could a modern military fend off game of thrones’ white walkers?
The Night King's army of the undead was an invincible foe in Westeros. But how well would his wights do against modern weapons, and could the defenders of Winterfell have replicated them?
They’re a ravenous horde that attacks through the fog of a blizzard summoned to hide their terrifying advance. Stab them with swords or shoot them with arrows all you want, unless you sever their heads or destroy their skulls, they’ll just keep coming. They feel no pain, fatigue, or fear. They exist only to destroy anything their leader, the Night King wills them to kill. Anyone who falls in battle joins them when their Zombie-in-Chief strikes on his best “come at me bro” pose. No wonder much of Westeros spends their time pretending they’re just old legends. The alternative is to accept the advance of a terrifying, unstoppable force, and that the only thing between them and a genocide of the living are nobles who shouldn’t be trusted to coordinate a Starbucks run based on the history of their military adventures.
Of course, this is in no small part because there isn’t really all that much the living can throw at the wights in the world of high fantasy. But how would we fare? Could modern armies stop the advance of hundreds of thousands of zombies, including reanimated giants and bears? They’re immune to swords and bullets would do little unless you hit the head every time, and the elite undead can only be killed with two special materials that are the stuff of legend. If Jon Snow had machine guns, bombers, and highly trained soldiers armed with today’s weapons at his disposal, how would he fare? Well, aside from his horrendous tactical planning, the Battle of Winterfell would be over very shortly after it started.
Despite his ability to reanimate anything dead, the Night King can’t resurrect ash, which is why the men of the Night’s Watch have their bodies burned after they die, and why fire tends to stop wights from advancing in battle. Luckily, one of the things we know how to create on a battlefield is fire, and lots of it. If a Jon Snow in modern Westeros really wanted to end the White Walker threat before it began, he would’ve launched a nuclear strike on the undead army when it pierced The Wall. The Night King and his elite squad would’ve survived, but they’d now have to rebuild their horde from scratch, practically recruiting door to door. Surely one irradiated strip of an inhospitable frozen wilderness is worth setting the undead threat back about a thousand years or so.
But we might not even have to go that far. A few massive airburst bombs dropped from a high-altitude bomber would pretty much do the same job without any of the radiation. Drones can then watch the White Walker retreat and plan surgical strikes against the Night King with the fabled dragon glass and Valerian steel. The only caveat for this scenario could be that in a more modern Westeros, the Night King would have more modern wights, capable of using guns and piloting planes. But even that would make them only as dangerous as a modern army of the living, and they could be taken out using the same exact weapons to very similar effect. Large caliber headshots put down any wight for good, and air defenses would reduce a zombie air force to a drizzle of scrap metal.
And that brings us back to the Westeros of high fantasy where there is a weapon that works an awful lot like a tactical nuke. I’m talking about the Wildfire used in the Battle of Blackwater Bay, and to end the threat of a totalitarian theocracy by the cult of The Sparrows at King’s Landing. Cersei could’ve sent skilled artisans and raw ingredients to create a massive minefield with hundreds of barrels of Wildfire. Let the wights advance in full force and get vaporized in the green flames, while pelting the remaining undead with Wildfire Molotov cocktails launched by catapults. While the battle to stop them would’ve still been brutal and bloody, far fewer lives would have been lost and far more tricks could have been employed for a shot at killing the Night King without hoping for a young hero to save the night, as it were.
But of course, like most sociopaths faced with a cataclysmic situation, Cersei is happy to let the threat kill those she sees as her enemies before feeling bothered to do anything about it, so the odds of getting anything Wildfire related from her were zero to none. That said, one wonders why the all-knowing Three Eyed Raven couldn’t look into the past and get a recipe, along with tips and tricks on how to get the end product correctly, then use it as part of the plan instead of taking the “I’m helpless bait to lure him out” part way too seriously and allowing Jon and Dany to pursue the Lord Farquad strategy. Many of their forces died, but that was a chance they were willing to take to see if maybe dragon fire melted the Night King and go from there…