The Night King was one of Game of Thrones’ biggest villains until his death at the Battle of Winterfell in season 8, but just how powerful was he?
The Night King was one of Game of Thrones‘ biggest villains before his death at the Battle of Winterfell in season 8, but just how powerful was the leader of the White Walkers? The White Walkers, aka the Others, were setup as the show’s overarching nemesis from the very first scene of the pilot episode, which showed the mysterious, icy creatures killing a couple of Night’s Watch brothers. The show gradually ramped that threat up over the years, making the biggest strides with the introduction of the Night King.
Purely a show creation, the Night King was first briefly introduced in Game of Thrones season 4, where he was seen with one of the children Craster had sacrificed to the White Walkers. Each subsequent season then showed a little bit more of him, setting him up as the eventual Big Bad of the series. That didn’t quite play out, with Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen both needing to be defeated once the threat of the White Walkers had been dealt with, but nonetheless the Night King was among the greatest obstacles humanity had to overcome.
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Over the course of his appearances, the Night King established himself not only as one of the most powerful characters on the show, but among the strongest to have ever lived in Westeros – if not the strongest, given he also overpowers the Children of the Forest, or what’s left of them, despite them being his creators. As the first White Walker, the Night King possesses all of the abilities that the other of his kind do: this includes superhuman strength, and powers relating to ice, such as freezing things at a touch, and bringing with him frost and snow. The Night King seems to be particularly strong in this regard, creating a huge blizzard during “The Long Night.” And of course, as displayed in Game of Thrones season 5, episode 8, “Hardhome”, he can re-animate the dead. This is something other White Walkers can accomplish too, though it may be that the Night King can do it more en-masse than the others, given just how many he raises there.
His power in this sense, though, is also his greatest weakness, because killing the Night King – who, like others of his kind and the wights they create, is vulnerable to dragonglass and Valyrian steel – destroys all of the other White Walkers and wights. Aside from re-animating the dead (which even extends to dragons – which he can also ride with ease), the Night King’s other most impressive ability is that to turn humans into White Walkers, as seen in Game of Thrones season 4, episode 4, “Oathkeeper”. It’s possible that this particular power is unique to the Night King, further making him to be even more powerful than the other White Walkers.
The Night King’s other unique ability is that of marking someone, as he does with Bran in Game of Thrones season 6, episode 5, “The Door”. This allows him to trace where Bran is, and this moment – along with a few others – suggests that he is also capable of warg detection, which again appears to be a power only he has. While the Three-Eyed Raven is gifted with incredible powers of greensight, making him among the most powerful characters in Game of Thrones, the sheer range of the Night King’s abilities are rather unrivalled.
What remains unclear, though, is just how skilled a fight he is. Although he carries with him a great ice sword and easily dispatches of Theon Greyjoy, he also holds back from conflict and avoids facing Jon Snow in one-on-one combat, which suggests he may not be anything above average as a swordsman, despite his supernatural advantages. And, for all the Night King’s astonishing power, he was defeated in the same way he was made, with a dagger to the chest, allowing humanity to triumph in a way that, though perhaps a little premature, was in keeping with Game of Thrones‘ themes.
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