The Battle for Winterfell: Season 8, Episode 3m


Arya and Sansa on the battlements of Winterfell before the epic battle begins. (c) HBO.

The Battle for Winterfell is quite possible the face-off we’ve been waiting for the entire series.  The third episode of Season 8 is fantastic and didn’t have my finishing a box of tissues like I feared. One thing I particularly liked about the battle sequence is that it has a different texture than the Battle of Blackwater Bay and the Battle of the Bastards and other battles.

This episode’s use of fire and music were majestic, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it won an Emmy.

Highlights of this Episode

The Redemption of Melisandre

Despite Davos’ warning that he would kill her if he ever saw her again, Melisandre stayed true to her mission of helping to defeat the Night King as the Lord of Light has commanded her and returned to fight.

She lights the Dothraki’s blades, which were almost instantly extinguished when the Army of the Dead slaughtered them. She also just manages to light the trenches in the nick of time, right before the dead can charge Winterfell’s walls.

More than anything, it feels like Melisandre came back to shepherd the hero of the series — Arya — to her true purpose. More on this in a bit.

Davos never gets the chance to avenge Shireen’s death though since once the battle is over, Melisandre removes her necklace, turns back into a withered crone in the snow, and dies in the snow.

To Melisandre’s credit, she has made mistakes (burning people alive) but at the end her heart and mission are pure.

The Crypt


Varys and Tyrion shelter in the crypt. (c) HBO.

It was nice to see Sansa and Tyrion united again. Sansa describes him as the “best of them” (presumably her dead husband and ex-fiance) — although Ramsay and Joffrey aren’t exactly stiff competition. Well, they are now…

Everyone knew that the corpses and skeletons in the crypt would come back to life, so sadly it wasn’t a surprise when they did. Still, it was kinda fun seeing them pop out of the walls. I think Martin really likes his 1950s Monster Mash-type horror (as do I)…

The Last Stand of the Little Bear

Little Lyanna Mormont makes her last stand by charging a blue-eyed wight giant. The giant squeezes her to death, but not before the ruler of Bear Island stabs the giant in the eye with dragonglass and ends him.

Making the Dead Rise

Like many people guessed, when the Night King made the fallen soldiers rise, the dead in Winterfell’s crypts rose too.

It’s not clear yet (to me) how many died when this happened. But in a medieval world that cares so much about legacy, it’s really something that Stark ancestors would almost kill the sheltering Starks (and Lannisters).

The Dragons


Jon and Daenerys before the battle of Winterfell. (c) HBO.

Apart from the Dead, the other showstealer are the dragons. There’s not much you can say about them  except, “Wow.” They are amazing and their death spirals are breathtaking.

Beric Dondarrion Dies So Arya Can Live

After Beric sacrifices himself so the Hound can save Arya, Melisandre tells Arya that she is not bringing Beric back since after many deaths, he has fulfilled his purpose. Beric survived all of this time so he could rally the Hound to remember he cares about Arya and enable the Hound to save her.

To inspire Arya, Melisandre invokes Syrio Forrel by saying, “What do we say to the God of Death?”

Not Today & The Three-Eyed Raven


The hero of the series so far: Arya Stark, who vanquished the Night King.

Arya runs out of the hall to the godswood, where it ends up being Arya and not Jon who ultimately kills the Night King. But this is not before Theon heroically charges him and dies.

Arya sneaks up on the Night King, tricks him by dropping Littlefinger’s Valyrian Steel dagger and then catching it with her lower hand and stabbing him in the gut with it.

Tonight, Arya has become a warrior and not just an assassin. And curiously (or perhaps not so curiously) the dagger that started this all, is what ends it.


Littlefinger’s Dagger is made from Valyrian Steel

Death Toll

  • The entire Dothraki horde — Their light has been permanently extinguished, perhaps for the better.
  • Dolorous Edd — The Night’s Watch commander dies fighting.
  • Lyanna Mormont — Squeezed to death by a dead giant of all things. But, not before she kills him by stabbing him in the eye.
  • Jorah Mormont — Dies protecting the one he loves: Daenerys.
  • Beric Dondarrion — After being brought back to life many times, Beric served his purpose by saving the Hound who in turn saved Arya.
  • Theon — Theon is almost certainly dead after the Night King impaled him in the gut. Before Theon charges the Night King, Bran gives him absolution by telling him he is a “good man” and thanking him.
  • All of the Army of the Dead
  • The Night King and the white walkers
  • The ice dragon

Wrap Up

Ultimately the fate of many is still unknown… well at least unknown to people who have my quality of TV set…

  • Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth
  • Gilly and Little Sam
  • Missandei
  • Gendry

Interestingly, Jon and Daenerys didn’t have as significant of a role in this battle as you might think. I mean they did fly the dragons and all, but it’s nice to see others in the limelight.

Jon tried valiantly to get to Bran before the Night King, but he just doesn’t make it. Symbolically, there’s a reason for this, but I’ll save it for a book if I ever write one.

Jamie Adair is the editor of History Behind Game of Thrones, a website about the history behind George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and the hit TV show, "Game of Thrones."


  • Reply May 1, 2019


    I’m glad your comment wasn’t a negative one, Jamie. I find the way much of the fandom has been whinging and whining of late tiresome and while I may still read some of the GoT fansites I think I am over commenting on them*. Well, there are only three episodes left so I suppose I can get through that but I think I’ll probably keep my opinions to myself (well I may comment here).

    Some people were annoyed by Arya killing the Night King. Now I don’t know if things will happen similarly in the books when (hopefully) they are published but GRRM does like his surprises, so I COULD see him making Arya the saviour ultimately rather than Jon or Dany. I didn’t see the killing off of the Dothraki coming – though presumably there would still be some female Dothraki still alive (in Essos?). Though I’ve read somewhere that GRRM said that Bran would be the one to save the world (or Planetos!!!). There have also been accusations that Messrs. Benioff and Weiss are guilty of “fan service”. Well, if this fan had received fan service Lyanna Mormont and Jorah would have still been alive. I think B&W may be guilty of sometimes giving a character more time in the dramatic adaptation than the book version if they liked the actor. I didn’t mind so much with Charles Dance because he has presence but although I really like Indira Varma I wasn’t really a fan of how they took her character post-season 4. Ellaria is so much nicer in the books. I was actually less troubled by them changing Sansa’s dramatic arc versus her book arc.

    Of course the odds are much evened in Cersei’s favour with the thinning of the Unsullied and the decimation of the Dothraki. GRRM has hinted towards a “bitter-sweet” ending and has said that prophesies are not always correct so I shall be mightily annoyed if Cersei is still on the throne at the end of the series! I did at one time wonder (from the books rather than the show) if mad King Aries had had his wicked way with Tywin’s wife before the twins were born – but then that mischievous Mr Martin does like his red herrings. But I thought what if something happened to Dany and Cersei took command of Drogon (but I think I am getting to far into tinfoil hat there).

    My screen was very dark too.

    * Of course it is not my place to tell people they don’t have a right to feel negative about the series but I don’t have to read it. BTW, I’ve never particularly listened to Florence and the Machine – in all honesty I think they are probably for a younger age group than myself – but I did like her version of the “Jenny” song over the episode 2 credits.

  • Reply May 1, 2019


    I seem to have posted twice. I don’t know if you can delete one of them, Jamie. I don’t know how it happened. I think the second one is more complete though I did want to say (been truncated in first copy of my duplicated comment) that Dany seems a lot softer (as in kinder, not soft in the head) and compassionate than we have seen her for some time since the loss of Jorah.

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