Game of Thrones got a huge setpiece during tonight’s episode, one that just so happened to answer a ton of lingering questions we’ve had about the White Walkers.
Many spoilers follow.
The first big mystery that was solved was the link between dragonsteel and Valyrian steel. In the books, Samwell Tarly researches ways to combat the White Walkers, and finds that a substance called “dragonsteel” can harm them. Whether or not this is the same as Valyrian steel is never confirmed, until tonight’s episode that is when Longclaw cubed the crap out of a White Walker.
That wasn’t nearly the biggest revelation though. The most important reveal in this episode comes after it finishes. During the “Inside the Episode” behind-the-scenes snippet, it’s confirmed that the spiky-headed White Walker we saw last season is in fact the Night’s King.
This was widely speculated by fans, and even appeared on an official HBO plot synopsis that was pulled and edited; but until now, it has never been explicitly stated. So, who is this guy?
Who is the Night’s King?
The Night’s King is a legendary figure in Westerosi history. Thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones, he was the thirteenth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, until he fell in love with a woman with “with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars.” While it’s never explicitly stated, it’s widely assumed that this woman was a White Walker.
The two are married in an “unholy union,” and soon after, the Lord Commander goes a little crazy. He declares the two of them king and queen, and claims the Nightfort (one of the castles along the Wall) as his fortress, using the Night’s Watch as his personal army. He reigns for 13 years, committing horrible atrocities during that time, including human sacrifices to the White Walkers.
He is eventually brought down after Brandon the Breaker, a Stark and the King in the North, and Joramun, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, joined forces. In the aftermath of his reign of terror, his name is forbidden to be spoken again, and has been lost to time.
In the millennia since then, many have come to believe that this story is just a legend, that the Night’s King was just a corrupt Lord Commander, and did not actually marry a White Walker. Whatever the truth is, the tale has become invariably twisted over the years, and no one can even identify what house the Night’s King was from (although some believe he was a Stark, and even a brother to Brandon the Breaker).
What role will he play in the story?
The Night’s King is a mysterious character in the series, due in large part to the fact that he does not appear in the books. In fact, this episode’s entire sequence at Hardhome is completely original to the series.
In the show so far, he appears to be the leader of the White Walkers (he even has little crown-like horns), and has the ability to not only raise the dead as wights, but as we saw last season, can also turn human children into (what we assume) are more of his kind.
He rules from some kind of massive fortress in the far north (a region known as the Land of Always Winter), a location we glimpsed briefly in Season 4.
So what does this guy want? We have no idea yet, but it probably doesn’t bode well for the people of Westeros given how he just slaughtered the Wildlings at Hardhome.
Some fans speculate that he and Jon Snow will share a special bond in the next season (purposefully vague here to avoid potentially book-spoiling the Season 5 finale), while others believe that he may be the threat that Melisandre is seeing in her ominous prophecies.
Either way though, nothing in Game of Thrones is ever particularly black-and-white, so expect some nuance when we finally learn what the Night’s King’s deal is. I find it very hard to believe that it’s as simple as being the series’ big bad.