After two episodes trapped in Winterfell’s freezing halls, Game of Thrones is finally jumping into the action it has long promised fans. With the appearance of two icy hooves to close “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” Team Stark-Targaryen’s final battle against the Night King (Vladimir Furdik) is here. Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) is preparing to protect Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) in the Winterfell godswood. Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) are heading to the ramparts of Winterfell to survey their armies. Drogon and Rhaegal are poised to fight their zombie brother.
With all of this apocalyptic drama afoot, it’s easy to wonder why it’s all happening. What does the Night King even want? Why is he putting our heroes in this deadly position? After all, the Night King has been running around the north of Westeros murdering people, making ice zombie wights, raising dragons from the dead, and bringing down The Wall. No one does all of that work for nothing — not even a malevolent supernatural creature with terrifyingly blue eyes.
Well, we finally got an explanation for the Night King’s world-ending antics with “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.” Going into the currently titled “Game of Thrones 70,” the twist not only totally changes the stakes of the instalment's Battle of Winterfell — it reveals which beloved character will almost definitely die.
Before “Knight,” it seemed likely the drama of Team Stark-Targaryen vs. the Army of the Dead would be evenly spread out across Winterfell. If there’s a horde of murderous ice zombies attacking humanity’s last great Northern holdfast, their goal will probably be simple, right? Kill everyone, convert them to members of the Night King’s army, take the continent, and, maybe the world. With “Knight,” Bran reveals the Dead's aim isn’t so cut and dry. The Night King isn’t stepping up to Winterfell to fight Dany, Jon, and all their friends — he’s there for Bran.
When Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) logically assumes the all-powerful Night King would never expose himself during battle, Bran announces their enemy will, but only to capture Three-Eyed Raven Bran. “He’s tried before, many times, with many Three-Eyed Ravens,” he explains. “He wants to erase this world, and I am its memory.” By killing Bran, someone who possess essentially all of the knowledge and memory of Westeros available, the Night King will create a true “endless night” in Bran’s words. As humanity's smartest non-magically aided person, Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) realizes, true death is “forgetting” and “being forgotten.”
“If I wanted to erase the world of men, I’d start with you,” Sam tells Bran.
This revelation explains one hanging mystery many viewers likely didn’t even realize was a mystery: why the Night King attacks Bran’s weirwood tree house in season 6 (killing Hodor and Jojen Reed in the process). At the time, it seemed obvious that pure evil like the Night King would murder the OG Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow), the Children of the Forest, and Bran’s pals. Especially since the Children created the Night King, who was born a regular man, in the first place. Now we can assume the “Hold The Door” attack wasn’t merely a petty mission — it was an assault on the man the Night King believed was the final Three-Eyed Raven. Then Bran had to go and become the true last Three-Eyed Raven at that exact moment, starting the Night King’s world domination-inspired assassination plot all over again.
The Night King was able to get one win during the tree invasion, by marking Bran during a “Hold The Door” vision. The leader of the army of the dead may not have killed the new Three-Eyed Raven, but, he can at least know where Bran is at all times, as the teen Three Eyed-Raven confirms to Team Stark-Targaryen.
This is what brings us to “Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” and season 8’s inevitable battle episode, “Game of Thrones 70.” By making Bran’s capture the Night King’s actual goal, Thrones is able to explain why the supernatural creature doesn’t just blast all of Winterfell with ice dragon flame and call it a day. He needs to be sure he has Bran and definitely, without question, eliminates him.
So, Bran will be spending the Battle of Winterfell out in the open of the castle’s godswood as Night King bait. Theon and his Iron Islands warriors will be protecting Bran as the first line of defence against the Night King’s inevitable attack. That means the godswood will be the most important place in Winterfell during the battle, rather than the crypts everyone keeps talking about. That also means Theon has the biggest target on his back in the final scrimmage against the Army of the Dead. It is very likely Theon will die.
If Theon does perish, it will be a fitting end for the Iron Islander, and his final act of absolution after years of traumatic penance. Way back when, Theon was best friends with Robb Stark (Golden Globe-winner Richard Madden). Then he betrayed Thrones’ original King in the North, took Winterfell, captured Bran and his little brother Rickon (Art Parkinson), executed their beloved father figure Rodrik Cassel (Ron Donachie), and brutally murdered two random farm children to cover up the Stark boys’ escape from Winterfell. Theon giving is own life to save Bran’s in the face of the Night King will be the ultimate redemption story.
Theon’s older sister Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) once told her bother not to die so far from the sea. It looks like Theon, as usual, isn’t going to be able to listen.