Game of Thrones has done a great job of sticking fairly closely to the source material, but there is one character that was created completely from the minds of series showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss. Here's a hint: he's the one leading the Army of the Dead. During a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, both Benioff and Weiss took some time to explain the Night King's Game of Thrones origin story, what his ultimate endgame looks like, and what exactly inspired them to create this Westeros foe in the first place.
Though there is a similar (but different) character in George R.R. Martin's books known as the Night's King, the commander of the White Walkers and wights is a separate entity all on his own and the inspiration behind his inception is an intriguing one. “It was almost logical as you went back in time, as you create the prehistory for all this,” Weiss explained to EW. “We’ve seen what the White Walkers do, we’ve seen how they perpetuate themselves and created the wights. If you’re going backwards, well, they made these things … so what made them?"
The Night King was first introduced in Season 4, initially portrayed by Richard Brake, though later on Vladimir Furdik assumed the role. Since then, he's been a looming danger for all the characters we've come to care about. A foreboding presence that felt like a threat, though one that still felt somewhat far away.
But now the dead are marching on Winterfell and will result in the most epic battle in Game of Thrones history. The Night King and White Walkers and wights are about to become more real than ever before, which is something Benioff and Weiss have been striving for since the beginning.
"We always liked the implication that they weren’t some kind of cosmic evil that had been around since the beginning to time but that the White Walkers had a history — that something that seems legendary and mythological and permanent wasn’t," Weiss told the outlet. "They had a historical cause that was comprehensible like the way the wars on screen we’re seeing unfold are comprehensible. They’re the result of people, or beings, with motivations we can understand.”
So now that the Night King has an undead army and ice dragon on his side, what is his ultimate goal in all of this? What does this entity hope to get out of this war? For the showrunners, the answer is simple: Death. “I don’t think of him as evil, I think of him as Death,” Benioff said. “And that’s what he wants — for all of us. It’s why he was created and that’s what he’s after.”
And as for the common fan question of why the Night King never says anything, Benioff doesn't believe words are necessary when it comes to this character. “What’s he going to say?” Benioff asked during the same interview. “Anything the Night King says diminishes him.”
Fans will just have to see who ends up having the final word when the series kicks off its eighth and final season on Sunday, April 14.