The Night King is one of the more mysterious figures in Game of Thrones. We first saw him in Season 5’s “Hardhome,” when he led a White Walker army against Jon Snow and the Wildlings, or you know, Free Folk. He seemed to hold a position of power over the rest of the White Walkers, and — most nefariously — he took an unusual interest in Jon Snow. As Jon just barely escaped on his boat, profound eye contact was made, arms were raised, and the dead walked again. It was as creepy and gripping and enigmatic for the viewer as it was for Jon.
Granted, Game of Thrones has a history of introducing enticingly mysterious characters and then dropping the ball — remember Beric Dondarrion? If not, we wouldn’t blame you; he hasn’t been around since Season 3.
But the Night King isn’t going to be another Dondarrion or even another Gendry, lost to the show’s Well of Abandoned Plots.
The Season 6 trailer makes a point of displaying him prominently. By this point, Game of Thrones can’t afford to focus on inconsequential characters, so it couldn’t be sending a clearer sign: this guy is important. Here’s how he could shake up Season 6.
He Will Shine Light On Westeros’s Past
In the Season 6 trailer, the Night King is shown next to Bran Stark. As we’ve learned from actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Bran’s Season 6 storyline will revolve around his visions of Westeros’s past. He’s said,
“Previously Bran’s seen tiny glimpses of future or past but never has he been very much in control in the situation. Now we’re given looks into very important events in the past, present and future of this world and Bran is beginning to piece them together like a detective, almost as if he’s watching the show… It’s quite Inception-y.”
The fact that we see the Night King beside him indicates that he ties into these “very important events.” We can therefore assume his role in the story — and, by extension, his interest in Jon Snow — has to do with the past, present, and future of Westeros.
He Might Foreshadow Jon’s Future
Speaking of Jon Snow and Bran Stark, the Night King could actually prove to be a blood relative. According to lore from the books, he started as the Thirteenth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. He fell in love with a woman beyond the wall — much as Jon fell in love with Ygritte — only unlike Ygritte, this woman was a White Walker and converted him too. That detail is a little odd — did she look like the White Walkers we’ve seen when he fell for her, all blue and decrepit?
The star-crossed lovers bit has obvious parallels to Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark — Jon’s probable parents who we’ll learn more about this season. This twofold connection to Jon could fuel the fan theory that Jon will be the next Night King.
On one hand, that’s not really how we’d envision everyone’s favorite pouting bastard. On the other hand, Jon could make a dope White Walker. Perhaps time is a flat circle and he is future Jon? Wrong HBO show?
We Might Be Seeing The White Walkers Wrong
If we know anything about history in Game of Thrones, it’s that we never have the whole story. We thought Jaime Lannister was a dick until he reveals in Season 3 that slaying the king was actually a noble act which saved the city. Similarly, everyone thought dragons were gone forever until Daenerys came along. We can therefore assume neither the show’s audience nor characters know all there is to know about the White Walkers, and one fan theory posits that they’re merely Children of the Forest — think the tree people Bran ends up with at the end of Season 4 — who use a different kind of magic.
Following that theory, perhaps the Night King is merely guiding Bran through these visions like a terrifying Mr. Miyagi.
All three of these elements could come into play, and there could be more new information that has yet to be revealed. Either way, it’s clear that the Night King has a crucial role to play in Season 6 and is intimately tied to Westeros’s past and future. Winter is coming — but at long last, so there might be some answers coming with it.