SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading unless you’ve seen “Game of Thrones” Season 8 Episode 3, titled “The Long Night.”
“Game of Thrones” fans waited seven and a half seasons for the full strength of the Night King and his army to descend on the living. The moment he unleashed his full power was always going to need epic theme music and fortunately, composer Ramin Djawadi was equal to the task.
As the Night King marched towards Bran Stark and seemingly inevitable victory in episode 3, Djawadi’s “The Night King” theme soared over the top. The piece begins with a simple piano playing a few decisive notes, then a group of strings join in, before reverting to just the haunting piano during the Night King’s face-off with Bran.
Djawadi tells Variety that scoring the episode, and that sequence in particular, was the most difficult task he has faced on the show.
“We talked about how were going to tackle this musically and with the climax we thought, this is a special moment and an opportunity once again to utilize the piano, just like we had done in season 6 with ‘Light of Seven’ when Cersei blows up the Sept of Baelor, up until that point we had never used piano before,” Djawadi says. “Having gone through all this battle music, you get to that point with the piano and it’s just really sad, once you hear the piano you think, ‘This is it, it’s over for our beloved characters.’”
Djawadi says he opted for electronic music, coupled with a pounding bass drum throughout the rest of the terrifying episode to convey the characters being overrun by thousands of wights.
For the rare moments of hope, for instance when Daenerys first took to the air and lit up the army of the dead with dragon fire, the composer used a fuller orchestra for a more “organic feel.”
Djawadi also reveals that showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss had flagged the episode to him from the very beginning as one he would need to “take a look at first.” He saw a first cut of the episode over a year ago, and it was the first footage he had seen from the final season.
“The challenge for the whole episode was how do you keep the tension gong? We build, we build, with little spots of hope, with the thought of, ‘Maybe they can do this, maybe there’s a chance to win this,’ but it gets taken away again,” he says. “This was the most challenging episode to score because of its sheer size, we had ‘Battle of the Bastards’ which was 17, 20 minutes long, but having an entire episode being one long battle was really tricky.”
In terms of his overall work on the series, Djawadi says that “The Night King” theme is one of his proudest works, along with some of the hauntingly catchy songs which appear throughout the show.
Between the “The Rains of Castamere,” “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” and “Jenny of Oldstones,” it’s hard to pick a favorite.
“David and Dan are very good at describing what the tone of the song should be. It’s definitely tricky for me because the lyrics exist before, so I have to find the inner rhythm of those lyrics and work out how they could be sung,” he says. “It’s a process, I don’t do it often, but I love it.”