Warning! Spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 3 lie ahead!
A huge swatch of the Game of Thrones fandom was disappointed in Sunday's episode, "The Longest Night," when the Night King fell at the end. Stabbed by Arya's Valyrian steel dagger, he shattered into ice splinters, and his entire army of more than 100,000 White Walkers, wights and his dragon all did the same. This seemed to leave the slate clear for the rest of the season to tell us who wins the throne — Cersei, Daenerys, Jon or another unforeseen character.
However, after getting over the initial shock, many fans think that we haven't seen the last of the Night King. The icy monarch has been built up as the real villain of the series for so long, and his magic seems too strong to leave mankind alone so easily so soon, especially with most of the main characters still alive.
There are endless variations on the theories about how the Night King could return to the story. They are circulating around Reddit, Twitter and other forums all over the Internet and some are pretty compelling.
Many of them lean on the Wierwood tree in the far north, where the Night King was created — the one surrounded by giant stones in spiral pattern. His powers are based in the magic of the old gods, so it would not be a surprise if he could somehow reformulate there and start his quest over. Perhaps the Night King's essence was not in his icy body but in the "Wierwood net" fans talk about.
This would seem fair, as the Night King would then still be a threat, but his massive army, his giants and his dragon would all be lost. He would have to head south alone looking for bodies to reanimate, and as the trailer for next week shows us, the folks at Winterfell will be burning their dead.
It would also make for a climactic fight, as the forces of mankind would not be as unified against him this time. Daenerys intends to march south and battle Cersei, leaving the North undefended. Meanwhile, she and Jon may have some tension to work out over their newfound blood relation that could put them at odds.
Again, this is just one theory suggesting that the Night King will be back before the show is over. There are countless versions of this and other ideas. Many are based in more detailed descriptions of the Wierwood magic from the books, although if they weren't covered in the show, they may not be fair game here, especially with just three episodes left.
For example, many fans are still intent on the theory that Bran Stark himself will become the Night King. They propose that Bran will use the same magic on himself in order to raise Daenerys' dead soldiers for the fight against Cersei. If he does so, there is no telling whether he would be able to control it, even after they achieved their goal. Many fans like this theory for the simple fact that it gives Bran more to do and helps explain why the Night King wanted him dead so badly, as he was a threat to his throne.
We will just have to wait and see how the drama plays out from here. Game of Thrones airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.