Game of Thrones season 8 episode 3 recap: The Ice Man cometh

Watch Game of Thrones, they said. There'll be no emotional trauma, they said.

Claire Reilly Former Principal Video Producer
Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
Expertise Space | Futurism | Robotics | Tech Culture | Science and Sci-Tech Credentials
  • Webby Award Winner (Best Video Host, 2021), Webby Nominee (Podcasts, 2021), Gold Telly (Documentary Series, 2021), Silver Telly (Video Writing, 2021), W3 Award (Best Host, 2020), Australian IT Journalism Awards (Best Journalist, Best News Journalist 2017)
Claire Reilly
11 min read
Game of Thrones

It's about to get real...

Helen Sloan/HBO

Major spoilers ahead, obviously. 

Oh hey, guys! It's ya girl Claire here in time for another Game of Thrones recap and we're pretty excited to see what's in sto-- 

Sweet merciful crap, what have they done! WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS TO US?!

Eight years ago you started watching this fun new HBO show that promised a few sexy romps at the Ren Faire and instead you've been given eight years of unmitigated emotional horror as George R. R. Martin systematically crushed your dreams. And on Sunday night, those dreams were crushed once more. 

That's right, you suckers who keep coming back: season 8 episode 3 is here! At 82 minutes, it was long (that's almost half an Avengers: Endgame) and after analyzing every single frame, it was bloody. If you missed it, here's how you can watch it

Watch this: Game of Thrones Battle of Winterfell: We're still shaking

While episode 1 was reunion soup and episode 2 was all about the sexy times, those moments of joy are gone. Like little wildflowers that sprang up on the graves of dead heroes, they brought comfort in the darkness that is Game of Thrones . And now those flowers have been brutally torn out by ravenous birds, hellbent on slaughtering everything you hold dear. Sleep no more, these hell ravens cry! David Benioff and D. B. Weiss hath murdered sleep! 

Sorry, I just need a moment. I don't have a moment? Great. Bring it on, jerks!

🚨🚨🚨Sound the spoiler klaxon and abandon all hope, ye who enter here🚨🚨🚨

See all the Game of Thrones season 8 photos

See all photos

The Night King is coming

The entire start of this episode is a class act in anticipation. The armies of Winterfell have had their big pre-battle sleepover and they're ready to face the dead, but what form will the dead take? How will they fight? No one learned any of this in battle school. 

We open on the shaking hands of Samwell Tarly arming himself with Dragonglass and making his way the front line. The Unsullied are ready to sully and the Dothraki are ready to Doth-Wreck. What's this? The Red Woman, aka Lady Melisandre, has shown up! Super handy, considering they're fighting ice monsters and we all know fire beats ice (except when it powerfully doesn't). The Red Woman lights the Dothraki weapons on fire and we see flame sweep across their army, kinda like that moment on fireworks night when you all light your sparklers off the person next to you. 

But in a scene that'll really make you wish you've adjusted the blacks on your terrible TV (there's a lot of that), the Dothraki meet the wights in the distance and their flame-hooks are very quickly extinguished. 

Oh dear. This is... suboptimal. 

Dial Z for Zombie


You're going to want to watch this week's episode in a dark room.


The wights are ready for battle and here they come a-tramplin'. Watching over the battle, Jon and Dany are hanging out in their sweet outfits and weighing up the options. Jon is holding off on going full dragon this early in the piece. "The Night King is coming!" he argues. "The dead are already here," Dany replies. Sweet. We're going with dragons then. 

The battle briefly turns -- fire is still beating ice -- but a chilled hush soon settles over the battle and we realize that our fire ain't no good around these parts. The fire is sucked away, the dragon flames are snuffed and everyone has that look of, "Oh crap, that was our ace in the hole." Up on the ramparts, Arya swiftly sends Sansa down to the crypt with a Dragonglass dagger. 

"Stick them with the pointy end," she says. Man, when she was at college with the Faceless Men she clearly majored in Knifemanship. 

Oh yes, this episode is good. I've already finished my cup of tea and we haven't even seen any major deaths yet!

Fire walk with me

I spoke too soon! Back on the battlefield, Sam is being a bit useless so his ol' Night's Watch alum Eddison Tollett comes to his rescue. This can't end well! And it doesn't. 

Major Death #1: Ed's dead, baby. 

The dragons have retreated to the clouds and are generally flying around being a bit useless. We need fire, they have it, but instead their dragon GPS has been borked by the ice clouds and they're literally bumping into each other. Down below it's not much better. Ser Davos is trying to guide Daenerys' dragon plane in with two big fire wands but the dragons can't see.

Enter the Red Woman, who magics the trench defenses alight. The Hound, who is nearby, is aggressively not loving this. 

The Ice Man cometh

Down in the crypt, Sansa arrives with a "Look, do you want the bad news or the bad news?" face. She and Tyrion hunker down and swap tales about their married days -- a moment of heart that's much needed in a room hitherto devoid of interesting narrative.

"Maybe we should have stayed married," Tyrion muses. 

"You were the best of them," Sansa says before Tyrion retorts, "What a terrifying thought." Fair, but it's a pretty bad list, Ty.

No time for sass, we're over at the Brain Tree! Bran is being super chill but he still has time to reassure Theon. "Everything you did brought you to where you are now," he says. "Where you belong. Home."

But if Theon wanted a moment, he's not going to get it. Seconds later, Bran gives a po-faced "I'm going to go now," and just like Poochie, he's off to his home planet. His eyes go gray and he's in raven mode! You thought your TV stream was bad before? Get ready to see it go full potato as a murder of black crows flies over a black night sky to reach the dark gray Night King. Or, if you're me, a bunch of ink-colored pixels on a darker ink background. Adjust your blacks!

36 of the best Game of Thrones fan theories

See all photos

The battle rages on

Inside the castle, Arya starts slaying wights with the customized Knifey-Spoony weapon that Gendry gave her (that wasn't the only weapon he gave her, ammiright?!) and it's clear that her years at No-Face Academy have really paid off. She graduated Magna Cum Stabby and we're all super impressed. 

But there's no time to be impressed, because a giant just wighted into the castle and it's messing stuff up. This has terrified the Hound. Look, to be fair, he's always said he's not good with fire. He was very open with that. 

"We can't beat death!" he cries. 

But Beric "I want to marry fire" Dondarrion isn't having a bar of it. "Tell her that," he replies with a nod to Arya, who's still doing mad superhero stuff.

Still, if we got a moment of ladies being awesome, it's about to be ripped away from us. Baby-bear Lyanna Mormont has been King Kong-grabbed by the giant, and is slowly crushed. (Fun aside: This was the first time our video stream decided to start buffering! Suspense!) But don't worry, we're back and Lyanna slays the giant in the eye. But it's still too late. 

Major Death #2: Lyanna Mormont is no more-mont. 

Watch this: Game of Thrones Season 8: All your questions answered (badly)

Up above the clouds, Viserion the evil dead dragon arrives but Drogon (ridden by Dany) and Rhaegal (ridden by Jon) are still trying to work out how to get below the clouds. Ahh dragons. Very flamey but not so great on directions. Viserion blows some blue flames, but it's all a touch confusing and our first dragon battle is kind of over before it started. 

Snap back to the Castle of Winterfell. Arya is weaponless and sneaking around a library filled with wights. This is easily the best library scene since The Breakfast Club! Arya escapes by literally throwing the book at them. THANK GOODNESS. Outside, she meets up with the Hound and Beric. But those nasty nerd wights from the library are back and they're angry at having a book thrown at them. Beric is stabbed at least five times (the great sound effects helped me count).

The three of them barricade themselves in a room, where it turns out The Red Woman has been waiting for them. Beric starts to fade. Can we get a do-over, Beric? You've still got, like, three recharges left right? No dice. 

Major Death #3: Beric 'The flame has been extinguished' Dondarrion.

Arya doesn't have time for sentimentality. She put her killin' boots on today and they've barely been worn in!

"What do we say to the God of Death?" the Red Woman asks her, giving her the blessing to do said killing. 

"Not today," Arya replies. 

That's right! Not today, Satan! (Yes, I would definitely watch a Ru Paul's Drag Race/Game of Thrones crossover).

Are we there yet?


Bran's new indietronica album is, like, super alternative.

Helen Sloan/HBO

Despite these boss moments, the noose is tightening on Winterfell. Over in the Godswood, Bran is still off in Raven VR so Theon and his mates are trying to hold back the forces of death on their own. At this stage, Bran is going to have to come through in pretty powerful way after spending most of the episode so far having a giant crow LAN party. 

Before we can talk about Bran's life choices, we're back in the clouds with the dragons. And it's time for an old-fashioned, talon-on-talon Dragon Fight! Jon Snow and the Night King are fighting on the backs of their noble air-steeds and the Night King falls. Wouldn't it be great if that killed him and we were done? Alas, no. Watching from above, Dany puts Drogon on full pyrolytic cleaning mode to try to melt the everloving crap out of the Night King. Nope, sorry.

Here, we learn that he can both survive dragon flames and he can smile. 

But just as you were about to think about the Night King's emotional range, he does his Evita arm-raise thing and awakens the dead. 


The Night King turns his frown upside down!


The slow-mo 'we're f***ed' montage

You know that moment at a house party when someone rips off their shirt, cranks Turn Down for What at max volume on the stereo and starts lighting sambuca shots? 

That's where we are now -- the music is getting intense, the slow-motion is in play and everyone has well and truly realized the odds are impossible and they're all screwed. 

Up on the castle grounds, Jon is running to find Bran, aka the Night King bait. Viserion is wasting everything around him in blue flame (not unlike your mate with the flaming sambuca shots). Jon is desperate. 

In the trenches, after spending the whole episode flying too high, Drogon is now inexplicably not leaving the ground and is getting attacked by wights. He flies away, leaving Dany to fight the dead. She was prepared for this battle in the sense that she wore a sweet fur cape, but she's not so ready to fight. At the last moment, she's saved by Ser Jorah who helps her stand her ground. 

The slow piano is here and we're seeing shot after shot of our favorite characters in the very clutches of death: Jorah is stabbed, Brienne is being savaged by wights, Sam is crying on the floor (classic) and things are looking their worst. 

And at the Godswood, Theon is single-handedly fighting away wights like someone who has a lot of redeeming to do. 


A lot of Grey and not much Joy.

Helen Sloan/HBO

The final, brutal moment

Like a kid emerging from a seven-hour Warcraft session, Bran has finally decided to join us at the dinner table. He's woken up and it's just in time too. The Night King and his White Walkers have arrived in the Godswood in a moment I mentally saved as "walkingintotheclublike.gif" and it is on. 

Bran looks up at Theon, who has arrowed and axed away the dead but is pretty tapped out by this point. 

"Theon," he says. "You're a good man. Thank you."

A single tear rolls down Theon's cheek as he realizes this is his final hour. And lo, as though he has heard the cellos that have joined the piano music in the background (signaling that, yes, he has mere seconds of TV time left) he runs at the Night King and is impaled. 

Cut to Bran: Yeah, no biggy. See ya, bro. 

Major Death #4: Theon is theoff.

Game of Thrones stars, from season 1 through today

See all photos

The cellos are crescendoing, and we're cutting between the major theaters of battle. Jon and Viserion in the castle walls. Dany and Jorah (who keeps 👏 getting 👏 stabbed 👏) in the trenches. 

And at the center of it all, the Night King, slowly bearing down on Bran (but not before we get a sweet shot of his gnarly nails -- that right there is when I knew he truly evil.)

It's the Night King and Bran. Old Man Winter versus Millennial Crow Boy. And they're staring at each other, squinting like "Did I used to go to school with you?"

But just as the Night King is about to end it all, HOLY MOTHER OF CRAP HERE COMES ARYA!

How do you like THIS face, Night King?! She brings up her blade to strike, but he chokes her and she drops the blade. No! But she doesn't need to see things with her eyes to know what she's doing. Bam! The blade falls to her other hand and she stabs him right in the Night Gut!

We are all literally screaming and this is the best thing ever. 

The White Walkers turn to ice crystals! The wights fall to the ground! The battle is done and we can all go to the bathroom!

Goodbye, my lover. Goodbye, my friend


I'm not crying, you're crying!

Helen Sloan/HBO

This is the final coda. We've seen Jorah get stabbed, and here's the send-off he deserves. Dany is crying as he bleeds out, weeping over some pretty complicated feelings. Drogon rocks up and wraps a protective wing around them both. We don't deserve dragons!

Major Death #5: Ser Jorah Mormont enters that great friend zone in the sky.

Back at the castle the Hound and the Red Woman emerge. Melisandre had promised she'd be dead before dawn and she'd better get to dying because the sun is rising. In her final boss move, she walks out the castle gates, removes her cape and walks into the battlefield wasteland. She takes off her magical anti-aging collar (I swear that was an Infinity Stone in the middle there) and walks into the snow. In the blink of an eye, she ages an eon (just as we all have watching this ridiculous episode) and dies. 

Major Death #6: The Red Woman's red dead redemption. 

The verdict

After a long episode, you've made it and so have we! To be honest, I expected more brutal deaths and definitely thought I'd have to say goodbye to some real favorites. But the standout moment was Arya by a long mile. It was nice to see the two youngest Starks join forces to end this. I would say the woman did all the work while the guy just sat there, but that would be cold, even for this episode. 

Sure, the battle we've been preparing for since season 1 was over in a single night. Sure, we couldn't see most of it, what with the moody mix of black, gray and a color I'm going to call "Iron Stone" (yes, my mother-in-law was showing me paint samples on the weekend). And sure, the whole thing was like anticipating a really bad tetanus injection and only getting a small flu shot worth of pain (yes, I got my flu shot on the weekend). But it was a cracker ep all the same!

Now we can get back to the real game: the Game of Thrones. Here's to the next three episodes, which I sincerely hope are a drawn-out exploration of Westeros politics resulting in the creation of a constitutional democracy and bicameral legislature. 

20 things we're dying to see in the final season of 'Game of Thrones'

See all photos