The Night King is an ice man of many talents. He has the ability to turn human babies into White Walkers with the touch of a long-nailed finger tip; he’s the only one who knows when Bran is trying to spy on him; and Sunday night, he did what Qyburn’s big crossbow couldn’t: take down a dragon. With one toss of a frozen spear, the Night King pierced the nearly impenetrable skin of Daenerys’s dragon Viserion, causing the beast to implode and tragically crash to his death.
It was a horrific sight, but it was also undeniably impressive — after all, he killed one of the most intimidating figures in Game of Thrones with a mere flick of the wrist. Soon, many began lauding the Night King’s athletic skills, going so far as to declare him the next star of the Olympics, the Michael Phelps of javelin throwing. Before I totally jump off that ledge (The Ringer as a publication already totally has, by the way), I want to dive deeper into the Night King’s performance. Was it technically sound, or was the leader of the White Walkers exploiting some kind of supernatural spear enhancements? Is there evidence that the Night King is practicing the javelin and working on his form when he’s not slowly marching an army toward the Wall?
To find out, I called Kara Winger, a three-time Olympian in the javelin for the USA track and field team who holds the American record in the women’s javelin. Winger isn’t caught up on Game of Thrones the show — she’s read all five books — but she put aside all spoiler stress to watch the end of “Beyond the Wall” and evaluate the Night King’s spear-throwing skills.
So you’ve reviewed the tape?
I did, yes.
I think first we should talk about the Night King’s results, and then we can go deeper into his technique. So the results — are you impressed?
I mean, to kill a dragon with a spear is something that’d impress anybody. It’s hard to say — with the dragon coming at him, where he was standing, I’m sure the dragon’s speed played a role in the impact velocity — but he had to have thrown [the spear] over 150 meters, for sure. And then [when he missed Drogon], the spear flew farther and farther, so that’s — yeah, it’s probably even further than that. Maybe 1,000 meters.
And that’s good?
That’s like — that’s way past world records. Far, far beyond.
How heavy are the javelins that you throw?
The men’s javelin is about two pounds.
I’m guessing a spear made of ice is probably heavier than that.
Much heavier. Which, if you apply the same force to the heavier implement, it will be traveling with more speed and more deadly force.
So overall, the Night King did a great job at spear throwing.
Well, in terms of the outcome.
OK, so let’s go deeper: How’s his form?
So, yeah, the outcome is literally unbelievable when you watch him throw the spear.
Why’s that? Pick the Night King apart.
Well, he seems to get into a pretty good position with his right arm — he pulls the spear back behind him and it’s pretty long. The one shot where you can see the white part of the spear right down next to his cheekbone? That’s perfect; that’s exactly where you wanna be.
But it totally falls apart after that. He has no speed coming into the throw; he’s not nearly patient enough with his upper body to generate dragon-killing force. He shortens the arm at the last second, and he loses his chest — he doesn’t keep the tension, as we say.
What do you mean when you say he’s not patient enough?
Javelin is a reaction — it’s not really a throw, it’s a reaction to what the rest of your body is doing. So you have to be disciplined enough to keep your arm really long and relaxed behind you the whole time you’re doing the movement. So this guy gets into a pretty good position with his nice, long right arm, but you can’t throw the javelin your furthest if you break your elbow and turn it into a throw. You have to generate all of your force from your lower body, through your core, and into your upper body.
How’s his posture? He looks a little stiff to me. In some shots, he seems to just be standing upright.
Exactly. And when he goes to throw the spear at the second dragon, he doesn’t have any kind of approach at all. He’s basically doing a standing throw, which is not how you throw far … or kill dragons.
Did anything else stand out to you?
Well, he definitely had a good game face, I’ll give him points for that. And he has a caddy, a javelin caddy. I liked that.
Are the problems you pointed out ones that novice javelin throwers usually have?
His technical issues are the most common, for sure. Anybody who picks up a javelin and has never done it before is going to look like him.
But we’re in a results-driven world, and the Night King definitely got the results he wanted. At the same time, though, you’re saying you’re a little skeptical on how he got there.
Yeah — [something] supernatural, doping of some sort. … I think we need an anti-doping campaign, because his results are unbelievable with this technique.
Hopefully next episode Jon Snow’s like, “We need to open an investigation on this guy.”
Yeah! Drug test him!
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.