Winter has come. The seventh season of Game of Thrones is off and running and with only seven episodes, HBO doesn’t have time to hold our hands and explain things like where characters are, the history of new locations, or how the actions of one character affect the powder keg that is Westeros’ political climate. Luckily, between all of George R.R. Martin’s novels, and The World of Ice and Fire historical tome, there’s plenty of ways to fill in the blanks and we’re here to help. Obviously spoilers and speculation will abound, so proceed at your own peril.
Things are getting really weird on Game of Thrones. It’s as if compressing what will easily be thousands of pages from George R.R. Martin’s upcoming novels, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring into 14 episodes leads to warping around the edges. For example, in the recent episode “Eastwatch” Dany goes from subjugating the Lannister army by force to sending Tyrion to broker a deal with his siblings in the hope that Jon Snow showing Cersei an ice zombie will make her renounce her ways and join the fight against the undead. As of this writing, Jon has gathered his men and they’re on a mission to bag a wight. I believe this plan could very well work on HBO, simply due to time constraints. But if you believe Jon showing up with a zombie tied up with a ribbon will move Cersei in the books, I’ve got a bridge in Asshai-by-the-Shadow to sell you.
But since this is where we’re going, let’s figure out who this display of magical malevolence will be. There are a few good options, ranging from boring to mind-blowing, not one of which is more likely than the others. In ascending order of viewers shouting “Oh my GOD!” at their televisions, they are as follows.
#1 – Some random wight
Boring but safe. Out of all the undead shambling down from the Lands of Always Winter, choosing a foot solider would take the least effort. Like apex predators, Jon and his men would simply need to isolate one of the stragglers from the herd, muzzle it, and figure out how to get it back to King’s Landing before it rotted away into nothingness.
#2 – Some random White Walker
More cunning than the legions they command, White Walkers retain their cognition and sense of humanity. We might not know who the Night King’s lieutenants are, but they are clearly still sentient beings. They ride horses, carry weapons, and generally have the mannerisms of a human being that just happens to be made of ice. For this reason, White Walkers are a more dangerous prey, yet more likely to impress Cersei if Jon’s group can pull it off. It would also be interesting to see if the White Walkers melt as they go further south.
#3 – Benjen Stark
Remember Uncle Benjen? Bran ran into him last season, where it was revealed Benjen had been left for dead beyond the Wall. He was in the process of turning into a wight when the Children of the Forest shoved a piece of dragon glass into his heart and stopped the transformation. Putting aside for a moment how that doesn’t seem to gel with the story Leaf showed Bran about how the White Walkers were created as weapons against men, Benjen definitely looks dead. He’s also a friendly, which should score him a lower spot on this list. After all, there’s nothing entertaining about watching Jon have a conversation with his dead uncle instead of bodily wrestling a zombie into a wooden cage. However, the payoff of having Benjen return and reveal himself to be more like Jon than the young king is willing to acknowledge would be emotionally compelling.
#4 – Stannis Baratheon
Would this not be the greatest of all reveals? Stannis Baratheon was already monstrously cold and calculating, so discovering he turned into a White Walker wouldn’t be much of a stretch. Game of Thrones has never been shy about showing on-screen deaths, yet Brienne dispatching Stannis takes place off-screen. Then Brienne never mentions it. In the world of storytelling, that’s a big red flag that something sneaky is going on. Perhaps Brienne let Stannis go and he wandered north until he died of the elements, which would be shades of his imminent future in the novels. Having the Night King turn Stannis into one of his lieutenants would be a wicked twist, especially since it would pretty much be Melisandre’s fault. As an added bonus, Cersei knows Stannis and therefore would not be able to hand wave away that Jon and Dany are using trickery.
#5 – The Night King
The footage from next week’s episode hints the Night King and Jon Snow will meet face-to-face. Should the Night King not immediately murder the entire group (unlikely), it’s possible we may finally find out something about this ice-man-zombie’s motivations. Who knows? Maybe he will agree to go south to parlay with the human Queens. Either to share his knowledge or for his own Machiavellian reasons. And you must admit, having Jon Snow, Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, and the Night King all in the same room would make for great television.