Could the Night King and the White Walkers Be Game of Thrones’s Most Misunderstood Heroes?

HBO
HBO

Before we get into any of this, if you’re not fully caught up on HBO's Game of Thrones, we’re about to unleash a whole lot of spoilers. So if you haven’t finished watching all of the first seven seasons (what are you waiting for?), bookmark this page and come back once you’re done.

If there’s one thing HBO viewers have come to expect from the creators of Game of Thrones, it’s that they’re not afraid to kill off characters—even the most beloved ones. (Though it doesn’t always mean they’ll stay dead.) And if there’s one thing we’ve learned about fans of the epic series, based on George R.R. Martin’s equally epic books, it’s that they have a real talent for coming up with elaborate theories about where the show’s narrative might be heading, some of them plausible, some of them … not so plausible. The most recent of these theories to catch our attention comes from Redditor MrSilenceT, which Esquire wrote about, and is particularly intriguing because it deals with some of the show's most fascinating characters, the Night King and his creepy band of White Walkers.

Part of what makes these blue-eyed creatures so captivating is that we actually don’t know a lot about them. We know that the White Walkers are slow-moving ice monsters and are devoted followers of the Night King (who some fan theorists believe is, in fact, Bran Stark). But in his extremely detailed (and three-part) analysis of what we might expect to see in Game of Thrones’s final season, tackling everything from “The Fate of Arya Stark” to “The Fate of Daenerys Targaryen,” MrSilenceT devotes a good chunk of time to trying to better understand the Night King and the White Walkers, but makes his main point up front: “[I]f you think this story leads up to someone defeating the Night King and the Wights, you haven’t been paying attention …”

To begin his argument, he quotes George R.R. Martin, who has repeatedly made it known that he’s not interested in clear black-and-white distinctions between heroes and villains, noting that, “If everybody thinks your character is a hero or if everybody thinks your character is a villain, then you are writing cardboards.” Which is certainly not a charge anyone could ever honestly lodge against Martin or the TV series' showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

According to MrSilenceT:

“You’ve been told by the Children of the Forest, ancient tales and various manuscripts that the White Walkers are a weapon of mass destruction and are here to kill all of the living and you have seen with your own eyes the mass murder they afflicted upon the Wildlings at Hardhome. But has anyone in Westeros taken the time to thoroughly think through how they operate and clarify what their goal is?

Is the Night King’s goal really to wipe out all form of life in the world? Does he have any conscience at all?”

To answer those questions in the most expedient way, he puts forth this scene by way of an example, noting how, "A White Walker looks into the unharmful and fearful eyes of Sam and does not kill him but rather keeps on marching south. This shows that there is some degree of free will in the White Walkers (or in the Night King, since he is most likely controlling them) or at least, that they can refrain from killing anyone alive (probably as long as they do not express any harmful intent towards them)." He contrasts this with the behavior of the wights, who "attack anyone without hesitation. These are mere tools, animated and controlled by the power of the White Walkers and solely programmed to attack on sight. Wights have no conscience."

In his summation of MrSilenceT's theory, Esquire's Matt Miller writes:

"Here's what we know about the White Walkers: They were created to protect the Children of the Forest from the First Men, who were at war thousands of years ago. The Children of the Forest lost control of their creation and after the War for the Dawn built the Wall to keep the White Walkers from destroying all humanity.

But we've never learned anything from the White Walkers' perspective. They were once men created with the purpose to kill evil men by the Children of the Forest. Bran has seen the Children create the Night King in a violent ritual where dragonglass is plunged into his chest."

And if those theories about Bran Stark and the Night King being one are, in fact, founded, wouldn't it follow that what he's actually attempting to do is reverse the events that started all this killing in the first place? Or, as MrSilenceT puts it:

"How do you protect life when you know the only thing you can do is bring death and when you know that no one has the power to stop you from inflicting it? The answer is by killing. Killing and destroying is the only tool and form of free will at the disposal of the Night King in his current state of existence. Destroying the source of magic that keeps him bound to the curse: the main Heart tree at the Isles of Faces that is at the center of all Weirwood trees in Westeros ... and killing himself by killing Bran.

This is why the army of the dead completely turns around and goes back North when the Night King marks Bran. Because killing Bran is the priority. This is why the White Walkers have been specifically trying to march south past the Wall and this is why they had been trying to communicate their intentions to whoever could see by forming symbols on the ground using the only pen they could, dead bodies ... Had they known, all Westerosi people had to do was let the Night King and the White Walkers pass through. As a result, who would be the villain in this scenario? Is it the Night King and the White Walkers that killed tens of thousands so they could stop themselves from endlessly killing life? Or is it Jon/Bran & co. [who] sent tens of thousands to their death instead of stepping aside like Sam did in his first encounter with a White Walker?

One thing is for certain, knowledge would have been their true savior. Even with the most unlikely kind of people or thing, there may be common ground. In this case, both the Night King & Jon Snow were fighting for the same cause without realizing it: to protect the living."

There's a lot more to MrSilenceT's theories, which you can read in full here. And if it turns out that we're all cheering for the Night King in the end, you know who saw it coming.

[h/t: Esquire]

15 Facts About Rushmore On Its 20th Anniversary

The Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection

On December 11, 1998, Wes Anderson introduced the world to his unique brand of whimsical comedy with Rushmore. Though it wasn't his feature directorial debut—he had released Bottle Rocket, which he adapted from a short, in 1996—it was his first major Hollywood movie. And kicked off his still-ongoing collaborations with a stable of talented actors that includes Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman. It was also the second film Anderson co-wrote with Owen Wilson.

To celebrate the quirky comedy's 20th anniversary, here are some things you might not know about Rushmore.

1. Rushmore Academy was the director's Alma Mater.

Wes Anderson sent location scouts across the United States and Canada to find the perfect high school to shoot the movie. He was having a tough time trying to find the school, until his mother sent him a picture of his old high school in Houston, Texas: St. John's School. Anderson thought it was the perfect location to make the movie.

2. Bill Murray wanted to make Rushmore for free.

Bill Murray in Rushmore (1998)
The Criterion Collection

Once Bill Murray read the screenplay, he wanted to be in the movie so badly that he considered appearing in it for free. Murray ended up working on Rushmore at scale with the Screen Actors Guild day rate minimum for smaller indie film projects. Anderson estimated that Murray made about $9000 for his work on the film.

3. Film critic Pauline Kael had a private screening.

Pauline Kael’s film criticism was a major influence on Anderson’s view of cinema. “Your thoughts and writing about the movies [have] been a very important source of inspiration for me and my movies, and I hope you don't regret that," he once wrote to her.

Kael retired from The New Yorker in 1991, so Anderson arranged for her to have a private screening of Rushmore before the film came out in 1998. He wrote about the screening in the introduction to the published version of the screenplay, and shared what Kael told him about the film: "I genuinely don't know what to make of this movie."

4. It was Jason Schwartzman’s first film role.

Casting directors searched throughout the United States, Canada, and England to find a young actor to play the lead role of Max Fischer. Australian actor Noah Taylor was the frontrunner for the part when, on the last day of casting in Los Angeles, Jason Schwartzman auditioned. He was wearing a prep school blazer with a Rushmore Academy patch that he made himself.

5. Owen Wilson's private school experiences inspired some of the movie's plot points.

As a sophomore at St. Mark High School in Dallas, Texas, Rushmore co-writer Owen Wilson was expelled for stealing his geometry teacher's textbook (the one that contained all the answers); he went to Thomas Jefferson High School to complete 10th grade. This was the inspiration for when Max is expelled from Rushmore Academy and is forced to attend Grover Cleveland High School.

Although Wilson doesn’t have a credited role in Rushmore, he does appear as Ms. Cross’s deceased husband, Edward Appleby, in a photo in Appleby’s childhood bedroom.

6. Wilson's Dad Inspired a Moment in the Movie.

Wilson’s father, Robert Wilson, was the inspiration for Herman Blume’s speech about privilege at the beginning of Rushmore.

7. Alexis Bledel was an extra in the film.


Getty Images

Before she starred as Rory Gilmore on Gilmore Girls, actress Alexis Bledel was an uncredited extra—she played a Grover Cleveland High School student—in Rushmore. You can see her in the background in various scenes, including dancing with the character Magnus Buchan (Stephen McCole) at the end of the film.

8. Both Anderson and Wilson's brothers had parts in the movie.

Owen and Luke Wilson’s older brother Andrew plays Rushmore Academy’s baseball coach, Coach Beck. He also appeared in Anderson’s directorial debut, Bottle Rocket, playing the bully John Mapplethorpe.

Eric Chase Anderson, Wes's brother, plays the architect who designs Max’s aquarium.

9. The Movie's Editor Made a Cameo.

Rushmore editor David Moritz plays the Dynamite Salesman; he sells Max the dynamite and explosives for his stage play Heaven and Hell at the end of the film.

10. Producers Made a Deal to get a Bentley.

Producers needed a Bentley for Murray's character, Herman Blume, but Rushmore’s production budget was only $20 million and they couldn’t afford to rent one. A Houston resident was willing to lend them his Bentley if they gave his daughter a role in the film. Producers agreed; the man's daughter plays an usher who seats Miss Cross at Max’s play at the end of the movie.

11. Mason Gamble's role in Dennis the Menace almost cost him the part of Dirk Calloway in Rushmore.

Mason Gamble in Rushmore (1998)
The Criterion Collection

Wilson referred to the character of Dirk Calloway, played by Mason Gamble, as the conscience of the film. Originally, Anderson didn’t want to cast Gamble in the part because of the actor’s previous—and very recognizable—role as Dennis Mitchell in the 1993 live-action movie Dennis the Menace.

12. Rushmore Upset Francis Ford Coppola.

Director Francis Ford Coppola owns a winery, and when he first saw Rushmore, he was upset with Anderson because he used Coppola’s chief Napa Valley wine rival during Max's post-play celebration. (It probably didn't help matters that Coppola is Schwartzman's uncle.)

13. Anderson's Brother Did the Movie's Criterion Collection Artwork.

The Criterion Collection edition of 'Rushmore' (1998)
The Criterion Collection

Eric Chase Anderson did the artwork for the Criterion Collection DVD cover, an interoperation of a shot from the montage of Max’s extracurricular activities at the beginning of the movie. The Yankee Racer shot is itself a recreation of a photo from French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue, taken in 1909 when he was only 15.

14. Schwartzman waxed his chest to play Max.

Although Max only shows his chest once in the film (during the high school wrestling match), Anderson made Schwartzman wax his chest for the duration of Rushmore's filming.

15. The Max Fischer Players Appeared on MTV.

During the 1999 MTV Movie Awards, the Max Fischer Players recreated the year's hit movies—The Truman Show, Armageddon, and Out of Sight—as stage plays.

An earlier version of this article ran in 2014.

Harry Potter Star Daniel Radcliffe Says Broadway Made Him a Better Actor

Dominik Bindl, Getty Images
Dominik Bindl, Getty Images

For 10 years, moviegoers watched as Daniel Radcliffe matured on film throughout eight Harry Potter films. But the 29-year-old recently revealed that he believes the bulk of his professional growth has occurred as a result of his Broadway stage work.

“It gives me a lot of confidence as an actor, which is not always something that I’ve felt,” Radcliffe told Variety. “I feel like doing theater ... it was really very important for me psychologically.”

Radcliffe starred in a number of films after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the final film in the franchise, including The Woman in Black, Now You See Me 2, and Lost in London. His Broadway credits include Equus, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and The Cripple of Inishmaan.

“There’s something about doing it without an editor to save you, or a myriad of things in post-production that can help you out, something that made me go: ‘OK, I can act,’" Radcliffe continued. "I’ve grown a little bit as an actor every time I’ve gone back to the theater."

Radcliffe crediting his professional growth to working in theater may leave some Potterheads wondering if he thinks playing Harry Potter for so long held him back.

“Not professionally, at all,” he said. “There were moments when probably I coped with the personal effects of Harry Potter not as well as I could have. But professionally, no.”

According to Radcliffe, "There are directors that were, I think, excited to—I am quoting one of them here and I won’t say who—'reinvent' me.”

Radcliffe fans can gauge that reinvention for themselves with The Lifespan of a Fact, the new Broadway play starring Radcliffe, Bobby Cannavale, and Cherry Jones. It is running at New York City's Studio 54 through January 13, 2019.

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