Who Is the Night King? 'Game of Thrones' Villain Will Dominate Season 8

The White Walkers have been a looming threat in Game of Thrones ever since the series began, but their leader, the Night King, only became a key character in the past few seasons. Heading into Game of Thrones Season 8, he’s expected to play a huge role as his undead army marches south past The Wall and into Westeros. But who is the Night King? Here’s a refresher on the character in case you don’t remember.

It’s been two long years since Game of Thrones was last on the air and eight years since it first premiered on HBO. So you might have forgotten a few important details since then. Who is Jon Snow’s actual father? What’s the Golden Company? And what did Cersei’s prophecy mean? Let Inverse be your guide to some of the biggest questions as we head into Game of Thrones Season 8.

Light spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8 below.

Who Is the Night King?

The Night King is the leader of the White Walkers, but before that he was an ordinary man.

Bran watched the Night King’s creation in a vision in Season 6 Episode 5. In the vision, Bran saw the Children of the Forest, an ancient and magical species, turn a man (played by Vladimir Furdik, the same actor who plays the Night King) into the first White Walker by inserting a piece of dragonglass into his chest. The man’s eyes turned blue and the vision ended.

In a subsequent conversation between Bran and Leaf, a Child of the Forest, we learn that that her people created the Night King and the White Walkers as a weapon to fight against early humans.

“We were at war,” Leaf explained to Bran after. “We were being slaughtered. Our sacred trees cut down. We needed to defend ourselves … from men.”

However, this clearly backfired, and the Children and the Forest ending up allying with humanity to beat the White Walkers.

The creation of the original Night King.
The creation of the original Night King.

Why Does This Matter for Game of Thrones Season 8?

In the Season 7 finale, the Night King led the Army of the Dead on his new undead dragon, Viserion, and brought down the Wall at Eastwatch. That was the image fans were left with for nearly two years, and it was likely just the beginning of the Night King and his army’s destruction.

We know there’s a major battle coming up in the final six episodes of the HBO series. It will be unlike anything that’s been on Game of Thrones before.

Series star Peter Dinklage called the upcoming battle against the Dead at Winterfell, for which it took 55 nights to film the outdoor scenes and “weeks after that” to film in studio, “brutal” in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “It makes the Battle of the Bastards look like a theme park,” he said.

EW goes on to reveal that the battle “intercuts between multiple characters involving in their own survival storylines that each feels like its own genre.”

This upcoming battle is expected to take place in Episode 3, according to a statement by Furdik at a fan convention in Hungary translated by Mashable. “Almost the full episode will be about the battle, it will take about one hour,” the actor said.

We also learned in Season 7 that killing a White Walker will also destroy all the wights (basically zombies) that White Walker created. So killing the Night King (aka, the original White Walker) would presumably destroy the entire undead army in one fell swoop. If humanity stands a chance at survival, that may be how they do it.

But Who Is the Night King? Here Are Some Theories

One of the most popular (and controversial) Game of Thrones theories is that Bran Stark is actually the Night King. According to this theory, Bran, using his abilities as the Three-Eyed Raven, wargs into the Night King in the past and becomes trapped in his body..

The Hollywood Reporter also suggested that the Night King is a Stark, just not Bran. The theory looks to George R.R. Martin’s books and a moment during which Bran’s caretaker, Old Nan, talks about “the Night’s King,” hypothesized to be a Stark, possibly a Brandon Stark. That could lend credence to the “Bran is the Night King” theory, but it could simply be that this is a Stark ancestor.

Game of Thrones Season 8 premieres Sunday, April 14 at 9 p.m. on HBO.

Media via HBO