Game of Thrones has always been a show about two conflicts. There is the ongoing war for the Iron Throne, where the great houses send their armies into battle to claim control of the land. Politics, loyalty and betrayal are all fair game when it comes to gaining, and maintaining control, of the throne.
The second conflict is the war between humanity itself and the White Walkers, a seemingly unstoppable and magical army of undead warriors who were created by the Children of the Forest to fight the First Men.
This is a simplification of a history that took a lot of pages and many episodes of the show to explain, but it’s enough to get you up to speed. It doesn’t matter who sits on the throne if the White Walkers destroy everyone as they march south, and we’ve already seen powers of the Night King, the White Walker who leads the army.
Or at least we think we have. How does he seem to know what’s going on, and why does he seem to have limited mastery of both space and time? What exactly are the humans up against? Let’s dig in.
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season seven.]
He can do things no one else can
Last week’s episode made the hierarchy of the undead army explicit. The Night King is at the top, the White Walkers are beneath him and every wight that makes up the majority of the army’s fighting force are under the White Walkers. This is important.
We know flame dragonglass blades and Valyrian steel are the most effective weapons against the undead horde, and it’s curious that a bigger deal isn’t made of the loadout of the fighters who travel north of the wall to capture a wight. It seems as if some, if not all, of the men have something made of dragonglass or Valyrian steel with which to fight.
I’d guess this aspect of their mission was planned and discussed, but the scene was either cut or never filmed ... or the writers just assumed we’d put it together ourselves. But we do learn that killing the White Walker that created the wights fighting alongside them destroys the wights as well. This detail has huge implications for the story. If you kill the Night King, does that mean the entire army goes down with him?
So yeah, Drogon should have turned his head and possibly wiped out the White Walkers completely instead of sitting there like a doofus and taking out an army of underlings, but things go sideways pretty quickly if you start wondering about the logic of season seven.
But anyway, it’s clear the Night King shares at least some of Bran’s abilities, which explains just about everything. The Night King knew when Bran was viewing his army, and is able to grab Bran’s arm through the telepathic link.
This contact left a physical imprint on Bran’s body, despite the fact he was mentally moving through time and space, and it allowed the White Walkers to locate and destroy the three-eyed raven. Something about that interaction destroyed the magical protection of that tree, and it all happened because Bran was up against a mental opponent whose powers he neither understood nor planned for.
There was also the scene earlier this season where Bran tried to watch the undead army through the eyes of a raven, and the Night King pushed him out. So the Night King shares some, if not all, of Bran’s powers.
There are even fan theories that state the Night King is Bran through some trick of time travel and warging, but that whole thing seems far-fetched ... and that’s before noting that we see what we assume to be the creation of the Night King in the show, and the man killed to create the first White Walker doesn’t look like Bran. Scroll up if you don’t believe me.
Anyway, if the Night King can see into the future, even partially, things are going to get really tricky, really quickly. But that ability would explain why the wight captured by Jon and his Suicide Squad wasn’t taken out due to the death of the White Walker they encounter in that small initial group. The Night King, or someone under his control, created that particular wight and hid it among the rest. It was all a trap, planned well in advance.
It’s a silly plan anyway, as many have already pointed out. Cersei knows undead fighters exist, she already has one under her control.
The men weren’t going to leave until they had a prisoner, and that prisoner, combined with Jon’s status, would be enough to draw out Daenerys and her dragons. Which is why he had weapons not just ready, but close to him, that could destroy dragons. It would also explain why they found, brought or salvaged the massive chains that allowed the Night King to reanimate Viserion and change the balance of power in Westeros.
Being able to see into the future, or at least potential futures, means that the Night King already has a plan for breaking through the magical protections of the Wall. It means that everything that has happened until this point has been going according to his plan, or at least he has been able to attempt to influence the future by seeing how things might go.
There’s no reason to throw an ice spear you know is going to miss, for instance. But the Night King knew enough to create the situation that led to that opportunity. He’s not going to improvise his way through the wall, he knows how it’s going to fall. But now Jon knows that the easiest way to take out the entire threat of the White Walkers is to destroy the Night King himself.
The question is whether someone who can see into the future would ever allow himself to be put in that position. What’s clear is that things are going to get much worse before they get any better, and Cersei is far from the scariest thing on the show.