The moment of truth has arrived on Game of Thrones. Who will live to fight another day? So many spoilers (including a roll call of who lives and dies) below!
The army of the dead is outside, and the forces massed at Winterfell move into battle positions.
On the front line: The Dothraki Horde, led by Jorah (Iain Glen) and Ghost.
Behind them, the Unsullied, led by Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and punctuated with trebuchets.
Protecting the castle from inside the courtyard are another company of troops, led by Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey).
As the episode unfolds in oppressive dark with a perfect, heartbeat percussive score that leads the viewer into the mounting tension, and everyone settles into place, a rider appears. Melisandre (Carice van Houten) approaches Jorah at the head of the Dothraki and asks him to instruct them to raise their swords. He does, and she grasps the sword of the man nearest her. While staring at the curved blade, she incants in High Valyrian until flames spring to life. The blades in every Dothraki’s hand burst into flame, and Melisandre proceeds towards the castle gate.
As she comes near, Davos sees her. He shouts below to open the gate and runs to meet her, ready to execute her for the death of Shireen Baratheon. When he finds her on the stairs, she tells him there’s no need because she’ll be dead by morning, so he lets her pass to join their ranks for the fight.
The Dothraki plunge into the dark with their flaming swords raised, trilling their shouts as they ride hard across the open space and out of view. Those left waiting for their turns to fight strain to make out what’s happening. All they can see are the little sword lights being extinguished until they have all gone out. Moments later, the surviving Dothraki and a few horses come running back in the direction from whence they came.
When the army of the dead emerges from the dark in their wake, they overwhelm the ground troops in a literal wave, climbing rapidly up and beyond the remains of their fallen to set upon those opposing them.
From above, Dany cannot stand to watch and wait any longer. She mounts Drogon as Jon urges her to stay put and wait for the Night King to come. She retorts that the dead are already there and takes off. Jon follows, and together they use dragonfire to obliterate scores of undead creatures, but they hardly make a dent.
At this point, Arya turns to Sansa on the wall and tells her to go to the crypt. She arms her with a dragonglass dagger and passes on the advice Jon once gave her on how to use it– stick them with the pointy end. Sansa reluctantly retreats, joining an increasingly drunk Tyrion and the others left to wait and wonder below ground.
A cold, icy fog comes up suddenly, making it difficult for Dany and Jon to keep their seats on the dragons. The Night King is close. They fight through the intense cold and lack of visibility to continue lighting up the wights beneath them, once colliding with each other in a near-catastrophe.
Edd is the first of the recognizable characters to fall, moments after saving Sam’s life.
The call to retreat is sounded, and all of the fighters outside the castle turn towards the gates and come streaming into the courtyard and up onto the walls while the Unsullied protect their progress. The army of the dead reaches the trench full of wooden spikes that surrounds Winterfell, and the call goes out to light the trench.
The trench won’t light.
The Night King’s fog extinguishes every flaming arrow, and the wights attack anyone coming with a torch. Things begin looking grimmer, when Melisandre arrives to ask the Lord of Light for fire once again. Her prayer is answered more slowly this time, but flames finally erupt, saving her just as a wight attacks.
Jon has left Dany, perching Rhaegal on the wall above Bran and the Weirwood to keep watch for the Night King. Dany has become disoriented in the fog, but the lighting of the trench gives her back her bearings and she resumes incinerating the undead.
The troops now inside the castle take positions in the courtyard and on the walls– except for The Hound, who freezes when he sees the flames spring up around him. He presses his back against a pillar, out of the sight of everyone except Dondarrion, who begs him to return to the fight.
On the walls, Arya, Brienne, Jaime and Davos watch as the dead start walking into the flaming trench here and there. It’s reminiscent of the moment the dead began testing the ice when Jon and his band of companions were retrieving a wight to show Cersei, and the result is similar. Soon the wights are walking into the fire en masse, extinguishing it with their falling bodies and creating bridges through it for the thousands behind them.
The wights climb the wall in a clear homage to the Battle of Helm’s Deep from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which was studied at length by this episode’s director, Miguel Sapochnik. They create a ramp with their bodies, clambering over each other to get up to and over the battlements. The fighters stationed there hold them off as best they can, but before long they are spilling down into the courtyard.
It’s the sight of Arya losing ground to them that Dondarrion uses to finally snap Clegane out of his inertia. They rush into the castle after seeing her flee inside.
Arya sneaks into Winterfell’s library, where wights are already prowling about. For the first time in years, she is visibly frightened. She sneaks between rows of shelves, desperate for rest. She finds a table to hide under, but the sound of blood dripping from her split brow and hitting the floor draws their attention. She escapes the immediate threat and tosses a book across the room to draw her enemies away long enough for her to exit. The door is hardly latched behind her when a flood of undead soldiers swarms towards her down the hallway.
Sandor and Dondarrion find Arya just as she’s about to lose a fight to a wight and save her. Sandor drags her away as Dondarrion protects their retreat, being stabbed repeatedly by wights as he does. The trio manages to lock themselves into the great hall, where Dondarrion dies and Melisandre appears.
“I know you,” Arya says to her.
“And I know you,” Melisandre replies.
“You said we’d meet again,” Arya says.
“And here we are,” says Melisandre. “At the end of the world.”
“You said I’d shut many eyes forever,” says Arya. “You were right about that, too.”
“Brown eyes, green eyes,” responds Melisandre, “and blue eyes.
“What do we say to the God of Death?”
“Not today,” Arya responds.
They exchange a look, and Arya sprints from the room.
In the courtyard, an undead giant breaks through the gate. He slaps Lyanna Mormont aside and begins effortlessly killing those around her. Lyanna rallies and charges him, but he picks her up like a doll and crushes her. Before giving up the ghost, she pierces him through the eye with a dragonglass spear, and they fall dead to the ground together.
In the air above Winterfell, the Night King arrives. Jon and Dany swoop towards him to try to bring him and the former Viserion down. They fly through and above the fog, and he attempts to hit them with Viserion’s blue fire. He misses and escapes back into the fog.
Jon manages to catch up with him, and their dragons grapple in the air. Undead Viserion attempts to bite the rider off of Rhaegal’s back, and Rhaegal bites Viserion’s head. The struggle ends with both dragons falling to the ground, unseating their riders.
Dany senses that her moment has arrived. She directs Drogon’s attention and commands, “Dracarys.” Drogon spews fire at the Night King, who is hidden from view by the massive fireball erupting around him. Jon watches, hoping the battle is ended. As the flames abate, the Night King is still standing.
Unfazed, he sets out on foot towards Winterfell and Bran.
Jon drags himself up and runs after the Night King, limping as he goes. As he begins to gain on his quarry, the Night King turns towards him and regards him, then raises his hands… and with that gesture reanimates all of Jon’s recently deceased fellow fighters. The Night King turns and leaves Jon to fight for his life.
This is the moment those in the crypt realize what a foolish hiding place that was. It doesn’t take long for late Starks to begin pushing their way out of their graves and attacking the mostly unarmed people sheltering amongst them. Tyrion has been whining about wanting to fight, but when he finally sees the enemy, he and Sansa hide and hold hands while unsheathing their daggers and expecting the worst.
Below the Weirwood, Theon and the Iron Islanders are doing their best to hold off the seemingly inexhaustible flow of undead rushing towards them. They manage to keep Bran safe for a while, but ultimately they run out of flaming arrows and all of Theon’s men have fallen by the time the Night King and his White Walkers arrive.
Bran calls to Theon to tell him he is a good man and to thank him, then Theon rushes the Night King. The supernatural foe snaps Theon’s spear like it’s nothing, then stabs half through Theon’s body and drops him to the ground to die.
The Night King advances on Bran, while Jon makes little headway in his efforts to get to him. He is pinned down by Viserion, hiding behind walls and piles of stones as the undead dragon shoots blue fire at him.
Dany has lost Drogon, who was overwhelmed with wights when she landed after saving Jon from the newly risen troops with dragonfire. She and Jorah are fighting for their lives with no apparent thought left for trying to help save Bran.
Brienne, Jaime, Sam, Pod, Gendry, Grey Worm and all the remaining faces we know are disappearing behind walls of oncoming undead.
The Night King advances towards Bran, reaches for his sword and prepares to draw it…
When! Out of nowhere! A shout!
Arya flies into frame, Valyrian Steel dagger raised and the Night King snatches her out of the air by her throat!
She drops her blade…
And catches it with her other hand, thrusting it up and into him!
He shatters into a million pieces, and Arya falls to the ground and lands on her hands and knees!
The White Walkers, then Viserion, then all of the wights shatter. The living stagger forward in shock, surrounded by countless thousands of corpses.
And knowing his queen is safe, Jorah falls to the ground and dies of his many wounds while Dany clings to him and sobs. Drogon lands behind her, circling her protectively with his wings and body.
Melisandre walks through the silent courtyard and out of the castle gate, followed by Davos. As she goes, she begins shedding layers of clothing– and her magic necklace. He watches as she ages before his eyes and lays down in the snow to die.
Roll Call of The Dead:
Lady Lyanna Mormont
Melisandre, The Red Woman
Roll Call of the Living:
Jon Snow (a.k.a. Aegon Targaryen)
Gilly & Little Sam
Ser Davos Seaworth
Roll Call of the Probably Living:
Brienne of Tarth
YOU GUYS!!! Arya killed the Night King! That is my favorite thing. Yay!!