The Story of Night King From Season 1 to 8: One of Game of Thrones’ longest-running bad guys remained a mystery to readers and viewers until the HBO series’ eighth and final season: the Night King, the ancient creature who created and led the formidable Army of the Dead. We still don’t know much about the White Walker king, but from behind-the-scenes tidbits to fan theories, here’s the untold truth of this menacing bad guy.
Slovakian actor Vladimir Furdík might be the most recognizable face of the Night King at this point, but the truth is, he only started playing the character in the show’s sixth season, prior to that, the role was played by Richard Brake, best known for films like Batman Begins or Kingsman: The Secret Service. Brake and Furdík actually overlapped: while Brake was playing the Night King, Furdík played the high-ranking White Walker that Jon Snow shatters to pieces with his Valyrian steel sword.
The transition between the two actors was so seamless that many may not have noticed, though some fans found Brake’s appearance even more frightening. Furdík was an indispensable part of the Thrones team long before he stepped into the Night King’s frozen shoes. He worked on everything from the fight scene at the Tower of Joy as well as performing and working on everything from high falls to intense sword fights.
When it came time to recast the Night King, there was no better choice than Furdík, who new the show’s action set pieces inside and out. Though the Night King’s human name is never revealed and audiences still don’t have a firm handle on his personal history, the show did confirm during season 6 that he was once a human. He was a member of the group known as the First Men, and he was used as a pawn by the Children of the Forest.
The Children of the Forest made a home in Westeros long before humans existed, and were settled happily in the Seven Kingdoms until they were forced to deal with the First Men. After the First Men crossed from Essos into what is now Dorne, they came into conflict with the Children.
In the end, the Children were responsible for creating the Night King when they took one of the First Men hostage and plunged dragonglass into his heart. In doing so, they inadvertently created ultimate evil by making the first ever White Walker as a means of defending themselves against men.
The creation of the Night King turned out to cause more problems than it solved; after all, an undead monster who can raise entire armies of zombies is bound to cause a few issues. He turned against the Children of the Forest, and they were forced to fight back. When the First Men and Children of the Forest found themselves under attack by the White Walkers, the two warring factions were forced to team up and work together to save both; ultimately, the First Men triumphed at the Battle of the Dawn.
After the war was over, the First Men worked with giants and the Children to build the
Wall. White Walkers have always been a big part of Thrones’ mythology.
After all, the show’s pilot opened with White Walkers attacking members of the Night’s Watch. Every now and then, during the show’s earlier seasons, viewers would be reminded that no matter what else was going on in Westeros, the White Walkers were still out there and ready to attack.
You might think the Night King has been around for the whole show, but he actually didn’t make his first appearance until season four’s “Oathkeeper.”
That’s the episode which finally reveals the fate of the many babies viewers saw offered as sacrifices. During the audience’s first-ever glimpse of the Night King, he turns a baby into a White Walker.
Throughout the series, the show has diverged dramatically from the books. Author George R.R. Martin, for his part, has a lot to say about the Night King’s history, and especially wants to make sure people don’t confuse two figures he sees as especially distinct: the Night’s King and the Night King.
The Night King audiences know and fear isn’t the same as the Night’s King; as Martin has explained, the Night’s King is a legendary figure like Bran the Builder. In the books, the Night’s King was an early commander of the Night’s Watch. Thanks to an ill-fated love affair, he turned against the Watch, causing the King Beyond the Wall and the King in the North to band together and take him down. This little distinction might not seem important, but ultimately, it serves to distinguish two similarly named but radically different characters.
As the Night King makes his way through the icy North and builds up his army, it remains a mystery as to what he wants beyond destruction, death, and to move beyond the Wall. In spite of that inscrutability, Furdík has made some executive decisions about his character motivations.
Throughout the show, hints are dropped about why the Night King is who he is and does what he does. In various interviews, Furdík has said that he thinks that the Night King wants revenge for being the Night King in the first place. As the result of years of conflict and mistakes, the Night King became the Night King against his will and has spent the rest of his existence trying to fight back against those who wronged him.
The show also gave viewers one significant piece of evidence about his motives: in the final season’s second episode, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” Bran Stark reveals the Night King will come for him to accomplish his true purpose:
“An endless night. He wants to erase this world. And I am its memory.”
“That’s what death is, isn’t it?”
One of the longest-running theories among Thrones fans argues that, upon Bran’s transformation into the all-knowing Three-Eyed Raven, Bran Stark had actually become a part of the Night King himself.
Throughout Bran’s training with the previous Raven, he found himself able to “warg” back in time and see previous events. During one visit to the Army of the Dead, he ended up branded with the Night King’s mark, a twist that left some viewers looking for deeper meaning.
Bran Stark, “His mark is on me. He always knows where I am.”
One of the most popular theories circulating on this topic suggested that Bran could have warged to the past to prevent the Children of the Forest from creating the Night King, but in doing so, he became trapped within the Night King in some way. An intriguing theory, but now that the Night King has come for Bran and gotten himself murdered in the process, we know it’s one that was obviously off the mark. In trying to figure out the Night King’s true origins, numerous fans have wondered if he might have come from a noble family like the Lannisters, Boltons, or Tyrells.
As far as ancient houses go, Targaryen is certainly one of the oldest around, and many viewers theorized that the Night King might be descended from this royal line. After all, he can ride a dragon, and he likes arranging carnage in a spiral pattern. However, the Targaryen connection is pretty easy to debunk considering the timeline doesn’t really allow for it; that theory, while interesting, has been moot for some time.
The more appealing theory points to the Night King being a Stark, especially since fans know for sure that the Night King was one of the First Men, who are the Stark’s ancestors. It’s possible that a Stark ancestor was the man who eventually became the Night King, which explains why he always seems to hunt members of the Stark family in particular, they’re his family, but they ultimately turned on him.
The showrunners for Game of Thrones have clearly had long-awaited plans that are just now coming to fruition. The fact that it was Arya Stark, and not Jon Snow or someone else, who would eventually kill the Night King was something the showrunners had planned for several years.
As far as the Night King goes, they’ve been carefully considering this character for a
long time. However, that doesn’t mean they’ve shared those plans with the actor who actually plays the Night King.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Furdík revealed that the directors and showrunners were as silent as the famous character:
“No, they didn’t give me [much]. There were a couple of discussions with the directors, but nothing particular about what he was supposed to do.”
Furdik indicated that since he got the sense that they knew the character inside and out, he didn’t necessarily need the same information. No matter what you might think of this approach, it certainly didn’t affect the storytelling or Furdík’s beautifully creepy performance. Fire has long been one of the most important weapons deployed against wights, the zombies created by the White Walkers.
A body can be reanimated if it isn’t incinerated, which is why the burial rites for the Night’s
Watch involve cremation. Luckily, Daenerys Targaryen and her team have a vital resource that can help fight against wights and White Walkers: dragons, which can soar high above the battle unleashing dragonfire on any enemies below.
The Night King obviously has an affinity for these beasts, considering he took down one of Daenerys’ dragons during the show’s seventh season. But during “The Long Night,” it becomes clear that even a living dragon wouldn’t be an effective weapon against him.
Daenerys tries her tried and true burning trick, but the Night King just stands there staring, completely immune to dragonfire.
As the Night King and his army advanced on Winterfell, characters wondered how they’d possibly prevail against an army that could simply continue multiplying throughout the
night. The battle itself was relentless, pitting the North and their allies against a massive
army of the undead. As the Night King made his way to the Godswood to find Bran, it seemed as if the end was night and the Army of the Dead would finally triumph.
Even though the Northern squad knew they could destroy the entire army if they only took out the Night King, the chances of them doing that seemed slim at best. Thankfully, there was one fearless force running around that most viewers forgot about halfway through the episode, specifically Arya, armed with high jumping skills and a dagger of Valyrian steel.
Thanks to years of training as an assassin and the element of surprise, Arya was able to finally put an end to the Night King and the Army of the Dead.
“What do we say to the God of Death?”
Even as a professional stuntman, Furdík wasn’t immune to the grueling schedule of filming
“The Long Night.” Filming the episode required a 55-day shoot over several nights in Belfast that many members of the cast and crew bluntly described as “miserable.”
When speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Furdík looked back on the shoot as extremely tough:
“This was one of the hardest jobs of my life.”
It makes sense. Besides performing as the Night King, he also worked with nearly every other actor to rehearse the fight scenes and choreography. One of the toughest scenes to shoot, understandably, was Furdík’s final scene with Maisie Williams as Arya kills him.
“It was a very emotional day and night…It was very, very difficult. We are very good friends. We know each other. It wasn’t easy for me to [pretend to] hurt her. If you make a bad move, if you don’t grab her well, she could have an injury. So I was under pressure and she was under pressure. It was not an easy day.”
Furdík worked with Williams on her fight with Gwendoline Christie’s Brienne, so the two have a strong combat history together; clearly, it paid off with the perfect shot.
Let us know what you think about at @TheYdraft.. Stay tuned..!