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Many spoilers ahead for the first and second episodes of Game of Thrones' eighth and final season.
Game of Thrones isn’t making fans wait long for the big battle of its eighth and final season, as the Battle of Winterfell goes down in the third episode. Early spoilers revealed that Winterfell isn’t going to escape unscathed, and a Thrones assistant director revealed that the shoot lasting for 55 nights in a row.
The first two episodes of Season 8 set the stage for the big battle, and now, only days away from seeing the last stand of the living against the dead, we have to consider: does Winterfell stand a chance against the White Walkers?
Now, I’m not saying that fans should prepare themselves to see all the characters currently in the North dead and gone and/or wighted by the end of Episode 3, but there are reasons to doubt that Winterfell itself will survive with many people left alive in the aftermath. Main players like Jon and Dany are unlikely to bite the dust; others’ fates are less certain.
So, as we count down the days before the Battle of Winterfell, let’s take a look at the factors in favor of Winterfell surviving the White Walkers and against Winterfell surviving. The stage has been set; what will happen?
The Night King may have amassed a huge army of the dead that has the potential to only get larger the farther south it marches, but he could not be facing a more formidable group of foes. Grouped together at Winterfell are arguably the best fighters, the best strategists, the best leaders, and the only two known dragonriders other than the Night King himself. Oh, and the Three-Eyed Raven.
As much as the army of the dead is vast and seemingly inexhaustible, the people fighting for the living retain autonomy that could be key to defeating the White Walkers and their army. The wights are basically ice zombies, so the human fighters don't need to worry that they'll be outsmarted, and they can be incapacitated even if they can't be killed.
With the dragons in the mix, the wights might not even pose that big of a threat until they breach the walls of Winterfell, which we can safely say is going to happen based on promos and the fact that the good guys actually need the Night King to at least try to make it to the godswood to kill Bran/the Three-Eyed Raven. Rhaegal and Drogon can roast the ice zombies to their hearts' delight, as long as they stay out of range of the White Walkers' spears.
The humans also have one big advantage over the army of the dead. The cause of the living might be seriously damaged if Dany or Jon or some other key leader falls in battle, but they won't all fall down lifelessly. If the living manage to kill some White Walkers, they can take down dozens and perhaps even hundreds and thousands of wights at once.
The Night King is of course the top target, as taking him out would take them all out, but one by one isn't a terrible plan either, and there's no shortage of dragonglass weapons thanks to Gendry and the other smiths at the forge. There's even some Valyrian steel in play, thanks to Ser Jorah with Heartsbane, Jon with Longclaw, and Arya with her dagger. Throw in Bran's knowledge as the Three-Eyed Raven, and they actually have a lot going for them.
So, the cause of the living isn't hopeless, despite the beliefs of pretty much everybody at Winterfell, and the whole "last night on earth" atmosphere did make for some fantastic character development.
If they weren't all mostly convinced that they were hours away from death, would Jaime have knighted Brienne? Would Sam have handed over Heartsbane? Would Arya have propositioned Gendry, and then gotten her way? Even Sansa and Theon might not have had their quiet moment together.
The end may not be as nigh as they and many of us thought. The living have dragons, autonomy, intelligence, Valyrian steel and dragonglass, the Three-Eyed Raven, and easy targets in the form of the White Walkers. That's not to say that they'll be able to easily kill those easy targets, but a little optimism never hurt, right?
Well, a little optimism could at least make the wait until Episode 3 a little easier. Winterfell does have a shot at standing and even most of the people surviving, depending on whether or not the crypts stay sealed with all the non-fighters hidden inside. That said, most fans who have been watching Game of Thrones for eight seasons probably know better than to be too optimistic, and too many happy things happened in Episode 2 for Episode 3 to likely be packed with victories.
There are really just too many wights for the living to handle, and the Night King's ranks can grow as soon as the living fall in the fight. Jon's first big battle against them at Hardhome proved that quantity defeats quality when it comes to the living vs. the dead with their White Walker masters, and the dragons can't be everywhere at once. It's also possible that Dany will be wary of taking them too far away from the castle, given what happened the last time she and her dragons were exposed among the dead.
Then again, if one of her dragons falls, it would be best for everybody else if that happened far enough away from Winterfell that nobody was crushed. Now, speaking of dragons, the cavalier attitude of the folks at Winterfell about Viserion is what really takes me aback and makes me think that Winterfell is pretty much doomed.
The good guys aren't unaware that the Night King reanimated Viserion and used him to break through The Wall. Bran said as much after Jon and Dany arrived at Winterfell, but that didn't stop Dany from taking Jon for a romantic dragon ride throughout the Northern country. In all the preparations and new weapons and fortifications being constructed in Episode 2, I didn't see a scorpion like the one Bronn used to almost take down Drogon back when Dany first unleashed her dragons on the people of Westeros.
The living can't fling magical ice spears at dragons to knock them out of the sky, and they have to know that Viserion is coming. If they don't have a plan for Viserion that wasn't revealed in Episode 2 and was just being saved for an epic reveal in Episode 3, then I might not actually blame the bad guys if they do some serious damage with their undead dragon. The living had a chance to prepare themselves to take on Viserion; if he destroys them or cripples their cause, it's their own fault.
I actually have a longstanding theory that Winterfell burns due to dragonfire, potentially because it becomes overrun with the dead and Dany decides to just roast it with all the wights and Walkers inside. Maybe even with people inside, and she continues showing shades of Mad Queen Daenerys.
Whether or not that is true, I'm leaning toward not much being left of Winterfell other than the crypts. There will of course be survivors, as the season will only be half over following the battle, and the game of thrones itself won't be completed until Cersei enters the fold.
Basically, the White Walkers and their army have the numbers, the stamina, the ability to kill dragons, and a dragon of their own now that they march on Winterfell. Their opponents other than the Dothraki and Unsullied are largely inexperienced Northmen, and only a handful of the people at Winterfell really truly understand what they've facing. The fear alone could scatter the living.
Tune in to HBO on Sunday, April 28 at 9 p.m. ET for the big battle episode of Game of Thrones Season 8.