What Season 7's Explosive Final Moment at The Wall Means for 'Game of Thrones'
The tagline for Game of Thrones Season 7 was "Winter is here," and in finale, "The Dragon and the Wolf," we finally saw what that meant for the realms of men: the dead, having breached The Wall, will be fighting on their home turf. Season 8 is looking grim.
Ever since Thrones introduced viewers to the concept of The Wall in the pilot episode’s opening credits, the fantastical structure has been a large ticking plot bomb waiting to go off. There have been multiple theories about how The Wall would eventually fall, mostly from readers of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire who recognized it as a barrier that would require an epic act of destruction to take down.
Although the resolution we got included an ice dragon, no one theory was exactly on the nose when it came The Wall's failure to protect Westeros. The base of The Wall didn’t draw a magical line that couldn’t be crossed by the Army of the Dead, it was just a well-built barrier. To understand the magnitude of tonight's events, here's a history of Wall lore and theories, plus a look at how the Long Night might play out now that we know how it fell.
The magic of the Wall
The first few seasons of D.B. Weiss and David Benioff's TV adaptation treat The Wall as a grand location where Westeros sends its unwanted men and boys to train and inevitably die (either from cold or bloodshed). Jon Snow becomes disillusioned with the realities of life at Castle Black and those he calls his brothers, and we only learn about the Night's Watch's and the Wall's long history through his eyes. Even when wights start popping up and proving magic is real, the magic of The Wall goes unspoken.
The history of The Wall is told in legend throughout A Song of Ice and Fire. After the Long Night and the first defeat of The Others (White Walkers), a guy named Brandon the Builder erected the wall with the help of The Children of the Forest and giants. It wasn't just made to be tall, but is protected by ancient sorcery -- the details of which could be truth or legend. The show made reference to this when Benjen Stark told Bran and Meera that The Wall was magic and the dead could not pass, but, well, that's all over with now.
The Horn of Joramun
Before we knew a zombie Viserion could just burn a hole in The Wall and allow his army through, fans debated whether the sorcery protecting the barrier was built with a back-door kill switch -- the rumored artifact known as "Joramun's Horn." Brace yourself: history gets a little confusing here.
In A Clash of Kings, Jon Snow travels North with Lord Commander Mormont to stop Mance Rayder, and along the way they discuss previous Wildlings that had invaded Westeros. One of them was a legendary figure named Joramaun, known as the "First King Beyond the Wall," who once untied with Bran the Breaker (a.k.a. Brandon Stark, an ancestor of our current heroes), then Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, to defeat the Night's King (but not the Night King from the show -- it's a different legend in the book). Joramun had a horn that he blew to "wake the giants from the Earth."
When Jon gets mixed in with the Wildlings and Ygritte, she mentions to him that the Free Folk have been searching for the Horn of Winter, because Mance Rayder wants it. They believe that blowing the horn makes The Wall crumble. Mance shows up at Castle Black with an ancient giant horn that Melisandre burns after he and his people are captured by Stannis. Later, Tormund tells Jon Snow that the Free Folk never found the Horn of Winter. That was just some old giant's horn. (Sam discovers a similar relic in Season 2.)
All of that just means that certain book readers believe Joramun's Horn is not only still out there, but capable of bringing down the entire wall with one toot. Some even think that the already released cover for the next A Song of Ice and Fire installment, The Winds of Winter, shows the true warhorn of Joramun -- even though there are many other minor horns mentioned or appearing in the novels.
Before we saw a dragon burn a hole in The Wall, the theory went that the Horn of Winter wasn't a mythical object, but something the Night King had happened across in his march South. Once he reached The Wall, he would blow the horn and cause a magical earthquake, reducing a large swath of The Wall to rubble. In the books, a leader of the Army of the Dead like the show's Night King has not been revealed (there is a "Night's King," but again, different thing), so no one knows if there's a sentient enemy who knows the lore of Joramun, but it's still a good guess for how The Wall could crumble in the books, where magic horns would require less suspension of disbelief.
The Wall could be… full of dragons?
The ice pressed close around them, and he could feel the cold seeping into his bones, the weight of the Wall above his head. It felt like walking down the gullet of an ice dragon. - A Storm of Swords
After the first theorized mention of an Ice Dragon in relation to The Wall, the wacky world of A Song of Ice and Fire constructed a bizarre argument: what if there was an Ice Dragon asleep in The Wall? Or even more daring: what if The Wall was just made out of a massive buried Ice Dragon with a thin coat of ice on top of the hulking, slumbering mass? Taking down The Wall would just be a matter of waking the dragon (which could be done with "Dragonbinder," another magic horn, of course).
While Maester Aemon Targareyn is dying on a boat in A Feast For Crows he utters a lot of things to Sam, but one line sticks out: "I should not have left the Wall. Lord Snow could not have known, but I should have seen it. Fire consumes, but cold preserves. The Wall..." Boop. Most take this to mean Aemon thinks the cold preserved him, but the others think it means the cold is preserving something else.
Even though it would disturb the wall, regardless of how big this buried dragon is, there's some textual-analysis-based debate about if a beast in The Wall would necessarily be a bad thing for the heroes of Westeros. Since the last novel ended with Jon Snow dead, some people believed that Melisandre would use his blood to "wake the stone dragon" for Stannis (of course Jon would warg into Ghost allowing for his eventual resurrection as Azor Ahai). The idea being that because Jon was a brother to Robb Stark, he has kingsblood which she can use to awaken a dragon in The Wall (granted, this would work because Jon secretly has Targaryen blood, but it'd be kingsblood nonetheless). Part of the Azor Ahai myth includes "he will wake dragons out of stone" which could be taken literally, or figuratively (like how Daenerys was born on Dragonstone). Presumably any dragon fighting for Azor Ahai would be a good-guy dragon, even if breaking out of The Wall meant collapsing it.
Wasn't Bran supposed to do something?
The show-based theory about how The Wall was going to come down, and even had some textual clues woven into the plot, either ended up happening and was left unspoken or was a huge red herring. Did The Night King spooking Bran in Season 6 break the enchantment on The Wall like it broke the enchantment on the Three-Eyed Raven's weirwood root cave? Last year, The Night King saw a greensighting Bran and touched him mid-vision. The violation allowed the White Walkers and the Army of the Dead to infiltrate the wooden fortress. Then, later in the season, Benjen tells Bran that "the dead" can't pass through The Wall. Or couldn't previously.
First, it's unclear just where on The Wall the magical barrier is, and what type of dead it keeps out. We've seen wights spawn inside of Castle Black, but Benjen couldn't ride Bran and Meera all the way up to the gate? Does the enchantment only work on White Walkers or undead with dragonglass in their hearts?
Second, if Bran crossing the barrier was supposed to break the magical spells on The Wall, why was Bran crossing the threshold on his way to Winterfell not depicted on screen? He says some creepy Three-Eyed Raven stuff to Edd about being a Stark, but we don't see him physically pass into Westeros. Maybe breaking a barrier feels like nothing. But if the Bran-Night-King moment from Season 6 was a clue to The Wall's inner-workings, the audience could have used a reminder of Bran's power to breach the barrier. It wasn't even in any of the "Previously On" segments to provide context.
The closest the episode comes to reminding us that Bran broke some sort of enchantment on The Wall is when the episode transitions to the end. We see Bran warg, then see some ravens land at Eastwatch by the Sea. Is there still a secret left to learn?
Props to anyone who saw the Ice Dragon coming
Of all the theories about how The Wall would eventually be breached or tumble completely, the one whose details share the most logic with what actually happened would have to be the guy who reasoned that there was an Ice Dragon in there based on Maester Ameon's mumblings. Redditor AnakinGabriel wrote: "The Wall has been standing there for about 8,000 years, it's quite old, but it's still there. A lot of powerful magic must have been used so it could last that long. And we know that powerful magic is related to Dragons."
What ends up being the solution? The same thing that was a solution for Cersei at the end of last season: fire in an unexpected color. A continuous blast of blue flame from White Viserion (who has holes in his wings so we’ll be able to recognize him now) blows enough blue fire at it to cause a structural collapse (seemingly all the way to Eastwatch by the Sea’s beach). Hopefully Tormund outran that somehow.
In the "Behind the Episode" segment, D.B. Weiss suggests all someone needed to do to cross into Westeros was put a hole in The Wall. Don’t overthink it with questions about mythology and the rules the show laid out, think about it as a big-ass fence to keep out unwanted migrants. For all the legendary horns, Night King ice grips, and buried beasts, all it really took was a concentrated assault from a really angry dragon.
So if Viserion has the ability to tear The Wall, a powerful shield that protected Westeros for thousands of years, to shreds, how exactly will our heroes combat him in the final battle to come? We have at least year a to speculate. Winter is here, but Season 8 is a long ways away.