WARNING: There are SPOILERS ahead for the third episode of season 8 of Game Of Thrones. So please only read ahead once you have watched The Long Night.
Having lulled us into its eighth and final season with two relatively quiet opening episodes, Game Of Thrones fully exploded into action with The Long Night, and over the course of its elongated 82-minute running time it delivered everything that we love, and a little bit of what frustrates, about the show.
The Long Night possessed a heady mix of of bombastic action set-pieces as the seemingly endless and relentless Army of the Dead made their way through Winterfell and were just about kept at bay by the remaining crowd favourites. Although, some of the most beloved members of the ensemble sadly had to bid farewell.
Director Miguel Sapochnik didn’t just immediately swing into the fight, though. Instead, The Long Knight opened with the troops getting into position, the return of Melisandre, who lit the swords of the Dothraki on fire, and then them charging at the Army of the Dead.
They did not survive, though. Instead, they were seemingly killed with ease, which immediately underlined the task at hand for the living.
That quickly became apparent for the audience, too, because out of the darkness came a wall of the undead, who were able to push the living soldiers back behind the castle walls. During this retreat we got our first major death, as Edd was killed saving Samwell.
There were plenty more to come, the most tragic of which saw Lyanna Mormont being crushed by the hands of a wight giant, but not before she used her last swing of strength to stab him in the eye. A worthy death for a stunning late addition to the Game Of Thrones ensemble.
Sapochnik’s direction was mostly spot-on. Sure there will be some complaints about just how dark and dingy the lighting was for bits of the action, but he found time to create genuine suspense and always managed to increase the spectacle. One sequence in particular, which saw Jon running through a crumbling Winterfell, watching Brienne, Jaime, Podrick, Sam and Gendry fight off sways of the undead while bodies literally dropped out of the sky will go down as one of the most insane ever created for television.
At the same time, he managed to do justice to do the deaths of Beric Dondarrion (who saved Arya before succumbing to his wounds), Theon (who was murdered by the Night King as he tried to protect Bran), Jorah, (who single-handedly saved Dany on the battle field after she fell off Drogon) and Melisandre (who, with her mission complete, decided to remove her necklace and immediately age to an old woman right at the end of the episode).
The only one that fell short was the death of the Night King and all of the Army of the Dead. Don’t get me wrong, the sight of Arya coming out of thin air, being caught on the throat by the Night King, only to then outsmart him by dropping her knife from one hand to another and then stabbing and instantly killing him and his posse was undeniably rousing and satisfying.
But the final sequence of the Night King approaching Bran felt like it lasted just a little bit too long. Plus, where did Arya come from? Why was it suddenly so easy for her to get to him? While, after 70 episodes of waiting for the dead to finally arrive at Westeros, it feels a tad underwhelming that they fell at the first hurdle.
Like previous Game Of Thrones episodes of this ilk before, The Long Night possessed too much excitement for those qualms to immediately ruin what had come before. But tiny holes like this are why it will probably fall short of being regarded as one of the greatest television shows of time.
With three more elongated episodes left, Game Of Thrones still has time to reach these heights, though. Especially with so many tantalisingly loose threads to tie up in the south.