April’s bringing us the return of two big bads — the Night King and Thanos — on the pop culture front. Both have proven themselves capable of wreaking massive destruction and death on Game of Thrones and within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, respectively, and they’re only getting started. Yet what if they decided to, you know, fight each other? I know what you’re thinking … no contest, right? Thanos would 97% beat the hell out of the Night King. That’s fair.
However silly it might seem with no conceivable crossover on the horizon, I’m still in the mood to consider this. Maybe there’s a slight chance that this might not be as much of a canned victory as it sounds for the Mad Titan against the creator of White Walkers (and, in turn, the wights). I’m being semi-serious here, but one must remember that Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet-bestowed powers only apply to the universe where they originated, and that qualification might apply to the Night King as well. Let’s suppose, then, that they could both wield their full powers in the same setting. First, it’s worth running down the easy-to-spot reason that Thanos would probably overpower the Night King.
The Infinity Gauntlet. So simple.
Setting aside the fact that Thanos may not have acquired the full Gauntlet if not for Star-Lord’s screw up, this makes all the difference in this prospective battle. As the wearer of the completed gauntlet, Thanos (already a powerful Eternal with a Deviant gene) grew virtually omnipotent with the following powers bestowed by the following stones: Space, or the Tesseract (ability to see past and future); Mind (psychic abilities, can control thoughts of others); Power (manipulate forms of energy); Reality (wish fulfillment); Time (self-explanatory, can control that dimension); Soul (resurrection of souls and trapping them in a pocket universe). He’s pretty set now and, to be blunt, cosmically f*cks.
Thanos can do almost anything he wants with the Gauntlet, but let’s look back on the most obvious weapon that currently resides in the Night King’s arsenal.
Not bad. At all. Viserion the ice dragon should do well for the Night King’s Thrones purposes, but sorry man, that’s not a damn Gauntlet.
The Night King’s obviously a badass who’s good with a javelin, and the resulting ice dragon was powerful enough to decimate the wall. From what we concretely know about him, though, his vague supernatural abilities and fancy tools might not impress Thanos. Yes, the wights are relentless and plentiful, but Thanos could snap them away. I mean, if he wanted to do that. Yet Thanos is a bit scattered in his purpose, and we’ll get to that soon. The ice dragon would probably be safe because it’s theoretically the only one of its kind (that we’ve seen), and Thanos didn’t set out to wipe out entire species but to help them flourish. If Thanos did want to get rid of some wights without snapping, he simply needs to remove their corresponding White Walker.
That’s definitely a disadvantage for the Night King, but he could raise a new undead army in a matter of seconds (that is, if there were enough dead bodies lying around). Would this create an endless cycle of snapping on Thanos’ behalf? Maybe. It’s admittedly a dumb thought.
What seems most relevant, though, is that we don’t really know details about the Night King that could mean a lot. We don’t know who he is — A Stark? A Targaryen? Someone else? — he was once human, and we don’t know the full extent of his powers, but there might be warging and time-bending involved, and yeah, it’s a mess of theories. A persistent fan contingent still claims that he’s Bran Stark, although that’s likely not the case. He could just as easily be Rhaegar Targaryen, which could explain why Jon Snow (Rhaegar’s son, spoilers) got away, and there’s some additional theorizing behind the possibility that the Night King is indeed a Stark but not Bran. Then there’s the speculation that the Night King’s true target is Bran, a.k.a., the Three-Eyed Raven.
Clearly, though, the Night King has his sh*t together from a tactical standpoint. He’s organized in a military sense and is a effective commander with a strategy that’s on point (it sure does look like he baited Jon Snow to acquire a dragon), and he’s stone-cold emotionless. His head is in the game, and actor Vladimir Furdik, who plays the Night King, let slip to Entertainment Weekly that he’s motivated by revenge with a specific target in mind. In comparison, Thanos isn’t the most level-headed guy in the MCU (he’s moreso in the comics).
So really, the main chance for a Night King victory would be strategic. That’s the Mad Titan’s only disadvantage he’d have in this challenge — he was clever enough to outsmart Loki but could be outgamed by the Night King.
Yes, Thanos has flaws that can be found in his shifting motivation from the comic books to the big screen. In Marvel lore, he committed genocide because he had an enormous crush on Mistress Death, and he figured that mass murder was a seduction method. Whereas in Infinity War, he’s driven by a bastardized sense of environmentalism. He pushed for omnipotence and and the abilities to kill half the universe so that he could — in his mind — create a better world with more abundant resources across the galaxy, thereby ensuring the survival of future generations. Marvel fans have wondered why Thanos didn’t use the Gauntlet to increase resources instead of, you know, snapping away life?
Joe and Anthony Russo have addressed this inconsistency about Thanos, denying that it’s a plot hole and, instead, describing Thanos’ chosen act as evidence that he’s “not a stable individual” and is driven not only by his Messiah complex but by his flaws. He simply doesn’t think things through enough.
Adding to this logic gap — Thanos might not even want to dust the Night King’s army, in a battle or otherwise? They are undead and therefore don’t gobble up natural resources, so maybe Thanos wouldn’t care about snapping them away. Yes, I realize that this is a tenuous premise, but along with all of the things we don’t know about the Night King, the “intergalactic sociopath” might make risky moves while feeling secure behind his Gauntlet.
Moving back to the Night King, killing him might not be that easy. Dragonglass or Valyrian steel could conceivably work (it’s fared well against the White Walkers), but as far as his powers go, they’re nothing to sniff at. He’s about 8,000 years old and can reanimate corpses, cause fissures in the earth, detect wargs, mark his targets for future reference, and he seems to be fire resistant. If his former human identity is revealed, this could hint at more hidden powers. Furthermore, the full extent of Viserion’s powers remain unknown, and the Night King holds a loyal set of generals who are skilled in the art of war, whereas Thanos fights alone in the MCU. I mean, if we wanted to talk about a purely physical battle, the Night King isn’t as strong, but he can still throw a spear far enough to take down a dragon. With all of the supernatural stuff going on, too, I still say he has a tiny chance against Thanos.
HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ arrives on April 14, and Marvel Studios’ ‘Avengers: Endgame’ comes to theaters on April 26.