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Last night, the third episode of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones aired on HBO. “The Long Night” was among the show’s most hotly-anticipated episodes. Much of the hype centered on the long-awaited Battle of Winterfell, the longest battle sequence ever committed to film. This battle took 55 nights to film, in treacherous nighttime winter conditions and ankle-deep mud. Here are four key things to know about last night’s groundbreaking TV episode from a show that has historically innovated and surprised viewers and critics at every turn.
WARNING: Major Game of Thrones spoilers lie ahead.
“The Long Night” was Game of Thrones’ longest episode yet
“The Long Night” is an aptly-titled episode of TV if there ever was one. At 82 minutes, its runtime exceeded any previous Game of Thrones episode, and the Battle of Winterfell comprised the vast majority of the episode. The penultimate and final episodes of this season — and, therefore, the show — are set to be only slightly shorter.
Six major characters died
In the Battle of Winterfell, the living battled the notoriously formidable enemy of the Night King and his White Walkers — in short, a fight between the living and the undead. Fans and critics alike thus predicted that “The Long Night” would see the death of many major characters. They were right, but perhaps fewer characters than expected passed — seven in total — during the battle. Truly vital characters such as Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen lived to see another day, but fan favorites such as Theon Greyjoy and Jorah Mormont died saving the living from the undead.
The living won — but how they did was shocking
In many crucial Game of Thrones scenes, Jon Snow has saved the day. Many viewers thus expected Snow, newly revealed to be a Targaryen, to deliver the victory blow ending the Battle of Winterfell (though some expected him to be among the many living killed). Instead, Arya Stark appeared out of nowhere and delivered a fatal blow to the Night King using the one thing that can kill White Walkers: Valyrian steel. Arya has trained intensely since her earliest moments on the show, so many have pointed to her crucial role in this battle as redeeming, thrilling, and even surprising.
“The Long Night” was not without detractors
“The Long Night” takes place almost entirely at nighttime, save its final moments. Darkness thus literally (and, of course, figuratively) occupied much of its scenery. Some have lambasted the episode for cinematography so dark that seeing what was happening was close to impossible. Critics who were seeing the episode for the first time as it aired took to Twitter to complain about how difficult the battle was, at times, to even see. Some critics also questioned the episode’s editing and wondered how such a crucial, hard-fought battle could end with so many beloved Game of Thrones protagonists alive.
What did you think of “The Long Night” and the Battle of Winterfell? What do you think will happen in Game of Thrones’ remaining three episodes? Let us know in the comments!