Is the first White Walker also the Night’s King, and what does that mean?

A lot happened on “The Door,” the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Sansa confronted Littlefinger. Hodor died in one time period and was born in another, and we discovered that the Children of the Forest were responsible for creating the White Walkers. Thanks a lot, kids.

It’s that last revelation that I’d like to talk about. When Bran traveled into Westeros’ distant past, he saw a Leaf, a Child of the Forest, shove what looked like a dragonglass dagger into a man’s chest. A moment later, the man’s eyes turned blue, and a White Walker was born. That, by itself, has interesting implications. Assuming that it was indeed a dragonglass dagger Leaf used, does that explain why White Walkers are vulnerable to the stuff? And how does a dragonglass dagger turn a man into a White Walker, anyway? We can probably assume that the Children of the Forest worked some additional magic here, but the exact nature of the transformation remains unclear.

But let’s focus in on the unfortunate guy whom the Children turned into a White Walker. He wasn’t named in the episode, but he was played by actor and stuntman Vladimir Furdik. This was the first time we’d gotten a clear look at Furdik, but he’s been on the show before. He was a stunt performer in “Sons of the Harpy” and “Hardhome,” from Season 5. He also did stunts during the fight at the Tower of Joy in this season’s “Oathbreaker.” Here he is standing next to Luke Roberts, who played the dual-wielding Arthur Dayne in that scene.

Importantly, Furdik is also the actor who now plays the Night’s King, the White Walker leader who attacked the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave in “The Door.” HBO’s official photo caption is all the proof we need of that.

Pictured: Kae Alexander as Leaf and Vladimir Furdik as The Night King. Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO.

“And Vladimir Furdik as The Night King.” This means that the show is changing several things from the books. Most pedantically, in the books, the character is called “the Night’s King,” with an apostrophe, not “the Night King,” but we can move past that. More importantly, in the words of George R.R. Martin, “in the books [the Night’s King] is a legendary figure, akin to Lann the Clever and Brandon the Builder, and no more likely to have survived to the present day than they have.”

Clearly, that’s not the case on the show. The war between the Children of the Forest and the First Men, the one that inspired the Children to create the White Walkers in the first place, happened thousands of years before the events of the series proper. According to the chain of logic we’re constructing, the Night’s King must have survived all that time, as did Leaf, who later sacrificed herself to buy Bran time to escape during the Night’s King’s attack. This seems to go against Martin’s official line on how long Children of the Forest live. Here’s what Leaf has to say on the subject in A Dance with Dragons:

Before the First Men came all this land that you call Westeros was home to us, yet even in those days we were few. The gods gave us long lives but not great numbers…

While it’s open to interpretation, “long lives” imply that the Children of the Forest do eventually die of old age. Do their natural lifespans run for thousands of years, or is the show moving Leaf’s birthday back by several millennia? It’s unclear.

One more difference worth noting: in the books, the Night’s King is described as a human man, possibly a Stark, who became the thirteenth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. He fell in love with a woman “with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars,” probably a White Walker. He declared himself a king, made the woman his queen, and did some nasty stuff.

That’s inconsistent with the narrative we’re getting on the show. In the books, the Night’s King lived in a time when the Night’s Watch was already established, which means that the Wall had already gone up, which means that the war between the Children of the Forest and the First Men was long over. On the show, he was alive during that war.

It seems that the show’s version of the Night’s King is different from Martin’s version. Come to think of it, that apostrophe in his name might be important. “The Night’s King” may refer to the legendary figure from Martin’s books, while “the Night King” refers to the new character invented for the show.

The helping hand of apostrophes aside, there’s a bit more to this story. While we’re sure that Vladimir Furdik is now playing the Night’s King, that wasn’t always the case. In Seasons 4 and 5, the character was played by actor Richard Brake. That was Brake lifting his arms while staring down Jon Snow at the end of “Hardhome.”

Why did the show switch actors? Maybe Brake just got tired of sitting still for what I’m assuming was 11 hours of people applying makeup and prosthetics to his face. But Redditor BolingBrokeIV has another theory: that the show switched out Brake for Furdik because the latter knows how to do stunts. If the Night’s King has to participate in fight scenes, the argument goes, it would be cost prohibitive to outfit two actors in all those prosthetics: better to just cast Furdik and have him do both the acting and the stunts.

The upside of this argument is that the Night’s King may be participating in fight scenes soon.

Via Reddit

Up until now, the Night’s King has observed the battles from afar. If he’s going to join the fray, who will he be fighting, and what will he be able to do to them? Those are the questions that should keep the characters up at night between now and the end of Season 6.

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