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So, after watching the show last night-something really didn't make sense to me. The army surrounds the group, then it waits, and keeps waiting, until it finds out the lake is re-frozen(We know post-scene that the dead can survive underwater). Then it charges with minimal forces against a small group? Was this the real reason-or was it actually waiting for something else?

As in the dragons. After all, it was nothing for the Night King to take down a dragon with a karate chop. If so-how would he know they'd be coming?

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    They were waiting for Daenerys to come to the rescue. Plot Barrier stopped them from crossing the frozen crust. Plot Barrier! – Aegon Aug 21 '17 at 12:40
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    Another reason is that they have nothing better to do, so why rush? And that's why they only march at 10 miles per season... – Rebel-Scum Aug 21 '17 at 12:55
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    If they charge full force again, they risk breaking the ice again... – Skooba Aug 21 '17 at 13:11
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    Night King has rerolled his skill tree and swapped his element. Instead of controlling ice, he can now conjure all kinds of metal. Say, for example, chains. – Annatar Aug 21 '17 at 13:24
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    @TheLethalCoder The undead do attack some minutes before the dragons arrive, though, and kill the remaining redshirts. – Annatar Aug 21 '17 at 13:31
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The Night King and his army's motives are fairly mysterious. But we do know he knows when he is being watched by Bran, and seems to possess some magical abilities.

For instance, the Night King, (probably) in the past, marked Bran when he was checking out their army, negating the wards against them on the Three-Eyed-Raven's Cave.

Being able to know when he is being watched by a warg, and being able to mark Bran makes me believe that he has some sort of abilities related or akin to greenseeing. And greenseeing can take different forms. Jojen for instance, could glimpse the future.

So the obvious answer is that the dead were simply waiting things out, until the lake was frozen enough for them to cross and kill them. And they didn't send the whole hoard over all at once to make sure the ice would hold.

But the less obvious answer is this: the Nightking may know he needs an undead dragon to defeat man, and he may have been waiting to face a dragon that his side could kill. The Nightking might not know the particulars, but he could have an idea of possible futures. This isn't something we know, but it is possible.

You also ask about long-range weaponry. It's true, one of the White Walkers could have launched a spear at them, but we don't know how many spears they have, what it takes to make them and if they are a limited resource. Since these spears appear to the magical in nature (as in they shatter most steel) it might not be worthwhile to them. Common wights are cheap. I don't think their special weapons are.

Also, the White Walkers will be wanting the bodies of the heroes to rez as wights. There's no point in killing them until you can get them, and you can get them with a minimum amount of resource expenditure just by standing there.If you do kill one or two, the others might just burn the body before you can get to them, and that means you wouldn't get the bodies to make wights. In the books, wights seem to retain some semblance of knowledge and skills that they had in life. If I were the White Walkers, the fighting prowess of these guys would make it worth the wait so I could convert them.

In any case, their perception of time is not the same as ours. It's been thousands of years since the last attack, and they can afford to be patient.

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    +1 It's also possible the Night King realises these warm blooded humans are potentially useful to him, not just as dragon bait, but because they do things like plan to deliver wights right to the middle of the human capital city... more on that here movies.stackexchange.com/a/79194/9718 – user568458 Aug 21 '17 at 16:47
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The army surrounds the group, then it waits, and keeps waiting,

The wights first charged into the lake, thus collapsing it and deciding to stay back. They were effectively creating a siege. But instead of impenetrable walls, it was moat that kept them from charging.

until it finds out the lake is re-frozen

Once they figure out that the ice has refrozen, they attack once again. This proves that they were waiting for the ice to freeze.

(We know post-scene that the dead can survive underwater).

If the rock that Jon and co were standing on is rather steep (underwater), it's possible that they were not able to actually climb up the rock to attack Jon and co.
This also severely limits their numbers. Jon and co could form a circle around their rock, bashing every wight that slowly climbs up to the surface. This is essentially the same reason why Tyrion did not just have the Unsullied scale the walls of Casterly Rock: it's easier for a defender to knock the attackers down.

Then it charges with minimal forces against a small group?

Smaller groups reduces the chances of breaking the ice. This shows some intelligence on the wights' behalf. Not only can they figure out that the lake is frozen again from how that rock bounces over it, they have also learned to not all stand on the ice at the same time. They spread out their weight, and did not crush the ice a second time.

Was this the real reason-or was it actually waiting for something else?

Since the Walkers and the wights do not speak, it's hard to figure out their intentions. We can only judge their actions.

However, consider that both the Walkers and the wights are effectively immortal (they do not age). They can let Jon and co freeze or starve to death, with no cost to them.
Immortal beings have little regards for the passage of time. There is nothing wrong with waiting it out, because it's not like they have a schedule to stick to, nor is their time limited.

I do not think that they waited it out because of the dragons. The wights charge again immediately after finding out that the ice has refrozen, and the dragons had not yet arrived at that time.
While the Night's King may be aware of the existence of the dragons (due to being attuned to magic, similar to Quaithe's quote that "the glass candles are burning again"), they have no logical reason to know about Jon and Dany's alliance (unless they can spy beyond the wall, which has not been proven to be the case).

  • <nor is their time limited.> except winter will end (sooner or later, that is)? – Federico Aug 22 '17 at 6:59
  • @Federico GRRM has mentioned that the irregular seasons will be resolved at some point, so they're Walker-related. Also, the last incident with the Walkers was known as The Long Night. It stands to reason that the Walkers can control winter (even if they just unnaturally extend it but cannot do so permanently). Even if their time is limited in that sense, that's not really a reason that they can't wait a single day. – Flater Aug 22 '17 at 7:14
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Because The river had a thin layer of ice on it and apparently they would have drowned if they happened to cross that thin ice river. GRRM wanted us to know that Wight's got brains too, they're not only bones and mucus!

For the waiting part, I can only say that they spent an entire night there and as the river got the thick ice cover in the meantime this much suggest at least 12-15 hours of non-stop running by Gendry suffices the answer to that doubt.

They charged the small group after river got thick because the hound made them realise(Remember the part when he threw two big stones on them and the surface was still intact) that the river has frozen again and they are safe to walk over it.

Look all this is one of the probable reasons which could have happened since the show runners didn't show what actually held back the wight army. We can only contemplate a hell lot of this and that.

  • I've edited part of your answer and removed the question. If you have another question please use the Ask Question button – Edlothiad Aug 21 '17 at 14:14
  • GRRM wants us to know that Wights have no brains, their masters the Others do. – Aegon Aug 21 '17 at 14:27
  • Perhaps the NK actually wanted to kill and raise their rescuers, too? – Adamant Aug 21 '17 at 14:31
  • They spent several nights there, not just one. As long as it takes for a raven to fly 2,000 miles to Dragonstone, and Daenerys to fly back. – Mike Scott Aug 21 '17 at 15:13
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The Night King wanted a dragon. He knew his army would be defeated without that weapon. He knew they would send for help so they waited because they were ordered to wait. Remember they are dead. They have no minds of their own. Think about it. What would the final battle be like if the dragons were unleased on the army of the dead. Now there will be the shock value when the blue-eyed dragon appears...how the queen's heart will break... and the now evil dragon will fight the other dragons during the battle. Will the other dragons understand and fight the dragon or at least one be killed thinking they are greeting 'a friend.' This is all just my idea of what may happen. I have not read any of the books.

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    And how did the Night King know that a dragon would come if they waited long enough? – phantom42 Aug 21 '17 at 15:10
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    Where is your evidence for this theory? In my opinion this is a crack-pot theory? How would NK know dragons existed? He's been north of the wall this whole time. How would he know to wait? – Edlothiad Aug 21 '17 at 15:14
  • @Edlothiad: While I'm skeptical of the posted answer, NK can possibly know about their existence (but not their alliance with Jon, as far as I know). As Quaithe said, the glass candles are burning again. This implies that there has been a global resurgence of magic. The White Walkers are magical creatures, so they could be attuned to the same "frequency" as the glass candles. The glass candles are made from dragonglass, and we've seen NK being created by driving dragonglass through his heart. – Flater Aug 21 '17 at 15:19
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    @Edlothiad: One of Bran's vision have shown that White Walkers are created by shoving dragonglass in a man's chest. It's possible that the creation of a WW takes more than only doing this, but this directly connects the WW to dragonglass. Also, notice how she seems to carefully place the shard of dragonglass in his chest. It's likely that this shard was placed inside the Night's King, he wasn't just stabbed by it. If a dragonglass candle can burn based on the resurgence of magic, could the Night's King's shard not "resonate" from that same resurgence? – Flater Aug 21 '17 at 15:35
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    @Edlothiad: Quaithe's statement about the glass candles burning again implies that there is a significance to the global resurgence of magic. While I of course have no conclusive proof, it is not beyond the realm of possibilities that magical beings, who are created by using a material that is directly linked to detecting the global resurgence of magic (dragonglass candles), are able to detect the global resurgence of magic. That is nowhere near an unfounded crackpot theory. It's not definitive proof, but it remains possible nonetheless. I did not speak of "talking" to dragonglass. – Flater Aug 21 '17 at 16:08

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