This episode on its own was breathtaking (literally). It was 82 minutes long, and I checked my watch a couple of times fearing that it would be over soon (and hoping it would last longer). The showrunners (in the video below) broke down the episode into three genres: suspense, horror, and action, each taking almost a third of the runtime.
Humans had four factions: Dothraki on their horses, the unsullied on foot, the Northeners within the walls of Winterfell, and Dany and Jon with their two dragons camping outside and waiting to ambush the Night King. Whoever came up with the attack strategy, decided to put the cavalry in the frontline (instead of flanks or behind the enemy) and placed the infantry behind them. Medieval historians consider this the worst strategy, which is why the Dothraki are decimated within seconds. Dany, seeing her Khalasar (Dothraki army) dead, decides to go against the initial plan and take her dragon to the offensive line. Jon of course follows her, and these two dragon riders spend almost the first hour of the episode in the air playing hide and seek with the Night King in the blizzard. Other characters are fighting to death to protect the living. Although, none of the A-list characters (whose names appear in the credits) is harmed except for Lord Friend-Zone himself - Sir Jorah Mormont. In the end, when all hope is almost lost, Arya (the ninja assassin) saves the day by stabbing the Night King in the chest with a Valyrian steel dagger.
The episode is full of heart pounding moments, and instead of recapping each plot thread in detail, I'd like to rank the players in the game:
Most Valuable Players (MVPs):
Arya Stark: Well, obviously! She is the one who tells god of death "not today". All those years of training in Bravos with the Faceless Men finally paid off. She took down many of the White Walkers, then hit her head on the ground and changed character (maybe she was concussed?) and became a scared little girl. Until Melisandre reminded her of their previous meeting and also Syrio Forell's teachings (her Bravosi swordmaster who taught her to say "not today" to the god of death in the first place). Arya snuck up on the Night King and delivered the killing blow.
Lady Melisandre of Asshai: She showed up just before the battle to light up Dothraki's swords (Arakhs as called in the books). Later she lit up the trenches, and most importantly, gave the pep talk to Arya; maybe it was Melisandre who cured Arya's concussion too. She also saluted Beric Dondarrion as he gave his seventh life to save Arya.
Most Heroic Deaths:
Jorah Mormont: He fought all night and gave his all to his Khaleesi. He first led the cavalry (the Dothraki army) and as one of two or three survivors of that attempt, managed to show up in the last second to save Daenerys from the undead (after she was pulled down from her dragon). He took a dozen stab wounds but kept on fighting until the death of the Night King to protect Khaleesi. His last words were "I'm hurt".
Theon Greyjoy: As I had predicted in the season premiere, Theon was on his redemption path and he killed tens of the undead protecting Bran Stark while Bran had warged into the ravens. He died attacking the Night King
Lyanna Mormont: The 12-year old lady of the Bear Islands fought a giant and stabbed him in the eye with dragon glass. She was a fan favourite since her first appearance, and she went out like a true warrior.
Least Valuable Players:
Daenerys Targaryen: She broke the strategy and flied her dragon cluelessly in the blizzard for 70% of the episode. Then, in her attempt to save Jon from the undead, she landed her dragon on the ground and got attacked by the undead. Jorah Mormont had to give his life to save Daenerys.
Jon Snow: He also spend 70% of the episode with Dany, and in the rest, he ran from cover to cover ducking ice dragon's fire. He was about to run to the dragon without any plans and get incinerated that Arya killed the Night King and all the undead went down with him. Jon was supposed to be the most heroic character of the show and probably the promised prince or Azor Ahai who ended the Night King. I don't mind that it was Arya who fulfilled that prophecy, but I wish Jon has been a little more useful in the battle. Maybe at least killed the ice dragon or one of the Wights.
This would've been a pretty good movie, let alone an episode of a tv show! I was on the edge of my seat for 80% of the episode (except for the second horror act, where Arya was hiding from the undead in the library reenacting Jurassic Park's kitchen scene). As a standalone episode, I give it a 10/10. But considering that only three episode remain, I'm worried about how they would end the whole series, and whether they'd manage to answer all the remaining questions (e.g., What about the Lord of Light? Are the Children of the Forest all dead? What was the significance of this whole zombie plot to the overarching political game of thrones?)