I’m getting the most recent review/recap up a bit earlier than the last. Mostly because I had today off since I got out of Avenger’s Endgame just in time to come home and immediately watch a late start to The Battle For Winterfell. I’ve got some mixed feelings about it, and I feel a bit of a compulsion to do a more critical look at some of what they did, but that may be for a more serious time.
Better hope you remembered where we left off, because the show gives no preamble to help you recall anything from the past 8 seasons. We immediately open to the credits where the blue tiles have advanced all the way to Winterfell, which has a few more fortifications outside, but that’s the entirety of it. Or maybe those mounds were to represent their forces? Who knows?
In Winterfell, Sam the Slayer is armed with two daggers. Because… Fuck if I know. Why is Sam the Slayer going to the front lines other than to prove his mettle? Tyrion has yet to retreat to the Crypts where Sam should probably be too, but he does make time to get what is most important… Wine. We see Theon with Alys Karstark (Why is she going there?) leading Bran to the Godswood, and then we start panning over the troops, with Davos, Arya and Sansa (Why is she not in the crypts????) And then the dragons fly overhead, but good news, it’s the dragons we want to see. Not Viserion, the undying.
In front of Winterfell, the troops all stand stoically awaiting their fates. Including the Dothraki, who one would think would be riding in circles out front, rallying their people in the ways that their people would fight, and not standing in formation. They’re supposed to be fucking savages, but no… they’re waiting like a true line of knightly cavalry, led by Ser Friendzone, who is flanked by Ghost. Was there an unspoken trade that I’m not aware of? Did Jon trade Ghost to Ser Friendzone for Longclaw and the Dragon Queen?
To be fair, it’s all very eerie as it starts as no words are being spoken, the music ominous and heavy with drums when it’s actually present. And then Davos wins the prize for best perception roll as he identifies the first lone rider approaching from a great distance, in the dark, to be Melisandre. Uh oh.. That can’t be good for her.
Then, she blesses the weapons of all the Dothraki with flaming swords! Yes, let’s use witchcraft on the most superstitious of people gathered. They may have seem Dany come out of a burning building alive, but these are people that spit on magic regularly. This really should have caused a panic amongst her troops. They don’t consort with magic. But hey, now that they have magic flaming swords, they’ll be unstoppable…
At least Davos is willing to let Melisandre inside when she calmly rides through the ranks, and then he promptly abandons his post just before the battle is to start because he really hates her. That’s far more important than watching to see what could possibly be about to start. To be honest, I’m shocked that he didn’t just stab her in the throat as soon as he met her on the ramparts . But apparently, she really needs to stare into the face of Arya before the battle begins.
Speaking of battles beginning, the Dothraki decide to charge the undead, led by Jorah wielding Heartsbane, in the dark, with their new weapon torches! This will be great… OH FUCK NO. GHOST! WHY THE HELL ARE YOU RUNNING WITH THE DOTHRAKI ON THIS?!?! GET YOUR ASS BACK TO WINTERFELL!!
Oooh, they’re launching catapults with flaming stones to the enemies. (And can I say that they look like comets streaking through the sky. The imagery here is really beautiful with the sea of light going into the night sky… OH MY GOD, THEY RAN INTO AN UNDEAD GIANT! And the lights slowly extinguish one by one.
WHY THE FUCK DID THE DOTHRAKI CHARGE LIKE THAT? WHAT HAPPENED TO JORAH? WHAT HAPPENED TO GHOST? DON’T YOU DARE KILL THE LAST OF OUR DIREWOLVES IN THE DARK LIKE THAT? (Because let’s be real, Nymeria isn’t going to be returning this season.)
Jon and Dany stand off to the side and watch all of this, and a thrumming sound of a heartbeat overtakes the scene. Dany decides she can’t just sit back and watch people get slaughtered, and a few Dothraki and Jorah return. (Although Tormund gives Jorah a vicious side-eye to make sure that he’s not part of the undead army.)
And then a sea of blackness with a cacophony of dissonant chords slam into the armies, and the chaos of battle ensues. The undead rush like any good zombie army, and begin to overwhelm, and OH NO, IT’S MY BRIENNE AND JAIME… THEY CAN’T GO OUT YET… THEY CAN’T…
The swell of Dany’s victory music begins as the dragons join the battle and begin alighting the undead. It’s pretty beautiful to watch the way both dragons and riders are strafing the battlefield. And relief settles back in. I can’t handle losing any of them yet. And what… the… everloving… fuck… is that wall of clouds? Apparently the Night King brought his hurricane of ice with him that is coming on like a sandstorm!
Arya sees this, and she rightly tells Sansa to get her ass down into the crypts. Even if it’s probably not as safe as everyone has been stating, it’s a sight safer than the battlements that Sansa was standing atop.
Meanwhile, chaos continues below with dizzying shots of all our favorites down in the thick of things. It’s really difficult to see the precise details, but I think that was intentional. After all, the speed of combat is faster than we could rightly perceive and it makes it difficult to watch the flow. It heightens the intensity, but man, we see some beautiful fightwork coming from a one-handed warrior who learned to fight anew with his offhand.
And… then our first casualty… Sam gets knocked to his ass and almost stabbed through the eye when Edd comes to his rescue. He forces Sam back to his feet (which hearkens back to early seasons when Sam’s Night Watch buddies force him to keep moving when he wants to die after the Fist of the Firstmen was dismantled by the NK). Then Edd gets promptly killed for his help, and Sam flees the field.
Sansa makes a brief appearance in the crypts before we go back to the battle where retreat is being ordered. The Unsullied are covering the retreat, still led by Grey Worm, and the trenches are still not lit. Why the fuck did they not light those before the battle began? The archers are also helping to cover the retreat, as Lyanna Mormont stands inside the gates to help keep it defended during the retreat. Grey Worm than runs to behind the Unsullied troops, and behind the trenches….
He orders the trenches to be lighted, but no one can get Dany’s attention to light them due to the sudden storm. Grey Worm then closes off the retreat for what appears to be a good portion of the Unsullied before running inside and grabbing Melisandre. If she can light a bunch of Dothraki swords, she can sure as hell light the trenches. She then pimp walks forward to do just that.
Unfortunately, the fire has one bad effect. It sends Sandor running scared. WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS SHIT, CLEGANE! REACH DOWN INSIDE YOUR SCROTUM AND FIND YOUR BALLS ONCE MORE!
Down in the crypts, we get our pallet cleanser for the chaos with Sansa and the others. Varys has a few words, so it’s good to know he can still speak. Tyrion than starts talking, or perhaps better, whining, that he has to hide in the crypts. He feels that his mind would be better spent out in the chaos, that he could see something that the others can’t. So, they spend the few moments reassuring that this is the right call, and then Tyrion and Sansa reminiscence about their marriage. It’s all going well until Sansa mentions that the Dragon Queen would be a problem.
That upsets Missandei, who reminds them that without the Dragon Queen, they’d all be dead.
In the Godswood, we turn back to Bran and Theon. Where it’s mostly just Theon talking. Bran reassures Theon though that he is home at Winterfell, but he’s going to take a nap. So, peace out bitches!
He then assumes direct control of a bunch of ravens that decided to just hang out in the face of mortal peril. Because these ravens wouldn’t have the normal animal instinct to flee before the oncoming storm of ice and death. And we get our first look of the NK, who is actually at the battle. (I’ve ommitted discussing the scenes of Dany and Jon almost colliding trying to locate him about the battle because really… they’re just passing quick shots that have no purpose in the grand scheme.)
Meanwhile, the NK wastes no time in ordering his troops to form a corpse bridge over the fire to allow the rest of his troops to make it to the walls of Winterfell. It does create a few bottlenecks, but they already lost too many people on the front lines to make any use of that. As people are rushing to man the walls with melee troops, Jon spots the NK and decides to take action.
On the walls, we see Jaime taking charge of ordering troops around to better positions, along with ordering them for for launching their arrows. We see all our faves still in play again in positions of imminent danger as the waves of the undead scale the walls. Again, we are faced with people coming to the rescue of each other, Jaime and Brienne, and Jorah and Sam notably.
The odds are feeling pretty overwhelming, and we see still scaredy cat Clegane hiding before we really get to see Arya in true action. She’s going to ton on the undead better than some of hte seasons warriors, and Davos looks at her like… He’s not really sure what to make of her. She flees from the undead and takes a careening shot to the face as she is knocked into a wall. Beric finally convinces Sandor to find his courage when he points out Arya fleeing from the dead, and I guess Sandor really wants to fight for her still. (But not Sansa… who he had just as much of a reason to protect. Just Arya.)
On the ground, Little Lady Lyanna Mormont is facing an undead giant who opened the gates of Winterfell in the memory of Wun-Wun. He knocks the little girl aside like the tiny little human she is. But she’s a bear through and through and charges the Giant after she gets up. He picks her up like Kong would of a beautiful damsel and crushes her rib cage as he makes to eat her, but she drives a dragonglass dagger into his one good eye. Sadly, she’s dead by the time she hits the ground.
A beautiful shot of the dragons above the clouds are seen before the NK starts to rain blue fire upon Dany and Drogon. They dive into the clouds before running back above them to an eerily still and quiet moment above the clouds. It’s quite reminiscent of the eye of a hurricane, IMHO. Maybe that’s what the NK was doing with all his weird symbols. He’s been charting the course of his hurricane, and leaving the spiral imagery as an old school weather tracking system for people interested.
Inside Winterfell, Arya has left the battle to enter Resident Evil as she has to stealth by undead that have decided that they’re just going to meander and chill inside. Like they’ve been there for weeks. Thankfully, the undead are pretty dumb and fall for the easy “Go for the noise” trap so arya can get out of the library. She has one close call before she closes the door behind her… and oh wait… there’s the actual horde of undead that she should have encountered first. She then does the only sane thing… RUN AWAY!
Back down in the Crypts, a man bangs and bangs and bangs on the door. He really wants to be let in, but the people just stare at each other as his voice slowly dies away. It was definitely the right call, but man, that will haunt their dreams if they survive.
Cutting right back to the some of the action, we get Sandor and Beric searching high and low for Arya. She comes bursting through a door with an undead on top of her, and they run to save her. Beric begins to take several wounds as they search for a safe passage away. And every time Arya tries to help, Sandor stops and drags her away from the fight. Sandor is a good man, and they do manage to still get Beric to a safe place where he can die in piece. Apparently, the Lord of Light brought him back nineteen times so he could save Arya Stark.
And if you missed that Melisandre is there to make sure that we know that exactly. And then we get a repeat of a prophecy from an earlier season when Melisandre tells Arya that she’ll snuff out the eyes of brown, green and blue forever. Then she echoes the words of Syrio Forel, “What do we say to the God of Death?”
And then Arya runs, like she did in Season 1. (I really liked that imagery and callback personally.)
In the Godswood, the undead have begun to arrive, and the archers are making their final stand to protect Bran. At the same time, the Night King begins to unleash dragon fire on the walls of Winterfell, and a bunch of people just died, but we didn’t see any faves melting, so it’s just more of the usual. Jon than goes into a dragon fight with the Night King, and during their struggle, the Night King falls. Jon and Rhaegal come to the ground, and Rhaegal seems to flop down, but we don’t see anything significant that he’s dead…. So I’m just going to say that he’s okay for now. Like Ghost.
THEY’RE BOTH ALIVE, OKAY?!
Dany then finds the Night King on the battlefield on foot, and she sets his ass on fire with dragon fire. YEAH TAKE THAT YOU STUPID BITCH! And then apparently, she didn’t hear his herald at the start of the battle, which also had the title Unburnt. He got that achievement too, and was just keeping it on the downlow.
That’s okay, Jon is on foot and he’s going to charge the Night King just like he charged Ramsay. What could fucking go wrong with that… OH SHIT, THAT’S RIGHT. The Night King reminds everyone that he finished his chain link for necromancy years ago (eat your heart out Qyburn) and raises all the dead around Winterfell. And Jon… just stops to watch it happen. Because why should he keep rushing forward while the Night King does his magic and try to stab him through the heart.
Also, that spell has some reach, as all the dead come back, including Edd and Lyanna Mormont. And the crypts. As if there was much doubt that wouldn’t happen.
Now with his renewed ranks of undead, the NK summons forth his lieutenants. Because he didn’t want to risk them before victory was surely in sight. They’re really just part of his entourage anyways.
The odds begin to swarm everyone once more, and Dany flies to Jon’s rescue as he’s about to join the swarm. She lands her dragon for some reason, and then gets swarmed herself. WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU LAND THE DRAGON?!? WHY??!!?!?
She tumbles from Drogon’s back, and our beloved wyvern posing as a dragon manages to barely fly away shaking dozens of undead from his back as he screams in agony. Then the undead realizes he’s still on the battlefield, and OOOH, DRAGON QUEEN IS ON THE MENU!
Except, Ser Friendzone to the rescue. Which is fitting since Jorah is all that is truly left of her Queensguard, so he makes his way to her.
Jon is rushing to get to Bran in the meantime, but it’s a mad house of chaos still, the keep falling around him. And he’s seeing lots of brave and noble people getting to the point where they may lose, including Sam. But Jon has learned that he has to keep his priority for getting to Bran. Which is where Theon is, with no more arrows, trying to protect the cripple to his last breath.
In the crypts, Sansa and Tyrion hide away as they listen to the cries of people being torn asunder, and then they finally pluck up the courage to either stab themselves based on the looks, or protect the people. For a heartbeat, it seemed like they would plunge the dagger in each of their hands in the hearts of the other, but they go to join the battle in the crypts. (Not before sharing a beautiful moment. I almost hope if they survive that they find a way to make things work out.)
We start getting a montage of futility, as our faves who haven’t died yet are trying to survive, most notably we see Jorah take several mortal wounds protecting his Queen. The odds are overwhelming in each instance though, none more so than Jon who is being blocked by Viserion. It feels very Dark Souls as Jon gets blocked by dragon’s fire every time he tries to get to the Godswood. Which is where the Night King and his posse have arrived, where Theon is the lone man standing in protection of Bran.
Bran tells Theon that he’s a good man, and Theon charges the Night King to put an end to him. Except the Night King grabs the spear, breaks it in half and impales Theon on it. Theon falls to the ground, and I yell at my tv. WHAT IS DEAD MAY NEVER DIE! And I keep expecting Theon to get up with his last breath and at least do something, but no. OF COURSE FUCKING NOT. Why should the man who is both a Stark and a Greyjoy, not die as both. Proving as a Greyjoy that he had one last killshot in him before he died protecting the Starks.
It seems like all hope is now lost. Victory is in the hands of the Night King. Ser Friendzone is hanging in there by his sheer will to protect his Queen. The others are moments away from just not being able to hold people back, Jon just screams in the face of an undead dragon, daring it ot burn him alive. All while the Night King pimps strolls forward to claim Bran as the trophy of the evening. I didn’t realize that this was just an elaborate game of capture the flag, with Bran as the flag.
But oh wait, we’re not done yet!
Out of nowhere, Arya slices through the night to leap at the Night King! He grabs her by the throat, and it seems like she’s about a moment away from having her throat crushed when she drops her dagger to her other hand and stabs the Night King. And the dead just all crumble and die as the Night King shatters. Including Viserion. (RIP undead dragon. I loved you despite the abomination you became).
I’m not sure how much a victory it will be when they go South, as Winterfell is in shambles, almost all of the armies have been destroyed, and my guess is that people should be sufficiently shellshocked for years with their PTSD.
Ser Friendzone steals a page from Jaime’s book, and chooses to finally die in the arms of the woman he loves. Drogon returns to let us know he’s safe and now protect his mother in her grief. It’s rather sad to watch Ser Jorah Mormont pass away, as he was the last of the Mormonts (that we know anyways).
Melisandre still lives, but she just walks out towards the rising sun, removes her glamor necklace to turn back into her crone form, and falls over dead.
And that’s all we get for this episode. So, happy trails to next week.