The Battle of Winterfell was extremely dark, bloody, cold and full of dead subjects with very poor dental hygiene. Our favorite Game of Thrones characters died, some resurrected from the dead to terrorize the living again and others barely escaped with last-minute help from their friends.
We recap all the great moments of the episodeand now we crawl through frame-by-dirty-dark-structure, to count all the deaths and deaths we could. How many creatures have been sent by main characters? How much time did they spend in battle? Who killed who and who was the most efficient warrior? There were some clear winners – who will likely become singers in Westeros in the next few years – and there were some unexpected losers.
What follows is our Battle of Winterfell Box Score, a collapse of the TV and the longest movie (it's darker) battle in history as if it were a major sporting event with a set of analysts and data guys.
[Note: I am just one man slowly scrolling through 77 minutes of prestige television so there’s bound to be some sort of error here. Please correct me!]
First, some rules and a big warning.
Indirect deaths do not count.
The hardest and fastest rule we cling to when putting this together was the idea that dragons would be excluded. Drogon and Rhaegal were undoubtedly the MVPs when they fought outside the gates of Winterfell, knocking down the weights (and the Wight giants) with ease. We do not attribute any of their deaths to Dany or Jon, their pilots, because dragons are the equivalent of a video game hack. He's cheating.
This also means that there are no indirect deaths taken into consideration. If they were, that would put Melisandre, who walked slowly, far above, with the best warriors on the battlefield, because the movement of his fire trench was a game change, preventing the castle from being invaded even earlier. Then, on the other side of the moral barrier, is the Night King and his indirect killings, sending weights to the slaughter or Vicerion things in blue flames in small pieces. A forbidden zone.
We were very liberal with a confirmed death. While someone stabs a creature on the screen, we classify it as a zombie death. There were limited times when you could see a creature recede and seemingly stand firm, but we like to think of the wounded as the damned, and thus a death was granted anyway.
We're not going to get to that on the villain's side, except for looking at two big villains: The Night King and the giant invading Winterfell.
Finally, we counted how many seconds each character was involved in the battle – but only while they were on the screen. In addition, characters like Theon and Bran, in the deity of Winterfell, were not involved in battles all the time. Their inclusion in the battle was only once the deity was invaded. This allowed us to extract how efficiently each warrior was looking at their deaths per minute (KPM) based on how they were involved in the conflict.
In deciding who we wanted to lead to the big game, the killings were the most important deciding factor. Our biggest inspiration here is the NBA, so we shared it among the top five, our bench players, who traded and rewarded a brave soul at the Battle of Winterfell MVP.
Picking your five initials for the Battle of Winterfell is a difficult task, even as there are so many warriors who have proven themselves in battle before. You have badass warriors like Lyanna Mormont against Samwell Tarly, a man who is probably a better reader than a fighter. You have the newly named Ser Brienne against a man who can light his burning sword by whispering to her, Beric Dondarrion.
And you have Jaime Lannister, a man who has seen a lot of time on the battlefield, against someone like Arya Stark who, despite being a trained killer, has zero minutes in big games.
There is no game bigger than the one in which you fight death itself. How does this lack of experience show?
Having counted the statistics, Arya is a clear winner of the battle and, possibly, the most brutal warrior of all the kingdom. She leads the group with 22 deaths, most of which comes in a scene at the top of the battlements, where she uses the double blades that Gendry forged to dispatch wight after wight. Of course, Arya's size and speed are an advantage here, but she also trained with some of the best fighters in the realm: The Faceless Men, the Waif, Brienne, and the Hound.
Arya lands the equivalent of a Finals NBA game seven half-block hitter when she dispatches the Night King while being choked to death. This is a five round, champion belt on the KO line. She appears at the greatest moment of all – and with more deaths in the episode – she is an absolute blockade in the first five.
Joining Arya is Theon Frickin & Greyjoy, a man who practically alone prevented Wight from taking Bran out of his wheelchair and into the Big Blue Bad. At a crucial moment in the battle, when almost everything was lost, Theon showed that he had real balls, taking 20 pesos at Godswood. He too, foolishly, invested the King of the Night with his spear and erred in embarrassment, but by his courage he landed at the entrances.
Completing our five is Jorah (19 deaths), Tormund (17) and Sor Brienne of Tarth (16). It is worth mentioning here that all three of these characters were on screen for a much shorter period of time in battle than Theon and Arya. All three had a better Kills Per Minute (KPM), with Tormund leading the way. The man who sucked a giant's tit was in battle on the screen for less than 60 seconds, but he got 17 deaths at the time.
In the bank
When you look for someone to get out of the bank, you want a spark – someone who inspires the team to move forward while the big stars give a break. You are also looking for someone who is not very "me, me, me" and wants to bring all the glory to you. A team player, if you want.
No one gave more spark than Lyanna Mormont, slayer of giants.
Although the entire Little Bear Queen's body fell into the giant's palm like Anderson Silva's UFC 168 leg, she managed to escape with a brave knife to the eyes and disintegrate the walking mammoth as her final act of defiance. Only truly in battle for 58 seconds, your one person death is worth 20 kills – can you imagine the damage that the giant creature would have done wandering through the inner fortress? She was brave personified from the moment we met her to the brutal end, limping and leading her off the bench.
Two of the most inexperienced fighters (and lovers!), Podrick (9 kPM, KPM 12) and Gendry (9 kills, KPM 13.8) did not receive much screen time, but every time the battle came to them, they delivered with great efficiency . You can actually see the pair coming together to exchange stories about the war, their ladies, and the fact that it's really easy to confuse them in the darkest TV battle ever filmed.
You have to hand him over to Jaime Lannister, defending Ser Brienne with an end-game assist, a large KPM of 7.02 and 11 kills. Fighting side by side with the love of his life, Jaime went through the Battle of Winterfell, kept Brienne away from a widely suspected death, and when the creatures actually went deep into Winterfell, they proved that he still has it all with one hand. A lock for our fourth bench point.
The last spot is difficult, but we're going with The Hound. Although his aversion to fire and his hatred for virtually everything that exists can really change the tide of a battle, his respect for Arya means that he is coming off the bench with some real heat. Helping him is 12 kills, but the Hound was one of our least efficient fighters (KPM 2.2), spending a good chunk of the battle going through the castle or fighting a completely different war – against his own demons.
Some warriors simply do not fit into a winning Championship team, and for them, it's worth investigating some deals – who would have helped if they were not there at the Battle of Winterfell?
Sword of fire or not, Beric's exit is limited. Is he playing scared because there are no Myr Thoros to revive him? Probably not. Beric gains a lot of time to shine on the screen (3 minutes and 40 seconds), but much of it is spent in the innards of the castle, trying to defend and protect Arya. His KPM is low as a result (1.17) and look, this can be hard on the Beric guy, but we'd love to see what Yohn Royce could have done in battle.
Samwell Tarly, even with four brave deaths, would be the team's water boy. Did you see him just sitting to cry in the end? What are you doing, Sam? There's still time left on the clock and you're packing. Enter the game. We'd rather see Hot Pie throw candy than that.
Ghost, we're not sure where you went or what you got at the front line, but we traded it for Nymeria and her backpack in the blink of an eye.
Bran spent the entire game on his galaxy-brain-iPhone watching reruns of disappointing Lost finale, so the sooner we traded him the better. There is yet another war to come and now that Bran is practically the most powerful wizard in the world, what good is he for? Absolutely nothing. Swap it for a single chicken and feed it with the Hound.
A brief note about wight numbers
Creatures do a lot of damage in this episode, there are a handful of cases where they directly kill the living (but no main character) and their numbers are really disconcerting. During the first meeting, when they carry the Immaculate in a tsunami, there seems to be about 12 pesos in four Immaculate. Extrapolating, say there are three weights for each Immaculate, which seems to be a pretty conservative estimate.
From several early scenes, we can see the whole squadron immaculate. There are 10 by 10 squads and 2 squads behind each trebuchet, then 200 men by trebuchet. There are 11 trebuchets on the front line that can be seen when Dany and Jon ignore the battle, then 2,200 men on the edge of battle. We also see that the immaculate squadrons are 4 deep. Then 2,200 x 5 = 11,000.
A conservative estimate of wight invasions would put the total (on the front lines and not including those that attack the flanks) at 11,000 × 3 = 33,000, provided the wight density remains the same from the Immaculate. Seeing that they are invaded, we are well assuming this assumption, and we are willing to commit ourselves to the idea that hundreds of thousands of invaders invaded Winterfell in the Long Night.
Good chances of victory, then.
Mother of defeat
We need to talk about Daenerys Targaryen. The Mother of Dragons performed the worst performance ever at the Battle of Winterfell and was almost killed in the process. If it were not for Jorah Mormont's brave efforts, Dany would have left and Cersei would be knocking over another wine with a Cheshire cat smile.
Dany is reeling in this episode because she has just discovered that Jon is actually her nephew. Sad trombone. She's playing distracted. She has other things to deal with, such as accidental incest. Unlike Michael Jordan's infamous "flu game", Dany can not kick what she's eating inside her. She's the anti-Michael.
First, it spoils the lighting of the trench because it gets blinded by a cloud of ice and does not think of … going down a bit? His next mistake is to let Drogon sunbathe on the battlefield for so long that creatures can crawl over him as if he were a pie at a picnic, taking nasty bites out of his dragon skin. Dany almost kills Drogon because she's looking at Jon running to the castle? Dany Lift.
And his most idiotic move, similar to J.R. Smith in the first game of the NBA Finals of 2018, is trying to burn the Night King alive. Someone thinks about telling you this, hey, does not he burn? If it were that easy, Dany, we would have flown to the North and stayed a bit without risking the entire population of Winterfell.
His double help while Jorah was getting overwhelmed does nothing to sway our opinion, though he is brave. She does a single kill in melee combat, but spends a lot of time with Drogon, putting her personal KPM at 0.15, the lowest of all. She wanted to fight, she only made many bad decisions.
She is a great asset to the team, but this was the worst performance on the floor in the most important battle in the history of man.
The Battle of Winterfell MVP
Look, there is an obvious case to be made by Arya Stark who, despite having the fourth worst efficiency of the long night, was still the most effective killer and one of the keys to victory.
So let's do this.
Arya Stark's onslaught on the Night King is a poster for the high-fantasy crowd.
It's a fifth round KO by Showtime Kick.
It's a half-bet triple bet in the championship game.
Whatever the Game of Thrones had been building, all that the Battle of Winterfell was building was possible from that moment on. Who else besides Arya could be the MVP?
There is perhaps also a case to be made by Melisandre – who appeared at the last possible moment to provide some form of hope, courtesy of the mysterious Lord of Light. Remembering his prophecy for Arya, the lady of Winterfell comes into action when all seems lost . This is what Melisandre did, but the intelligence, the intelligence, the cleverness, the cleverness of using the sneaky trick of the dagger leave Arya at the top.
Melisandre can make do with the Coach of the Year award.
After the war
Some postwar notes:
- The dead dragons thousands of creatures – including a giant creature that was burned down by Drogon in the middle of the battle if you look closely. At various points, we were photographing frame by frame the weights that were in direct line of fire. It was a task for someone with more mental toughness (or perhaps machine learning skills) than us. Let's just say: It's been a bad day for the undead.
- The creatures claimed Edd, Beric, Jorah and 99% of the Dothraki horde. Four main characters kill is very good.
- Edd was in the episode for 16 seconds before being hit by a wight. Gendry lasted longer, we waited.
- Dothraki's horde had a better showing and was present for almost two minutes. They have zero confirmed deaths, but they certainly had some small wins out of Winterfell?
- Alys Karstark was at the meeting in the last episode and saw at the beginning of this next to Theon. She was not seen again. She is dead?
- The crypts were not safe, as many had predicted, but I feel little changed. I wanted to see Eddard without a head.
- Davos did an incredible job of avoiding any kind of conflict, but also giving a wonderful and severe appearance to many people. If looks could kill, he would have been MVP.
- We did not see Yohn Royce anywhere. Where should he be?
- I was informed Gray Worm is two words. Lame.