Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 3 depicted the climactic Battle of Winterfell, and it was full of important details that were easy to miss.
Warning! Spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8 lie ahead!
The final season of Game of Thrones is halfway over now, and from the looks of it, the White Walkers are finished. Arya Stark appeared out of nowhere to drive her Valyrian steel dagger into the Night King's chest, and the Army of the Dead collapsed around him. As far as we know, this should end the threat to the north, albeit with heavy losses for humankind.
Within this feature-length all out battle, there was a lot to see. The perspective shifted constantly from character to character, and the dark night time war was not easy to see. Many fans found themselves turning up the brightness and contrast on their TVs, or watching the show again after it aired when the stream could load better.
Still, the broad strokes of the battle were pretty clear. Prominent character deaths included Edd Tollett, Beric Dondarrion, Lady Lyanna Mormont, Theon Greyjoy and Jorah Mormont. Meanwhile, most of the characters caught in the battle were shown to be safe in the end, although there are a few that were still in danger the last time we saw them.
Beyond that, the battle was ripe for re-watching. The small details, nuances and references were everywhere, and begging for eagle-eyed fans to dissect them.
Here is a look at some of the finer points of Game of Thrones' Battle of Winterfell.
'Stick Them With the Pointy End'
If you haven't undertaken a full rewatch of Game of Thrones, you might not have realized that Arya's advice for Sansa goes all the way back to Season 1. At the beginning of the battle she gave her sister a dragonglass dagger, and when Sansa said that she didn't know how to use it Arya said: "Stick them with the pointy end."
This was the exact same advice Jon Snow gave to Arya in Season 1 when he first gave her her sword, Needle. The line is a fan-favorite, ad even became an episode title later on in Season 1.
This was just one of the many callbacks to Arya's long journey in this episode, which we later saw was very appropriate.prevnext
This episode also saw the return of Melisandre, the Red Woman, for a final display of fire magic in the face of the White Walkers. The witch was not welcome at Winterfell, though Ser Davos let her in out of desperation. This episode added some much-needed consistency to Melisandre's powers, including the spell she used to ignite the swords of the Dothraki warriors.
When she arrived, Melisandre took hold of a Dothraki blade and chanted an old Valyrian spell, including the phrase: "āeksiō ōños, aōhos ōñoso ilōn jehikās!" In the series' fictional language this means "Lord of Light, cast your light upon us! Lord of Light, defend us! For the night is dark and full of terrors!" a plea to Melisandre's god R'hllor, the Lord of Light.
A few dedicated fans have pointed out that "āeksiō ōños" is the same magic phrase Beric Dondarrion uses to light his own sword on fire, showing that there are some commonalities in the way people use R'hllor's magic. Later, Melisandre used the incantation again to light the entire trench surrounding Winterfell.prevnext
The Hound's PTSD
With so many other things to focus on, it may have been easy to miss Sandor "The Hound" Clegane's personal journey through this battle. The Hound is very pyrophobic (afraid of fire) due to the burn he got from his brother as a young man. The battlfield was littered with fire, as it was mankind's best weapon against the wights, so The Hound was on high alert the whole time.
However, we saw this week that there is one thing that helped The Hound overcome his fear: Arya Stark. The Hound was ready to give up and die after the wights broke into the castle, saying that they "can't fight death." In response, Beric Dondarrion points up at Arya crawling through a window and says: "tell her that."prevnext
Following that same plot line, Beric and The Hound rush into the castle to help Arya. She tries to creep through Winterfell, hiding from wights, but eventually they begin to chase after her. Here, Beric apparently finds the reason he has been brought back to life so many times. He sacrifices his life to save Arya.
In his climactic moment, Dondarrion stretches his hands across a doorway and plants his feet directly under them, literally using his body to hold back the wave of ice zombies behind him. Looking closely, he is actually assuming the posture of the crucifixion, perhaps an apt symbol for a hero that has been resurrected from the dead by a monotheistic God.
Dondarrion's sacrifice is legitimized by Melisandre, who shares his devotion to R'hllor. She tells Arya that the Lord of Light saved him so that he could save her as he did.prevnext
Finally, the apex of Arya's journey in this battle happens in that abandoned room, with Melisandre and The Hound. Some fans may not remember, but Arya and Melisandre met once before in Season 3. At the time, Melisandre was taking Gendry from the Brotherhood Without Banners, and when Arya confronted her, Melisandre looked at her critically, issuing a dire prophecy.
"I see a darkness in you, and in that darkness, eyes staring back at me," she said. "Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes, eyes you'll shut forever. We will meet again."
Melisandre repeated this prophecy during the battle, though she changed the order to "brown eyes, green eyes and blue eyes," perhaps emphasizing the blue-eyed Night King. Still, many fans are focused on the original order of the prophecy, which may foreshadow the remainder of the season.
Fans believe that "brown eyes" refers to House Frey. Upon returning to Westeros in Season 7, Arya took her revenge for the Red Wedding by wiping out every member of the Frey family, including lord Walder. Meanwhile, it seemed clear that "blue eyes" referred to the Night King, and by extension, the entire wight army.
Finally, Queen Cersei Lannister notably has green eyes, so fans believe she could be next. The teaser seems to show that Daenerys is heading south next, so is it possible that Arya will go with her, securing two of the most important kills of the series?prevnext
Lady Mormont, Giantslayer
Another iconic moment of the Battle of Winterfell was, sadly, Lady Lyanna Mormont's death. The pre-teen warrior and leader of her house went out like a champion, stabbing a wight giant in its blue eye and taking it with her.
There may have been more to the death than that, however. In Season 6, when an army of wildlings helped Jon Snow take Winterfell back from Ramsay Bolton, a living giant was among them. Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun (better known as Wun Wun) was believed to be the last living giant in Westeros. He was a heavy hitter in the Battle of the Bastards, and he broke down the gate of Winterfell before dying under a rain of arrows.
The place where Wun Wun fell in the courtyard of Winterfell seemed to be the same place where the ice giant and Lady Mormont fell in this week's episode. This was a nice final tribute to Wun Wun, who had been with Jon since Season 5.prevnext
Theon's 'Battle in the Godswood'
If Theon Greyjoy's heroic self-sacrifice in the Godswood wasn't already touching enough, it actually contained a few callbacks that made it even more meaningful. First off, Theon stood in the Godswood with Robb Stark back in Season 1, promising to fight beside him. At the time, Catelynn Stark suspected that the Lannisters had tried to kill Bran, but Maester Lewyn was skeptical that it would come to a fight.
"What, is there going to be a battle in the Godswood?" the maester asked sarcastically.
As we saw, in he end, there was. Beyond that, the fight seemed to make a strong reference to A Song of Ice and Fire, the series of novels that the show is based on. While author George R.R. Martin has not published the sixth installment yet, he has released a few preview chapters, including one from Theon's perspective. In it, he goes to the Godswood at Winterfell while working to break his "Reek" brainwashing persona. Standing in front of the Wierwood tree, he seems to get a whispered message from Bran, who is training as a green-seer at another Wierwood north of the wall.
The old gods, he thought. They know me. They know my name. I was Theon of House Greyjoy. I was a ward of Eddard Stark, a friend and brother to his children. "Please." He fell to his knees. "A sword, that's all I ask. Let me die as Theon, not as Reek." #gots8 #theon pic.twitter.com/gA3pc1AqUh— meera reed is lightbringer change my mind (@liesandarbor) April 29, 2019
"The old gods, he thought. They know me," the passage reads. "They know my name. I was Theon of House Greyjoy.
I was a ward of Eddard Stark, a friend and brother to his children. 'Please.' He fell to his knees. 'A sword, that's all I ask. Let me die as Theon, not as Reek.'prevnext
Finally, there a a lot of symbolism and importance in the Valyrian steel dagger that Arya used to bring an end to the War of the Dawn once and for all. For starters, if you forgot, this dagger has been in the show since Season 1. After Bran survived his fall from a tower window, an assassin was sent to kill him with the dagger. Catelynn Stark determined that the dagger had once belonged to Tyrion Lannister, making him her prime suspect. That dagger ultimately started the entire War of the Five Kings.
The dagger reappeared in Season 7, when Littlefinger gave it to Bran. By then, Bran was the wheelchair-bound Three-Eyed Raven, and he handed the dagger over to Arya, saying: "it's wasted on a cripple." However, fans now believe that the virtually omniscient Bran knew that Arya would put the dagger to good use. At the end of Season 7, she used it to execute Littlefinger on Sansa's orders, and obviously this week she used it to end the war.
It is worth noting how she used it to do so. In her fight with the Night King, Arya repeated one slick move from her sparring match with Brienne of Tarth in Season 7. At the time, Brienne grabbed Arya's wrist. Without missing a beat, she flipped the dagger to her other hand, and the two women held their blades to each other's throats at a draw.
This time around, The Night King grabbed Arya's wrist and her throat. With both of his hands full, he couldn't stop Arya as she dropped the dagger, snatched it with her free hand, and plunged it into his chest. Fans have also noted that she seemed to hit him in the same place where he was stabbed with a piece of enchanted dragonglass dagger by the Children of the Forest. In Season 6, Episode 5, a flashback to thousands of years ago showed us how the Night King was created from a normal human being, and on Sunday, he was finally unmade.0comments
Lastly, fan theorists are buzzing about a cryptic note from showrunner D.B. Weiss in his "Inside the Episode" interview. Weiss noted that the Valyrian steel dagger was ornamented with peices of Dragonglass, and suggested that fans may still question whether it was the enchanted metal or the obsidian that actually killed the Night King.
Going further, many fans are still questioning whether the Night King has been killed at all. We will have to tune in to see. Game of Thrones airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.prev