Game of Thrones gave fans a finale that is nearly universally beloved and features one of – if not the – strongest sequences the show has ever produced with “The Winds of Winter.”
There was one character that was notably missing, however…
PREPARE FOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
The Night's King did not make an appearance in the Game of Thrones season 6 finale. However, we were given a hint about where the icy leader of an undead army may be, and what he is likely plotting.
As Donna Dickens points out, Benjen Stark (a.k.a. Coldhands) dropped Bran and Meera Reed off at the Wall telling them that he was unable to cross over, as he is not one of the living.
What does that mean for the Night's King?
It's why he and his army are, currently, trapped behind the Wall and unable to go South. The magic in the stones acts as a barrier that they cannot cross. Some are speculating that when the Night's King touched Bran's arm that he marked him and is now able break through those protections as long as Bran crosses them first.
In other words, when the Night's King touched Bran while Bran was using his greensight that opened a door to reach him in reality. The Night's King and his army were able to break the magical barriers that were protecting the Children of the Forest and the Three-Eyed Raven. The Children of the Forest helped to build the Wall with the First Men, so it stands to reason that they were drawing on similar magic.
If you want to tear up, here's a reminder of the hold the door moment below.
So the question becomes: How long does that branding (see what I did there?) last? If Bran goes south of the Wall, will the Night's King be able to follow? Or would he have to touch Bran again in a vision in order to break through to his new location? How long does the mark he gave him last? And how many soldiers would he be able to bring with him?
If it's limited, then there's another potential way for the Night's King to cross the wall: The Horn of Winter.
A brief description of the Horn's function in the books (via AWOIAF):
The Horn of Winter, also known as the Horn of Joramun, is a legendary horn with magical properties. It was supposedly blown by Joramun, a wildling King-Beyond-the-Wall. When he blew the horn, he “woke the giants from the earth.” It is currently claimed that blowing the Horn will destroy the Wall. Mance Rayder claims to have found the Horn of Joramun in a grave beneath a glacier, high up in the Frostfangs.
If in the world of the show the Night's King aims to find and seize the horn to bring down the wall, then it would mark the beginning of the long, dark night that Melisandre has been warning against.
Certainly, the wall crumbling to pieces would make for a far more compelling visual on the series than the White Walkers simply sidling through the wall in Bran's wake. It's also far more in line with the grand-scale destruction that this story promises.
Now, here's a wild, tinfoil hat theory.
We've talked a great deal previously about Azor Ahai/the Prince that Was Promised. The grand hero destined to save the world. Specifically about Tyrion Lannister's potential to the hero, or as Azor Ahai himself.
As a reminder:
The elevator pitch version is that thousands of years before the Targaryens conquered Westeros there was a winter that lasted a generation known as the “Long Night” or the “War for the Dawn.” During this time the White Walkers descended upon the lands killing all in their path. Eventually, the Children of the Forest and the First Men joined forces to defeat the White Walkers and their undead army of Wights.
According to Melisandre, the Long Night is once again nigh, and with it the reincarnation of the hero who helped to defeat the Walkers during that first war – Azor Ahai.
You can also watch this great explainer video:
Melisandre once thought Stannis Baratheon was said prince, she's now moved her sights to Jon Snow – where most of the fanbase has been looking for years. However, George R.R. Martin himself has said that prophesies are not to be taken literally, and as we've seen on the show, signs can be misread.
As ancient as she is, the Red Priestess herself has made several miscalculations, by all accounts. The Lord of Light seems to be pointing to several different contenders as the savior. In fact, one of the most significant themes this season is how untrustworthy other people's narratives can be – or even one's own.
Arya's interaction with the theater troupe illustrated what we already know: stories, legend, lore and prophesy are all a matter of imperfect interpretation. Some pieces of the “truth” may be there, but they are filtered through the individual, group, or cultural perspective. Ned Stark was a god to Arya and a fool in the eyes of those players. We probably see him as something in between.
One of this series' greatest accomplishments is acting as a kaleidoscope and giving us ever-shifting views on characters and the very nature of good and evil. Jaime once seemed to be an irredeemable villain who had crippled a boy and stabbed the very man he was sworn to protect in the back.
Now, we may not be able to forgive him from Bran, but we know why he killed that Mad King and what it cost him. He is now the only thing that stands between King's Landing and a violently insane ruler – his sister, Cersei – once again. And may indeed be forced to kill the very one he loves.
As we have seen, right and wrong is often a matter of perspective. As bloody as Cersei's actions in that stunning open of “The Winds of Winter” were, there was a part of many of us that understood why she'd take such drastic steps. Even felt she was in some ways right to do so. It was either that or allow the Sparrows and their fanaticism loose upon the people.
Not that she cared about the people.
The point is, there's rarely something as simple as a beneficent “savior of the world” in this created universe.
All of that is to say, what if we've been looking at this all wrong? What if the forces of destruction are the men, and the White Walkers there to balance their reign of terror as The Children of the Forest once intended? What if the Night's King is Azor Ahai, not there to save men, but to save the world from their endless brutality?
It's a far out idea, but also in line with the way that George R.R. Martin seeks to subvert standard tropes. Which we've talked about before. As this series has progressed we've seen the various groups and factions make the same mistakes again and again. Always seeking power at the expense of all else, filled with self-interest, and showing more interest in revenge than mercy or even love. Arya returned home and rather than seeking her family, she chose to kill. We don't blame her, but the fact remains… It's a cycle of violence with no end in sight.
If there were a creature whose sole intent was to protect the lands and the world, what better time for them to rise than now? As dragon fire prepares to meet wild fire and the common people line up for the slaughter like so much disposable meat.
It's a stretch, sure. We'd have to dig in to look for the signs, which means first knowing who the Night's King was before he was changed. (Many believe he was a Stark.) We'd then know a great deal more about the circumstances of his birth and if they included smoke, salt, and a bleeding star as the prophesy calls for. As far as dragon's blood, well there's dragon's glass in his heart. So that's what's running through his veins.
Melisandre says that Azor Ahai will also wake dragons from stone, based on the sacrifice of someone with king's blood. Dany has already done so via the sacrifice of her son and husband – which could be two birds with one stone in this case if the dragon's are also considered her lightbringer (fiery sword).
Yet, there's also a recent theory that the wall has either dragon eggs or actual dragons buried beneath it. That those are the “stones” keeping those south of it safe. If that's so, might those be the “sleeping giants” that the Horn of Wintr can and will awake. If the Night's King uses the horn to tear down the wall and wake dragons, doesn't he become a song of ice and fire himself?
The lore also tells of ice dragons, with the same blue eyes as the White Walkers.
In any event, it's interesting to think about.
Ultimately, I think we're looking at Dany, Jon, and Tyrion as the heroes of this story, but nothing's quite as it seems with Martin, so…
Donna Dickens and Roth Cornet discuss the Night's King Cometh in the video above or below.