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“The long night is coming, and the dead are coming with it.”
Jon Snow (Kit Harington) said these words all the way back in Game of Thrones season five, episode eight, “Hardhome.” It wasn’t that long ago, but it feels worlds away, given how much has changed on the show since then. For one thing, Jon died. For another, he came back to life. The resurrection routine isn’t an unfamiliar song and dance for the show’s number one menace — the White Walkers, an army of icy monsters marching toward Westeros … and after six episodes in the freezer, their story is about to heat up once again.
In the march toward season six, trailers for Game of Thrones plainly highlighted the imminent White Walker threat. Unlike years past, where the Night’s King and his army would land with a shocking thud, the marketing campaign made no secret about the fact that Jon Snow’s frozen foes would be back this season. That comeback occurs with this week’s fifth episode, “The Door.”
What’s more, it’s not Jon, but a Stark of another name who will come face-to-face with these bone-chilling creatures. The episode five preview features Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright), standing tall in a snowfield, watching as an undead army marches toward him. When he swivels around, he’s face-to-face with the Night’s King, the necromancer putting his hand on the young man’s shoulder.
There’s every reason to believe that Bran’s encounter with the White Walkers is another one of his visions. He’s standing in the sequence, which flies in the face of his physically handicapped state. Then there’s Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick), seen in the preview desperately trying to wake Bran from a deep sleep.
But even if he’s envisioning the Walkers, Bran’s safety is far from guaranteed. The Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow) warned Bran that while it’s “beautiful beneath the sea,” continuous warging can be hazardous to one’s health. There’s potentially an even more violent threat, though, as a previously released behind-the-scenes video suggests the White Walkers might attack the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave at some point this season — a notion that would fall in line with what one of the Children of the Forest warned Meera in the second episode of the year: Bran Stark will one day need protection outside of the cave.
Not only are the White Walkers coming, then, but they might be coming to put an end to the Raven — and potentially even to Bran himself. That’s assuming they’re not trying to recruit Bran, however, which is not out of the realm of possibility. Bran Stark derives his name from Brandon the Builder, the mythological figure in Westeros lore who built several key structures around the Seven Kingdoms, including the Wall. Some fans theorize Bran will live up to his namesake’s reputation, while others fear the opposite is possible; that he will become Bran the Breaker, the man responsible for shattering the Wall and letting the Walkers in through the door to Westeros … an especially chilling prospect, considering episode five’s title: “The Door.”
However it plays out, the very presence of the Night’s King this early in season six suggests their continued prominence as Game of Thrones races into its endgame. “Winter is coming,” the Starks like to say, but it’s time to update the phrase: “Winter is here.”
White Walkers aside, take a look ahead at Jon Snow’s war for Winterfell:
Follow THR’s Game of Thrones coverage for more news, interviews and analysis.