As Game of Thrones began its sixth season nearly three years ago, fans everywhere were asking one key question over and over again: Is Jon Snow really dead? That question turned out to have a somewhat complicated answer, but it captivated the fanbase to such a degree before the answer came that star Kit Harington couldn't go anywhere without being hounded about it. Over the past year and a half, Harington's co-star Kristofer Hivju has had a similar Jon Snow moment with his own character, the wildling leader Tormund Giantsbane.
Tormund — who's become a fan-favorite for his wild red beard, his fighting skills, and of course his enduring crush on Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) — was left with quite a cliffhanger at the end of Season 7 back in 2017. He was last seen on top of the Wall near Eastwatch by the Sea, fleeing for his life as the Night King razed a huge chunk of the Wall to the ground with the help of a newly dead Viserion. The episode didn't even attempt to provide a glimmer of hope for Tormund other than his ability to run away from the destruction, and we never saw any clues that would point to his survival or his death.
Then the Season 8 trailer finally arrived, and it revealed that Tormund is indeed very much alive. It was a moment of relief for a lot of fans, and especially for Hivju, who was so nervous about revealing spoilers that he tried to hide out as much as possible while the final season was filming in Belfast, and even turned down taking selfies with fans.
“We didn’t see him die; Season 8 could have started Episode 1 with dead Tormund,” Hivju told Entertainment Weekly.
Now that Tormund's alive and still in the fight against the army of the dead, the question remains: Exactly what will he be doing as part of the war effort in this final round of episodes? That's one of many plot threads being kept under wraps until the show actually airs, and Hivju certainly isn't telling, but when asked about Tormund's mindset heading toward the final showdown with the Night King, he did break down an interesting perspective. For everyone south of the Wall, the impending Long Night is a scary story they heard as children. For Tormund, it's both a scary story and an ever-growing reality that he's been actively fighting against for years north of the Wall.
“He wants closure,” Hivju said. “All the Free Folk grew up with the horror stories of the White Walkers, like that story Nan told Bran in Season 1 with the ice spiders — except having seen them. This has been the terror of their worst nightmare as long as they’ve existed. Tormund has confronted them many times. This is the nightmare moment where you have to face centuries of bad dreams.”
That nightmare moment begins when Game of Thrones returns April 14 on HBO. Hopefully Tormund can last just six more episodes and come out the other side.