Fans are buzzing with predictions about the battle against the Night King in the upcoming episode of Game of Thrones.
Warning! Spoilers for Game of Thrones lie ahead!
The forces of humanity squared off with the White Walkers and the Army of the Dead in the cliffhanger ending of the last episode of Game of Thrones. Presumably, battle will be joined this Sunday, and a popular fan theory about the enemy is picking up steam. Originating on Reddit, the theory suggests that the Night King has much bigger aspirations than taking down Winterfell.
In fact, user u/qp0n suggests that the Night King will not even bother showing up at Winterfell, as Bran expects him to. Knowing that there are two living dragons who could take him down in the north, this theory guesses that the Night King will fly past his armies and south to easier targets. Perhaps even the seat of power on the continent: King's Landing.
Aside from this strategic advantage, there were a few clues about this plan in the last episode. When the Army of the Dead marched up to Winterfell's walls, the White Walkers stood in a line at their front. The White Walkers are like generals, and they can turn and command the wights -- the regular reanimated corpses.
The Night King himself was nowhere in sight in this scene, nor was the reanimated dragon Viserion he now rides. In fact, fan theorists pointed out that we have not seen the Night King at all this season, suggesting that he is hanging back and avoiding a fight he could lose.
At this point, the Army of the Dead is certainly big enough to split up on multiple fronts. On top of that, even if they don't "win" at Winterfell, they stand to gain more soldiers by raising the dead they do kill. All in all, there seems to be very little reason for the Night King to take part personally in the battle at Winterfell this week, and lots of reasons for him not to.
Fans have pointed out that, at the end of Season 7, we learned that the Night King's army holds about 100,000 people, plus whomever he picked up at Last Hearth. We also learned that King's Landing is home to a population of about one million people. If the Night King somehow knew this, it would be a tempting recruitment opportunity.
If the Night King is headed there, King's Landing will be difficult to defend. The city did just get 20,000 fresh soldiers from overseas, but they are not equipped with the dragonglass, Valyrian steel or actual dragon fire needed to win. In addition, they won't have warning of the coming threat.
Fans have even looked all the way back to Season 2, Episode 10 for foreshadowing on this theory. At the time, Daenerys had a vision where she saw the throne room in King's Landing destroyed and covered in snow. They suggest that this tells us the Night King will get there eventually, and this week seems as good a time as any.
There are a few holes in this theory to make note. For one thing, a commander rarely appears early in a battle in medieval-style warfare, so it's not really a surprise that we didn't see the Night King this week. For another, Bran seems certain that the Night King's primary goal is to reach him personally. Whatever you may think if Bran's new deadpan demeanor, he tends to be right about these kinds of things.
We will just have to wait and see. Game of Thrones airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.