric, and Samwell and Edd. Edd half grins.
The camera switches over to Jorah who looks impressed. Melisandre starts her horse away from the Dothraki and towards the Unsullied. Jorah draws the sword he borrowed last week from Samwell, Heartsbane. Melisandre rides past Grey Worm to give him some advice.
Melisandre: Valar morghulis
Grey Worm: Valar dohaeris
Davos continues to watch Melisandre’s approach, probably thinking up ways to execute her as soon as he can, because she is now making her way to the gate. He yells out “Open the gate!” Sansa and Arya look at Davos, maybe unsure why he, not a Stark, got to order the opening of Winterfell’s gate. The gate is opened and Melisandre comes in and Davos runs downstairs and the camera shifts between the two characters to build up tension; there’s a bit of time where it really seems like Davos might just kill the heck out of Melisandre because of her “burning Shireen Baratheon to death” action that he learned about back in GoT #59. He encounters her first and she drops her hood and walks towards him and he looks like he’s getting ready to do something violent so she drops a foreshadowing bomb on him.
And he looks confused and just kind of lets her walk past him. On her way up to the castle walls she sees Arya, who she hasn’t seen in a while, but who she still recognizes. Arya’s look at her confirms that the recognition’s mutual. A shout from the Dothraki temporarily distracts Arya from this staring match but she goes back to the staring match but more and more shouting is heard so she and Melisandre turn to go watch the army.
The camera moves away from the walls of Winterfell to the Dothraki army. It is not being led by Jorah, he’s kind of in the middle of the cavalry charge. It’s a lot of horses, not all of them CGI, so the production crew did some major work here.
The camera moves back to Jon and Dany which is great because, for the sake of the viewers, this allows them and us to see the Dothraki cavalry charge towards the Army of the Dead. Not charging forward, the Unsullied prepare their siege engines; they light up these pitch-covered shots that then get fired ahead of where the Dothraki are charging into. The camera switches back to Jorah and we see that Ghost is keeping pace with Jorah’s horse so if you wondered about the run speed of a direwolf now you know it’s comparable to a horse’s run speed.
There’s this quick few seconds where we finally hear and see the wight horde; we hear them because the camera got close enough and we see them, briefly, because the flaming shots light up the area. The horde is ... not small. It is a lot. And the Dothraki crash into it. Qhono, at the front of the Dothraki charge, looks very surprised. He’s a Dothraki so he’s not used to armies who are excited to fight him so his surprise makes sense.
From Dany and Jon’s position, the Dothraki charge hits a wall. The dead are so many that the mounted cavalry cannot push into them, even with the momentum of horses. The Dothraki are still screaming but the amount and energy of screaming is starting to die down. From Brienne and Jaime’s position we see that they’re watching this. They hear the Valyrian command from the Unsullied to “Cease fire!”; not really any sense in firing siege artillery into your own troops.
The audio mix here does a fantastic job of decreasing the amount of Dothraki screaming and increasing the amount of wight screaming to get across how the former is being metaphorically, literally, and figuratively overwhelmed by the latter. Likewise the visual effects people do a great job of snuffing out light after light after light within the Dothraki cavalry. They lose. Bad. While our named protagonists watch and the camera checks in on Grey Worm, Sandor, Beric, Jaime. They all realize that the Army of the Dead gets (potentially) bigger whenever it kills its enemies so they don’t like the new math that this Dothraki defeat suggests.
I don’t. When I watched this episode I wondered why the Dothraki charged in and I know it’s been a 9 days since the episode aired so that other websites have sufficiently covered the “the charge makes sense!” and “the charge makes no sense!” angles. As I’m slower at writing I defer to them. For now.
So it’s dark again out there. The only noise is the winter wind, mixed in with breathing from the living. Someone or something has to speak to break the silence. It’s a horse, charging back, riderless. Followed by others. Followed by Dothraki running after their horses. The music begins to sound dire again. Jorah and some Dothraki are riding back on their horses. He’s already injured. Tormund looks over at him and he looks at Tormund and he looks like he has already seen more death than he wanted to tonight.
Back at the lookout point Dany looks more concerned than Jon at this disaster. She wants to run to Drogon and light the Dead up. Jon grabs her by the arm and tells her that the Night King is coming, which, gross, dude. She does not care, she tells him the line you already heard from the trailers about how the dead are already here and she walks to Drogon and flies off. Jon does not immediately follow her.
The living armies are starting to look and act worried. They’ve seen running living humans and they know that they are bound to be followed by dead running humans, who begin to be audible. There’s a moment where we see the completely undefended siege engines standing in front of the Unsullied (... I will politely not comment on this) (but seriously my apologies to the engineers who built those just to watch them barely get used) and the camera switches to Grey Worm who indicates that things are about to go down by putting on his helmet. Once again, props to the sound engineers for creating a muffled noise/muffled breathing sound effect here when Grey Worm is wearing his helmet; it helps give the audience the impression of immersiveness in this event.
It takes a bit of time where they’re just getting louder and louder but the Dead arrive. The Unsullied get into a defensive position; they are going to prepare themselves to ‘turtle’ defense as much as possible. It does not entirely work; the Dead have so much momentum that they run over the shields at the front of the Unsullied line and crash into the subsequent lines. If the Unsullied had tower shields they would have prevented that. Always buy tower shields.
Extremely quick cuts of camera work show Unsullied and Dead fighting one another. We in the audience are supposed to get that this is utter pandemonium. An Unsullied soldier gets decapitated just to get across how bad this scene is.
The division to their right, the one with Tormund and Sandor at its front, looks on. They’re next in line to get this giant mass of wights. Tormund screams when they show up but they still show up and begin to push.
The division to the left, the one with Brienne and Jaime at the front, has one guy panic and run away. Brienne screams
But the wights swarm them as well. The camera cuts quickly between fighting at all three of the armies: Unsullied, “South of the Wall”, and “North of the Wall”. Named characters get to slash, hack, whatever at wights. Unnamed characters get maimed, eaten, whatever by wights.
The episode keeps doing this thing wherein it puts its named characters into extremely bad situations and then checks their status. Are they characters that still have more story to tell later in this episode or in future episodes? If so, do not kill. If not, then... Jorah already came back from the Dothraki crushing in one piece. Up next is Brienne, who looks like she’s in some serious trouble! So Jaime goes in there and helps out by stabbing a wight that had grappled her to the ground.
Freshly after Jaime saves Brienne is when dragonfire makes its first appearance; Jaime, who has been on the losing side of a battle with dragons, watches again as draconic death destroys dozens at a time. The soundtrack here grabs the ‘Dragons’ leitmotif of House Targaryen as Drogon, ridden by Daenerys, torches huge swaths through the wights. During the second shown pass of dragonbreath a second line of fire emerges: Rhaegal, ridden by Jon, has also shown up.
Samwell is watching this more than he’s paying attention to the battle. Arya and Sansa watch from the walls and they both have a “oh this is why Torrhen bent the knee” expression. This is completely fair, dragonfire should be treated as a thing of horror; a weapon of mass destruction of last resort.
Jon and Daenerys fly onward behind the wight line. From here the camera and Jon see the White Walkers on their horses. He looks towards Dany and he steers Rhaegal downwards towards them. A White Walker turns his neck (with an interesting crinkling/tearing sound effect) to see this dragon but then an absolute unit of a snowstorm shows up from the forest behind where the White Walkers are lined up and Jon and Rhaegal are now effectively in a blizzard.
Dany and Drogon didn’t follow Jon and Rhaegal. They’re still back closer to Winterfell; Drogon is still using his dragonfire weapon against the wights, while the Unsullied cheer. But then the snowstorm reaches Dany and Drogon. The snowstorm is covering up everything. From the walls of Winterfell Arya and Sansa see this mass of snow coming and Arya tells Sansa “Get down to the crypt” and Sansa says that she’s not going to abandon her people and Arya hands her a dragonglass spearhead and tells her to take that and go. Sansa says she doesn’t know how to use it. Arya has a catchphrase to use here.
And Sansa’s confused because she’s seen that in a bunch of memes from 2011 and she didn’t know Arya was into such old memes. But she accepts the meme advice and walks off. The soundtrack has returned to the buzzy dark ambient noisesynth: the Night King is, appropriately, into EDM. Arya unshoulders the bow she’s been carrying so far this episode; she’s been training at archery since before the show began so she knows how to stick ‘em with the pointy end from long distance.
The living forces on the ground are fighting the wights and kind of doing an okay job and they too become aware of the giant snowstorm and the increasingly electronic soundtrack. Drogon does one last dragonfire strafing run and the snowstorm covers the dragon.
In the godswood, Bran and Theon see the giant snowstorm envelop the area. The other archers with Theon also see this giant weather threat coming in.
Back outside things are still hectic but now visibility has dropped. Jorah is riding around, hacking and slashing wights from horseback. Some wights tackle his horse to the ground, which sends Jorah to the ground, and the horse takes off. Brienne is still fighting wights. Random cuts from around the battlefield. Tormund, Jaime, and Podrick all get opportunities to be seen fighting wights. Ditto Gendry and Sandor.
Jaime now looks like he’s in serious trouble! He’s got a jockey on him. I am repeatedly watching this scene to see who saves him and I can tell you my best guess, which is that someone saves him. Maybe it’s not immediately apparent. The decision to film this battle scene as an incredibly choppy event and then to add both real world and CGI darkness, snow, and wind is, uh, well it is most certainly a decision.
Samwell and Edd have a moment wherein Edd gets tackled to the ground and then so does Samwell and the wight is about to stab Samwell in the face (rude) but then Edd saves Samwell! Samwell is on the ground and he looks around and sees this blurry muddled fiery scene of death all around him that is ended by Edd yelling at him to get up and lifting him up.
Edd is paid back for helping out Samwell by being mortally stabbed (R.I.P. GoT #11-#70) by a wight. I’d say he’s the “first” named character to die in this episode but that sad fate is earned by Qhono (R.I.P. GoT #51-#70) who died offscreen sometime during the giant Dothraki random sacrifice.
After Edd gets an appropriate last line of “Sam”, Edd falls forward, dead. The wight who killed Edd looks at Samwell. Samwell runs away.
Inside the crypt of Winterfell, Sansa is just entering. She looks worried but she knows she has to get to looking not worried for the people hiding down here. She meets up with some other named characters down here: Tyrion, Gilly, Sam, Varys, and Missandei. The four of them who are adults look at her for any news from up top. Sansa’s lack of news is news enough. Tyrion drinks.
Back outside, it is very snowy and windy. Jon, driving Rhaegal, has some difficulty actually seeing where the heck Rhaegal is driving so they start crashing into the tops of trees. Jon gets Rhaegal higher into the air and he starts to relax for a moment. Which is when Drogon, as flown by Daenerys, runs into Rhaegal. Not on purpose, just because everyone has no long-distance vision at the moment.
The dragons and their riders all shake off the confused condition they are in and get to a location within the storm where they can better see the madness beneath them.
With the camera back on ground level, we check in first with Tormund’s group. He yells for them to fall back. Over at Brienne’s group, Brienne gives the same order. Inside the courtyard of Winterfell, Lyanna Mormont and the ... dozen? or so soldiers loyal to her gives an order to open the gate. They open the gate and a lot of living soldiers push their way inside Winterfell. This gives the audience a quick glance at some of the survivors of the battle so far, which includes Samwell.
The Unsullied, being an actual well-trained and well-equipped military unit, is holding the line while the other two groups retreat.
Grey Worm screams in Valyrian to the soldiers under his command.
And they try but they are slowly being pushed back by the wights. The camera goes back to the courtyard inside Winterfell and then via the magic of drones goes over the gate that was opened to show the general tactical layout in front of Winterfell. There’s the Unsullied, who are doing the best they can to hold back the wights. Behind them is a trench with spikes in it that has one small (three person wide) bridge over it. Behind that is a whole lot of retreating fighters, and then finally the door. This seems like it’s an okay double line of defenses. The camera flies over the Unsullied lines and then rejoins the dragons in flight over the battlefield.
On Rhaegal, Jon screams “Dany!” after he sees some fires. Presumably in the godswood. It’s not entirely clear what the heck he sees, I’m assuming it’s the godswood. He drives Rhaegal closer to the ground.
In the godswood, we see Bran and his guards from above. Then the camera shifts behind Bran to give a third-person shot of Bran. Bran sees a dragon nearby.
A dragon lands on the walls of Winterfell. It’s Rhaegal, as driven by Jon, and Jon looks around.
At the gate into Winterfell, fighters are still pouring in. Brienne stands by the gate, waving and encouraging people to get inside Winterfell. She sees Podrick; Podrick hasn’t died yet, folks! Jaime does the same kind of thing as Brienne.
We go back outside to see that the back lines of the Unsullied are getting pushed closer and closer to the spiked trench. A variety of on-the-ground and drone camera shots establish that the defenses outside Winterfell are collapsing due to the seemingly unending numbers of wights. Tormund’s group is still not inside which allows the audience to see that Tormund, Sandor, Beric, and Gendry are still alive.
Arya is on the wall with a flaming arrow in her bow. She has her arrow lined up with Sandor in her sights. She releases an arrow! It goes into a wight right behind Sandor. He looks up to see who did that and him and Arya exchange looks quickly.
With the majority of the other troops now within Winterfell, the Unsullied finally are called to retreat. Since there’s no one after them to protect their retreat, the people inside Winterfell now need to worry about letting wights in. Lyanna Mormont screams for them to protect the gate. Outside Winterfell Sandor screams for whoever he can see to fall back.
Grey Worm, who has gotten behind the trenches, tells Davos to give the signal to light the trench. Davos, with torches, gives the signal. The audio mix gives more of its “Grey Worm is in a mask” soundwork. The Unsullied are getting torn up out there. He knows that he’s dooming all of them that haven’t retreated to a death from wight. He pulls a rope, collapsing the trench.
Drogon, driven by Dany, is still up in the skies above Winterfell. She’s trying to see down onto the battlefield. She can’t see a dang thing down there.
Back at the wall of Winterfell, Jorah, able to read the script, says “She can’t see us” and he stops waving his torches. Archers on the wall of Winterfell shoot fire arrows into the trench to light it up. They’re able to hit the trench (it has an AC of 0 and most of them don’t roll critical fails) but the magic snowstorm is making the oil- or pitch-soaked spikes in the trenches fail to ignite.
Grey Worm has retreated to near the gate. Davos is still screaming for someone to light the trench. Grey Worm sees some unnamed character try to light the trench, but that person gets tackled by a wight. Two other unnamed characters have the same thing happen to them. What is needed here is a named character. The audience thinks it might be Grey Worm for a few moments but then he looks into the storm near him and he sees Melisandre. Melisandre serves a fire god so maybe she can cast the right spell here.
Just outside the gate, Tormund, Beric, Jorah, and Sandor are taking easy shots against the few wights who have slipped past the Unsullied defenders. The Unsullied get into formation to defend Melisandre. They open up their ranks just wide enough for her to get out. She kneels down to the spiked trench, places her hands on the spikes, and begins incanting in Valyrian.
It doesn’t work immediately. People, including Sandor, have to keep attacking wights in order to keep Melisandre from being attacked. The show makes it nice and dramatic: the fire doesn’t light until a wight jumps across the trench at her, and then, and only then, does it explode into flames. An interesting variation of her leitmotif plays loudly on the soundtrack. Now that the fire in the trench is adding light to the battleground, Drogon, as ridden by Daenerys, is once again able to breath dragonfire into the wights. Arya and Davos stand on the walls of Winterfell and watch.
So the trench is on fire. And it’s got spikes in it. But they’re spikes made of wood. Which ... burns. And also the wights have numbers on their side. So this trench on fire is only a stalling tactic (in an entire battle that is a stalling tactic. It’s very meta) which gives the living combatants some time to check to make sure they’re still alive. Jorah, Beric, and Sandor all get shown to assure the audience that, yep, they’re still alive.
Sandor does not like what he sees. For one: he’s got pyrophobia stemming from a childhood trauma, so this is probably all really bad for his mental health. For another: the wights are not just walking en masse into the burning trench. They’re waiting. Which is creepier. Sandor walks off. Beric calls “Clegane!” after him but Sandor walks off. He needs some time to process this.
In the crypt, it’s time to check in on these characters. We get quick glimpses of Tyrion, Sansa, Varys, unnamed characters, and Gilly and Sam. Varys is the character down here who gets to speak first, cracking that at least they’re already in a crypt. Missandei shows up too. Tyrion states that if they (him and Varys?) were up there, they might see something that everybody else is missing. Something that makes a difference. Varys makes an exasperated noise. Tyrion is like, what? Remember the Battle of Blackwater? He brought them (him and some troops) through the Mud Gate. Varys says that got Tyrion’s face cut in half. Tyrion says that it made a difference.
Tyrion: If I was out there right now-
Sansa: You’d die. There’s nothing you can do.
Tyrion doesn’t want to hear that, so he throws his (probably empty) waterskin onto the ground frustratedly. Tyrion says that Sansa might be surprised at the lengths he would go to to avoid joining the Army of the Dead. He can think of no organization less suited to his talents. Since his talents are drinking and knowing things, this seems correct. Sansa responds that witty remarks won’t make a difference.
Sansa delivers that last line as if she is realizing a brutal and terrible truth as she says it. Maybe she’s realizing that she, and everyone else there, might die soon. Maybe she’s realizing the terrible prices she might have to pay to get the North to be free of the other six kingdoms of Westeros.
Tyrion looks impressed by her little speech and states that maybe they should have stayed married. Sansa says that he was the best of “them”, her husbands. I mean. Her other husband was Ramsay Bolton who was a chaotic evil sociopath so that is an extremely low-quality compliment. Tyrion says what a terrifying thought and Sansa smiles but then says that it wouldn’t work between her and Tyrion. He asks why not. She says the Dragon Queen: his divided loyalties would become a problem. Tyrion smiles.
1 The question of whether or not these two characters are “still married” according to in-universe rules, traditions, whatever has been under discussion in the real world for a few years. Game of Thrones has gone out of its way to establish that Rhaegar Targaryen had his first marriage annulled (as a book reader this is an incredibly weird choice but the show really doesn’t like or understand Dorne so it’s a choice that makes sense) so that he could legally marry Lyanna Stark and produce legitimate heirs. Game of Thrones has never done similar leg-work with the Sansa-Tyrion marriage: it has never stated (even in this scene!) or shown that either of these characters got an official annulment from the church that married them. So Tyrion’s comment that they “should have stayed married” is the only indication on the show that somehow they are not married. Who requested the annulment? Was it Tyrion, who was on the run in Essos? Was it Sansa, who was on the run in Westeros?
If the show wants them to be annulled, fine, they got annulled. It’s one more thing that happened off-screen that everyone in the audience was supposed to correctly guess happened. Schrödinger’s plot device.
2 How would serving Daenerys Targaryen as her Hand divide Tyrion’s loyalty? Are the Starks in open rebellion against Daenerys? Does Sansa plan to be soon? Last I checked Jon, as Warden of the North, had bent the knee, and House Stark was loyal to the Targaryen claim to the Iron Throne. Tyrion and his wife Sansa would both be loyal subjects of Queen Daenerys Targaryen.
Anyway Missandei has been forced to listen to this married couple have a weird discussion in front of her and so she interjects
Varys looks at her like daaaaaang and Sansa looks like she’s a bit ashamed and Tyrion doesn’t even have a response. Maybe Tyrion and Sansa will remember that they shouldn’t have weird discussions about their marriage in front of strangers who don’t care about it.
In the godswood, ironborn wait with their bows. Theon says, maybe to himself?, that they lit the trench. He turns around and walks over to Bran.
Theon: Bran. I just want you to know. I wish. The things I did-
Bran: Everything you did brought you where you are now. Where you belong. Home.
(pause while Theon processes that)
I’m going to go now.
Theon: Go where?
Bran: ::does not answer, instead wargs into some birds::
So there’s a tree somewhere outside of Winterfell, far outside of Winterfell based on how far the trench fire is. That tree has 20 or so ravens in it and Bran wargs them birds. He wargs them good. They fly towards the fire near Winterfell and almost get cooked themselves by another dragonfire breath cutting through the wights. They fly over Winterfell completely and then the synthbeat shows up again which means they found the Night King. More accurately they found the Night King flying on Viserion. More accurately it looks like Viserion is hovering, and the Night King stretches out his right hand.
Back near the trench the camera reintroduces the wights. They are standing in place before the trench. One walks into the trench, catches on fire, becomes a burning undead corpse. Then another walks in. Davos watches. Arya watches. From their viewpoint we see more and more wights walking into the burning trench one-by-one. Davos is trying to figure it out, the wheels in his head are racing and he looks like he’s getting agitated. Wights keep walking into that trench. Eventually enough walk in that their undead bodies make a bridge. Davos sees this and says “Man the walls”. Someone else says “Man the wall!” and the wights start to cross over the trench in earnest thanks to their buddies who are serving as a corpse bridge. Someone else says “Man the wall!” and then Lyanna also says it. Jaime looks around and then decides he should be on a wall. Jorah grabs Samwell and takes him somewhere. Podrick runs the way that Jaime is leading. Brienne is also running that way. Living troops on the walls begin to fire arrows at the wights. Since they don’t have infinite ammunition it makes sense that they weren’t firing at the wights when the wights were on the other side of the trench.
There’s at least three spots of the trench that have been breached and Jon watches this. He then looks up and sees a dragon. The soundtrack indicates that it’s Viserion with the Night King. Jon probably takes a second to realize it’s not Drogon with Dany. But he does. And the Night King realizes he does, so he drives Viserion up. Jon follows.
So the wights have forded the trench. Now the wights can just use their overwhelming numbers to stack on top of themselves to attack the walls of Winterfell. The wall defenses are entirely archers shooting arrows down into the wights below. Brienne and Jaime get to the walls to command other people to relieve the archers: soon the wights are going to be in melee range, so the archers are being moved to higher walls. Jorah and Samwell climb the stairs to another wall for a similar purpose.
And, yep, the wights are indeed crawling up one another to get over the walls of Winterfell. The camera checks in with all of the named characters up on the walls. Tormund and Gendry are still alive, folks. So are Samwell, Jaime, Brienne, Grey Worm, and Jorah. Gendry gets to be the first of the named characters to hit a wight trying to climb over the wall, he smashes one with a hammer good. Jaime hits one with a sword and then screams “Come on!” because someone directed him to say something encouraging.
Named and unnamed living characters alike get to attack wights as they try to get over the wall. But you’ve watched castle warfare films or tv before so you know the wall will eventually get breached and hey it does. Eventually wights get over the wall and are now in Winterfell. There’s a neat practical effect shot where a living person gets grabbed by a wight, the wight tosses him over the wall, but the toss makes the wight topple backwards over the ‘pyramid’ of wights supporting it. And then the drone camera moves to reveal the numbers, just the simply intimidating numbers, of the dead who are still crossing over that trench.
At least the trench fire is providing lighting in these battle scenes, that’s a plus.
Jaime is in trouble again! Which reminds me that the last time he was in trouble it wasn’t shown how he got out of trouble. This time he gets out of trouble by being saved by Brienne. Good work Brienne. For a few moments they fight next to one another on the walls of Winterfell. Good thing the show finally decided that Jaime would rather work with Brienne than just follow his sister’s evil plans for forever. Only took them 67 episodes to figure that character out.
Samwell is not taking this fight well, he looks like he is freaking out, but he’s generally holding his own. He also gets into a spot of trouble which Jorah helps him out of. But the bigger battle is being won by the wights; they break through the wall guardrails and are now falling down into the courtyard. The walls of Winterfell are all but completely breached, there are now wights inside Winterfell.
This includes wights who just plain walk/run into the giant caltrops that are scattered around the courtyard. Not entirely sure why they run into the caltrops and impale themselves. The script told them to. Beric, who hadn’t been seen in a while, is in the courtyard hacking and slashing wights.
We hadn’t checked in on Sandor in a while. Sandor is having an episode. He is not well. The camera gives a quick 10 or so cuts to show us living and dead personnel being cut down. This includes a wight at the wall being decapitated by Arya. Arya is using her weapon she requested: a spear that can be converted into a shortspear so that it can be a melee weapon or a melee weapon with reach. And she’s doing alright for herself. Beric looks over at Sandor and yells “Clegane!” He yells it again. The camera goes back to Arya who is still kicking butt while Davos, who is also up there, appears to be just mostly be watching.
Lyanna is watching all of this fighting going on in the courtyard and it looks like she’s trying to figure out some stonecold intimidating statement to make. But then the gate gets smashed open by a wight giant. It walks towards her and it just swipes her out of the way.
Upstairs, Arya is faced with too dang many wights, she can’t fight all of them off. So she rolls over a pile of them taking over the stairs, dropping her weapon on the way down. A wight fights her and actually gives her a pretty rough blow to the back with a club, smacking her head against a doorframe. Once again the audio engineers do a good job of adding in some muffling to help put the audience into Arya’s ‘just got a blow to the head’ frame of mind.
Back in the courtyard the wight giant is still using his much larger reach and strength to club humans around like they’re nothing. Lyanna is injured. Things are not going well. It’s a really good thing that the entire Army of the Dead only has one wight giant, two would be a real problem.
Beric is still trying to talk Sandor into fighting, he yells “Clegane, we need you!” from a distance and then he gets closer and says “You can’t give up on us.” Sandor yells “Fuck off, we can’t beat them, can’t you see that you stupid whore? We’re fighting Death. You can’t beat Death.” which is a fairly realistic appraisal of the situation but it could also be delivered in a nicer way. Beric sees Arya escaping wights and he knows that Sandor has a fondness of sorts for Arya so he points at Arya and he tells Sandor to tell her that. That makes Sandor look up at Arya, who probably could use an assist, and that gets Sandor to at least temporarily act instead of being stuck in a mental health episode.
Lyanna is sick and tired of this wight giant doing a lot of damage and destruction to the Mormont defensive position. So she yells and does a sort of berserker charge at the wight giant. The giant just grabs her with its free right hand and crushes and the audio mixers back that up by having some nice vegetable popping and cracking noises and having the soundtrack get very melancholy so that everyone watching gets the point that Lyanna is getting mortally wounded. Because this is a tv show, the wight giant brings its victim up to its face to, I dunno, watch Lyanna die or something. Lyanna takes advantage of this situation by stabbing the wight giant in the eye with her dragonglass axe. The axehead stays in the giant wight’s eye and the giant wight crumbles/falls to the ground, defeated, still holding Lyanna who is now dead (R.I.P. GoT #57-#70). With the giant wight out of the way of the courtyard, human wights swarm into the courtyard.
The director uses this as an opportunity to shift scenes and move the omniscient camera up to the battle above. Viserion+Night King are being pursued upwards by Drogon+Dany. Somehow in the pursuit upwards through a decreasing amount of cloud/fog/mist/whatever Drogon+Dany lose Viserion+Night King. Oh also apparently Rhaegal+Jon were behind Drogon+Dany. So now it’s just those four, above the cloud layer. It looks pretty. All four of these characters are looking around for Viserion+Night King. I’m glad that the writers resisted the urge to have Dany scream out “where is his dragon?”
Because that is answered by Viserion breathing blue (it’s blue because Viserion is a wight now and/or so that the audience can tell which dragon is which) dragonfire up towards Rhaegal as Viserion flies upwards. Both the fire and the dragon don’t contact Rhaegal but Rhaegal is already kind of beat up so Rhaegal starts tumbling downwards. Now Viserion is very much on the tail of Drogon. I appreciate that the Night King recognized within a few moments which duo of dragon and dragonrider is the bigger threat. That’s why they call him the Night King, he’s good at tactics. Drogon+Dany are trying to get away as fast as possible. Rhaegal+Jon are just plummeting to the ground. After a while of chasing Drogon+Dany upwards, Viserion+Night King turn back to flying towards the ground. Presumably so that the Night King can go back to attending to more important parts of this battle.
Rhaegal+Jon stop falling towards the ground as Rhaegal starts hovering. Drogon+Dany reach the same altitude. Dany and Jon look at one another and try to figure out how much CGI money they just burned through to have a dragon v. dragon fight.
Back on the ground, Arya is seemingly weaponless1, hurt, and trying to survive. She’s cautiously poking around the buildings of Winterfell; this is the first time this episode that the action is set inside, rather than somewhere outside. A living warrior is inside, dead, so she grabs the dragonglass weapon they had: better a weapon than no weapon. She slooooooowly reaches her hand out towards a door handle and opens it. She’s now in a ... library? It is definitely a room with a fireplace and many shelves of books. She doesn’t see the Dead yet, but then she hears one, and the camera shows that there is a wight nearby, which she slowly and quietly moves away from. The wights are basically just randomly walking around, making noise by dragging a sword on the ground or walking too closely to a bookshelf and spilling its contents.
It’s tense. It’s a “don’t tell the zombies you’re there’ scene. Game of Thrones does an okay job with a not particularly innovative scene. The good thing about the show having invested lots of time into Arya’s journey is that the audience cares, a lot, about the fate of this one character: she’s a Tier 1 character, so whether she lives or dies is “important” to us. In universe it probably helps her survival skills that Arya undertook House of Black and White training.
Arya has an open wound on her forehead so she’s dripping blood onto the ground. Wights hear (or smell?) this. Their visual acuity is terrible but they can apparently sense blood pretty well. From her vantage point under a table, Arya sees a door. She gets ready to run for it. Then a wight steps right in her way. The wight bends down to check on this whole ‘there’s blood on the ground’ situation. Arya is not there, she somehow snuck away. But the wight makes some noises; it ‘tells’ its wight buddies that there’s an enemy nearby.
Arya, from a nearby bookcase, still sees that door, so she’s biding her time to make a break for it. She grabs a nearby book (oh, that’s why this scene is in a room with books, I get it now) and throws it to make a distraction, which the wights do indeed vocalize and run towards, so she walks the long way towards the door. On her way she meets face-to-face with a wight and she quickly stabs that wight in the head and then slowly places the body on the ground. The wights do not seem to hear that stabbing or detect the blood that dribbles out of the wight: they’re all too busy trying to figure out who threw that book earlier. Maybe wight blood smells different than live blood. Maybe the writers just want Arya to escape in peace. Arya makes it out of the door and she pushes the door closed.
And as the door closes she hears the wights making noise. They seem to have just noticed that she left? Make up your own interpretation. Wights from outside SMASH through another door and the wights from the room she was just in MORE POLITELY OPEN the door she just snuck out of and Arya is back in the “running away from zombies” scene she was in earlier. Winterfell has really good winding corridors for this kind of chase scene. The camera switches between her and the wights. She keeps running, they are running faster, they’re catching up, and she runs into a dark area. And the scene changes, since, uh, no need to resolve that dramatic moment yet.
Down in the crypt, the unnamed and named characters are still alive. It still sounds pretty bad upstairs. They’re looking at a staircase leading down to their level; apparently this staircase is the way down to the crypt, so if this gets breached, things are gonna go bad. The door GETS HIT LOUDLY, everyone in the crypt makes a ‘AH!!!’ noise. More than one living person upstairs is screaming for the door to get opened, begging, they’re dying, being ripped apart by wights. All the named characters watch. None goes to open the door. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. The people begging for mercy die.
Sandor and Beric are in the same zone as Arya, they are looking for Arya. Somehow they are in a very quiet area. There are the occasional noises of doors being closed and wights making their wight-y noises. The noises are getting closer, and closer, and then a door gets knocked off its hinges by the force of a wight pushing Arya against the door. Arya is fighting a wight! Beric throws his sword into the wight. It’s super effective. But that wight isn’t alone, it’s got other wights chasing it, so Beric gets Arya lifted off the door and he gets stabbed in the shin by a wight for his trouble. Sandor is fighting off fewer wights at his location but all three of these characters need to get out of here. Arya reaches Sandor who helps her run away. Beric tells them to go on (he gets stabbed through the chest), run!
Beric is getting beat up by these wights but the three of them are running away from the wights. Eventually Beric runs past Sandor and Arya. In so doing he starts getting stabbed even more by other wights. Arya grabs an axe from the ground to help. Sandor, seeing lots of wights coming, grabs Arya, lifting her bodily so that she doesn’t also die with Beric. Beric tries to run but he is getting stabbed a lot. He puts his arms out in a corner of the hallway to act as a blocker for the wights and I mean we all see what the director is going for here.
Sandor, Arya, and Beric get out of the hallway and into a room, which Beric collapses into. Arya goes to check on him. Sandor puts some furniture in front of the door to reinforce it, because Beric deserves to have a dignified death scene. Beric says something not entirely recognizable. Arya doesn’t catch what it is either. Beric dies his final death (R.I.P. GoT #6-#70).
The preceding scenes were so busy that it takes a second or two to realize that there’s someone else in the room. It’s Melisandre, who says that the Lord brought Beric back for a purpose and that now that purpose has been served. Sandor doesn’t particularly recognize Melisandre but Arya does, and Arya says that she knows her. Melisandre walks closer to Arya to have a chat.
Melisandre: And I know you.
Arya: You said we’d meet again.
Melisandre: And here we are. At the end of the world.
Arya: You said I’d shut many eyes forever. You were right about that, too.
Melisandre: Brown eyes. Green eyes. And blue eyes.
Arya looks up at Melisandre, who delivered that last part with extra subtext which Arya is picking up on. Melisandre is looking at her and she slightly smiles because she knows Arya knows what she’s talking about.
Sandor, Arya, and Melisandre stand ready for the barricaded door to be ripped apart or smashed down or whatever by the wights. Melisandre and Arya deliver a call and response set of lines from Season 1 because Season 8 is the last season so they might as well.
Melisandre: What do we say to the God of Death?
Arya: ::very dramatic pause:: Not today.
They look at one another very significantly and then Arya walks past Sandor and Melisandre and then she starts jogging away because now she knows her mission in this episode.
In the godswood, no wights have shown up yet. The wights are all over the place in the rest of Winterfell but they haven’t intruded on the godswood yet. But they’re getting louder, so Theon looks over at Bran to check on him, and Bran is still warging apparently, so Theon says “Here they come!” and it’s finally wight-fighting time in the godswood. “Steady lads! Steady now!” The ironborn archers get their flaming arrows notched. “Make every shot count.” Some of the archers don’t have access to flaming arrows so they’re just going to shoot normal arrows into the wights which is awkward but okay. The wights start to come in. You might remember that Theon had some of his fingers removed so as to make him a worse archer. Just forget that happened.
A drone delivers an incredible shot of the battlefield. The trench around Winterfell is still on fire, as are several lines of ground that were hit with dragonfire. The soundtrack is menacing again because Viserion+the Night King are flying down towards Winterfell. Viserion breathes his wight-blue fire at a wall of Winterfell, it looks like it damages the wall quite a lot. But in doing so they give away their position, as Rhaegal+Jon attack the wight dragon. There are literally two dragons fighting above Winterfell, that’s pretty cool. Just for the heck of it, the camera temporarily goes back to the godswood to check in on the ironborn. They’re still there.
Back in the dragon v. wight dragon fight, Viserion and Rhaegal are using their bite and claw attacks as effectively as possible against one another. Both are getting injured and Viserion tries to just plain bite Jon but it keeps missing. The Night King remembers he has a ranged weapon so he gets ready to throw his spear at someone. Rhaegal, able to grab Viserion’s face in his mouth, rips part of Rhaegal’s face off; Rhaegal now is ‘venting’ fire off the left side of its mangled face.
Rhaegal and Viserion are still fighting one another when Drogon+Dany show up and join in the attack. Drogon grabs Viserion so suddenly that it throws the Night King off Viserion. But the impact also sends Rhaegal+Jon sort-of-half-falling to the ground. Drogon also gives Viserion a nice bite across the neck.
Rhaegal attempts to land gracefully but doesn’t; the dragon instead kind of can’t stop and just falls over while running, crashing into the snowy ground. Jon slides off Rhaegal and gets up, he’s alive and conscious. Rhaegal does not get up. ... The audience is apparently supposed to conclude that Rhaegal is just injured, not dead. Fire in the background identifies that this is somewhere near Winterfell but some considerable distance away.
We then see Drogon+Dany flying somewhere. The last time we saw Drogon, Drogon was definitely engaged in mid-air combat with Viserion. What happened to that fight? The audience is apparently supposed to conclude that somehow Viserion (who was, mind you, being bitten across the neck by a stronger, larger, and less injured dragon) got away. Or was released. Or something. It’s up to you.
There’s more dragon action later in the episode but I have to take a moment now to state that I completely understand that dragons are CGI rendering time expensive and that this show has a finite budget. So I understand why it’s not just 10 minutes of dragons fighting. This entire episode burned through money and was a nightmare to film and blah blah blah. But the show accidentally makes this dragon fight extremely less interesting by choosing to cut it up into an incongruous mess. Jon and Dany just (at least temporarily) dispatched the Night King’s biggest weapon. That should be a big deal. But no resolution to the fight is shown: Drogon survived apparently with nary a wound, Rheagal falls to the ground, seemingly dead but apparently “only” really injured, and Viserion is (we have no idea until later in the episode). Since the fate of these dragons has been the topic of character discussions over and over and over again, their unsuccessful usage in this episode is jarring.
Back on the ground in Winterfell there’s still a lot of fighting of living against wights. We see Tormund, he’s still alive and fighting. We also see Jorah, who looks up when he hears dragon roars. He pushes a wight he just dispatched to the ground, looks around, and runs off camera.
Drogon+Dany are in the air. She’s looking for something but it’s difficult to tell what but eventually the camera lets us know what: she’s looking for the Night King. I think the audience is supposed to assume that off-camera Drogon dropped Viserion so that Dany could go make sure the Night King had been defeated. Anyway the Night King did not at all take any damage from falling off Viserion. The plot wouldn’t just let him die to falling damage, that’d be silly. He’s standing and staring up at Drogon+Dany and so Dany says her catchphrase
And Drogon huffs, and Drogon puffs, and Drogon tries to blow the Night King down. Jon is even walking towards this giant fire because that’s a really logical thing to walk towards: Jon wants to see the end of the Night King. But Dany senses that something big didn’t happen. She doesn’t have the feeling that she won.
Because she didn’t. When Bran, in the previous episode, mentioned that no one knew if the Night King could be stopped by dragonfire, he was giving the honest truth. No one had tried. And it doesn’t work. Honestly, in universe, this makes a lot of sense. The Night King is a human made into a magical non-human by the Children of the Forest (as kind-of-explained in GoT #55) and at the time the Children were fighting Men. It’s directly stated and/or implied strongly that non-Valyrian swords and fire were weapons that Men had access to that the Children did not: that those two things were giving Men the winning edge in their war. So when they made the Night King, and subsequently the White Walkers, the Children made a weapon which was resistant or immune to those weapons. Wights, being created by the lesser magics of the White Walkers, don’t have those immunities. In terms of world-building this is surprisingly solid, but at that moment probably very infuriating for Dany, who has met few challenges that can’t be solved with the proper application of dragonfire.
She’s looking down incredulously at this scene of the Night King just not caring at all about the fire. He grabs his spear. She turns Drogon to bank sharply and his thrown spear barely misses Drogon+Dany. They leave. The Night King looks like he settled that entire problem and he starts walking to Winterfell (in the hole in the wall that Viserion created with dragonfire earlier) to go stab Bran.
Jon majestically unsheaths Longclaw and starts running towards the Night King. The Night King is just ... walking towards that hole in the wall. No big rush. Eventually the Night King realizes that some human (who he might even recognize, they’ve squared off a few times) is running towards him. Jon realizes the Night King knows he’s running towards him, so he stops running and sizes up the situation. The Night King pulls a move he did in GoT #48 to cast a 9th level necromancy spell: he’s going to create wight on all the targets within his casting range. Jon resumes running towards the Night King but he has to stop because there are now wights in his way. Like, Jon is now in the middle of a couple hundred wights.
The episode checks back in with other characters fighting in the courtyard. Grey Worm, Samwell, Tormund, Gendry, Jaime, and Brienne are still alive. They see this create wight spell happen as well; all of the wights (and their living comrades-in-arms) who they had been fighting are now re-animated. In terms of a demoralizing spell, it’s very effective. The show even brings Lyanna back as a wight! And Qhono! He died off-screen but now he’s back, in
pog wight form. And Edd!
The Night King just
, because he’s been taking lessons from Bran, stares at Jon. Jon probably could have rushed the last 50 feet or so to the Night King to attack him (since the wights require a round or two to gain their fighting status; the first round of casting just grants them hit points and a single movement action to resume standing) but that wouldn’t make for as good of television so Jon stares back at the Night King. Once he’s done casting the spell, he turns around and continues walking to Winterfell. And the wights start to move toward Jon, who attacks them.
In the courtyard the camera pans through the gate (that one that Lyanna died defending) to show a crew coming to Winterfell. It’s a dozen or so White Walkers. I know that you might have thought there were more than a dozen but it’s just a dozen, relax.
In the crypt, Gilly is the first to see an undead arm punch through a wall. This is a wight that is very skeletonized (no eyes even) that is in a burial shroud so uh
^ This is why I don’t put money on any of my Game of Throne wagers, they end up wrong all the time.
Gilly walks slightly towards the wight, which does not seem like the reaction I would expect from her character, who has dealt with wights. Sam screams. Varys, Tyrion, and Sansa all notice this wight. From another burial plot in the crypt, another skeletal arm emerges. A girl is dragged off by a wight. Wights have been created in all of the burial plots in the crypt and they are only too happy to attack the civilians gathered around them. The silliest thing that could happen in the crypt is happening. Sansa runs off. Tyrion waits for a second to tell people to ‘come on!’ but he is otherwise trying to get people to start leaving.
In the godswood, ironborn are still protecting Bran. But the ironborn are starting to lose. Bran is still warging. Presumably still into the ravens he was warging into earlier but the episode never shows the ravens again so that’s just me guessing based on incomplete information.
Outside of Winterfell, Jon is fighting wights. Drogon+Dany give him an assist by breathing dragonfire right next to him which does destroy the wights near him but also is really uncomfortably hot. Drogon continues to breathe fire to create a swath through the wights so that Jon can get into Winterfell. It’s apparently very effective, as Dany parks Drogon on the ground, which would only make sense if there’s enough cleared space for her to park Drogon on the ground. In response Jon screams “Bran!” and Dany yells “Go!” and Jon runs towards the hole in the wall of Winterfell that Viserion’s dragonfire punched earlier.
Seconds later, the wights which were not destroyed by Drogon begin to accumulate around Drogon. Dany is watching Jon run towards Winterfell instead of telling Drogon to, uh, leave. She’s probably distracted by the knowledge that dragonfire didn’t kill the Night King. So she only notices the severity of the wight situation when they are on Drogon, behind her. There are suddenly dozens of wights on Drogon and they are stabbing Drogon a lot. This situation looks bad. Drogon starts to try to get out of the situation and in the instability Dany falls off of Drogon. Drogon flies upwards, still being stabbed by dozens of wights that he is trying to shake off. Some of them drop to the ground, which stops them, because unlike the Night King they appear to suffer falling damage.
But only temporarily, as they start to get up and one in particular charges towards Daenerys. Dany
draws her weapon just tries to slowly scoot away from the wight when it’s decapitated by Jorah. Jorah, having saved his khaleesi, runs with Daenerys away from Winterfell.
Jon is in the Winterfell courtyard. The walls of Winterfell are still being crested by wights; in the background as he’s walking toward and away from the camera are lots just falling down from the walls. He sees that Tormund, Gendry, and Samwell are still alive. Samwell’s even in some trouble and there’s a moment where Jon might go back to help Samwell but no! Jon continues forward towards the godswood. Grey Worm and Brienne are also still alive too. Jon has no time to stop and chat. As he passes through the castle of Winterfell he is temporarily slowed down by the ceiling collapsing on him; there’s so dang many wights that the structural integrity of various structures around Winterfell are at their breaking points. He gets to a gate, he closes its latch to keep the wights on the other side of the gate, he keeps moving.
In the godswood, ironborn are still defending Bran. Theon pulls his last arrow. Bran is still warging. Theon fires his last arrow. He reaches for another. There are no more. So he uses his bow as a melee weapon against one wight but then is knocked down by another. That second one he attacks with a spear, which is much more effective. He attacks more with a spear. This starts the process of a lot of 20 or so second scenes.
Jorah and Dany are near the trench. Jorah is defeating wights. Dany picks up a sword. Lots of wights come towards them, they’re somewhat trapped in a corner.
In the crypt, civilians are being attacked by wights all over the place. Sansa and Tyrion are hiding behind a statue; they ran here and are catching their breaths before they do something heroic, foolish, or both. Somewhere along the line they are holding hands. Sansa draws the dragonglass weapon that Arya gave her earlier out of her cloak. Tyrion and her have a really good discussion with just their eyes. Tyrion kisses her hand, he is ready to run out there. The soundtrack begins to take over the audio mix with a sad and slow piano-dominated track.
Jon is back in the courtyard. He’s still moving towards the godswood but he hears a dragon roar that makes him stop. He looks up to see a dragon crash down into a building, uh, basically right on top of where he was going. It’s Viserion. We hadn’t seen Viserion in a while, what’s Viserion been up to? Not important, don’t worry about it. Viserion starts breathing fire everywhere, including on wights, in order to protect this location. Jon barely runs behind a wall to protect himself. Since the Night King can control wights maybe the Night King just commanded Viserion to land here and guard the godswood. Why not.
All the characters we’ve seen fighting before in the courtyard are still fighting in the courtyard. They’re holding their own but they are not doing great.
By the trench, Dany and Jorah are fighting wights. One stabs Jorah. He falls, but gets back up.
In the crypt there is still just random reckless wight-on-living violence going on. Tyrion runs over to where Varys and a small ground of unnamed characters are hiding. Sansa runs over to join him.
Jon is in a fairly quiet area of the courtyard, since he did latch the gate before he left the gate. But then the gate gets smashed open, and the wights who had been sequestered behind it are now in the courtyard with him. Given the options he runs into the area of the courtyard that Viserion is guarding. Viserion climbs down off its sort-of-perch to breath fire at Jon again, he once again runs for cover behind a wall.
Theon is defending Bran in the godswood. He’s alone now. Bran is still warging. The Night King and his White Walker buddies are walking into the godswood; their wights commanded to watch.
Jorah and Daenerys are outside. Jorah keeps getting hit with blows. He falls.
Tormund, Jaime, Podrick, and Brienne are doing their best to fight off this unending swarm of wights. Samwell has broken down crying.
The Night King and his friends are walking into the godswood. Theon is still fighting wights. The soundtrack gets more violin-y. Theon is able to catch his breath; him and Bran are surrounded by a lot of wight bodies. No more are approaching, they are awaiting their creators. The encircling wights make an opening for the White Walkers to emerge. Bran stops warging. The Night King looks upon this scene before him: a single human stands in the way of his long-awaited defeat of the Three-Eyed Raven. Theon readies himself for the Night King, aware that one of them (and more likely himself...) is going to die. Bran finally says something.
Theon silently accepts this compliment from someone whose faith he betrayed. He looks down at the ground and he looks again at the Night King. The Night King takes two steps forward. Theon readies his spear. Theon, in slow motion, charges at the Night King.
In not slow motion, the Night King grabs the spear, breaking it in half, and stabs Theon through with the pointy end of the broken half. Theon falls to his knees. The Night King watches this happen but then looks again on his target. His target stares back at him.
Theon falls to the ground. Bran passively accepts what will happen.
Jon and Viserion are still having a contest of wills. Jon wants to get past Viserion, Visersion, seemingly-mindless wight, is trying to find and eliminate Jon. Jon runs at Viserion’s bad side (the wight dragon’s left) but then Viserion turns and breathes fire so Jon has to dive behind some rubble. Jon’s not in a great spot.
Theon is not dead yet, but he is bleeding out on the ground in the godswood. The Night King looks down at him to make sure he doesn’t do anything silly. Then the Night King looks at Bran, and starts walking to Bran. Theon dies. (R.I.P. GoT #1-#70).
Jorah gets back up to his knees, but only with Dany’s help. A wight stabs Jorah. Dany stabs that wight. Another wight stabs Jorah. Jorah stabs that wight. Jorah leans on his sword and stands up, one last time, to protect his Queen. She reaches over to touch him on the arm since he is staggering.
The Night King walks closer to Bran to, I dunno, slap him to death or something. It’s not going to be a fair fight. Bran still seems to be just passively accepting his fate.
Viserion is no longer breathing fire. Jon looks up and starts to get up. Viserion draws closer.
The Night King draws closer. He stops next to Bran’s chair. Bran looks at him. The Night King looks at him. Bran moves his head slightly. The Night King moves his head slightly.
Jon prepares himself to do something action-y. He gets up. He is right in front of Viserion. He yells at Viserion. Viserion prepares to take a large bite out of Jon.
Bran and the Night King are still looking at each other. The Night King reaches behind his back to get the sword sheathed on his back. Back at the entrance into the godswood, the camera looks at a White Walker. There’s a slight noise of a wight scream and a wind pushes the White Walker’s hair slightly forward, so the White Walker looks behind its right shoulder to see what’s up.
The Night King is just about to grab his sword when Arya comes jumping in behind him, screaming with a jumping leap to stab the Night King in the back with the “catspaw” Valyrian dagger. He turns, grabbing her left arm with his right hand and her neck with his left. There’s some crunching noises of her neck and arm. So she drops the dagger from her left hand.
He sees her drop it.
He does not see, until it is too late, her grab it with her right hand, stabbing the Night King with a Valyrian blade. He explodes into ice. (R.I.P. GoT #34-70)
And like any good magical effect, the wave of the Night King’s magic ending emanates outwards. The assembled White Walkers also explode into ice and the wights fall over.
Viserion rears up to take a nice bite out of Jon and then at the peak of that it collapses.
Wights across Winterfell are now just dead bodies; the ones climbing on one another to get into the walls just kind of fall down onto one another. The living won. The Army of the Dead is vanquished. (R.I.P. GoT #1-70)
Jorah, seeing that he no longer needs to protect Dany, drops to his knees and then drops fully to the ground.
Jon is in the courtyard looking at the pile of dead dragon in front of him and he realizes that he won. The giant goal of his life has been achieved. He has won.
The camera checks in with all of the other named survivors of the courtyard: Tormund, Grey Worm, Gendry, Samwise, Davos, Brienne, Jaime, and Podrick.
In the crypt Tyrion, Sansa, Varys, Missandei, Gilly, and Sam all make appearances to also assure the audience they survived the onslaught.
In the godswood, brother and sister regard one another. Did Bran see that Arya would be the one to end the Night King? Did he know that this would be her fate? Who the heck knows, he doesn’t say much nowadays.
Dany cradles Jorah’s head and cries as her friend dies. He tries to mouth some last words but he can’t. Jorah dies (R.I.P. GoT #1-#70). Dany cries some more. Drogon lands nearby and walks closer to his mother to comfort her.
Sandor and Melisandre emerge from the building they were in. Melisandre plods past him. She leaves her cloak and walks out of Winterfell through a slight gap that the wight corpses carefully left her. Davos walks after her but stops just outside of the gate.
As she walks she removes her necklace, dropping it to the ground. The glow of the gem within it fades and Davos watches from a distance as she dramatically ages, stumbles, and falls to her death. (R.I.P. GoT #11-70)
1 After I published I realized that Arya probably isn’t weaponless when she first enters the ‘library’ room because she should have the “catspaw” Valyrian dagger with her. But the show makes it seem like she’s weaponless. I don’t even know.