With season seven of Game of Thrones not due to air until 2019, fans have plenty of time to mull over the good, the bad, and the stupid that’s happened over the past 67 episodes.
In truth, most of it has fallen into the positive category of reflection. There have, however, been some questionable moments – such as that Ed Sheeran cameo, Littlefinger’s accent completely changing, and some daft decisions by some of our main characters. But whatever tends to go on in all four corners of the Seven Kingdoms there’s often a reason behind it.
And occasionally something really dumb can happen – and that’s not a major criticism to GoT specifically but more of a reflection of television in general. Characters do silly, illogical things and we, as viewers, have to accept their flaws as part of an ongoing narrative.
But there’s one particular decision that occurred in season seven that immediately baffled audiences: I am, of course referring to the genius idea of capturing a wight to show Queen Cersei just what the living were up against, in an attempt to convince her the White Walker threat is real.
Something of a McGuffin in the form of persuasion and intended unity; Jon Snow and his merry men venturing into the wilderness of the north to capture a single wight is, even by Game of Thrones’ fantasy landscape, far-fetched.
Anyone who knows about the Thrones universe will be aware of the Night King’s setup: he and a handful of leaders control and can reanimate a human or animal corpse to build their undead army of wights, who fearlessly obey their every command.
We know from previous seasons, and indeed episodes of that very season, thousands of wights exist in their ranks. To presume a small group of misfits – admittedly some pretty hardcore warriors, minus Gendry – could somehow infiltrate the Night King’s army and nick a single soldier is insane. But, contrary to prior season lessons that suggest they’d almost certainly die, they achieve their goal.
But, as we learn, the cost is severe.
What appeared an impossible task was, due to some convenient White Walker mythology of set wights being controlled in ‘packs’ by certain leaders, made possible, despite Jon et al ending up surrounded on an icy river while stranded on a rock.
This single, frankly dumb idea to nab an undead in the flesh, so to speak, could have been done in many other more intelligible ways but they opted for the most impractical and dangerous. Yet it’s its knock-on effect that has caused the real damage.
Once in peril, it’s left to Daenerys to save the day by quite literally swooping in with her dragons. This would’ve been an effective attack had she directed her fire-breathers at the Night King and his high ranking Walkers. Instead, she decides to take out the wight army who, without their masters, would presumably would be useless.
The killer blow comes when Viserion is downed and brought back as the Night King’s personal ride. In turn, it then devastatingly takes down a huge section of The Wall at the very end of the season finale, which allows the Night King and his army to simply walk through with the intention of marching south and killing every living thing.
As an additional problem to the likes of Dany and Jon – if the notion of White Walkers, a powerful undead army, and evil dragon weren’t enough to be concerned about – there’s also the betrayal of Cersei.
Having met in the aptly named Dragonpit for negotiating talks, Cersei goes back on her pledge to offer Jon and Dany her Lannister army as a direct result of losing Viserion. During a conversation she has with Jaime, she reminds him that there are only two and not three dragons that showed up; speculating that they can be killed and they’re not as much of an undefeatable powerhouse as they’re made out to be.
Had the ridiculous idea of capturing a wight been shot down, Dany would never have had to embark on a rescue, not have lost Viserion to the Night King, and subsequently wouldn’t have been able to destroy The Wall, as Cersei wouldn’t have had the seeds of doubt sewn into her mind if all three majestic dragons had shown up for what would have presumably been for verbal (and not visual) peace talks.
To make matters worse and as it stands, we’re unsure if Tyrion has in face betrayed his Queen for the loyalty towards his own Lannister blood, as forces in the north march towards the White Walkers without any of their support. We’re also in the dark just how powerful and deadly this reanimated Viserion really is and, low and behold, there’s only several thousand wights marching south who, had the might of a dragon not destroyed a section of The Wall, would’ve been contained on the northern side and unable to advance to kill all in their path.
As the High Valyrian greeting goes: Valar Morghulis (all men must die). And this may have been the catalyst that caused it.
Season eight of Game of Thrones will air on Sky Atlantic in 2019.