Game of Thrones season 8, episode 3 recap
Image: HBO

For the next three weeks, Thronespotting will examine every episode of the final season of “Game of Thrones” to look for clues about how the epic series will conclude.

After two episodes of set up, the series began wrapping up its grand narrative with “The Long Night.” Full of epic action, relentless tension, and many heartbreaking deaths, this installment ranks among the program’s best. Furthermore, “Night” established how the rest of the season will progress with a number of key teases for the future.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here, for there be spoilers.

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Winterfell has Fallen, but King’s Landing Stands Strong

Although the Northern Alliance was ultimately successful in defeating the Army of Darkness, the victory came at great cost. Well-liked characters such as Edd, Lyanna, Beric, Jorah, and Theron perished fighting the dead.  Also, Melisandre died after pulling off a series of magic tricks so cool they almost redeemed her burning a girl alive that one time.

Notably, Winterfell itself sustained major damage during the battle. The great castle was overrun by zombies, its crypt ruined by revived Starks, and one of its walls destroyed by a dragon riding Night King. The group will undoubtedly try to repair the fortress but it’s now vulnerable to attack by Cersei’s forces. As such, it’s possible the Stark family home may bear Lannister banners before the season is up.

Presumably, Cersei won’t actually win the Game of Thrones but her house is the only one in a strong position right now. Even with dragons on their side, the Alliance doesn’t have the troops to hold much territory. As a result, they could easily be routed by Cersei’s army and be forced to abandon their stronghold. Plus, having the Golden Company occupy Winterfell would provide an awesome “Empire Strikes Back” style ending for next week’s episode.

The North is Super Petty

One of the satisfying moments in “The Long Night” came unexpectedly when Messandei spoke for the entire internet. With death literally surrounding them, Sansa told Tyrion they couldn’t work romantically because Daenerys would always come between them. Messandei took exception to Sansa’s indirect insult of her queen and reminded the Lady of Winterfell they would all be dead if not for Dany.

It seems, like Cersei, Sansa is more concerned about the Great Game than the Great War. She can’t let go of her distrust of the Targaryens and she won’t surrender her goal of keeping the North autonomous. Given everything Dany sacrificed protecting Sansa’s home, it’s unlikely the Mother of Dragons will respond kindly to her rival’s impudence.

For all of season 8, Sansa had a kind of arrogance about her. Admittedly, she’s proven to be one of the shows smartest characters. But her inability to recognize that things will never go back to the way they were is a problem. If she betrays Dany next week or after the battle against House Lannister, she and the rest of her House will regret it.

The Legend of Arya Stark

Though there were many fine candidates, Arya ended up being the warrior to slay the Night King. For many seasons now, it seemed as though Jon would be the one to kill the ruler of the undead. Although somewhat unexpected, the series has dropped hints about this major subversion.

As the series reminded viewers earlier in “Night,” Melisandre predicted the younger Stark sister would kill someone with blue eyes. The shocking fireproof Night King fit that description to a tee. Additionally, having Jon, the closest thing “Game of Thrones” has to a traditional hero, destroying the Big Bad wouldn’t be the show’s style. Ever since Jamie pushed Bran out the window, the series has upended viewer expectations.

It’s also interesting to consider how the Night King’s death will impact the rest of Westeros. The program has long established its medieval society is rigidly patriarchal. But now the greatest hero of the modern age, the person who saved the entire human race from destruction, is a woman. Arya’s act of bravery will likely change attitudes across the land once things settle down.

Consequently, the future army of the Seven Kingdoms will likely be led by a legendary female general.

The Song of Ice and Fire is Over, but the Game of Thrones Rages on

With the Great War now concluded, all that’s left is to settle the question of who rules Westeros. Currently, there are three legitimate claimants; Jon, the last male Targaryen; his aunt Dany the conqueror; and Queen Cersei, who sits on the Iron Throne.

The way “Long Night” left things, House Lannister is in the best position but that’s unlikely to last. For all her brilliance and ruthlessness, Cersei has always been a tragic character. Before the series concludes, she’ll probably die at the hands of one of her brothers or her awful new boyfriend.

Then there’s Daenerys, the breaker of chains and annihilator of the smug. Though she lost most of her army and one of her dragons in the Battle of Winterfell, she still has considerable resources. If Sansa’s smart, she’ll throw in with the Khaleesi to destroy their mutual enemy. With one mighty fire-breather, the remaining Northern Alliance, and support from the Iron Islands, she can take King’s Landing.

Once that happens, Dany and Jon will finally have it out. As the Dragon Queen wants to dominate the Seven Kingdoms and Sansa wants the North to be free, one of them has to die. Given his disinterest in leadership and heartbreak at losing someone he loves, Jon will likely refuse the throne. Provided he doesn’t get killed by Bronn, Tyrion will become the new king.

As many commenters have pointed out, he’s consistently been the best ruler in Westeros. He’s capable of negotiating peace between divergent factions and outwitting his most cunning rivals. Plus, unlike his many high born associates, he has a great deal of empathy for common people. If “Game of Thrones” had democracy, he’d be elected president.

Twitter Reactions

Here are some of the silliest, most heartfelt, and intriguing Twitter reactions to “The Long Night.”

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