We’re in the endgame now–Episode 3 of Game of Thrones’s final season has come and gone, and that means Season 8 is halfway over. Sunday’s Episode 3, “The Long Night,” clocked in at 82 minutes, putting it ahead of even the last few episodes still to come, which also exceed the standard GoT running time. Those 82 minutes were composed almost exclusively of the show’s biggest battle scene ever, as the Night King’s forces finally arrived to engage in The Battle of Winterfell (and Jon’s questionable battle plan). Spoilers for Episode 3 ahead.
A key component of this major fight was the role that the dragons did (or did not) play. After some practice earlier in the season, we got to see Jon riding Rhaegal while Daenerys rode Drogon. At one point, the two squared off with the Night King and Viserion, and after falling back to earth and throwing Jon off his back, Rhaegal wasn’t seen again. Whether intentional or not, the episode’s long runtime was not used to clarify Rhaegal’s fate, just as with Ghost, who was seen early on and then disappeared into the fight, never to be spotted again. This left us to wonder about the fate of Jon’s dragon companion after the fighting was all over. So what happened to Rhaegal? Is he as dead as Viserion?
Despite it looking pretty harrowing for Rhaegal in the middle of the battle, we know for sure he survived the Battle of Winterfell. That’s because he appears, albeit very briefly, in HBO’s teaser for Episode 4. You can check out the photo below, where he and Drogon can be seen flying over the skies of Winterfell as Sansa looks out from the castle. (We also have more photos from Episode 4 if you’re interested in seeing a few of the other characters it will feature; just don’t expect any earth-shattering revelations.)
Rhaegal and Drogon, the dragon Daenerys rides, were a powerful force in the battle until a snowstorm wrecked all visibility, and the dragons struggled to help out the fighters on the ground. When the Night King showed up riding the undead Viserion, things got even more hectic.
Viserion and Rhaegal literally slammed into each other in the snowstorm, with the wight dragon trying to cook Rhaegal’s rider as they slashed away at each other. The Night King took the opportunity to try to spear Rhaegal and take him down for good, just as he did with Viserion during the Season 7 episode Beyond the Wall. But Rhaegal eventually won the fight, tearing off a piece of Viserion’s face, and both the Night King and the wight dragon fell to Earth. But Rhaegal’s injuries were pretty severe, and he went plummeting to the ground, too–he crashed, throwing Jon from his back, and that was the last we saw of the dragon.
So the question that remains now is what condition Rhaegal will be in going forward. Like Daenerys’s other forces, Rhaegal took a beating during the battle with the Night King, with Viserion raking a huge gash in his chest. It also looks like he has tears in his wings in the teaser (although it’s tough to tell the dragons apart at any distance). It’s very likely he won’t be back to 100% for some time, and that could call into question his role in the coming battle for the Iron Throne at King’s Landing (where we’ll hopefully get Cleganebowl).
Daenerys has already lost a lot of her military might leading up to her final push to take down Cersei Lannister, and the dragons have always been her ace in the hole. We’ve seen her get a lot done with just one dragon, but a weakened Rhaegal (and possibly Drogon) will definitely be a setback.
If you’re all caught up on Game of Thrones ahead of Episode 4, be sure to check out our Episode 3 Easter eggs and references–there were quite a few, and given the issues some people had with the level of darkness and visibility in Episode 3, you might have missed something. You might also be interested in a full rundown of everyone who didn’t make it through the battle, and our take on whether The Long Night succeeded in its aims of resolving the conflict with the Night King.
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