We're two episodes into the final season of Game of Thrones, and even though things seem to be moving at breakneck speed (in the best way possible), we're just getting into the real meat of the story. The dead are coming, and Winterfell's army is preparing to tackle an army that grossly outnumbers them and fights with soulless abandon — but they have two dragons and a Three-Eyed Raven, so that's got to count for something . . . right? Only if things go to plan, and they so rarely do on this series. As we close out episode two and look to the third, Winterfell is hinging on battling the frost baddie himself, the Night King, but what if he has other plans?
Back in February 2018, we discussed the idea that rather than meeting the Northerners head on, the Night King would lure them into battle with his White Walkers and wights, while he travels down to King's Landing and handles Cersei and the Golden Company. Reddit user thetripleb posited the theory that after leaving Cersei when he realizes she was lying about sending an army to help in the North, Jaime would "convince at least a contingent" of the Lannister army to journey with him to the North. However, when the battle begins, the Night King and his new ice dragon aren't there — they've flown south to destroy King's Landing and add even more bodies to their already massive army.
Whew! It's stressful, right? And even though we already know that Jaime arrives in Winterfell all by his lonesome, it still leaves a lot of room for the rest of the theory to come true. But the events of season eight's first two episodes have changed more than a few things that must be taken into account when we consider the rest of the theory. Keep reading how, if this theory proves right, Winterfell can survive the Night King's switcheroo.
What Happened to the Umbers at Last Hearth?
In the premiere of season eight, little Lord Umber is told by Sansa to gather everyone remaining at his home and bring them to Winterfell. Even though Last Hearth lies between Winterfell and the Wall, no one at Winterfell knows that the Wall has fallen, so they don't anticipate he'll encounter any trouble on his way there or back. Little do they know that the Night King's army is running amuck, and everyone at the Keep is slaughtered. The survivors from the Wall's fall — which include Tormund, Beric, and Edd — find Ned Umber's body pinned to the wall with limbs surrounding him in a sign from the Night King: the White Walkers are headed to Winterfell, and there's nothing the Night's Watch can do to stop them.
What Is Winterfell's Battle Plan?
When Jaime arrives in Winterfell and tells everyone that Cersei is in fact a lying liar who lies, most are disappointed, but they're not too concerned. Last they knew, the Night King's army was about 100,000 wights strong. Then Tormund and the crew arrive to tell them that the Night King has added even more numbers to his army ("We can all pack up, this is definitely a wash" — us, if we were at Winterfell). But the Northerners are not backing down without a fight! They have the "greatest army" with Daenerys's 100,000 Dothraki riders, the Unsullied, and the Northerners who deigned to show up. (I'm looking at you, Lord Glover. Enjoy being a wight!)
So everyone converges in Winterfell's battle room to hash out a makeshift plan. Anyone who isn't capable of fighting — children, older women, and elders — will remain hidden in the crypt below the keep (a plan that could possibly backfire). Everyone is banking on the idea that killing the Night King will also kill all those marching in his army, since it works that way with the White Walkers. Bran suggests that they use him as bait to lure in the Night King, and Theon vows that the Ironborn will protect Bran in the Godswood. "We need to lure him into the open before his army destroys us all," Bran says. Sounds like a solid plan!
Why Does the Night King Want to Kill Bran?
Bran offers himself up as bait because he believes that the Night King wants to kill him specifically, as well as destroy the world. He explains to Winterfell's war council that the Night King wants "to erase this world, and I am its memory," and has tried to kill Three-Eyed Ravens before. Obviously, they're trickier to kill than he anticipated.
Where Is the Night King Before the Battle of Winterfell?
We haven't seen a lick of the Night King since season eight premiered. The closing scene of episode two only shows a few White Walkers on horseback, watching Winterfell from afar. One scene in the preview for episode three shows a dragon emerging from the shadows, but a long look reveals Daenerys's silver hair riding on Drogon. To be honest, we don't even know if it was the Night King who left the spiral sigil at Last Hearth, since he could have had his White Walker grunts make that sign. So the question stands: is the Night King actually leading his army, or he is making his way further south? Season seven proved that Daenerys can cross a whole continent to reach the Wall while riding Drogon in mere days, so if the Night King is in the South and using his wight army as a distraction, it makes sense that they would attack Winterfell so quickly.
What Will Happen If the Night King Goes to King's Landing?
If the Night King is indeed coming to King's Landing, it spells out death for Cersei, her 20,000 Golden Company troops, and the million citizens living in the capital. It's kind of a cruel karma for Cersei, considering how she smirked when Qyburn told her that the dead had breached the Wall and, of course, since she decided to let the North deal with the Night King without any assistance. We have no doubt that her forces will put up a fight, but they lack the main resource that the North now has in spades: dragonglass. The only thing they do have is fire, which I have no doubt Cersei will use aplenty. We might even see another use of King's Landing's seemingly endless supply of wildfire, though it still won't save them in the end.
As Reddit user qp0n points out, of the various visions Bran sees when he meets the Bloodraven in season four, only two haven't come true yet. The first involves King's Landing covered by the shadow of a dragon and the second is a destroyed throne room. Initially, it was assumed that the visions were foreshadowing Daenerys's attack on the city, but she's repeatedly cast down the idea of attacking King's Landing, and she's pretty busy up North right now. Plus, Daenerys had her own vision of the Iron Throne, and it showed the seat covered in ash (or snow) — which could link up with Bran's vision of the destroyed throne room. And it all circles back to the Night King messing up King's Landing and adding over a million people to his army.
How Could Winterfell Defeat the Night King?
If this all comes to pass and the Night King is definitely on his way to King's Landing for the ultimate surprise of the season, there's only one saving grace for Winterfell: Bronn. I know, we all just heard the record scratch for a hot second, but hear me out. In episode one, Qyburn sends Bronn up North to assassinate Jaime and Tyrion for betraying Cersei, which means he's probably on his way up there by episode two. It also means that he's in the perfect place to see a giant zombie ice dragon flying its way to the capital. That puts him in the position to pull out his best Paul Revere act and warn somebody of what's going down. I'd put my money on him warning the North because he doesn't really have any love for Cersei and her gang back in King's Landing. Plus, the North doesn't have any giant dragons on the way to destroy it, so it's probably a safer bet. If Bronn is able to warn Winterfell before they get in too deep, it would save them from being surprised by the Night King and give them enough time to figure out what to do.
Is Bran Wrong About the Night King?
The only wrinkle in this theory is Bran Stark himself. We know his visions aren't infallible, but they're generally on the money when it comes to what's going on in the present. He's been taking a lot of time to stare into the distance and hang out in the Godswood warging into various animals, so it should be safe to assume he'd notice if the Night King is going in the entirely wrong direction. But this could be an event where things are supposed to happen a certain way and Bran doesn't say anything because it ends up working out. While it's hard to suss out the motives behind his actions all the time, we know Bran doesn't want the Night King to actually destroy the world as they all know it. So offering himself as bait must have an endgame. Either he knows the Night King is on his way to Winterfell and he's the best bet to draw him out, or he knows he's actually on his way to King's Landing and plans on doing something in the Godswood that will help everyone win in the end.
Well, there you have it. We don't want to believe that all those people in King's Landing might be facing their doom, but the theory is pretty convincing. The Night King isn't dumb enough to fall into such an easy trap, and he's devious enough to pull a Robb Stark on his enemies. There's no way the Battle of Winterfell is going to be an easy or quick one, especially since there are three episodes after it. We'll just have to wait to see how the rest of the season plays out!