This is all spoilers. Like, so much spoilers. Please don’t read on unless you’ve seen Season 7, Episode 6, “Beyond the Wall” of Game of Thrones. If you haven’t seen it then, firstly, what the hell are you doing here? And secondly, go watch it immediately (and read our recap and review while you’re at it here).
Ready? OK. So, what does the Night King want, and what’s he been up to all this time?
Our theory is that everything we saw in Beyond the Wall, and in fact everything that we’ve seen since Hardhome in series 5 and then The Door in series 6, all points towards a unified masterplan from the Night King which he pulled off (almost) flawlessly. The plan being: to steal Dany’s dragons.
Hear us out.
We know that the Night King and Bran have some kind of Voldemort-Harry Potter bond going on (we’ll go into the “Bran is the Night King” theory some other time) and we know that the Night King knows that too as he’s branded Bran (lol) and managed to raid the Three-Eyed Raven’s treehouse in The Door (RIP Hodor… still too soon). Whether that means the Night King has greenseer powers of his own or if they’re entirely tied to Bran is unknown, but clearly their dyna
Next: Jon and his Dream Team’s plot to venture beyond the wall happened exclusively because of Bran’s vision in the previous episode and the Night King knew that Bran saw them. In fact, he made a point of making sure Bran knew he saw him. Which relates to questions that fans, us included, have ridiculed the show about all season: why didn’t the Night King chase down Bran and Meera after The Door? Why did he make his army of the dead, which is perfectly capably of sprinting (presumably unendingly as they aren’t exactly going to get tired, are they?), very slowly march nowhere in particular? Baring in mind that, since The Door, Bran has managed to travel to Winterfell in a wheelbarrow and Dany has sailed across the actual entire known world, while the Army of the Dead have gone, err, left a little bit. It was all to build up to this, to lure the heroes, and more specifically, the dragons, north.
Notice that the Night King just stood on the hill and watched the Dream Team while they were stranded on the island? He didn’t attack – say, with throwing spears and deadly accuracy – or refreeze the water to help his army across as we know he can do (though the weather sorted that one out). He was waiting for the dragons to turn up! You’d think, as devils made of ice, the White Walkers would be scared shitless of flying dinosaurs literally made of fire but they just stand and wait armed with spears specifically designed to take dragons down. 3 spears in fact! One for each dragon. Notice he didn’t go for Drogon first, the closer, prone target, but instead took a shot at Viserion while the dragon was flying in approach and therefore easier to hit; Drogon was a foregone conclusion for the Night King and his godlike throwing arm so we went for the tougher shot first (though he didn’t account for Dany’s skills as a dragon pilot which is the only way this went badly for him).
We know, or at least very strongly suspect, that the Night King’s goal is to cross the wall and bring the Long Night upon humankind once more, possibly as a continuation of his original purpose (we saw him being “created” by the Children of the Forest in Bran’s vision in series 6, presumably as a weapon against the First Men who the children were warring against). The main problem there: crossing the Wall infused with magic designed to keep him out. A lot of people, us included, thought that Bran crossing the Wall with the Night King’s brand would be enough to let them through. But it’s not that straightforward –
remember, Benjen said that he couldn’t cross the wall last season and he was WITH Bran, so Bran himself isn’t the game here.
What the brand did gift is some form of psychic bond between Bran and the Night King, the extent of which we haven’t yet seen. And what does Bran know? Well… pretty much everything thanks to the tree internet! Including the fact that dragons have been reborn in the world. Furthermore, upon returning to Winterfell, Bran discovers that Jon is now with Dany and her dragons which, following this theory, means that the Night King can know too. Now the Night King knows Jon pretty well and has already baited him into a suicide mission to save people before at Hardhome. So what does he do? The exact same thing!
He threatens Eastwatch, slowly, makes sure Bran finds out and relays the message, and then waits for Jon. Anybody else wondering why a splinter force of one White Walker and a few wights were separated? And when Jon killed the White Walker only one wight was very conveniently left standing? I.e. the one piece of gold Jon needed and couldn’t leave behind, the one thing that slowed him down and forced him into a partial retreat requiring aerial support from Dany? Because the Night King planned it that way, all so he could get a hand on Dany’s dragons. Also notice that i) this isn’t the entirety of the Night King’s army (we know from the premiere that he has zombie giants in his employ which aren’t present) and ii) he has preemptively brought the chains he needs with him if any of the felled dragons had sunk into the lake (possibly gained from, and in turn inspiring, his previous attack on Hardhome – a harbour town filled with ships that would’ve used large metallic chains for all sorts of things, most notably for anchorage at the bottom of deep water!).
None of what happened was an accident: the Night King sent one of his Walkers and group of wights into a gully to draw the Dream Team out; he ensured that one wight would remain standing to weigh them down so they wouldn’t all flee and yet let Gendry out without pursuing him to summon the dragons; a splinter force of his army was then positioned to push the Dream Team across the lake and onto the island where they would be stranded and surrounded; then they could wait for the dragons to arrive.
Which brings us back to our earlier point: the Night King needs to cross the Wall but can’t because of the magic. So what can he do instead? Destroy it, bring that thing crashing down! And how’s he going to do that? Well, fire-breathing dragons might do the trick! As we explained in our recap and review for Beyond the Wall, we don’t believe that Viserion has been brought back as a standard wight (as in when the Night King raises the dead in Hardhome). Instead, the Night King re-raised the dragon in the same way he converted Craster’s son in Oathkeeper (series 4, episode 4) with a touch to the head. Viserion is therefore arguably more of a White Walker (White Dragon?) than a standard wight zombie, so we believe that his firebreathing talents will be very much operational.
Ultimately, the only thing that went wrong for the Night King in all of this is that he only got his hands on one of the dragons. For now at least. But regardless, one is all he’ll need to breach the wall – either by flying over it or elsewise destroying a section to let his army through.
One thing is for sure: it’s going to be dragon versus dragon in series 8. And we don’t think our hearts can handle it.
Read our recap and review for Series 7 , Episode 6 here.