This post contains spoilers for GAME OF THRONES season eight, episode three and everything before it. Proceed with caution.

The latest episode of GAME OF THRONES had a big task to accomplish: sustain 80 minutes of action in which the fate of the world is on the line without crumbling under the weight of expectation or exhausting its audience. “The Long Night” rose to that challenge in ways that few fans expected. From the very start, the episode was a masterclass in tension, building and releasing and building it again. Moments of hope are undercut with moments of extreme loss and vice versa. In short, it toyed with our emotions in all the best ways.

Whether out of grief, pride, or frustration, tears were shed at a near constant rate. From the loss of beloved characters like Lyanna Mormont to the cathartic violence by the likes of Arya Stark to some of the most beautiful shots of the series, here are the moments from “The Long Night” that made us cry.

1. The Dothraki Light Brigade

The first bout of nerve-destroying tension broke with Melisandre’s sudden reappearance. How did she make it through the undead army? Doesn’t matter. All that matters is that she brought the Lord of Light’s magic with her. Before the Dothraki charged into the unknown with weapons that couldn’t hurt the wights (whose plan was this again?), Melisandre enchanted their arakhs with fire. It’s a moment of hope in this stressful sequence, the literal light in the darkness.

As the Dothraki charge forth, we watch from Jon and Daenerys’s vantage point above the action. The hoard of flickering lights approaches what seems to be empty space, but clashes with a solid block of darkness. The lights slowly extinguish until nothing remains but the night. It’s a powerful approach to “The Long Night”‘s first fight. We don’t see any of the violence, but it’s written all over the scene. The lights and the sounds fading away tell us everything we need to know. The enemy, still unseen, is more than anyone anticipated.

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“Maybe we stand a chance,” they, and we, think. Courtesy of HBO.

Even as we start to appreciate the magnitude of this situation, we have to take a moment to mourn the Dothraki. They were thrown into their battle like sacrificial lambs, but they’ve been with us longer than most of the remaining characters. They made Daenerys who she is and have fought for her with very little in return. The horses returning from the battle without their riders calls back to season two when Daenerys sent her blood riders to find refuge in the desert. The challenge may change, but the Dothraki haven’t. They proudly and courageously served their Khaleesi through it all.

2. The Unsullied: Do Not Go Gentle Into That Long Night

Like Dothraki, the Unsullied are at the heart of Daenerys’s, and therefore the show’s, whole arc. What was once just an army become the beginning of a potential new world order? Daenerys came into her own ideologically during her freeing of Slaver’s Bay and were it not for the Unsullied she wouldn’t have the force or the goodwill to do so.

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Even he thought he was going to die. Courtesy of HBO.

Unlike Dothraki, one of the Unsullied got some characterization. Grey Worm topped our list of likely deaths in “The Long Night.” Luckily, he survived as far as we can tell. But his brothers in arms were not so lucky. In the heat of the ever-worsening battle, Grey Worm had to make a hard call to destroy the passage over the trench with his men on the other side. The gravity of this isn’t played up very much since the Unsullied are still treated by the show as dispensable and even Grey Worm as the consummate, unfeeling soldier. But it is hard to ignore the pain it must have caused him to condemn his brothers in such a way. They spent their whole lives fighting other people’s battles and now, with true freedom for them all on the horizon, they’re gone.

3. Sansa and Tyrion’s Long Night

Down in the crypts, our only insight into the experience of waiting in a tomb while death rains down above comes from Sansa and Tyrion. Tyrion is still angry, arguing that he could be of use up there, seeing and thinking about things that others can’t. Sansa tells him to stop being stupid and shut up (I’m paraphrasing). Tyrion’s response is to drink, as he would have in the earlier seasons of GAME OF THRONES. It parallels Cersei’s spiral during the Battle of Blackwater. Frustrated with her own confinement, Cersei filled up on the wine and poured out her anger with the world to anyone within earshot, namely Sansa. Sansa placated Cersei, nodding along and trying to understand. But now, Sansa knows better and again proves that she’s smarter even than Tyrion.

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Could there be a future here? Courtesy of HBO.

Some have taken Tyrion’s anger as a foreshadowing of his eventual betrayal of Daenerys. This is somewhat emphasized by the reconnection between him and Sansa. They reminisced over their marriage, with Sansa admitting that he was the best of her otherwise psychotic beaus. But alas, Sansa points out, they would never work out because Tyrion’s loyalties are with Daenerys. Even so, their time together in the crypt is a heartwarming reminder of how these characters have grown over the seasons and how they can have positive impacts on each other.

Maybe in another life, Sansa and Tyrion could be very happy together. And in what they think is their last moment on earth, they find comfort and strength in each other. They might seem like an odd couple in this show, but their dynamic has always brought a thoughtfulness, grounding, and respect to the chaos of their world.

4. Daenerys Picks Up a Sword

Despite conquering cities and waging wars, we haven’t seen Daenerys get into the action herself. She has commanded her dragons, sure, but she hasn’t been on the frontlines. Until “The Long Night,” that is. The Army of the Dead finally forced her hand by throwing her from her dragon. As he tends to do, Jorah shows up just in time to save her from a fatal blow, but this time he can’t fight everyone alone. Daenerys finally has to pick up a weapon. She wields it with appropriate awkwardness and terror. She isn’t instantly a samurai like a lesser show would have her be. Daenerys is out of place in her clean white coat but she does what she can to defend herself and the man who has defended her all these years.

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Add “Killer of Wights” to her titles. Courtesy of HBO.

Sadly, it isn’t enough. Jorah takes blow after blow for Daenerys, fending off the wights just long enough. He fought and died protecting Daenerys, the woman he loved and respected more than anyone else in the world. Daenerys ugly cried, and so did we all.

5. The “All Is Lost” Moment

There comes a time in every action, horror, war, or disaster movie when it seems like the fight is over. There’s no winning, it’s our heroes’ darkest hour, and all is lost. “The Long Night” gave us a beautiful cue into its all is lost moment with a stirring piece of music by Ramin Djawadi. Like in “Baelor,” this piece uses the piano in its melody, an anomaly for GAME OF THRONES scores. The noise of battle and death muffles behind the lullaby-esque score in the forefront. The haunting track underscores the devastation unfolding on screen.

We see Theon sacrifice himself protecting Bran, his screams fading into nothing behind the music. We see Sansa and Tyrion ready themselves for whatever comes. Then we see Jon helplessly trying to fight an ice dragon with a broadsword. As our senses are distilled to just the visuals and this non-diegetic sound, we get the sense that this is really it. We lost. “Are they really going to have the White Walkers win? Is that the show now?” We can’t help but think. It really felt like the impossible was happening.

That flood of emotion, that pit in your stomach isn’t something that happens much on TV. The stakes are almost never as high as they are on GAME OF THRONES. Even shows like GoT often bungle their biggest moments. But not this one. On a purely visceral and emotional level, this climax of “The Long Night” knocked it out of the park.

6. Every Time Arya Did Anything

“The Long Night” was Arya’s episode. She was the undeniable winner of the Battle of Winterfell. She proved that all her training and all her posturing weren’t for naught. Staring at the god of death in the face, she repeatedly and firmly said, “Not today.” Arya’s own arc in this episode was about playing with tension. On the wall with Sansa, she looks on as the audience does, holding our breath. When she sends Sansa off to the crypts, there’s almost an exhale on our part.

She’s got seven years of pent up rage to get out. Courtesy of HBO.

The fighting begins, which is less stressful than just watching from afar. And finally, we get to see Arya’s custom weapon in action. She wields her double-ended detachable spear thing with a grace and ferocity that would make Syrio Forel proud. Her tenacity became the stuff of legends before the battle even ended. The Hound cowered in a corner, espousing the uselessness of fighting what can’t be killed. “We can’t beat death,” he says to Beric Dondarrion. Beric points to Arya clinging to a roof and wights in hot pursuit. “Tell her that,” he says. I cried tears of inspiration for the first time in the episode.

The Princess That Was Promised?

If Melisandre’s reappearance seemed out of place in the beginning, then perhaps it starts to make sense here. Way back in season three, Melisandre told Arya that she would shut many eyes forever — brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes — and that they would meet again. Well, here we are. Melisandre finally understood the meaning of that vision and all the things we know about the Lord of Light start to fall into place. He brought back Beric so he’d eventually save Arya from a wight. He led the Hound to Winterfell to do the same. The Lord of Light brought Melisandre into the fold to give Arya the final push towards her destiny: killing the Night King.

An End to the Long Night

All of Arya’s skills get a showcase in “The Long Night.” Her water dancing takes out wights left and right on the wall. Her time in hiding and generally fleeing gave her the ruthlessness and tenaciousness to keep up the good fight. And finally, her faceless men training gave her the stealth to get past the White Walkers and the force to kill the unkillable. She even pulled the same move that she pulled on Brienne in their sparring last season. Her resume certainly makes her the most qualified candidate for this job.

Looking death in the face. Courtesy of HBO.

The pieces all fit together, but I’d be surprised if anyone saw this coming. Even as Arya had been carrying her team through the episode (did Jon really do anything productive?) There was still the underlying feeling that one of the big players would swoop in at the end. That Bran’s undefined powers would somehow stop things or Jon would make it in time after all. But the fact that it was Arya was the ultimate breaker of tension. The joy of having the enemy taken down mixed with the shock factor produce a catharsis unlike anything GAME OF THRONES has done. If you didn’t scream, cry, or spit take when she comes flying into the frame, then I am concerned for your health.

What were your favorite moments from “The Long Night”? Did you cry tears of joy or tears of sadness? Or maybe your eyes were just watered from trying to see what was going on in some of those dark shots? Share in the comments!

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