It’s time to embrace the true heroes in Game of Thrones: The White Walkers
From now on, I’m rooting for the good guys up north. Here’s why.
We’ve been looking at it all wrong.
Since the first scene of the first episode, we’ve seen nothing but a cartoon version of the White Walkers: They are just sinister outsiders, camped out in the far reaches of Westeros just biding their time until they can kill for killing’s sake. They’re bloodthirsty. We don’t understand them. They’re different.
All wrong. The White Walkers are the greatest — nay, the only — hope for Westeros.
Of all the competing interests in Game of Thrones, the White Walkers have consistently been the most virtuous, have consistently offered the most effective governance, and have consistently created the best possible lives for their people. No one in Westeros or Essos comes close.
It’s time to admit we were wrong, and start rooting for the White Walkers from here on out.
Once you realize the White Walkers are on the side of righteousness, the rest of the series suddenly makes far more sense, and it is elevated to a much stronger piece of storytelling. Most of the stories we are told focus almost entirely on establishing Good, while selling short the motivations of Bad.
What Game of Thrones is doing, in a genius and frankly refreshing way, is flipping that script around. It is spending five seasons establishing just how wretched the Bad is. What other possible conclusion could you reach after five seasons of this show? In every corner of the world you have unrepentant killers and rapists, in the highest seats of power and in the lowliest street corner. At alarmingly few points in the middle do you witness the slightest semblance of decency. It is moral squalor at every possible turn, every square inch of Westeros and Essos covered in human-created misery, barely a single person worthy of wielding power. It’s clear this filth won’t be washed away by any king or queen sitting on a debt-ridden throne.
Luckily for Westeros, there is a far better option coming this winter.
We really haven’t taken the time to get to know the White Walkers. You took one look at them, thought you knew everything you needed to know and swiped left. So shallow.
Let’s talk to them. Give them a chance. Maybe this has all been one big misunderstanding.
Take Craster’s children, for example. The White Walkers, completely aghast that some human monster would keep leaving his children unattended in the freezing cold — those humans are unbelievable — have repeatedly saved those poor children. Look how happy that little slugger is to be rescued by the friendly Night King! Look at all those people lining up to take care of him! Your new family loves you! This episode proves the White Walkers have great regard for human life, far more than the terrible humans do themselves, and place high value on parenting and the well-being of all children.
Life as a White Walker citizen seems pretty sweet. Granted, we don’t know much about it, but we also didn’t know anything about the Others in LOST until the season three premiere. Then we find out they had a dang book club! Perhaps we’ll learn the same about the White Walkers — which, by the way, are known as the Others in the books — and finally see parents teaching their children how to make snowmen, teenagers riding the dead horseys out to the pond to play hockey, adults swapping stories and hopeful glances at the watering hole.
No matter what, the Night King has given his White Walker constituents the greatest gift of all: eternal life. Who wouldn’t love that? And far from being content to keep it all to themselves, as the selfish humans would, they want to make sure everyone in Westeros can share in their bliss. How thoughtful! How generous!
Night King? More like Nice King!
But but but, you misguidedly whine, doesn’t it suck that they’re butchering an entire planet of people? I’ll admit the White Walker method of delivering their gift is a tad crude — you catch more flies with honey than with slaughtering villages in sudden massacres — but it all ends up in the same place. That battle to seemingly protect your species may be a little bit uncomfortable, but it’s like when you’re a toddler and the doctor gives you a shot. Yes, eight mangled White Walker children are descending upon you to tear you limb from limb, and that meanie doctor gave you a boo-boo in your arm, but now you have eternal life and you won’t get Hepatitis B. In both cases, you’ll understand when you’re older.
Now don’t you feel better? Doesn’t this explain why, for five seasons, we have watched the honorable punished by death, the loathsome rewarded by power, and been subjected to countless scenes of torture and rape and a child burning on a freaking stake? What could the humans possibly have done thus far that could have earned your loyalty? Aren’t you thrilled something better is on its way?
Winter is coming, and I can’t wait.
All photos via HBO. Follow me on Twitter: @bydanielvictor.