Game of Thrones has given us plenty of devastating, shocking and outright bonkers moments over the course of seven seasons. We’ve seen ice zombies and Red Weddings. Resurrections and shapeshifters. Three-Eyed Ravens and Children of the Forest. You’d really think this show may have lost it capacity to make us leap from our couches by now. And then came last night and the ending of the episode “Beyond the Wall.”
It would have been bad enough had the Night King and his enchanted ice spears simply taken out Viserion, one of Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) three dragons. To see Dany fly in so triumphantly only to fly out having left such a precious thing behind would’ve still been devasting. But the show didn’t stop there. As Daenerys mourned, the Night King got to work, hoisting Viserion’s carcass up from the icy lake and laying a cold hand on the dragon’s head. One eye-opening moment later, and…
Folks, we’ve got ourselves an ice dragon. A zombie ice dragon.
Even if you saw this coming (or you’re just claiming you did today to impress your Facebook friends), you have to be asking yourself “What now?” The season comes to an end next week and then we wait another year or so for Season 8 to return and wrap things all up. Our heroes don’t yet know that Viserion was reanimated, and they might not find out for some time. He’s a tricky enemy, that Night King.
Still, this is a game-changer that we, as an audience, can’t help but reckon with here and now. So, here are a few intriguing possiblities for Game of Thrones going forward.
The teaser for this Sunday’s season finale reveals some good news: A meeting in King’s Landing is finally happening. Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) has either finally listened to reason or she’s trying to spring a trap that’ll make the Red Wedding look like a Maypole dance. Either way, Jon (Kit Harington), Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and others are all headed to King’s Landing for a meeting in what might be the city’s ancient Targaryen dragon pit. She may simply be keeping her schemes to herself, but Cersei at least sounds like she might be willing to temporarily set aside her war with Daenerys. If, that is, she can be convinced that there’s something in it for her and that this threat from Beyond the Wall is indeed real. It’s a tall order, to be sure.
But let’s go out on and a limb and say that Jon really does manage to convince Cersei of the threat facing them and Cersei and Jaime really do commit their resources to stopping the army of the dead. What resources does that give the fight? Well, the Lannisters are newly imbued with financial might thanks to the sacking of Highgarden and a new agreement with the Iron Bank, which also gives them some pull in the East. You can’t buy off the Night King, of course, but Cersei’s Hand Qyburn (Anton Lesser) was able to wound Drogon with one of his contraptions. It seemed a little too easy for Cersei to bring down a dragon simply because Qyburn had invented the ballista. What if he were given more to work with, though? Money, friends in the East who might know a trick or two? Maybe even… dragonglass? Jon and Dany have an awful lot of that now and whatever else Viserion is, he’s also a wight, and wights are harmed by dragonglass. Throw in Jon’s ally, the expert smith Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and we might just have ourselves a war machine.
All that said, Cersei’s never been the most dependable of allies, so let’s assume that’s all a longshot for now and focus on the other tools at hand. The most obvious is, of course, that Daenerys still has two more dragons: Rhaegal and the formidable Drogon. Game of Thrones has brought us far enough that we’ve now seen a zombie dragon. It seems impossible that the show will go off the air without showing us some dragon on dragon combat. That’s how most known Westerosi dragon killings actually happened: Other dragons. Sure, a few have been killed by men (if you’re lucky enough to get a crossbow bolt in their eye), but the easiest way to bring down the dragon is to have one of its kinfolk handy to fight for you. We don’t yet know what powers Zombie Viserion will have (ice breath?), but wights don’t really feel pain, so it’ll be a hard fight even if numbers are on the heroes’ side.
What else? Well, there’s Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), the Three-Eyed Raven who can warg his mind into various living things. We just saw him do it with a bunch of birds in episode five. While we don’t know the full extent of his powers, it seems within the realm of possibility that he could someday reach into the mind of even an undead dragon and take control. Bran’s a bit too cryptic about it all to know for sure. Then there are the Children of the Forest, those ancient beings who actually created the White Walkers. It’s possible they were all wiped out in the Season 6 episode “The Door,” but we don’t know for sure. They’re survivors, and they may have a few tricks left to spare.
There’s at least one other, really safe bet our heroes can turn to for help: Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), Jon Snow’s best friend and Maester-in-Training. Season 7 of Game of Thrones is increasingly becoming a story of people who don’t understand history and may therefore be doomed to repeat it. You see it every time someone rolls their eyes at Jon when he tries to tell them about the undead hordes lurking north of the wall. You see when Arya (Maisie Williams) shrugs off Sansa’s (Sophie Turner) stories of torture and forced submission at the hands of Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). You see it when Cersei tries to win the unwinnable war.
Sam is on the other side of that. Sam is the guy who’s constantly trying to gain a deeper understanding of even the murkiest Westerosi history. He’s the guy lobbying for the Maesters to devote their full days and nights to studying the last Long Night to find even a shred of information that might help in the war to come. Now he’s left the Citadel and he’s riding North to take a more active role in the conflict. He still has his books, though, and he still has his wits. There were no dragons in the last Long Night, but there’s plenty else for him to study. We now know that if our heroes can kill the Night King his entire army will likely fall with him. It just might be Sam who figures out how to do it.
The Night King’s army is still on the other side of the Wall and its magical barriers, but the Long Night is here. He won’t slow down with a dragon in his grip, particularly if said dragon can fly him around the Wall and help him to start raising corpses in the South. The enemy is stronger than ever, Daenerys has never felt more vulnerable and Jon has to convince the nastiest queen in the Seven Kingdoms to step up to the plate and help. Things have rarely felt this dire on Game of Thrones, but we definitely aren’t out of options.
Game of Thrones airs its season finale this Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on HBO.