Why Killing the Night King May Not End the War on Game of Thrones
The underlying themes behind Game of Thrones have always been power and betrayal, but now that the eighth season is underway, we know the Night King has the most to gain from the treachery and ambition that fuel our protagonists. The prime example, of course, is the idea that he may never have gained such immense power if not for the rise of Daenerys Targaryen. Her alliance with Jon Snow, as well as his insistence on traveling beyond the Wall to capture a wight for the Dragon Pit summit, puts the Night King in prime position to breach the border and enter the north thanks to a javelin throw that places one of Daenerys's dragons on his team for all eternity. While we could reason this event is merely bad luck on Jon's part, a safer assessment may be that the Night King uses Jon's group as bait to bring Daenerys and her dragons north of the wall. Why else would the lord of the White Walkers spare all those men's lives when their expedition is clearly outnumbered?
Strategic maneuvers of this level hint that the Night King is much more powerful than the series would have us believe. If we continue to examine "Beyond the Wall" (season seven, episode six), we'll find that Jon kills a White Walker with his Valyrian steel sword, Longclaw, and discovers that once a walker is destroyed, all the wights turned by that walker's hand die as well. Not long after, Beric Dondarrion correlates this idea to the Night King and assumes that if the big man dies, all those marching in his army should die as well.
Simple, right? Too simple, we'd say!
Consider this quote from Game of Thrones executive producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff taken from an interview with Deadline back in 2016:
"We don't think of The Night King as a villain as much as Death. He is not someone who's like Joffrey or Ramsay. He's not really human anymore. Evil comes when you have a choice between that and good, and you choose the wrong way. The Night King doesn't have a choice; he was created in that way, and that's what he is. In some ways, he's just Death, coming for everyone in the story, and for all of us."
If the Night King is immortal by the same definition as someone like Death — an entity that forever exists as the yin to life's yang — who is to say dragonglass or Valyrian steel will vanquish him? To the best of our knowledge, one cannot kill an immortal being, so maybe the best way to defeat the Night King is to have someone benevolent take his place.
And what if the Night King's label as "evil" is just as subjective? Would that doom or dismiss him from total annihilation?
Moreover, the lore behind the first Long Night, thought to have occurred 8,000 years ago, states that the Great Other fell to defeat at the hands of Azor Ahai in the War for the Dawn, not that Azor Ahai killed those dark forces. Besides, the television series has yet to give us a clear answer about the Night King's identity and how all of his powers work. We know he can turn a human baby into a White Walker with a single touch and raise corpses as wights, but what are his weaknesses? Is he merely the man Bran saw the Children of the Forest transform into the first White Walker, or has he evolved into something more? Why can he touch Bran when the young Stark wargs? What is his ultimate endgame? And why are he and his lieutenants the only ones who seem resistant to dragonfire? Tough questions indeed, but the answers could determine whether the revelation from "Beyond the Wall" becomes the game plan that eliminates the army of the dead forever.
Or perhaps, Game of Thrones ends with a yin-and-yang duality (ice meets fire) just as the title of the novel series suggests. Going back to our opening argument, viewers believe that Jon and the rest of Team Daenerys are wholly good and that the Night King is completely evil. But as we are starting to see, thanks to Daenerys's confession about murdering Sam's family, in her quest for power, the term "good" is relative. And what if the Night King's label as "evil" is just as subjective? Would that doom or dismiss him from total annihilation? Would that change how our heroes choose to meet him on the battlefield? Or does the show's teaser trailer have it right? Maybe humankind isn't worth saving and the Night King deserves to win the whole game.