As everyone at Winterfell braces for the army of the dead to storm the gates in Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 3, one hugely important character could be a surprising no-show. A new theory wonders if the Night King will show up at all. If the villain uses an alternate strategy pitched by a fan on Reddit, then it would actually fulfill a few prophetic visions we’ve seen in the show before.
Potential spoilers follow for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 3.
“When the army of the undead line up for the battle of Winterfell, the Night King and his zombie dragon will not be there,” a post from redditor u/qp0n reads. “Instead he will already be near to his next target … King’s Landing.”
Why? The Night King’s army might be far larger than anything Jon, Dany, and company can muster in terms of sheer numbers. But the ice dragon Viserion was the smallest of Daenerys’ three dragons before it was killed and resurrected by the Night King. In theory, someone would only need to lightly pierce its dragonhide with either dragonglass or Valyrian steel and the undead dragon would shatter. What if Drogon and Rhaegal teamed up against Viserion? The two larger dragons would probably be able to defeat their undead brother, and regular dragonfire might be able to kill Viserion with ease.
Hence, the “Night King Is Not Stupid Theory.”
“If you have a superweapon that you can’t use against a target, then you find another target,” they write. Several times in the series, a military mastermind has sent a smaller force as a distraction, only to then execute a surprise maneuver with a separate force.
In Season 2, Robb Stark sent a smaller force to the Battle in the Whispering Wood to distract Tywin Lannister, and then he managed to capture Jaime Lannister with separate forces. In Season 7, the Lannisters left Casterly Rock almost completely unmanned, leaving it open for the Unsullied to take it. Meanwhile, Jaime ransacked Highgarden, giving the Lannisters enough money to repay their debts and buy the Golden Company.
We know that the Night King is fixated on one “target,” and Bran confirmed it was him in Episode 2. While it would be simple for the Night King to just doggedly attack Winterfell head-on to kill the new Three-Eyed Raven, he’s proven himself a cunning military strategist who’s less zombie-like than most of us realize.
In Season 7, he lured Daenerys north of the Wall with the full intention of killing one or more dragons so he could then use them to destroy the Wall. So it doesn’t seem likely that he’d be stupid enough to fly his dragon directly into a battle where he might risk losing it.
A far more likely strategy would also fulfill the visions seen by Bran in Season 4, Episode 2 when he touches the weirwood tree, also seen by Daenerys when she’s in the House of the Undying in Season 2. Bran sees the shadow of a dragon over King’s Landing, and it sounds closer to Viserion’s undead screech than anything the living dragons emit. Both Bran and Dany also see the throne room at King’s Landing in ruins with snow covering everything.
As u/qp0n points out, all of Bran’s other visions have come to pass except for these. If all of this is true, then Episode 3 might play out like this: The heroes valiantly defend Winterfell, suffer great losses, but then somehow achieve victory by focusing on eliminating the White Walkers. (In “Beyond the Wall,” killing a White Walker eliminated many of the wights following it.) That’s when they realize that their gambit about luring the Night King to the godswood with Bran was a waste of time. The last shot of Episode 3 would then be the Night King reaching King’s Landing with his ice dragon, where he kills a million people and claims the Iron Throne for himself.
The Night King might kill Cersei and/or make her the Night Queen. He might even take out the entire Golden Company and Euron Greyjoy with ease.
Wouldn’t it be poetic for the final three Game of Thrones episodes ever to unify the fight for the Throne and the fight against the Night King into one Great War? This may have been the real Game of Thrones all along, and we just never knew it.
Game of Thrones Season 8 airs Sundays on HBO at 9 p.m. Eastern.