In Westeros, dragons are the end all and be all of power. Aegon the Conqueror only is known as “the conqueror” because he and his sisters landed in the Blackwater Rush with three dragons. Aegon’s ground forces were puny in comparison to kings like Harren Hoare, Torrhen Stark, Mern Gardener and Loren Lannister. But Aegon and his sisters’ dragons Balerion, Meraxes, and Vhagar burned away armies and fortifications and forced kings to surrender their crowns. At the end of Game of Thrones season 7 the White Walkers and the army of the dead have acquired that same overwhelming power through the fallen dragon Viserion. But Viserion is not a normal dragon, he’s been raised into the ranks of the White Walkers and gained their own inherent strengths. How can the living ever hope to stop this fantasy Voltron of ultimate power?
Dragons are incredibly powerful and extremely difficult to kill. Their scales and hides are extraordinarily tough once they are full grown. They resist arrows, swords, fire, and are bristling with razor-sharp claws, teeth and of course their ability to roast armies alive on the counterattack. How could they ever be taken down by mere humans? The books give us a few hints from the history of Westeros and beyond about how dragons in the past have been slain.
The eyes were where a dragon was most vulnerable. The eyes, and the brain behind them. Not the underbelly, as certain old tales would have it. The scales there were just as tough as those along a dragon’s back and flanks. And not down the gullet either. That was madness. These would-be dragonslayers might as well try to quench a fire with a spear thrust. “Death comes out of the dragon’s mouth,” Septon Barth had written in his Unnatural History, “but death does not go in that way.” – A Dance With Dragons, Tyrion XI
A unique problem with Viserion is that he has been changed into a White Walker himself which grants him additional protections. White Walkers are immune to normal forms of death. They freeze blades until they shatter, move with inhuman speeds, and have no need for breathing or food.
Fire doesn’t seem to deter them either; as we see from the show the White Walkers have strolled through blazing fires unfazed. There’s a possibility that the intense heat of dragon flame would kill a White Walker, although Viserion himself breathes fire after being raised and doesn’t seem harmed by it own flames, nor is the Night King.
They really are only susceptible to two things: dragonglass and Valyrian steel. Being touched by the metal or volcanic glass makes the Walker shatter and melt away almost instantly, their version of kryptonite. So we really only have the weaknesses to dragonglass and Valyrian steel, which are magical in nature, and maybe being shot through the eye as our options. Keeping these weaknesses in mind, let’s go through some ways you could take the beast down.
1. Other dragons
Overwhelmingly, the most common way the named dragons have died is at the claws and teeth of other dragons. Of the 29 named dragons, 11 of them died that way and in brutal fashion. Wings ripped off, necks torn open, stomachs opened by claws, and more. Dragon on dragon combat reduced the number of living dragons at the beginning of the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons drastically. The enormous loss of dragon firepower began the slow decline of Targaryen power into the current times.
George R.R. Martin has previously written dragon on dragon combat in the past, and it is brutal. From his novella The Princess and the Queen, we get this,
The attack came sudden as a thunderbolt. Caraxes dove down upon Vhagar with a piercing shriek that was heard a dozen miles away, cloaked by the glare of the setting sun on Prince Aemond’s blind side. The Blood Wyrm slammed into the older dragon with terrible force.
The combat is terrible, and shows us exactly how Viserion, the smallest of the three dragons, could easily be overwhelmed by its larger older siblings. But Viserion, according to the show, has been turned into a White Walker meaning that superior size and numbers may not be enough. Especially since Viserion destroyed the Wall in one long breath, its powers and strength may have increased dramatically. There’s a better example we can look at though. In the 1980 novella The Ice Dragon, GRRM gives us almost this exact scenario. One ice dragon fighting against two normal fire breathing dragons.
The blood-colored dragon flew too close, and the breath of the ice dragon blasted the rider. His bare chest turned blue before Adara’s eyes, and moisture condensed on him in an instant, covering him with frost. He screamed, and died, and fell from his moun, though the harness had remianed behind, frozen to the neck of his dragon. The ice dragon dragon closed on it, wings screaming the secret song of winter, and a blast of flame met a blast of cold. The ice dragon shuddered once again, and twisted away, dripping. The other dragon died.
This could be how it ends up going down. All three siblings killing each other in one final battle that leaves the world without the song of dragons once again, maybe for good. Although, they may be ineffective against the White Walker version of Viserion. Ripping out the throat of a being that no longer needs to breathe or blood to stay alive isn’t a great strategy. They could perhaps pull off Viserion’s wings or dismember him so that he is unable to fly or move effectively and then a brooding hero with a Valyrian steel sword stabs the beast ending it.
It is only because we see the dragon through the eyes of a little girl who is possessed by cold and winter itself that we see it as beautiful and majestic. In Game of Thrones we are lacking that perspective, how the White Walkers see Viserion, and that creates the expectation that Viserion is a villain that must fall. In The Ice Dragon, the death of the dragon is met with sadness from the main character Adara but also relief, that her strange connection with the dragon and winter has ended. Much like Adara, Danerys will surely feel complex emotions if she sees her “child” die again but perhaps similar relief that the nightmare is ending.
2. Enclosed spaces
The second most common way that dragons have died was in one night near the End of the Dance of the Dragons. The Dragonpit, that large arena last season where the summit of the various kings and queens in Season 7 was held, once was the home of the Targaryen dragons. Riots broke out in King’s Landing and a man known as “the Shepherd” led a mob thousands strong into the Dragonpit. He had whipped them up with religious fervor, proclaiming that the dragons were demons and the Targaryens the heathens that worshipped them. The mob went into the pit and with pitchforks, spears, swords, and whatever else they could find they killed every dragon inside for their Shepherd. How you ask? Because the pit used to have a dome over it and these dragons were smaller. With no escape route and lacking the strength to fight off all the people at once, the dragons were cut down one by one.
In principle, this could work for Viserion as well. If for whatever reason the dragon found itself underground again like in Meereen or prevented from flying away, conceivably you could stab it in the eyes. However, you would need specifically obsidian or Valyrian steel weapons for this to work. And there’s the complicating factor of the foot soldiers of the White Walkers that would make such a trap very dangerous. While you’re charging Viserion, the undead wights charge at you as well. And there may even be a silent blue King hurling spears your way. In the past of Westeros this tactic has been incredibly successful at slaughtering dragons, so it’s something to keep in mind as Viserion begins assaulting places like Winterfell with it’s large crypts and halls that could trap a dragon maybe long enough for a heroic sacrifice.
3. Qyburn’s Scorpion/Crossbows
In the Loot Train battle of last season, the power of Qyburn’s scorpion weapon was showed off. Drogon took a serious hit from the siege engine in the side and very nearly fell to its death with Dany. This is a way that in the past humans have killed dragons as well. Rhaenys, wife of Aegon the Conqueror and rider of Meraxes, was shot down out the sky in the same way.
It was at Hellholt where the Dornish had their greatest success against the Targaryens. A bolt from a scorpion pierced the eye of Meraxes, and the great dragon and the queen who rode upon it fell from the sky. In her death throes, the dragon destroyed the castle’s highest tower and part of the curtain wall. Queen Rhaenys’s body was never returned to King’s Landing.
There’s also the dragon Vermax ridden by Prince Jacaerys Velaryon who is rumored to have died by crossbow bolt in the Battle in the Gullet. The dragon flew too low to the fleet of the Greens, and then unexpectedly fell into the sea taking its rider Jacaerys into the deep with it. While it’s unknown what exactly killed Vermax, an arrow or scorpion bolt into an eye would fit the bill.
This is possible for Viserion as well as long as you replace the normal heads of the bolts with dragonglass or Valyrian steel. As discussed above, normal weapons won’t kill Viserion anymore.
The problem comes in actually hitting a flying dragon. As we saw with Bronn, firing these weapons under duress with pinpoint accuracy is incredibly difficult. If the White Walkers or Viserion see what you are up to you may be dead before you even get one shot off. They may even throw ice javelins impossibly far right back at you.
However, the show did give us this explicit possibility for a reason beyond wounding Drogon in battle. Planting a “Chekhov’s gun” or scorpion like this is a classic storytelling device where the writers inject in the minds of the audience an idea. To quote Anton Chekov,
If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired.
For our purposes, the gun is the scorpion technology. And now that a dragon is the explicit enemy of our heroes, that introduced technology looms large as a glaring possibility waiting to be fired.
4. Kill the Night King
The simplest one may just be killing the Night King who converted the dragon into a White Walker. As we saw last season when Jon killed a White Walker with Longclaw, killing a White Walker also kills their servants, as the wights collapsed without their master. The very same may happen if you kill the Night King: all those he raised into his service and undeath die with him. Although since getting to the Night King likely means going through his dragon first, this may be a theoretical and not proactive practical plan.
5. Weirwood arrows
This last possibility is one hinted at in the books and not shown to work, but an option that shouldn’t be ignored. Aegon the Conqueror, after taking the Southern kingdoms save for Dorne, marched his army and dragons North to meet the King of Winter, Torrhen Stark, at the Trident in battle. Torrhen heard ahead of time of the massacre known as the Field of Fire where Aegon and his sisters from dragonback roasted 4,000 men of the Reach and Westerlands alive then killed another 1,000 in combat in victory. He also saw the army of the Conqueror, now 45,000 men strong along with the three dragons, and rethought meeting them in combat. Some of the Northern lords urged him to surrender, others wanted war anyways against the dragons to die in a blaze of glory, but it was Torrhen’s bastard brother Brandon Snow who had the most interesting option.
The king’s bastard brother Brandon Snow offered to cross the Trident alone under cover of darkness, to slay the dragons whilst they slept. – TWOIAF. Reign of Dragons: The Conquest
How could one Northerner think that they could slay three dragons on their own without being stopped? Certainly not by running up and stabbing them, after the first one went down the cry would go up and Brandon would be caught. There’s not a good way of poisoning them either, as it’s unlikely that the Starks would even know what the dragons ate. And being at night, the dragons would be sleeping so their eyes would be closed. So how could he do it? The hint comes from Bran’s weirwood vision.
A dark-eyed youth, pale and fierce, sliced three branches off the weirwood and shaped them into arrows. – A Dance With Dragons, Bran III
Three branches, three dragons. This vision’s place in the scenes shown place it right in the correct time frame for the pale, dark-eyed youth being Brandon Snow. Brandon may have planned to fire off the three weirwood arrows at once at the dragons, and expected them to kill the beasts. This isn’t the only time arrows from weirwoods would kill a “dragon” either. At the battle of Redgrass Field, Daemon Blackfyre and his sons were also cut down by a shower of arrows fired from weirwood bows at the command of Lord Brynden Rivers, the man who would become later Bran’s teacher in the cave.
And there was his mortal error, for the Raven’s Teeth had gained the top of Weeping Ridge, and Bloodraven saw his half brother’s royal standard three hundred yards away, and Daemon and his sons beneath it. He slew Aegon first, the elder of the twins, for he knew that Daemon would never leave the boy whilst warmth lingered in his body, though white shafts fell like rain. Nor did he, though seven arrows pierced him, driven as much by sorcery as by Bloodraven’s bow. Young Aemon took up Blackfyre when the blade slipped from his dying father’s fingers, so Bloodraven slew him, too, the younger of the twins. Thus perished the black dragon and his sons. – The Sworn Sword
For some reason it is being repeated for us that weirwoods are thought to slay dragons. Certainly Brandon Snow bet his life on it with his offer of assassination. And it may work even better on Viserion, given the origin of the White Walkers. The White Walkers are made by the Children of the Forest, who draw their powers from the weirwoods. Perhaps, a piece of that power could kill a White Walker dragon dead with one shot. This is the most speculative of the possibilities for sure, however it is the one I would personally like seeing on the screen the most. The Old Gods slaying their own out-of-control creations with a sacrifice of their own trees would be a poignant ending.
Sadly though, Brandon never shot any arrows at the dragon and Torrhen knelt and gave up his crown. So this is by far the most tinfoily and speculative of the options presented.
I expect the combat from the Ice Dragon will be most likely how we see Viserion fall. It’ll be the most visually impressive, the most heart wrenching as the siblings rip each other apart, and gives the most opportunity for our heroes to show off their skills and knowledge. Danerys on Drogon, Jon or Tyrion on Rhaegal, and the sword Longclaw featuring prominently. George has even given us an example for how the dragonrider combat may go in the battle above the Gods eye between Prince Daemon Targaryen and Aemond One-Eye.
And it was then, the tales tell us, that Prince Daemon Targaryen swung a leg over his saddle and leapt from one dragon to the other. In his hand was Dark Sister, the sword of Queen Visenya. As Aemond One-Eye looked up in terror, fumbling with the chains that bound him to his saddle, Daemon ripped off his nephew’s helm and drove the sword down into his blind eye, so hard the point came out the back of the young prince’s throat. Half a heartbeat later, the dragons struck the lake, sending up a gout of water so high that it was said to have been as tall as Kingspyre Tower.
While Aemond, Ceraxes, and Vhagar all died afterwards, there are rumors that Daemon survived the fall and lived a quiet life out of sight with his lover. Should our heroes fall similarly with their dragons into a lake or the ocean, don’t be surprised if there is a Dark Knight Rises style post credits sequence.
Which of these possibilities do you favor and why is it Brandon Snow? Which other possibilities have you thought of how Viserion falls?