Cersei: Highgarden has bought us the most powerful army in Essos: the Golden Company. Twenty-thousand men, horses – elephants, I believe.
At the end of the seventh season of Game of Thrones, Cersei Lannister confided in her brother Jaime that she planned to reinforce their position in the south with sellswords from across the Narrow Sea, by using looted Tyrell gold to hire the famed Golden Company. This information made more of an impression on those familiar with the book series than the average show watcher. Appearing relatively late in the books, the Golden Company is inexorably entwined with elements that have been omitted from the television series, but even without all that book context the show has given us enough to talk about the Golden Company and how they might factor into Season Eight.
First referenced in A Feast for Crows, we learn that the Golden Company has broken their military contract with Myr, something so unusual that Cersei Lannister’s small council makes note of it. If one should talk to readers who’d journeyed through A Dance With Dragons and inquired about the Golden Company, one could hear accounts of Jon Connington, Old Griff and Young Griff, the Shy Maid, Aegor “Bittersteel” Rivers and his feud with Brynden “Bloodraven” Rivers, and the ruinous Blackfyre Rebellions.
But none of that is in the show. There’s been no discussion of Aegon IV legitimizing his Blackfyre bastards, the years of rebellious conflict, the unsuccessful rebels forming the Golden Company in exile in Essos, nor of former Hand (and greyscale sufferer) Jon Connington. So, it is unlikely that the appearance of the Golden Company in Season Eight will strictly adhere to whatever GRRM has planned for them in The Winds of Winter and beyond. Setting old dynastic disputes and century-long feuds aside, let’s focus on what the show may make of this mercenary company in the final season.
Jaime: When the fighting in the North is done, someone wins. You understand that, don’t you? If the dead win, they march south, and kill us all. If the living win and we’ve betrayed them, they march south and kill us all!
MEN, HORSES, AND ELEPHANTS. OH MY.
Cersei conveniently assigns a number to the Golden Company’s troop strength, on the order of twenty-thousand men. That’s equivalent in quantity to the amount of scrappy soldiers Robb Stark brought with him in the first season. But the Golden Company’s effective strength is probably much more in regards to quality.
Lyanna Mormont: Hmmph.
Me: To simplify my math, I’m not really talking about the contribution from Bear Island.
Lyanna Mormont: Harrumph.
Even though the show presents the soldiery of Westeros as uniformly armed and armored by region (with the Lannister forces richly attired and the northerners much more plainly kitted out) it should be understood that most of the fighting men in the armies of the Seven Kingdoms are not professionally employed. They’re mostly simple smallfolk who’ve been conscripted to march along with their lords.
Fishermen and farriers and farmers.
This was evident when the Dothraki broke the ranks of the Lannister troops escorting the spoils of war taken from the Reach.
Your people can’t fight.
Sellswords are professional soldiers. War is what they do. The effectiveness of Stannis’s forces against the wildling army, a numerically greater but undisciplined host, is a demonstration of that.
Mance: To be fair to us, the teeth-grinder attacked us by surprise.
Renly: He attacked me by surprise too!
Stannis: When you’ve got it, flaunt it.
Stannis fared a bit worse with his sellsword force later on, a force which abandoned him when his southbound army was snowbound and crippled by sabotage. (I assume his mercenary cavalry went directly to Winterfell to pledge their swords to the Boltons, since there’s been no mention on the show of a large band of armed and hungry cavalrymen roaming about the North.)
Queen Cersei is no doubt banking on the Golden Company’s military experience and reputation to not only provide the fighting edge against anything coming south, but also to not abandon her if things get hairy.
We don’t know the amount of fighting men the North are fielding, although King in the North Jon Snow has made it a priority to get as many able-bodied men and women ready for combat in the face of the impending assault by the army of the dead.
Daenerys brings with her a host of Dothraki cavalry and roughly eight thousand Unsullied. (Some number of Unsullied were lost to the Sons of the Harpy in Meereen.) There’s been no estimate of the Dothraki numbers, but Khal Drogo’s fighting khalasar was occasionally referenced as numbering forty-thousand, a size that Viserys Targaryen hoped and Robert Baratheon feared was sufficient to reclaim the throne. This is a reasonable benchmark in estimating Dany’s horsepower.
Depending on what happens when the North encounters the White Walkers, the number of soldiers in the combined Stark/Targaryen defense forces will drop. But barring any catastrophic losses, if the Stark/Targaryen coalition is successful in repelling the army of the dead, they’ll probably have a numerical edge on forces in the field defending Cersei’s position. But a simple numerical edge might not be enough.
The northerners (and allies) will probably have to substantially outnumber the sellswords to overcome the Golden Company’s experience.
This depends entirely on dragons though.
Dragons are certainly a force-multiplier for the northern army. Cersei seemed to emphasize that the Golden Company had elephants, as if that somehow was the same as having dragons. They’d have to be very, very impressive (and fireproof) elephants to stack up.
When Aegon the Conqueror first set his sights on becoming king of the Seven Kingdoms, he didn’t have anywhere near the number of troops required to do so. But he had three dragons.
- Dragons allowed Aegon to destroy Harrenhal, a massive Ironborn citadel in the Riverlands
- Dragons allowed Aegon to defeat a huge combined army from the Reach and the West numbering over fifty thousand.
- Dragons awed the lord of the Reach into pledging fealty to Aegon’s cause outright.
- Aegon’s triumphs with the dragons convinced Torrhen Stark to kneel as a king and rise as Warden of the North, with no loss of northern lives.
Dany’s dragons should be enough to deal with a sellsword army roughly a third of the size that Aegon faced. Or will they be enough?
Cersei: She came here with her dragons and her Dothraki and her Unsullied – she came to show us all her power. Something must have happened. Her dragons are vulnerable.
When Jaime led an army west to capture and loot Highgarden, he brought along a wagon-carried scorpion. (Military buffs will call it a ballista – it’s a big crossbow.) Jaime had the scorpion as part of his wagon train, but without any serious thought that he’d be facing a dragon during the expedition. If any crew had been assigned to the scorpion, they were absent when Drogon attacked, opening up the Lannister ranks for the Dothraki charge. Bronn tried to take down Dany’s flying mount with the weapon, but was unsuccessful. Still, not bad for an amateur.
Bronn: Amateur? For all you know, I’m an expert scorpion gunner. You saw me fire that flaming arrow into the wildfire at the Blackwater.
Me: I’ll retract my use of the word amateur. But I was trying to rationalize you missing.
Bronn: Maybe I was just trying to scare it off.
Had Jaime’s men been prepared for the dragon assault, and maybe had a few more wagons with scorpions, Dany might have lost a dragon before Viserion was taken down by an icy javelin.
Scorpion aren’t always effective (as Bronn amateurly demonstrated) but the Dornish killed Rhaenys Targaryen’s dragon Meraxes with a scorpion bolt, and Jacaerys Velaryon’s dragon was brought down by warships during the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons. Conventional and heavy weapons can work.
The Golden Company, when briefed on the possibility of facing dragons, would be wise to prepare scorpions as defensive measures against aerial attack. For all we know, the elephants Cersei mentions as being in the company’s complement have already been used for carrying siege weaponry in the field. Elephants might not be as impressive as dragons, but they’re certainly more impressive than wagons.
This all assumes that the northern coalition will be coming south to air their grievances with King’s Landing’s lack of support. The grimmer possibility for Cersei and the Golden Company would be not the living coming south, but the implacable army of the dead relentlessly hunting the living.
We don’t have specifics on the size of the horde that shambled through the Wall at the end of last season, or if early in the eighth season their numbers will be decreased (because of potential exposure to dragonfire) or increased (because of fresh northern recruits for their army) but it’s reasonable to assume – if only for the stakes of the conflict – that the wight army will be comparable in size if not vastly greater to Cersei’s southern forces.
Hypothetical elephant-mounted scorpions might still be somewhat effective against the dangerous ghoul-dragon Viserion (the Night King might not enjoy being hit by a scorpion-bolt) but unless the missiles are bearing Valyrian-steel heads, the shafts will be more of an annoyance than a threat.
The Golden Company enjoys the benefit of their soldiers’ discipline relative to the average conscripted Westerosi infantryman – but that can’t compare to the discipline of the wights. The undead don’t get spooked, they give maximum effort, and when directed they follow their directions without question.
But Golden Company elements might have some tactical success versus the undead in one particular respect. Elephants might be the only conventional aspect to counter the undead giants who are marching along with resurrected wildlings.
If the common interpretation of the first teaser trailer is correct, the Riverlands could see a tremendous battle between the wights and the living (as symbolically represented by the animated teaser’s ice and fire motif) – probably near the rivers of the Trident. The show has gone to some lengths to indicate that the wights are not adroit in water, so crossing rivers would probably best be done at fords – but the undead giants could wade across otherwise impassable stretches without floundering or being swept away.
Living giants are difficult enough for humans to deal with, but the undead variety would be so much worse. But elephants are on the same scale as the giants. Even without Valyrian steel blades strapped to their ivory tusks (don’t rule it out) the brutal impact of charging elephants could cripple or debilitate even a giant wight – making it an easier target to handle with conventional flame.
Elephant tusks are useful for ripping up trees – a wight giant might not be harmed all that much by being impaled on an ivory tusk, but an elephant can generate tremendous consussive force with them.
(It’s too much to hope that ivory could fortuitously have the same kind of properties that dragonglass would have on wights. I don’t think there’s anything particularly magical about the dentine that makes up ivory tusks, the way obsidian represents the frozen fire of volcanic deposits.)
If giants are ordered across rivers in advance of the wights to secure the crossings, the Golden Company could engage with this advance guard using the elephants to neutralize the giants.
The immediate concern would be this: the Golden Company might not be the only army with pachyderms in their midst.
Mammoths exist north of the Wall, and although no zombie mammoth has been seen on the show yet, the giants with Mance Rayder’s wildlings made use of mammoths in their siege of Castle Black. Dead giants are part of the undead army, so it’s reasonable to imagine that some of those giants have their huge beasts with them as reanimated mammoths. (If the White Walkers can reanimate a massive polar bear, they should be able to reanimate a mammoth.)
With the Night King obtaining an undead dragon as a counter to Daenerys Targaryen’s aerial firepower, the existence of wight-Mammoths would continue a pattern of the White Walkers being able to match the advantages that the living enjoy.
Desperate elephant cavalry versus lumbering monster mammoths would be a spectacle. But the participation of the Golden Company in Season Eight doesn’t have to be limited to spectacle.
Midway through Season Seven, Cersei first brought up the Golden Company when discussing repayment to the Iron Bank.
Cersei: I need to expand my armies, my navies. My Hand Qyburn has made overtures to the Golden Company in Essos.
Tycho Nestoris: I know them well. They’ve helped us recover significant sums from parties who have fallen in deep arrears.
Cersei: That’s good to hear. I too would like them to recover some things that belong to me.
It’s possible that Cersei is referring to any parts of the Seven Kingdoms not directly under her control when she talks about recovering things that belong to her. Taking control of the North would probably qualify. But it seems a bit of a redundant statement to make, since she already announced her intent to Iron Bank representative Tycho Nestoris that she plans on re-establishing control of the continent.
Cersei’s statement has the feel of something more personal in mind. She’s lost much during her time on the show, but most of those are things that can’t be recovered, certainly not by the Golden Company. No sellsword can return to her her three dead children, or her father. (Or her dignity, lost to the Walk of Shame.)
It’s reasonable to suggest that the things (plural) she’s referring to are her brother Tyrion and her sister-in-law Sansa Stark. Until Jaime secured his condemned brother’s clandestine release, Tyrion had been in Cersei’s power, doomed to die as a result of being found guilty of regicide. Sansa had been a valuable hostage and something of a project for Cersei, when there was the possibility of Sansa marrying Joffrey. Until Sansa was spirited away from King’s Landing by the late, unlamented Littlefinger.
We’ve seen sellswords engage in special forces operations before.
In the third season when Daenerys was threatening Yunkai, the sellsword captains of the Second Sons drew lots to see which of them would infiltrate the Khaleesi’s camp and assassinate her. Daario Naharis got the assignment, and he did successfully infiltrate her camp (presumably killing an Unsullied so he could get the distinctive helmet and gear as a disguise) but rather than killing Dany, he pledged his loyalty (with the heads of the other Second Sons captains in a bag as a show of good faith.)
Would Cersei still desire to send a Golden Company commando team to infiltrate Winterfell and abduct both Tyrion and Sansa? At the end of last season, there was some unresolved negotiation happening between the Lannister siblings. Tyrion was under Cersei’s power, but she let Tyrion leave her quarters without having the gruesome Gregor Clegane bisect him. It seems like Tyrion is safe at the moment while whatever plan Cersei possibly hatched with him is underway.
But Sansa is a different story. Sansa was a valuable hostage when Ned was taken after Robert Baratheon’s death, and could be useful as a hostage again. In the negotiations at the Dragonpit, Cersei tried to separate her enemies by insisting that she’d only cooperate if the King in the North Jon Snow swore to stay out of the eventual resumption of hostilities between her and Daenerys.
This was stymied by Jon announcing his fealty to Daenerys. To have leverage over the North now, Cersei would need to have control of Ned Stark’s precious girl. Abducting Sansa and holding her as a hostage could do just that.
Daenerys: And the #Jonsa people will find a way to blame me for this.
Of course, any plan to abduct Sansa from the heart of the North could easily backfire, which would have serious consequences.
Jaime: Hey, I’m here to help, but I’m the only one.
Daenerys: What about the Lannister troops your sister promised?
Jaime: Oh, turns out she lied.
Jon Snow: Well, that’s alright. We kind of knew that was going to happen.
Daenerys: Did we?
Jon: Didn’t we?
Bran: I did.
Guard: Your Grace! A ruffian tried to abduct Lady Sansa. Lady Arya has extracted a full confession. He’s a Golden Company sellsword, sent by Cersei Lannister.
Jaime: I didn’t know anything about this.
Daenerys: Didn’t you?
Bran: He didn’t know anything about this. But he did once push me out of the Old Tower window, in case anyone’s interested in that information.
So it is possible that the employment of the Golden Company could have a more personal impact on the plot, instead of just muscle for Cersei.
That is, if they even will be working for Cersei.
Back when Lord Eddard Stark was alive and Hand of the King, Petyr Baelish responded with a question to Ned’s assertion that the Hand needed the support of the city watch goldcloaks – men who had a duty to keep the king’s peace.
“Ah, but when the queen proclaims one king and the Hand another, whose peace do they protect?” Lord Petyr flicked at the dagger with his finger, setting it spinning in place. Round and round it went, wobbling as it turned. When at last it slowed to a stop, the blade pointed at Littlefinger. “Why, there’s your answer,” he said, smiling. “They follow the man who pays them.”
— A Game of Thrones, Eddard XIII
It was not only distasteful to Ned Stark to have to bribe the City Watch to back his role as Protector of the Realm – an assignment ordered by King Robert on his death bed – it was also a disaster.
Janos Slynt and the goldcloaks had already been bought with Lannister promises of rewards, in exchange for betraying the Starks and murdering Ned’s men in a coup.
Loyalty can’t always be bought. Or rather, when loyalty is for sale, it often goes to the highest bidder.
Baelish: Or to the man who is actually paying for the services.
Cersei expects the loyalty and support from the Golden Company; she takes it for granted. It hasn’t been explicitly established on the show, but the book version of the sellsword company has a strong reputation. They’re known for keeping to their contracts.
Until they’re not.
“Whilst we await Lord Walder’s death, there is another matter,” said Aurane Waters. “The Golden Company has broken its contract with Myr. Around the docks I’ve heard men say that Lord Stannis has hired them and is bringing them across the sea.”
— A Feast for Crows, Cersei IV
In the books, the Golden Company broke an existing military contract with Myr because it was seizing the opportunity to participate in the succession struggle happening in Westeros. That particular scenario won’t necessarily be replicated on the show, but it indicates that if the stakes are high enough and the opportunity too enticing to pass up, the sellswords might have their own ideas.
Cersei has had no direct dealings with the Golden Company. She’s had Qyburn make the business proposals, and has apparently sent Euron Greyjoy as her agent to close the deal and ferry the sellswords to the Seven Kingdoms.
Like Ned putting his trust in Baelish to deliver the goldcloaks, Cersei’s faith that Euron will fully represent her interests to the Golden Company might not play out as she expects.
The show has not been shy in telegraphing a potential betrayal from Euron.
Cersei: My armada owns the Narrow Sea.
Tycho Nestoris: Euron Greyjoy’s armada owns the Narrow Sea.
Cersei: Euron Greyjoy is loyal to me.
Tycho: For now.
Euron on the show has similarities to his namesake in the books, but he’s not really fulfilling the same apocalyptic pirate-warlock role. But he is also similar to another nautical character in Cersei’s employ, Aurane Waters. In A Feast for Crows, Cersei entrusts the handsome and roguish Aurane with command of a newly constructed (and expensive) fleet of warships. But the bastard of Driftmark spares no time in stealing the fleet for himself – with the possibility of becoming a pirate king of the isles between Westeros and Essos.
Like Aurane, Euron might plan on making free use of Cersei’s resources for his own personal gain. And in a typical reversal of fortune for the Lannister queen, these plans might include supporting Daenerys over Cersei.
Euron came to Cersei’s court, with the stated motivation of wanting to marry the most beautiful woman in the world.
Cersei: Obviously, he means me.
Snow White: As if.
Euron on the show sometimes bears more of a resemblance to his macho-pirate brother Victarion, who was sent by the wizardly Euron to Daenerys to offer a marriage proposal on Euron’s behalf, with an offer of ships for Dany. In Season Eight, Euron and his shiploads of Golden Company troops might try to win over Daenerys, the more likely candidate for his most beautiful woman in the world. Sorry Cersei.
A potential Euron proposition to Dany might involve a classic carrot-or-stick angle. Daenerys could marry Euron and supplement her troops with experienced Golden Company sellswords. Or she could face not only an army of the dead, but an army of the living, complete with elephants.
Euron: But it won’t come to that. She’ll certainly be impressed by my charms.
Dany: Or I could let my dragons loose on your troops. Your elephants don’t impress me.
Euron: Don’t your dragons have another dragon to worry about? I don’t know why you are worrying your pretty little head when I’m here to think for you.
Cersei will predictably be outraged if Euron takes any action other than she expects, but the more interesting question would be how Daenerys will react to any negotiation from Euron, weighing the need for manpower to resist the White Walkers against her outstanding issues with Euron Greyjoy:
- Her alliance with Yara Greyjoy.
- Euron’s annoying naval victories over Dany’s forces.
Jon Snow might have opinions as well on Daenerys considering a marriage proposal by Euron.
Jaime: I sympathize.
But, it’s also worthwhile to consider the opinions that the Golden Company might have. They could certainly have their own agenda, one which might surprise Euron.
As mentioned above, the nature of the Golden Company – Westerosi expatriates descended from Blackfyre rebels – hasn’t been covered by the show. But the current crisis in Westeros represents opportunities for the exiled sellswords in regaining lost lands and honors in Westeros. Provided they choose the winning side.
Regardless of what Cersei expects or Euron wants, the Golden Company might not be interested in fighting against the side that has actual dragons.
With Season Eight being the final season of Game of Thrones, it seems late to be bringing in a new (possibly-autonomous and pursuing their own agenda) faction into the show. But I once didn’t know that the show could introduce an unnamed wildling chieftain in the middle of an episode, make her my favorite character, kill her off, and resurrect her as a wight in roughly 20 minutes time.
Even though the Golden Company has only been mentioned twice on the show (the length of this feature is wildly out of proportion) a huge army of sellswords (with elephants) should be able to find a place in the epic scale of the final episodes. At the very least, they can introduce some new characters, make them my favorites, kill them off, and reanimate them as wights. Possibly with wight-elephants.
Wight-elephants on fire.
That would be impressive.
A: See 100,000 zombies, White Walkers, and NK riding undead dragon, mutter “F*ck me. I didn’t sign up for this”… and turn tail and run.
P.S. I’m still hoping to see wight pachyderms. After the showrunners gave us Toby the Zombie Polar Bear in S7, they need to go bigger in S8…
… or smaller but in greater numbers,e.g., flocks of wight chickens for Sandor Ahai to make shish kabob with his flaming sword.
I enjoy the direction the show taken because it works on the format and it’s nice and streamlined. But I’m a huge book fan and all the threads that were cut in the show I get.. but the whole backstory of the golden company is lacking in game of thrones and there’s barely any mention about blackfyre rebellions and leaving out the actual backstory of the golden company and no aegon and Jon Connington kind of makes the golden company in the show unrelated to the book one.. other than that they are sellsword company from Essos .. with elephants
“We don’t know the amount of fighting men the North are fielding, although King in the North Jon Snow has made it a priority to get as many able-bodied men and women ready for combat in the face of the impending assault by the army of the dead.”
Season 7 gave us two different (irreconcilable?) numbers for Northern fighting men: 10,000 or 20,000?
(S7e4, Jon & Davos: ~ 10,000 men)
Jon: “I saw the Night King, Davos. I looked into his eyes. How many men do we have in the North to fight him? 10,000? Less?”
(S7e6, Sansa and LF – 20,000 men)
Sansa: “We’re asking 20,000 men to fight with us in the worst winter any of them have ever seen. The weather will be the least of their problem. Many of them will be happy to find a good reason to go home.”
LF: “You question their loyalty?”
Sansa: “Their loyalty is to Jon. Jon is not here. I haven’t heard from him in weeks.”
Note: Sansa’s number apparently included 2,000 Vale men; not sure if Jon counted them.
(S7e5, Sansa & Arya)
Sansa: “Glover has 500 men, Royce has 2,000. Offend them and Jon loses his army.”
Thanks for the article Patrick! I’m glad you brought up Euron who puts the wild in wild card. There are also a few assumptions. He was there at the Dragonpit meeting – will he tell the Golden Company about the dead? Do they even know who they are fighting against? None of that was really discussed. How much did Qyburn tell them? Did they accept a contract and the money without knowing who they’re fighting against? I also mentioned in another post during the season 7 post-episode articles that I can definitely see the show writers implementing the GC “abandoning their contract” plot from the books into Season 8 by making it so that the sell swords abandon Cersei in favour of Dany.
Also, I can’t help but think about the possibility that the GC may have new soldiers who were former slaves …. former slaves freed by Dany. I’m not entirely convinced the GC will be fighting for Cersei.
I do think that we should expect more scorpions against Dany’s remaining dragons for the final season, however, my question is when? If the GC will indeed fight against Dany and her dragons, will they know about the wight-dragon as well? And if so, they probably want Dany’s dragons alive to help fight poor undead Viserion first before they attempt to kill Dany’s remaining dragons.
I assume the Golden Company (and their elephants) will either become AOTD fodder or they’ll turn on Cersei and join Team Boatsex to help finish Cersei off.
“We don’t have specifics on the size of the horde that shambled through the Wall at the end of last season, or if early in the eighth season their numbers will be decreased (because of potential exposure to dragonfire) or increased (because of fresh northern recruits for their army) but it’s reasonable to assume – if only for the stakes of the conflict – that the wight army will be comparable in size if not vastly greater to Cersei’s southern forces.”
At the S7e7 Dragon Pit summit, Dany said she saw at least 100,000 AotD beyond the Wall.
Dany: “I didn’t believe it until I saw them. I saw them all.”
Euron: “How many?”
Dany: “A hundred thousand, at least.”
Oh Ten Bears, you are a leg-puller! I vaguely remember something being suggested about Daario possibly serving with the Golden Company. I looked at Michiel Huisman’s (apologies to any Dutch readers if I have written his name wrongly) entries on Wikipedia and imdb and he seems to have been fairly busy with other projects the last couple of years and as far as I recall nobody reported seeing him in Belfast when season 8 was filming. I wouldn’t be surprised if elephants do feature in season 8 – GRRM likes to draw inspiration from real world history and put his own spin on it and from my long, long, looooooooong ago school history lessons I remember something about the Carthaginian general, Hannibal, marching elephants across the Alps. Well I guess in GoT the pachyderms will only have to cross the Narrow Sea.
Always felt like the Golden Company and other mercenary bands only existed in the books because George kept decimating armies and needed backup supplies for the blood and bone mills.
At least it’s better setup than the apparently thousands strong army of hill tribesman within riding distance of Riverrun that never bothered to march to war with Robb
“Hypothetical elephant-mounted scorpions might still be somewhat effective against the dangerous ghoul-dragon Viserion (the Night King might not enjoy being hit by a scorpion-bolt) but unless the missiles are bearing Valyrian-steel heads, the shafts will be more of an annoyance than a threat.”
I thought it’s been established that all of the known Valyrian steel weapons are now in the North or headed that way:
Oathkeeper c/o Brienne
Longclaw c/o Jon Snow
Catspaw Dagger* c/o Arya
Heartsbane c/o Sam
Widow’s Wail* c/o Jaime
* Subject to renaming.
There’s no indication Cersei has dragonglass to make anti-zombie weaponry. However, she does have the Alchemists Guild (pyromancers) to manufacture wildfire.
Dame of Mercia,
The only problems I have with elephants (aside from the logistics of transporting them in Euron’s moderately sized warships), is that the Lord of the Rings movies did just about everything conceivable with elephants in battle scenarios. I’m not sure what more GoT could do.
Have them immediately panic when they see a dragon and stamp on their own army lol
“But Sansa is a different story. Sansa was a valuable hostage when Ned was taken after Robert Baratheon’s death, and could be useful as a hostage again. In the negotiations at the Dragonpit, Cersei tried to separate her enemies by insisting that she’d only cooperate if the King in the North Jon Snow swore to stay out of the eventual resumption of hostilities between her and Daenerys.
This was stymied by Jon announcing his fealty to Daenerys. To have leverage over the North now, Cersei would need to have control of Ned Stark’s precious girl. Abducting Sansa and holding her as a hostage could do just that.”
I’m with you on this one. Cersei abducting Sansa will incense Jon, who’d warned LF “touch my sister and I’ll kill you myself” (Jon, while choking LF in S7e2).
[Tinfoil Alert ⚠️]
After multiple tears of Cersei’s torso by Arya’s blades cause Cersei to drown in her own blood, Jon aka Aegon “the little brother” Targaryen will come along and wrap his hands around Cersei’s pale white throat and choke the life out of her.
I will raise your tinfoil theory to this: I once saw a Valyrian to “Common Tongue” translation for “Valonqar”, in addition to meaning little brother, it also translated to “cousin” …. meaning if Jon’s parentage becomes known, the remaining Starks will be “cousins.” And the prophecy is pretty general so a certain badass warrior can certainly be a candidate to fulfilling that prophecy. Coincidentally, I can no longer locate that translation that I could’ve sworn was on the ASOIAF wiki…but alas …maybe it was taken down.
What if Theon is able to somehow save Yara and get rid of Euron and then they both take command of the royal navy and convince the Golden Company to fight for Daenerys? It’d be Theon’s ultimate redemption. He once left the Starks to go get some ships to help them win the war. He’d fulfill his duty by coming back not only with ships but with a powerful army. It’d be epic to see Theon coming back with the much needed support to tip the balance in favor of the living.
There is also Jorah. He mentioned to have joined the Golden Company once in S4
Well, I thought it was curious that Maggy the Frog would use a High Valyrian word in her prophecy to tween Cersei.
How many Valyrian families were there/are there? Just one. The Targaryens. (And as Dany was fond of saying, she is Daenerys Targaryen of “the blood of Old Valyria.”)
So why else use a term in a foreign language? It’d be like referring to a woman as “Fraulein” or “Frau” – you’d assume she was German or Austrian.
Maybe the twist-upon-a-twist GRRM was constructing was that Cersei would assume the Valonqar referred to Tyrion; the reader might speculate it’s really Jaime; but it will turn out to be the Valyrian Targaryen “little brother” she won’t know existed until right before he strangles her.
Never heard of the term embracing “cousin” as well as brother. Even if it did, the prophecy is phrased in the masculine (“his” hands) so that the strangler’s got to be a boy or man.
That doesn’t exclude a female cousin or sister joining in the fun by causing the “tears” that “drown” Cersei…
There were many in Valyria, and the Targaryens were a somewhat minor family. Of course the Targaryens were the only to survive by leaving a decade before the Doom thanks to Daenys the Dreamer’s dream.
I agree that’s why I didn’t try to factor in much from the books that wouldn’t likely make it into Season 8. At most, the GC would have a history of Westerosi expatriates.
These are all good questions! And I completely agree that killing Dany’s dragons while Viserion is still in play would be a terrible move.
Ten Bears, I appreciate you providing the troop strength quotes. The various numbers for northern fighting men makes things difficult to judge, as well as Dany’s count of the wights. Since we viewers saw no giants at the lake encounter with Jon’s expedition, Dany could only have seen part of the Army of the Dead.
I believe people started calling her Maggy from “Maegi” because she came from Essos, so her speaking Valyrian isn’t too much of a stretch. And “low” or “bastardized” versions of Valyrian did spread from the slaves who escaped Old Valyria.
Also, I completely forgot that Maggy the Frog did specify “his” hands, although the prophecy remains very broad since she says “the” valonqar.
When I was talking about Valyrian steel shafts for scorpions, I wasn’t being too serious, but the implication would be that the GC might supply that steel. But in any event, it would not be unreasonable if the show said “we had some extra swords laying around” because I would assume more Valyrian swords exist in Westeros than the 3.5 (I am treating Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail as one sword, for sentimental reasons) blades we’ve seen.
Along those lines, dragonglass heads on bolt shafts would probably be crappy, throwing off the aerodynamics, or shattering against Viserion’s scaly hide if it did hit.
Have them be wights, and on Fire! 🐘 🔥
I like this a lot.
And the Velaryons and Celtigars, even lesser families (non dragon riders) who accompanied the Targaryens to Westeros.
It was my impression that the sellswords abandoned Stannis after, and because of, him burning Shereen at the stake.
I’m not saying they have tender feelings about little girls, it was just horrifying spectacle and a bad omen for parents to sacrifice their own child. Stannis crossed a hard line, there and even sellswords have a sense of taboo.
Maybe Varys and Oberyn had some connection with the Golden company. That convo the two of them had in the throne room where Oberyn questioned Varys’ accent right after Oberyn revealed that he had contact with the Golden company while travelling in Essos. That’s still a head-scratcher, to me.
I have a feeling that conversation will come full circle in the final season.
But will Dany be able to kill her baby, though? Remember Karsi basically sacrificing herself to the wight children at Hardhome? And will the other dragons be able to kill their wight brother.
Arya could qualify as male if she’s wearing a man’s face.
I still think that Qyburn and that creature he created is a massive threat to Cersai that she has a blind spot about. She hardly knew Qyburn when she elevated him to her inner sanctum. Cersei thinks she’s safe barricaded inside the Red Keep with that monster by her side, but does she really know how the monster works?
It seems that The Mountain obeys her, but does she know why he does. Qyburn created the technology, it makes sense that he can override Cersai’s control; or else, Cersai could one day order the Mountain to kill Qyburn. Cersai isn’t as clever as she likes to think, and doesn’t have a clue what keeps Qyburn by her side, or The Mountain, for that matter.
So she’s locked inside a fortress with a monster that can kill her. The Mountain and Qyburn wouldn’t have to infiltrate the Keep to get to her; they’re already right by her side.
We don’t have specifics on the size of the horde that shambled through the Wall at the end of last season,
Actually, we do. HBO submitted the script for The Dragon & The Wolf for an Emmy. The script reads:
Emerging from the frozen coastal forest, the ARMY OF THE DEAD comes in force. All of them, 100,000 strong, with hundreds of WHITE WALKER officer corps on their dead horses.
Baahubali!!! Such a great image.
This is actually a point made by one of the so-called “plot leaks” for Season 8. Said leaks were released a year ago. They ring true to my ears, for the most part. If not true, then the writer or writers should have been employed by the show runners. They write very well as compared with the other “leaks” which are all badly written.
I’ve always felt Theon has a major role to play in the ending of this story. He has been around since the beginning. Why? By logic, he should have been disposed of long ago. My mind keeps going back to that scene in season 2(?) when Melissandre forces Stannis to look into the flames at Dragonstone, and he sees something which seemingly horrifies him. The scene then fades and focuses in on a closeup of Theon sitting in from of the fire at Winterfell.
Dany killed Drogo.
I appreciate what you are saying, but I think I consider sellswords to not be so scrupulous. It could be as you said, but the hungry and demoralized sellswords couldn’t leave camp until the weather broke, which it did after Shireen’s death.
The point, regardless of the actual scenario (if only the deserters had left a note for us), is that sellswords might change their allegiance if things get bad.
I’d forgotten about Oberyn mentioning the Golden Company (and also that Ser Jorah had allegedly served with them, I don’t remember that from the show.)
If fAegon was in play on the show, I would have assumed that Oberyn mentioning the Golden Company would be a hint that Dorne was paving the way for his return.
Dany will be facing that problem, I agree. If she can’t check the Night King’s dragon with her own dragonpower, it’s a big problem.
Good point. Best that I can guess is that she thought that was no life for Drogo – not being able to walk, talk, clean or feed himself. Maybe she’ll think something similar about wight Viserion: Dragons are not slaves. She may give him the gift of death… but it won’t be easy.
Golden Hand the Just!
Well, given his 99 problems, I am at least glad he was not the ruffian that tried to make off with Sansa. Even if he was just trying to provoke a roll in the hay with her protector. There are more charming ways to arrange that. I am sure he will find the right way in very short order. He should look a new spot though. That scenic Tower spot seems less than cosy and discreet.
This really doesn’t fit at all, narratively. Cersei is referring to the kingdoms in rebellion.
There’s no reason for Cersei to be fixated on Sansa at this point, especially. The only times she’s mentioned her post-Season 4 are in relation to Joffrey’s murder, which she now knows was carried out by Olenna Tyrell. And the writers have already rewritten Sansa’s story to make her a powerless hostage in need of rescue in Season 5; even setting aside that I don’t think much of the show’s writing, we should be well past that at this point, unless “hostage” is the only thing they can think to do with her.
If Cersei was hypothetically going to send commandos to infiltrate Winterfell, she would have them target Daenerys and/or Jon themselves for assassination, not a continent-spanning abduction.
Right on! It’s good to get verification of the horde size.
I respect this Braime narrative you got going on.
Except this is Cersei Lannister, who gets fixated on revenge narratives.
Why not both? Besides, I doubt Cersei is worried about the staleness of Sansa being a hostage trope. Cersei needs leverage on the North.
We’ll have to agree to disagree on how fitting it is narratively, for Cersei to do crazy things.
There hasn’t been anything on the show to suggest Cersei has any kind of fixation on Sansa. Like, you could certainly make an argument in the abstract that such characterization could be spun out of the character’s existing experiences, but it hasn’t been.
Cersei, as with all the characters, doesn’t exist independent of the needs of the plot/character arcs, so when contemplating such a stale and regressive development for one of the show’s main characters, that’s a paramount consideration.
An excellent article as always Patrick but I may be one of a small percentage of fans who isn’t overly bothered about seeing the Golden Company. I am sure they will have a role to play but cannot imagine it will be significant. I suspect most likely they will fight against either Dany or the Nights Kings and perish in that battle. I know some people speculate they will kidnap someone and I wouldn’t rule it out (especially the filming we saw in Dubrovnik) however I don’t like that idea and it feels fairly cheap given the picture of survival vs the undead.
Thank you for your kind words, JS. I appreciate what you are saying about the stakes of survival, and if all of the leaders of Westeros were rational thinkers, I’d agree.
Although, as Sean above has alleged, perhaps Cersei is not as crazy as I imagine. (My money remains on Cersei being crazy though.)
Thanks for reading the article and your feedback.
Bronn didn’t miss, at least not completely (it was only a flesh wound!) Drogon had to land, and Dany was close to getting toothpicked by Jaime.
I suddenly had the thought that maybe Bronn will bring down Viserion, but die in the process. Dammit.
What I would give to see Stannis staring at the army of the dead. *grinding intensifies*
Ah, you are correct. I mischaracterized Bronn winging Drogon. Not a miss.
Uh oh, bad news for Bronn!
I also would have liked Stannis vs the undead. 🤴🏻⚔️💀💀💀💀💀
Not that it could have gotten much worse for him (I tend to refer to the Season 5 finale as “Stannis and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” for the somewhat incredible series of events which took place within a span of, oh, 5 minutes.) However, imagining the expression on his face while sizing up the Night’s King gives me joy. 😜
You know I was really disappointed that Young Griff wasn’t included in S5 but now I’ve pretty much come to terms that he’s just another red herring in the story and unlikely to get out of Winds of Winter alive (my guess is he’s defeated by either Cersei or Dany).
Cersei also needs Dany and Jon to destroy the Army of the Dead. Killing them before they’ve had the opportunity to eliminate the latest threat to her reign and seen their own armies decimated in the process doesn’t make sense.
But Cersei exploiting the mayhem to target Sansa could make sense.
People often like to ignore the fact that Sansa is still a contender for the younger, more beautiful queen role. At least in Cersei’s eyes.
Margaery’s gone. Dany seems the obvious candidate. But if Cersei still fears that prophecy to be true, and why wouldn’t she, then it would be foolhardy to ignore Sansa.
She surely saw Sansa as the main threat when she was betrothed to Joffrey, which contributed to her bitterness towards Sansa. Would she have just forgotten about that now? I doubt it. And with a baby apparently on the way, she would likely be even more determined to try to defy destiny.
The likelihood is that the story will naturally move south in the second half of the season anyway. Either the survivors will be driven south by a victorious Night King. Or the victors will turn their attention to Cersei having defeated the Night King. Therefore I don’t think it’d feel unnatural for Sansa to be whisked away to King’s Landing for the final couple of episodes if all the action is going to focused on that location anyway.
As you say in the article, Sansa would be a valuable hostage and potentially provide Cersei with the means to divide Jon and Dany’s alliance.
On top of the line from Cersei about recovering things that belong to her, we also had the scene where Sansa warned Jon not to ignore the threat from Cersei and we heard lines such as :
“There’s a thousand miles between us and Cersei… they’d never range this far north”
“…I know her. If you’re her enemy she’ll never stop until she’s destroyed you. Everyone who’s ever crossed her, she’s found a way to murder.”
and later in the season:
“I will not set foot in King’s Landing while Cersei Lannister is queen.”
I’m not sure how I’d feel about such a turn of events. If it leads to more drama and conflict in the relationship between Jon and Dany and adds an extra aspect to the final confrontation with Cersei then that would be a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.
But it would have to be written pretty well in order not to regress the characters or the story in the process. The characters’ responses to the situation would have to be appropriately complex and illustrate progression rather than regression.
They would have to convincingly convey Cersei’s motivation and mindset and it would have to have specific consequences for the conclusion to the story, in order not to come across as a lazy plot device or simply a means to give characters something to do.
These are aspects of storytelling that they’ve struggled with in the last few seasons.
Haven’t finished the entire article yet. Work intervened… but I’ve had my own fantasy for months, and it involves Daario, who used to be in that line of work with the Second Sons. In my fantasy, he accompanies the Gold Company to Westeros, and they all end up fighting for Dany.
Thank you for the feedback in the interim, Roz!
I was chatting about this on Twitter – I hope that if they do bring Daario back, they get Ed Skrein and dye his hair book-Daario style, to shock us all.
all this Golden Company signs up with Cersi stuff sound fine, until you remember Mel went back to Esso. To do what? Hire the Golden Company for the Red Priests?
Any chance Dario Naharis is working with the GC?
John, I feel the same way about Young Griff’s exclusion.
I completely agree, and I appreciate you finding relevant passages to support Cersei’s predictable behavior.
I think Melisandre specified that she was going back to Volantis, which is certainly on the same continent as the Golden Company. But I don’t think she’ll be the one showing up with them, since Cersei was actually making business arrangements with the GC.
Melisandre is definitely coming back to Westeros though.
Since his death, I have been hoping we would see him raised as some kind of “undead commander of the undead” I realize this is not likely to happen, but I had imagined the undead jaws grinding the undead teeth….
I also agree with this possible scenario.
And thank you, Patrick, for writing this article. Lots to think about on this front. The one spoiler I stumbled into at the winterfell festival last year (I was not looking for spoilers. And I’ll say it here because it’s not so much a spoiler anymore) was an extra telling me about the inclusion of elephants for the upcoming season. I told him thanks, but I didn’t want to hear that!
Looking forward to the GC- just hope the elephants of war don’t feel totally cheesy
If so, we’ll need a report on what’s happening in Meereen.
Dany: Yes, I left you in charge, Daario.
Daario: I left the other Daario in charge. Loophole!
I think that’s the speculation after Petra’s article from October:
Undead Stannis would probably browbeat a bunch of the wights into trying to overthrow the Night King.
Thanks for your kind words, Sister K. It’s good to hear that there actually will be some kind of elephant activity. Rather than this:
Cersei: Where are the elephants?
Euron: Oh, those boats sank.
Cersei, Season 8: https://youtu.be/zejPi_b_C_g?t=30
The situation (in the books too) is that they are beginning to realise the situation is desperate, they are trapped in a snow storm with little food and starving. I think the Shireen burning was little more than a confirmation of how desperate Stannis is (in the show as Shireen hasn’t been burnt yet in the books even though it’s clearly being set-up) and that they are heading to their doom if they continue to follow him. In the books a Frey army rather than Ramsay is closing in on them and likely they will not last long either.
Another long, meaty, juicy article by Patrick before I’ve even had time to read and comment on his Tyrion piece on 9.1.2019! Real life is really interfering with my ability to meaningfully contribute to this site.
Now I’ve got TWO long, meaty articles to read and comment on. But it might be considered not good form to comment on the Tyrion article (9.1.19) so late in the day.
Whatever. I appreciate these longer analysis articles on WotW. Even if I don’t have time to read and respond immediately, haha.
Even if I had read them immediately, I still would’ve taken some time to mull over the ideas and thoughts presented in the articles (and comments) and my own ideas and thoughts, and how those might interact and perhaps create some new ideas and thoughts.
It’s kind of the point. To fan the books/show, like I do, and explore ideas with other fans. I don’t like the idea of getting dug down into some dogmatic character fan trenches, shooting down others in the other dogmatic character fan trenches.
I want discussion on the story, the character arcs, the visuals, the acting, the costumes, the music, the pictures. Everything. Happily, WotW is providing much of that – even if I don’t have time to participate in much of it as much as I’d like to, alas.
Hey there! Feel free to comment on the Tyrion piece, I sometimes go back through my previous posts to see if there are comments to engage with.
Thank you for your comments, I’m glad you like these features on WotW!
“… I don’t like the idea of getting dug down into some dogmatic character fan trenches, shooting down others in the other dogmatic character fan trenches.”
You’re not referring to The Hound, right?
(Just kidding. I’ll see myself out.)
Regarding Daario, for me it would feel cheap and unnecessary for him to return but I wouldn’t rule it out. At the moment with Jon and Dany being an item where would his logical role be unless it’s to drive a split between them when they realise Jon is the heir? He can turn up as an enemy supporting Cersei of course but I don’t believe it’s necessary with Harry Strickland already cast.
Oh, haha, trust Ten Bears to turn everything, anything, to be about the Hound, however tenous. Well played!
Or making everything about (gods, I created a monster with this acronym) ASNAWP.
Haha, I love your fandom and tenacity. Me, I’m much more wavering. Grey, like… OK, so, Jaime. JAAAIIMEE!!!
He’ll die, of course. I’ve been preparing for that for YEARS.
I think we’ll both like S8. Maybe for different reasons, but we’ll like it.
Because nobody expects the Stannis Inquisition!!!
I’m not sure how wise it is to even draw parallels between book&show at this point, the show seems to be doing whatever they want…
Still, I wonder if there’s something to deduce, either about the show’s finale, or about the books’ future events; In the books, the golden company support Aegon Targaryen/Blackfyre.
If they support the Lannister who opposes Dany, does it mean that Aegon will truly oppose Dany in the books, and that part is merged with the Lannister on the show?
I think it’s safe to assume that Aegon has a part to play in this story, and if it’s important, it has to be merged with someone (like Victarion was merged into Asha, and other things like that all over the show). But who?
Safe to think it’ll be one of these 3. The Golden Company clearly points to the Lannister, but maybe parts of his story will be merged into different characters/arcs.
If Aegon ultimately unite and marry Dany, then I would say he’s either merged into Dany herself, or Jon Snow, or both.
If he opposes her, then he’ll just be merged as the Lannister.
Anyway, curious where this is headed… If the Golden Company just gets destroyed easily by the dragons, I’m not sure why they even brought them up; They could’ve just said they hired some random sellwords.
So unless they were just namedropping the company, I think they’ll actually do something (other than just “get slaughtered”). But what? They obviously can’t kill Dany’s army, it’s too big for 20k soldiers, even if well-trained soldiers.
I feel we have to accept the Young Griff (who isn’t even a POV in the books) is likely a red herring and will probably go the way of Quentyn. How it happens is pure speculation but if he’s really important I do not believe the show would have omitted him.
I suspect in the books he’s fAegon and will die either at the hands of Cersei or Dany and the Golden Company will disappear. In the show most likely they just went to the Cersei vs Dany showdown to save time/budget and omitted Griff.
I also expect his whole fake legitimicy was seen as a distraction to Jon being the real Aegon.
Lol. He would never break ranks! I didn’t explain my idea very well… more like.
NK: I need a new general. That Snow King shattered my last one.
Undead Stannis: When I was alive, I was the most accomplished military commander alive. I’m your man.
NK: Good. Just quit grinding your damn teeth. I can’t help you when those fall out.
Ramsay’s 20th Good Man,
Perfect! Bart does a great Cersei.
Well, the Stannis Armada did ultimately prove ineffective. 🙂
Dany: “I didn’t believe it until I saw them. I saw them all.”
Euron: “How many?”
Dany: “A hundred thousand, at least.”
That wasn’t Euron, it was Jamie.
The only words he and Dany have spoken to each other.
VERY ineffective! 😜
Oh man, now I have a scene playing in my head between Stannis and Brienne, just off-screen and fading.
S: “Right. We’ll call it a draw.”
B: “You’ve got no head!!!”
S: “Yes I do! I’m invincible!”
B: “You’re a loony…”
Brienne has seen a shadow baby in his likeness- I doubt she would be surprised to see his head continuing to taunt her, flesh wound style.
I have been watching The Frankenstein chronicles with our very own Sean Bean. I guess he was even a producer for the first season? Anyway, maybe the NK has been working on this whole reattaching-the-head-and-reanimating-the-dead-process, since Baelor. He’s gotta have something figured out by now…
I honestly think that given the number of episodes remaining, they won’t have time for all the complicated bits mentioned above. I expect action driven episodes with epic moments (or ends) for each character. I doubt Cersei would give much thought to Sansa at this point, given that she now knows she was innocent of poisoning Joffrey.
Innocent? Cersei just knows that Olenna confessed to poisoning Joffrey. Olenna didn’t claim she acted alone. I mean, she didn’t act alone.
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