'Game of Thrones': Can Anyone Stop the Night's King?

Jon Snow's defeat shows just how bad things are for the living.

Things look more dire than ever on Game of Thrones.

A lot has been made of Thrones going beyond the books this season. But the most recent episode pushed beyond the books in a way nobody saw coming, when the White Walkers attack Hardhome, a Wildling village where Jon Snow (Kit Harington) had traveled in order to recruit the free folk to his side. George R.R. Martin's books alluded to something terrible happening at Hardhome, but it was unclear what had occurred, and Jon Snow certainly wasn't there.

The star of the episode became The Night's King (Richard Brake), a mysterious leader of the dead who was first glimpsed back in season four, when it was revealed the White Walkers used Craster's (Robert Pughbabies in some sort of strange ceremony that appeared to turn the infants into little White Walkers.

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In Sunday's episode, The Night's King utterly destroyed all who stood in his path, and even Jon looked as though he'd lost hope for the realm of the living.  The developments lead to a few key takeaways:

Dragons are more important than ever

The powers of the White Walkers and The Night's King are unclear.  We know dragonglass and Valyerian steel can kill White Walkers (the blue guys) and Wights (the zombie-fied remains of people and animals White Walkers have brought back to life). Fire can also harm Wights, but it is unclear if it can kill White Walkers. One of the best strategies in a battle against the White Walkers could be to unleash three dragons on their Wight army and burn it before they can become a threat. Unfortunately, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is on the other side of the world, her largest dragon missing and the other two confined to a dungeon. 

Things are worse than anyone guessed

For five seasons, viewers have been hearing "winter is coming." There have even been skirmishes with White Walkers, but nothing that really revealed just how hopeless a battle with them would be. At Hardhome, the army of the dead took out hundreds of seasoned warriors, as well as members of the Night's Watch, without breaking a sweat. By the end of the battle, the Night's King had added the dead to his army. With every skirmish, he grows stronger. The living grow weaker. 

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The Wall should be shut — for good

A big debate in the books is whether or not the lower gate should be filled with water to allow it to freeze. That, theoretically, would make the wall impervious (unless someone climbed it or hacked through the ice in the gate). The downside? The Night's Watch would no longer be able to send out rangers. And if the Wall is shut, that would be bad news for Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), who is currently north of the wall.

Speaking of Bran…

What about Bran?

Bran and his pals have sat this season out, but will presumably return for season six. They will be older, wiser and hopefully trained in the mysterious ways of The Children — the ancient race Bran met in the season four finale. Legend has it The Children are the ones who first supplied the Night's Watch the dragonglass. One would hope Bran will learn lessons from them that could aid in the coming war with the White Walkers.

Jon must battle The Night's King one-on-one

Game of Thrones generally doesn't stick to storytelling tropes. Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) died by poison rather than at the blade of Sansa (Sophie Turner) or someone else he had wronged. Robb (Richard Madden) never got to face off against his competitors in combat. So it might seem cliché to imagine Jon taking on The Night's King. But there was something in the way The Night's King watched Jon as he beat The Night's King's White Walker lieutenant that just begs for a one-on-one battle.

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO. Share your theories on how the living might defeat the dead in the comments, and stay tuned to The Live Feed for much more from Game of Thrones