Photo: HBO

Last week we wrote about how Game Of Thrones gave us a big clue for how the living might defeat the White Walkers forever: When Jon saw firsthand that when one of them is killed, all of the wights it raised die too. Considering the Night King might have made all of the other White Walkers, it could be that killing him is the only way to eradicate the army of the dead.

But that potential ending feels like a major cop out, one where this epic story, a story that has relished in subverting fantasy tropes, ends with a lazy one. Would the answer to all of this be as simple as “kill the head vampire with a Valyrian steel dagger?”

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Not to worry, because the season finale might have pointed to a far more interesting—and far more devastating—conclusion to this story, one that will require a legendary sacrifice to kill the Night King.

Photo: HBO

The Night King was never going to be easy to defeat, and that was true before he got his own dragon. We still don’t fully know the full powers of a wight dragon, but they already look to be greater than that of a normal dragon. Viserion’s blue flame/ice/concussive breath brought down the Wall in an instant. Even two living, fire-breathing dragons might be no match for him, especially since his dragon rider has magical powers.

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So it’s possible the only way to defeat a wight dragon is by killing his White Walker who raised him. Which brings us to why the show might not have been setting up a lazy ending, but one for the ages.

Imagine some brave hero who has sworn to fight the Night King—Beric, The Hound, Jaime Lannister—steps up to fight the Night King in one-on-one combat (Beric wanted to do exactly that at the frozen lake). This man wields a Valyrian steel sword, the best weapon the living have, and he does it. He strikes the Night King. But the show isn’t that predictable or lazy, so nothing happens to him. He doesn’t shatter like the other White Walkers. Instead the Valyrian steel sword disintegrates. And it turns out he’s immune to dragonglass, which relies on the same White Walker-killing magic as Valyrian steel. There’s seemingly no way to defeat him, and that’s why he was willing to engage in a head-to-head battle in the first place.

The living will then have to find a more powerful weapon, and that might mean using one that hasn’t been seen since the last time the White Walkers marched south.

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Photo: HBO

The first Long Night is thought to have happened 8,000 years ago. Darkness reigned for a generation, with the White Walkers pushing the living south. And that was without a dragon in their army.

That’s when the legendary hero Azor Ahai decided he needed to forge the greatest sword the world has ever known. For 30 days he worked on it, but when he tempered it in water it broke. So he worked harder for 50 days, and to temper it he drove it into the heart of a lion. But it broke too. Azor Ahai then knew what he had to do. After working on his sword for 100 days he called for his wife Nissa Nissa. To forge his sword, he tempered it in her heart.

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They say her soul became one with the steel, and Lightbringer, as it was known, always glowed and was warm to the touch, just like she had been. When he went into battle they say the sword was flaming, like when he led the living to a final victory against the dead at the Battle For The Dawn.

To defeat the White Walkers a hero had to ask his loved one to make the ultimate sacrifice. Azor Ahai didn’t want to do it, he needed to.

And now we have Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen.

Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO

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In A Clash Of Kings, Jon reads about the prophecy that says Azor Ahai will return “after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world,” and “in this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.”

Melisandre speaks of Azor Ahai and the Prince That Was Promised interchangeably (in the novels), even though no one knows for sure if they are the same prophecy, and when she prays for a glimpse of Azor Ahai in her flames all she sees is snow. With a song of ice (a Stark mother) and fire (a Targaryen father), Jon is the best candidate to be the Prince That Was Promised and Azor Ahai.

But he’ll need his own Lightbringer, a living sword of fire forged in the heart of the woman he loves. That’s why he will have to temper it in a woman who is fire herself, Daenerys Targaryen. Her soul and the blood of the dragon will become one with the steel, and it will be that sword that Jon uses to kill the Night King and save mankind forever.

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Maester Aemon Targaryen once told Jon (unaware they were related) that “love is the death of duty.” It’s the greatest lessons about being a leader that Jon has has ever learned. He abandoned Ygritte once to serve the Night’s Watch and the realm—would he be unwilling to do whatever it takes to save all of the living now, no matter how terrible the sacrifice?

Fans have speculated before this past season that this could be what happens to Jon and Daenerys, but the show’s revelation about killing White Walkers might be the ultimate clue we needed to know it’s coming. They set up a common fantasy trope, and then they’ll turn it on us in the most devastating way possible.

Little is known about what exactly Azor Ahai did to defeat the White Walkers, but legend says when he drove Lightbringer into the monster it burst in flames. If Game Of Thrones ends because Daenerys sacrifices herself to defeat the Night King, and Jon is the one to kill her, there might be some viewers’ hearts that burst too.

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