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Feature Article

Game Of Thrones: This Theory Explains How Sean Bean's Ned Stark Might Return In Episode 3


Spoilers within.

The army of the dead finally reached Winterfell in Game of Thrones, and a massive throwdown is about to take place as the united North prepare to face them. If the Night King and his White Walkers win, there will be little left to stop them from ravaging Westeros--at least before they reach Cersei's army at King's Landing way down in the south.

While all the able-bodied fighters in the North are standing ready to meet the White Walker threat at Winterfell, there are also a bunch of noncombatants sheltering in the castle. As we heard in Episode 2, the plan is for those folks to hide out in Winterfell's crypts. Daenerys ordered Tyrion to hide out there as well, to protect her Hand of the King, and we know Varys, Gilly, and her son Little Sam will all be down there as well.

That sounds like a good plan--the crypts of Winterfell are stone and underground, and represent the toughest place for an invading army to penetrate. But while it seems like a good idea to put defenseless or high-value personnel in the crypts where they'll be safe, there's one theory that suggests it might be the most dangerous place in the entire castle.

The crypts are a good place to hide from a regular army, but the army of the dead is a different matter. That's because of the particular power the White Walkers possess--they can raise the dead, and we've seen them do it at scale. The Night King raised the entire population of Hardhome as wights in the wake of that battle. And where are all the dead folks in Winterfell? That's right: the crypt.

We've already seen a bit of evidence that would back up the theory that the Night King is going to sic the bodies of Ned Stark and his family on the folks hiding in Winterfell. First and foremost is a line featured in the tease for Episode 3, in which Daenerys remarks, "The dead are already here." Given that we saw the approaching army of the dead at the end of Episode 2, it seems like Dany wouldn't be restating the obvious just for effect.

That same tease also features a shot of Arya Stark running through the crypt--and not just because she's in a hurry. We haven't seen Arya seem scared of anything for quite a while, but she looks absolutely freaked out in that clip. Given Arya's history, it's hard to think of anything that would scare her more than facing the reanimated bodies of her family coming to life to kill her.

We have a sense of which dead relatives might be down there to terrify Arya. Littlefinger brought Ned Stark's remains to Catelyn and they apparently made their way to back to Winterfell, although at this point he's likely just a skeleton. Lyanna Stark, Jon Snow's mother, is buried there as well. As for Robb and Catelyn, we're not sure exactly what happened to their bodies, but they're probably not in the North; since they both died at the Red Wedding, they likely were disposed of at the Twins someplace. That's at least what happens to Catelyn in the books.

The spookiest potential Stark wight, though, is Rickon. Killed in the Battle of the Bastards, Jon explicitly said he meant to lay the youngest Stark to rest in the crypt beside Ned. Rickon's remains are still probably relatively fresh, too. While a wight of Ned would be upsetting to Arya, it likely won't actually look like her father, especially without a head. But a wight of Rickon will be recognizably, horrifically, her brother.

It's tough to speculate much more about what might actually happen if and when dead Starks start climbing out of their tombs. Loosing a bunch of dead in the crypts would probably mean the end of anyone who hides down there, and that could cost the entire battle. With Arya in the crypt, there might be a chance of fighting them off, but it's hard to see a win in that situation.

Could this be the Night King's play that allows him to take down Winterfell? Is this what Bran was talking about when he suggested to Jaime that the living might not make it out of the battle? We're stuck waiting until Episode 3 to find out.

We've got plenty more Game of Thrones coverage this and every week. Check out our review of Episode 2 (and one of the premiere episode), and get a look at how the show just fulfilled two major fan character ships. Here's a quick rundown of what the deal is with the song Podrick sang, where Jon's direwolf Ghost has been, what Arya might have asked Gendry to make, the meaning behind the crossbow Qyburn gave to Bronn in Episode 1, and a theory about Cersei's pregnancy. We've also got plenty of speculation and theories and a look at all the Easter eggs in the premiere episode and all its parallels to Season 1.

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Phil Hornshaw

GameSpot editor in Los Angeles, and the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero’s Guide to Glory. Hoped the latter would help me get Han Solo hair, but so far, unsuccessful.
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