From the moment Ned Stark was beheaded in the second-to-last episode of the first season of Game of Thrones, it has been clear that no one is safe in Westeros. There is a certain presumption with most shows that the audience is going to identify with the main character, get invested in his or her safety, and get anxious when they are in danger, and the show returns the favor by not killing that character, or at least by saving it until the end of the series.
Ned’s death upended all that, and was soon enough followed by the deaths of enough major characters to field a football team, including but not limited to, in no particular order, Robb Stark, his bride, and his mother Catelyn, Renly Baratheon, Berric Dondarrion, The Mountain, Ser Barristan, Ygritte, Stannis Baratheon, Prince Oberyn, The Blackfish, Hodor, Wun Wun the Giant, and of course, Jon Snow.
The thing is, several of those deceased characters have not stayed deceased: Berric Dondarrion rose from the dead in season 1 in a bit of magic by the Brotherhood without Borders, and went on to repeat the trick five more times over the course of the series. The Mountain was brought back to life by Cersei’s pet sorcerer Qyburn in season 4, and of course, Jon Snow, the closest thing this show has to a main character, bled out in the season 5 finale only to be revived by Melisandre in the season 6 premiere.
One of the great things about Game of Thrones is that all the pieces fit. Nothing happens that doesn’t serve some part of the larger story. Dondarrion’s death and resurrection, for example, set up that resurrection is a thing in this world — indeed, having witnessed it is the Red Woman’s inspiration for attempting the same on Jon Snow. And while Snow’s death has already served a narrative purpose — it freed him of his vow to serve in the Night’s Watch until death — I can’t help but wonder if there might be a bigger purpose ahead.
I don’t think I’m exactly breaking news when I observe that it appears that these two final seasons are going to be about the various claimants to the throne — the Lannisters, the Starks, and Daenerys Targaryen’s coalition of Dothraki, Unsullied, Ironborn, Sand Snakes, and dragons — finally coming into direct conflict before realizing they have to put their petty differences aside, at least temporarily, to confront the threat from the North, namely the undead White Walkers.
Given that broadly shared assumption, I can’t help but also wonder if the undead might have some kind of advantage over the White Walkers in combat. The White Walkers seem to be focused primarily on making more White Walkers, as we saw in the spectacular “Hardhome” episode, when Jon came face-to-face with the Night King. Everyone the White Walkers killed in that battle soon reanimated as a White Walker themselves. Does that mean you have to be killed by a White Walker in order to become one? And if you are already dead (or have already been dead) does that make you immune?
Close watchers of the recently released season 7 trailer can’t have failed to note that Jon Snow and Beric Dondarrion appear to be seen fighting side-by-side in the snow — Beric toting that badass flaming sword. Are they the last men standing after all their living comrades have been taken down by (or turned into) Walkers?
And to go a little further, if the Lannisters and the Starks are going to fight side-by-side with Daenerys against the Walkers, I would imagine The Mountain could prove useful in that fight. And I don’t know what the statute of limitations on resurrecting a corpse is, but once it’s discovered that the formerly dead have the best shot against the Walkers, Jon Snow (who I am presuming will be leading this fight) could well decide to un-banish Melisandre and give her a chance at redemption for burning little Shireen by reviving Wun Wun the giant and anyone else who might be useful in a fight. The only thing that could be more exciting than the men-vs-walkers final battle this thing has been leading up to since its first episode would be to have a giant in the mix, pounding walkers into the ground, as Ygritte once told Jon, “like a hammer on a nail.”
Just a thought.
Season 7 of Game of Thrones premieres at 9pm ET July 16 on HBO (like you didn’t already know).