The third episode of Game of Thrones season eight has just aired, uncorking the massive Battle of Winterfell and wrapping up the pivotol war between the living and the dead. It was a monster of an episode, 82 minutes long and full of death and heroics. There were also more than a few small details hidden in the darkness, stuff we’re sure you missed in the wild press of zombie attackers and dragon flame.
That’s nothing new. We’ve been pointing out all the sly references and callbacks and parallels being packed into the show for several seasons now. This one may have the best ones, though. Here’s some of our favorite easter eggs spread out through The Long Night.
This one’s pretty obvious but we loved it so much we had to include it. When Arya sends Sansa down to the crypts armed with a dragonglass dagger, Sansa admits she has no idea how to use it. “Stick ’em with the pointy end,” Arya responds, the same words her brother Jon Snow tells her when he delivers her first sword, Needle. Those words have become fan favorites, but the grim truth behind them is what led the showrunners to name episode eight of season one “The Pointy End.” That features Arya’s first kill, a stableboy who tries to stop her from escaping. Far from being the skilled assassin she is now, Arya followed her brother’s advice and pushed Needle’s blade through the boy’s belly.
Game of Thrones is usually pretty good about keeping us informed of what characters are saying when they switch to Valyrian or Dorthraki or whatever strange language is in use. But they skipped the subtitles during this episode when Melisandre cast a spell that set the arakhs of the Dothraki ablaze. Fortunately, the guy who invented all the languages featured on Thrones has a blog where he breaks down all sorts of neat linguistic details from the show.
According to David J. Peterson, Jorah Mormont said “Raise your arakhs!” The Red Priestess then incanted “Lord of Light, cast your light upon us! Lord of Light, defend us! For the night is dark and full of terrors!” When she’s attempting to set the defensive barricade outside Winterfell’s walls ablaze, she’s repeating “Lord of Light, defend us!”
The spell is a variation on what we’ve seen in the past used by other followers of R’hllor. Both Beric Dondarrion and the Red Priest Thoros of Myr are known for lighting their swords ablaze with the power of their faith, although this is the first time we’ve ever seen the spell cast on such a massive scale.
Unfortunately the Dothraki ended up dying largely ignoble deaths, with their flaming swords snuffed out in the darkness by the incoming ocean of undead. One character that did get a little screentime in death was someone we were introduced to in season six. Qhono was one of the Dothraki that took Daenerys captive in Vaes Dothrak, but changed sides and joined her after she burned all the other Khals alive. While Qhono didn’t get many lines in later seasons, he’s a regular in the background, leading the Dothraki and standing aside Grey Worm during the season seven negotiations in King’s Landing. So farewell, Qhono, general of Dany’s Dothraki horde. We barely knew ye.
Also thrown into the dustbin of Westeros history was the Karstark family, completely wiped out in this episode. The fall of the Karstarks has been slow but steady since Lord Richard Karstark lost a son to Jaime Lannister’s blade during season two’s Battle of the Whispering Wood. A second son would get strangled to death by Jaime during an escape attempt. That led Karstark to murder two young Lannister hostages in revenge, in turn prompting Rob Stark cut Rickard’s head off.
That was enough reason for the next Lord Karstark, Harald Karstark, to ally with the Boltons. That didn’t end well for him – Harald died by the axe of Tormund Giantsbane during the Battle of the Bastards. The Starks still handed control over to the next Karstarks in line, 17 year old Alys. And while we didn’t specifically see her fall during the Battle for Winterfell, she was amongst Theon’s forces in the Godswood protecting Bran … a force that was wiped out completely.
Speaking of Theon, there was an interesting parallel to his death. Back in season two, he gives a rousing speech about dying in glory when he and his Ironmen are trapped in Winterfell surrounded by a Bolton army.
“We die today brothers,” Theon said told his small group. “We die bleeding from a hundred wounds, with arrows in our necks and spears in our guts. But our war cries will echo through eternity. They will sing about the Battle of Winterfell until the Iron Islands have slipped beneath the waves. Every man, woman, and child will know who we were and how long we stood.”
Moments after finishing the speech, his own men turn on him, knocking him out cold and delivering him to Ramsay Bolton. But in the end, Theon did indeed die at what turned out to be the Battle of Winterfell, and it was specifically because of how long he stood that Arya was able to kill the Night King and save the world.
As for Arya, there were so many small moments that called back to her Faceless men training. During her first encounter with the dead on the walls of Winterfell, she throws up a block with her staff that mirrors a moment during her Faceless Men training. Blind and initially helpless, she finally learns to master her fear and stop the mysterious Waif from cracking her upside the head with the very same parry. Just a little reminder that this is badass Arya we’re dealing with.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Arya pull that slick maneuver that killed the Night King. In a season seven training session, Brienne of Tarth catches Arya’s wrist, only to have Arya drop the dagger into her other hand to attack Brienne’s undefended chest. That’s a very similar move to what wins the Battle of Winterfell for the living, and exactly the kind of thing we’d expect from a Faceless Man level assassin.
It’s also worth noting that Arya hit the Night King right in the sweet spot: the same place the Children of the Forest placed a shard of dragonglass when creating him thousands of years ago. Considering how wildly allergic to Valyrian steel that Others seem to be, it probably wouldn’t have mattered where she stuck it, but it was a nice bit of poetry to close off the Night King’s story.
That still didn’t stop a lot of people from being shocked that Arya was the one to end the threat of the White Walkers. There’s been a lot of prophecy about how The Prince That Was Promised would be instrumental in defeating the coming darkness, leading many to expect – nay, demand! – that it be Daenerys or Jon that would strike the killing blow on the Night King. But there was another interesting prophecy from Melisandre that took precedence over that. In season four, the Red Woman tells Arya “I see a darkness in you. And in that darkness, eyes staring back at me. Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes you’ll shut forever.”
Melisandre brings up this blue eyes reference when she runs into Arya during the Battle of Winterfell, pushing Arya to go after the Night King. She also does that thing where she quotes something she’d have no way of knowing, bringing up Arya’s dancing instructor Syrio Forel and his habit of asking “What do we say to the god of death?”
One more note about Melisandre’s eyes prophecy. Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Walder Frey’s eyes: brown. The Night King’s eyes: blue. Cersei’s eyes: green. Watch your back, Cersei!
While the Valyrian dagger that slayed the Night King wasn’t some sort of legendary weapon forged just for that purpose, it has played a massive role in Game of Thrones over the years. Sometimes referred to as the dragonbone hilt dagger, other times as the Catspaw, this is the same blade given to the would-be assassin that tried to kill Bran Stark way back in season one. Littlefinger claims it’s Tyrion’s dagger, which leads Catelyn to kidnap him when they meet and kicks off the War of the Five Kings.
Littlefinger brings it back to Winterfell in season seven and tries to give it to Bran, because he’s a cocky bastard who didn’t anticipate an all seeing three-eyed raven to mess up his scheme. Bran gives it to Arya, who slits Littlefinger’s throat with it. The amount of time the dagger got in season seven had many people speculating it would play a big part in season eight.
It even showed up in a book Sam was reading at the Citadel, pointing towards a history that runs even deeper than we know.
And here’s one that may be a spoiler for episode four, so stop now if you don’t like hearing about things seen in the trailer for next week’s episode. During the initial infantry charge against the undead, we see Jon Snow’s direwolf, Ghost, fighting alongside the humans.
I’m happy to report that based on the preview for episode four, Ghost survived the battle. You can see him amongst the soldiers during the short clip.