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Warning: major spoilers ahead for Episode 3 of Game of Thrones Season 8, called “The Long Night” and featuring the Battle of Winterfell.
The long-awaited Battle of Winterfell finally happened on Game of Thrones, and viewers finally got to find out for themselves who would live, who would die, and whether Winterfell would be left in absolute ruins by the time the final credits roll. Well, the battle was less of a bloodbath than some likely expected, featured an epic kill from Arya, saw the end of the Night King, and left at least part of Winterfell standing. That definitely counts as a clear win!
What was less clear by the end of “The Long Night” is what exactly happened to all three of Dany’s dragons. The creatures were instrumental in holding back the army of the dead long enough for the Night King to find Bran and pause long enough for Arya to jump out of seemingly nowhere, channeling all of her “no one” training, and stab him with the Valyrian steel dagger.
But what happened to the dragons by the end? How much damage did they sustain, and were they still flying high by the end? Let’s start with the dragon whose fate was hardest to figure out by the end of the episode: Rhaegal.
Did Rhaegal Die In The Battle Of Winterfell?
Rhaegal, named for Dany’s brother and Jon’s biological father Rhaegar, engaged in a vicious fight against his undead brother Viserion. In what was arguably one of the most epic dragon scenes of the series to date, the dragons danced above Winterfell, with Jon on Rhaegal and the Night King on Viserion fighting with all their might.
Unfortunately, the dance of the dragons happened up in a very dark sky without the handy illumination or torches, burning debris, and flaming arrows. Throw in the fact that the dragons on the show aren’t all that easy to differentiate despite their different colors, and it was difficult to say which dragon did what to the other.
What was clear was that Viserion did enough damage that Rhaegal plummeted to the ground, knocking Jon off his back and crashing out of sight. That was the last that we saw of Rheagal in “The Long Night,” and I for one thought he had to be dead since he never reappeared.
From what I could tell after a rewatch, Viserion did some serious damage to Rhaegal’s body and wings while Jon and the Night King were in the air, but Rhaegal gave just about as much as he got, wounding Viserion and ripping a hole out of his neck. Honestly, if Viserion hadn’t already been dead at that point, Rhaegal might have killed him.
Despite Rhaegal never turning up again dead or alive, his fate has been revealed thanks to the trailer for the next episode:
Hello there, Rhaegal! Not only is Rhaegal alive, but he’s also apparently in flying shape. It’s not clear how much time will pass between the end of the Battle of Winterfell and Dany’s voyage to King’s Landing (or potentially Dragonstone, as a base), so Rhaegal may have needed some recovery time.
Dany would surely want both of her dragons in fighting shape, especially now that she has a second dragonrider. Besides, Winterfell could probably use as much help as possible in recovering from the battle. It was in a sorry state at the end of the third episode, and not just because there are bound to be upward of a hundred thousand corpses around. Hey, at least it’s cold enough in the North that they won’t all start to rot and smell within a couple of hours!
Now, what of Drogon?
Is Drogon Hurt?
Unsurprisingly, Dany chose to ride her trusty Drogon into battle against the Night King. She wasn’t a key player in the dance of the dragons that damaged both Rhaegal and Viserion, unseating their riders, but she and Drogon didn’t escape unscathed. After Dany discovered that dragonfire is, in fact, not enough to kill the Night King, she stayed on the ground too long on Drogon and learned that quantity can beat quality when it comes to thousands upon thousands of ice zombies.
Wights swarmed Drogon en masse, and Dany fell off, putting her in a vulnerable position on the ground for one of few times in the whole series. The wights pulled out daggers and blades and began to stab at Drogon from all over him. The close proximity of the wights, the blades of the wights, and the sheer volume of the wights did some damage to Dany’s mightiest dragon, and he had to take off to try and shake them off of him.
He didn’t come back for Dany, which was the biggest sign that he might be down for the count. Fortunately, Ser Jorah found Dany. Between his knightly skills, determination to live and die for his queen, and Dany getting her hands on a dragonglass blade, they stayed standing until the end. Jorah ultimately gave his life, and as Dany wept by his body, Drogon flew down from the sky and perched over them, comforting Dany and seemingly honoring her oldest and most devoted friend.
Drogon is alive, but he may be wounded due to all the wight cuts. Still, if Rhaegal is recovered enough to return to the skies after the Battle of Winterfell, surely Drogon will be fine. That’s not the case for Viserion.
Did Viserion Come Back?
There was never really any hope that Viserion would re-join the living. With the exception of Benjen Stark, who was stabbed by a White Walker but saved by the timely intervention of the Children of the Forest, no creature being turned into a wight was ever able to come back, and no such intervention would come for Viserion.
No dragon magic was in play either, and Melisandre wasn’t around long enough to even try to bring Viserion back. Or any of the other thousands of people who fell in the battle. She was one of the many who died in “The Long Night,” although her manner of death is one that few fans probably saw coming.
At least Viserion got a pretty awesome final scene, even if he was on the bad guys’ side. The dragon was wreaking havoc in the ruins of the Winterfell courtyard. Jon, who was separated from all his friends and loved ones, knew that the time had come to either reach Bran and stop the Night King or lose the Great War altogether.
Jon was pinned down by Viserion, who was blasting his icy fire in every direction and stopping him from making a move toward the godswood. If not for Melisandre reminding Arya of what we say to the god of death -- “Not today” -- and causing her to realize that she needed to go after the Night King, then Viserion might have been the deciding factor by keeping Jon from at least making a final run at the Night King with Longclaw.
Now, with two dragons alive and another war to fight, what’s next?
Dany’s last two dragons will be back in the air and probably ready to fly south, if Dany is indeed ready to finally take her fight for the Iron Throne to Cersei, presumably with a bunch of Northern allies now that she was key in saving their lives and the North as a whole.
The Northerners are loyal to the Starks and stubborn about outsiders, but the trailer indicates that Dany and her dragons will be a lot more welcome post-Battle of Winterfell. Take a look at both dragons back in the air:
Well, Rhaegal could look better. Like Viserion after he was killed, Rhaegal has holes in his wings, and that should weaken him in the next battle, assuming the clash between Dany’s remaining forces and Cersei’s Golden Company sellswords does indeed happen. Could Rhaegal’s wings be vulnerable to a shot from Cersei’s scorpion?
Drogon was wounded when Bronn shot him in the body with it back in Season 7. Could a shot to Rhaegal’s already-damaged wings be enough to take him down? A felled dragon would still be a dangerous dragon, as long as he managed not to die in the fall. When pinned on the ground, Drogon would have killed a lot of the wights -- or at least scared them off -- that swarmed him if they’d been living people.
Take a look at the trailer for the next episode:
Tune in to HBO on Sunday, May 5 at 9 p.m. ET for the next episode of Game of Thrones. This episode and all the remaining episodes should be nice and long, so hopefully the show will pack in plenty of goodness in the little time that is left. It may be hard to believe, but Season 8 is already half over. Be sure to vote in our poll about the future of the dragons!