Beyond The Wall

Why the Crypts of Winterfell Might Be a Terrible Place to Hide on 'Game of Thrones'

game of thrones
HBO
This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8 through the first two episodes. Visit Beyond the Wall, our official Game of Thrones hub page for recaps, theories, spoilers, explainers, and the best episodes of all time.

The third episode of Game of Thrones' final season will be a bloodbath. It's guaranteed to feature an epic clash between the White Walkers and the human armies defending Winterfell, and most of episode 2's quiet-before-the-ice-storm episode, "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms," was devoted to heartfelt, poignant exchanges between characters we've been getting to know for years. They reunited with beloved pets, had sex in a forge, performed meaningful ceremonial gestures for old pals, exchanged deadly weapons, and even sang a mournful song. It was bittersweet because both the characters and the viewers know a whole bunch of people, including some fan favorites, are about to get hacked to bits.

Despite the likely carnage, we do know that one group will be 100% safe: the non-fighting Winterfell citizens who hide deep in the crypt (or crypts, depending on your preference) and wait out the violent conflict. There's no way anything bad could happen to them -- after all, they're in the crypt! At least, that's the argument put forward at various points by characters like Jon, Daenerys, Gilly, and Davos, who ladles out his hearty soup while assuring a young girl, clearly meant to recall Shireen Baratheon, that she's better off below the ground. If everyone is saying the crypt is the best place to go, they must be right? They wouldn't lie to us.

But here's the thing: The crypts are likely a monumentally dangerous place to seek shelter in the midst of an Army of the Dead siege. On a narrative level, we know it's a bad idea because so many characters said that it was a good idea. Clearly, Benioff and Weiss are trying to lull the viewers into a sense of complacency regarding the crypts, setting up the expectation that we don't need to worry about the innocents beneath the ground. Or, the showrunners know most Game of Thrones viewers, accustomed to gruesome and heart-wrenching twists at this point, will figure something bad could happen in the crypts and they just wanted to underline the potential precariousness. Call it foreshadowing or dramatic irony. Either way, stay out of the crypt.

Game of Thrones
HBO

Why exactly? The crypts are filled with dead people, specifically the corpses of the Stark family throughout the ages, and the White Walkers, barreling towards Winterfell on their spindly legs, have the capability of reviving the dead and turning them into vicious, scraggly-haired soldiers. You can see how this could potentially go very, very wrong. Presumably, all it takes is one ice-covered bad guy breaking into the crypt to resurrect a whole squad of dead Starks to attack everyone trapped inside. It would quickly go from a foxhole to a deathtrap.

Here's where the White Walkers really start to resemble antagonists in a video game: the more people die, the more soldiers get converted to the other side. The beauty of the White Walker military recruitment program is there's no need to enlist increasingly younger, less experienced soldiers or pay for the expensive, mercenary services of the Golden Company. The reinforcements can be found anywhere, and they don't require grain or soup served up by Davos to survive. (What do White Walkers eat? Feels like a question for Quora.) From a fiscal standpoint, the overhead is incredibly low and the resources are seemingly endless. The "all men must die" catchphrase might be true, but that doesn't mean the dead don't get a second chance at life.

game of thrones
HBO

Hypothetically, let's say the White Walkers infiltrate the crypt and start raising the dead. Who do they have access to? Depending on whether or not you think Ned Stark's bones ever actually ended up in Winterfell, he seems like a possible candidate for resurrection. (Getting his head chopped off hurts his chances, but, hey, that hasn't stopped fans from theorizing that he's still alive anyway.) Catelyn Stark is not buried in the crypts, so don't count on a Lady Stoneheart reveal. Similarly, Robb Stark never made it back from the Red Wedding.

Besides those three, arguably the most important Starks in the show's history, we do know that Jon Snow's mother Lyanna Stark is buried in the crypt. After all, that was established way back in the pilot episode, when King Robert Baratheon placed a feather on her crypt, a gesture that was referenced in the teaser trailer for Season 8. It might sound extreme, but the concept of Jon Snow having to battle the resurrected corpse of the mom he never knew isn't that implausible. The premiere featured a scene where our heroes kissed in front of a dragon -- the guardrails between prestige drama and sword-swinging fantasy storytelling are gone.

At this point, it's impossible to know who the White Walkers decide to bring back. (Rickon Stark, who died in the Battle of the Bastards, is another possibility.) As with almost any speculative element of Game of Thrones, there's a theory that can be used to justify almost any potential outcome in the crypts, and some are more outlandish than others. Within the context of the show, the crypts have always been an effective refuge from conflict, serving as a hiding place for Bran and Rickon way back in Season 2 when Theon stormed into Winterfell looking for Stark blood; there's a chance everyone hiding in them could be fine. But we heard Daenerys telling Jon "the dead are already here" in the trailer for the next episode. Given their taste for ghoulish horror and shocking spectacle, Benioff and Weiss won't be able to resist bringing out the bodies for this one.

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Dan Jackson is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He's on Twitter @danielvjackson.