'Game of Thrones' Crypts of Winterfell: Which Zombie Starks Will the Night King Awaken?

The crypts of Winterfell have featured prominently in everything HBO has revealed of Game of Thrones Season 8 thus far. In the first full trailer for the final season, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) finds Jon Snow (Kit Harington) down in the crypts, perhaps contemplating the Starks in a new light after learning his true name: Aegon Targaryen. An earlier teaser trailer ventures even further into the Stark crypts importance to the Game of Thrones mythology, as Jon Snow, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie Williams) venture down into the crypts, only to find statues of themselves, a reminder of death and, according to some fan theories, a hint at what's to be revealed about the Night King. But it's also possible the crypts of Winterfell will fulfill more than a symbolic or contemplative purpose in the final season of Game of Thrones. As the Night King sweeps down from the North, the bodies of the Stark ancestors entombed within might join his army of the dead.

This article has been updated throughout with new information from the first two episodes of Game of Thrones Season 8.

Zombie Starks in the Crypts of Winterfell?

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Daenerys seeks out Jon Snow in the crypts beneath Winterfell. HBO

It's possible Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow, the Stark sisters and the grand alliance they've formed will lose the Battle for Winterfell in Game of Thrones Season 8. The Night King's army could push Daenerys' forces back, possibly as far as King's Landing. If this were to happen, the dead of the North will rise up to join the army of the Night King. So who's buried down in the Winterfell crypts that could return as a wight turned against the still-living Starks?

We only get a barest sense of the scale of the Winterfell crypts in Game of Thrones, but there's reason to believe hundreds of Stark ancestors are buried in the multi-chambered dark beneath the castle, at least in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. While we know Lyanna Targaryen (née Stark), Jon Snow's mother, is buried in the crypts, much else is uncertain.

In the books, Lord Eddard Stark's bones went missing on their way back from King's Landing after his execution. Eddard has a statue, but his remains may not be down there for the Night King to resurrect. On the show, Ned's bones were returned to Catelyn Stark while she accompanied Robb and his bannermen during the War of the Five Kings. Much later, when Jon defeats Ramsay Bolton in the Battle of the Bastards at the end of Season 6, we indirectly learn that what's left of Ned likely made its way to Winterfell after all. When discussing what to do with Rickon Stark's remains, Jon says, "I'll bury him in the Crypts, next to my father."

It's also unclear whether Robb Stark's body ever made it back to Winterfell, though the mutilation it was subjected to by the Freys after the Red Wedding suggests not. His remains, like those of his mother, were likely disposed of ingloriously somewhere around The Twins, the setting of Season 3's infamous Red Wedding. (Catelyn's post-Red Wedding fate in the books is a much longer story.)

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How freaky would it be if the Night King brought this monstrosity back to life? HBO

More than an additional battalion or two of undead Stark zombies, the Night King may be able to turn the Stark's loved ones against them, like Barbara's brother returning as a ghoul in Night of the Living Dead.

In Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3, the crypts of Winterfell become a key part of the strategic plan Jon Snow outlines for the coming battle. The crypt will serve as a refuge for those who won't be participating in the battle. With so many references to the crypt made in Episode 3, there seems to be ample foreshadowing of dangers ahead. Perhaps they will be safe, or perhaps the people who hide in the crypt will be the ones turned. Rather than just Stark zombies, we could also see other major undead characters should the crypt be breached. Characters down in the crypt include Tyrion Lannister, Lord Varys, Samwell Tarly and Gilly.

Crypts of Winterfell Theories

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Jon Snow, Sansa Stark and Arya Stark in the crypt of Winterfell, as seen in the teaser for "Game of Thrones" Season 8. HBO

There are many fan theories surrounding the crypts of Winterfell, some of which feel like more plausible Game of Thrones Season 8 scenarios than others. It has been theorized that dragon eggs are hidden beneath Winterfell (based on a court jester's account relayed in The World of Ice & Fire), and that the Night King's wife has been sealed away below. But more likely than any specific secret squirrelled away in the crypts is the theory many have read into HBO's "Crypts of Winterfell" teaser trailer:

Why doesn't Bran Stark have a statue beneath Winterfell, like the other surviving Stark children? Could the teaser be hinting that Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) is the Night King? That's the surprising extrapolation many have made, and while it's outlandish to think HBO would drop esoteric hints about a massive last-season spoiler in a teaser trailer, the underlying fan theory is robust enough.

The theory holds that Bran will use his greenseer ability in an effort to alter history, going back to when the Children of the Forest first created the Night King. Warging himself into the sacrificial victim, Bran's future could be the Night King's past, his warg powers transformed into the Night King's ability to raise and control the dead.

(We investigated this theory in greater depth while contemplating the many possible answers to "Who will win the game of thrones?")

But Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3 "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" might have written an end to this fan theory, by revealing the Night King's long grudge against previous Three-Eyed Ravens.

"He'll come for me," Bran says in the episode. "He's tried before. Many times, with many Three-eyed Ravens."

The Night King isn't motivated by any personal connection to Bran, but instead hopes to erase all human memory by killing Bran, who is the embodiment of the collective history of Westeros. Bran plans to bait the Night King into the Winterfell godswood, which could also prevent him from venturing into the Winterfell crypt entirely.

From teasers and trailers, we know the crypts of Winterfell play both a symbolic and material role in Game of Thrones Season 8. In the past, the crypts have been a place of contemplation for Starks making difficult decisions. This time, they may instead be turned to the Night King's dark purpose, whatever that may be. We'll find out sometime after Game of Thrones returns to HBO for its final season on Sunday, April 14.

'Game of Thrones' Crypts of Winterfell: Which Zombie Starks Will the Night King Awaken? | Culture