The first episode of the final Game of Thrones season premiered on Sunday night, registering audience records for both legal and illegal streaming. The episode was slow on action, as the showrunners chose to focus on the “games” part of the show, somewhat mimicking the first episode of season one.
We did get to see plenty of highly anticipated reunions, as well as a significant revelation for one of the characters — I won’t spoil anything on the off chance that you still haven’t seen it. But there is one scene in the new episode that has prompted fan theories about who the Night King might be. Some minor spoilers may follow below.
One of the most popular Night King theories out there says that Bran is the leader of the White Walker armies that are marching towards Winterfell. On their way to the Stark’s fiefdom, the White Walkers have taken the scenic route through Last Hearth, decimating the humans they found on their way.
True artists at heart, the zombies had the time to recreate a recurring symbol that keeps appearing in Game of Thrones with human body parts: We’re talking about the spiral thing that’s yet to be explained.
Game of Thrones fans have now likened that symbol to the Targaryen sigil, a three-headed dragon. Add to that the fact that the Night King can ride dragons, a characteristic of the Targaryen clan, and you can easily see where this is going.
— Nate (@natemoncrief_) April 15, 2019
The Night King is a Targaryen, according to this fan theory. Unlike other Game of Thrones theories that actually try to explain how the Night King was created, this one isn’t as complex, so it’s unclear how a Targaryen would have become the Night King.
I will point out two things that seem to dispel that idea. First of all, this symbol has been seen previously on the show, and it’s not always related to the White Walkers. The Children of the Forest have used the spiral symbol in the past. They’ve drawn it in caves in Dragonstone — okay, this lines up with the Targaryen lineage — but also formed it using stones near the tree where they created the Night King. This happened thousands of years before the present time.
David Benioff previously explained that the White Walkers just copied this symbol from the Children, but we have no idea what they mean (via Harper’s Bazaar):
One of the things we learn from these cave paintings is that the White Walkers didn’t come up with those images; they derived them from their creators, the Children of the Forest. These are patterns that have mystical significance for the children of the forest, we’re not sure exactly what they signify, but spiral patterns are important in a lot of different cultures in our world, and it makes sense that they would be in this world as well.
Secondly, the fact that the Night King can ride a dragon is not an objective indication that he’s a Targaryen. Viserion, the dragon that died last season, doesn’t have actual control over his undead life. The creature is alive because the Night King wants it to be. Therefore, it’ll do whatever its master desires, no matter whether the Night King is a Targaryen or not. Anyone could ride Viserion at this point, as long as the Night King commands it so. Similarly, the Night King could ride whatever undead monstrosity he’d be able to concoct along the way. A dead dragon, of course, is the most powerful creature he could desire, and that’s why he got one.