Though Cersei did her best to cull the Game of Thrones character list in last season’s finale, there are still so many people putzing around Westeros (and Essos) that it can be hard to keep track. Sometimes, characters we know disappear for seasons at a time, only to come back just as we’ve forgotten everything about them. Take Lancel Lannister for example, who spent seasons 1 and 2 as Cersei’s pixie-looking boy toy, then spent the next two seasons on hiatus before returning as a punk rock religious fanatic when Cersei empowered the Sparrows in King’s Landing. You’d be forgiven if you didn’t immediately recognize him.
Lancel is hardly the only character who has seen an unexpected return. Sandor Clegane was left for dead in Season 4, but resurfaced abruptly in the Riverlands last season. Bran completed Westeros’s most-dramatic growth spurt during his Season 5 hiatus. Myrcella Baratheon spent two off-screen seasons in Dorne before Jaime and Bronn stumbled down there in Season 5. And Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr skipped two full seasons before a brief run-in with the Hound last season.
No doubt, someone will return this year as well. So you’re not too confused when some long-forgotten face reappears this season (or so you can feel smugly superior at your watch party), let’s get up to date on the characters who could still play a role in the latest season, even if they haven’t been seen in awhile.
Note for the particularly spoiler-averse: This will draw on some book knowledge, though the show has moved well ahead of the source material and clearly doesn’t treat George R.R. Martin’s words as gospel anymore.
In case you forgot: Gendry is the last-known bastard son of Robert Baratheon, a skilled blacksmith, and was one of Arya’s traveling companions in seasons 2 and 3.
Last seen: Rowing.
After Melisandre leeches some blood off him and throws him into a dungeon in Dragonstone, Davos Seaworth rescues the young blacksmith. He sets Gendry up in a rowboat and points him toward King’s Landing. That was 30 episodes ago.
Current whereabouts: Some say he’s still rowing.
As Gendry tells Davos in his final onscreen moments, he doesn’t know how to swim and he’s never been in a rowboat before, and King’s Landing and Dragonstone aren’t exactly close. Davos says that it will take Gendry a full day and night of rowing just to reach Rook’s Rest from Dragonstone.
We’re talking about, charitably, a four-day rowing adventure for a guy who can’t swim. Gendry should be dead. But an offscreen death for the last known Baratheon seems incredibly unsatisfying and unlikely.
Chance for a return: Arya has just returned to Westeros, and a reunion wouldn’t be out of the question for a show which doesn’t seem to have a problem with shameless fan service.
But there’s a better reason for Gendry’s onscreen return: He’s the only character ever shown to be a good blacksmith. And, seeing as the entire continent is about to have a major White Walker infestation, and the only known ways to kill White Walkers involve dragonglass or Valyrian steel, it sure would help if the show had someone who was capable of forging such items. Can Gendry work with Valyrian steel? Here’s what George R.R. Martin had to say about that in 2002:
Interesting answer! Clearly, Gendry has plenty of potential roles to play should he return to the show. Plus, he’s still plodding around in the books, having recently run into Brienne and Pod, the former of which carries a Valyrian steel blade. [Thinking-face emoji.]
In case you forgot: Nymeria is (was?) Arya’s direwolf.
Last seen: Fifty-eight episodes ago, Arya Air Buddy’d Nymeria into the woods, knowing that if she didn’t, King Robert’s men would kill the direwolf for biting Joffrey’s arm. We haven’t seen Nymeria since.
Current whereabouts: Presumably, Nymeria is still in the Riverlands, though there’s been no mention of her on the show.
But in the books, we know Nymeria is in that area, at the head of a pack of wolves. Arya frequently dreams as Nymeria, prowling the Riverlands in the same way Bran dreamed of inhabiting Summer before he fully understood his abilities as a Warg. And reports have trickled through Westeros of a pack of wolves — possibly numbering in the hundreds — with a she-wolf leader near Riverrun and the Trident. Who else could this be but Nymeria?
Chance for a return: Guess where Arya is right now? The Riverlands.
Arya assassinated Walder Frey at the end of last season, and presumably will make her way up from the Twins to Winterfell for a Stark family reunion. But before she does so, maybe a run-in with Nymeria is in the cards?
In case you forgot: Illyrio is a shadowy figure only seen in Season 1. He brokered the Daenerys–Khal Drogo wedding and partnered with Varys.
Last seen: Conspiring with Varys in the tunnels under the Red Keep. Remember this gem of a scene from Season 1, Episode 5?
That easily-forgotten scene is crucial to the story. Though Arya is too young to pick up on all the details at the time, the gist of the conversation is this: Varys knows that Ned Stark will soon find out that Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen are not King Robert’s children. The previous Hand of the King, Jon Arryn, made the same discovery before he mysteriously died. Varys also believes the Lannisters and Starks will soon be at war.
Arya tries to warn her father about what she heard, but she’s too young and remembers too little to be taken seriously. The conversation between Illyrio and Varys is the first hint that what Ned is uncovering in King’s Landing is part of a far greater plot to disrupt the Seven Kingdoms. Ah, what could have been if Ned had listened to Arya!
Current whereabouts: Presumably still kicking it in Pentos. Though at the beginning of Season 5, when Varys smuggles Tyrion out of Westeros, the two spend time at Illyrio’s estate and Illyrio himself doesn’t make an appearance.
Chance for a return: Illyrio is the most important Thrones character no one talks about. Illyrio arguably set Daenerys’s entire character arc into motion when he brokered the deal that wed Dany to Khal Drogo. Without his interest in seeing a Targaryen restoration in Westeros, who knows what would have happened to her and Viserys. Well, OK, maybe Viserys meets the same end, but that’s more on him than Illyrio.
That said, it seems Illyrio’s been written out of the series. In the books, he banters with Tyrion upon the dwarf’s arrival in Essos, but that role was given to Varys in Season 5. If Dany ever sits the Iron Throne, Illyrio could see an appointment to the Small Council. Though with the series rocketing toward a Dragon vs. Ice Zombie war, it’s much less clear what role Illyrio could possibly play in the series’ endgame.
In case you forgot: Saan is a pirate who previously drifted in and out of Stannis’s service.
Last seen: In a whorehouse telling a corny joke when Davos comes in to convince the pirate to rejoin Stannis. This is Season 4, Episode 6 — right as Stannis is preparing to travel north to Castle Black (hence why Stannis needs Saan’s ships). “See you at sunrise,” Davos says. Except we don’t — that’s the last time Saan has been onscreen.
Current whereabouts: Who knows? Stannis has been dead for 10 episodes, and Saan has been absent for 24 straight. If he were still in Westeros, wouldn’t we have heard from him again by now?
Chance for a return: Saan has been in three scenes, and each one has basically been the same: Davos convincing Saan to join Stannis’s crew. Davos is with Jon now, and Jon could have need of a sellsail like Saan at some point in the next couple of seasons, so maybe we’ll see a fourth conversation between the Onion Knight and the Sex Pirate. But is that really the only type of scene Saan is good for? I want to see this guy in battle, or at least on the deck of a damn ship.
Saan really only cares about gold, and while there’s money in a war for the Iron Throne, there isn’t much treasure to be gained in a fight with the White Walkers. Saan may be content to ditch Westeros, taking his fleet back to Essos to search for riches there.
In case you forgot: This is the banker in Braavos who backs Stannis in the War of the Five Kings.
Last seen: Tycho received Mace Tyrell when Tyrell arrived in Braavos in Season 5, Episode 9.
Current whereabouts: It’s hard to imagine he’d be anywhere other than Braavos, still dutifully serving the One Percent.
Chance for a return: Tycho actually visits Westeros and meets Jon Snow in the books, though the show is far past that plot point by now. He could try to collect some debts from Queen Cersei, though whether the Lannisters are still in the red or not feels a little insignificant next to everything else that’s happening in Westeros at the moment.
Outside of Jaqen H’ghar, Tycho is virtually our only connection to Braavos at this point, so if for some reason a character needs to travel there in the next two seasons it would make sense for him to make an appearance.
In case you forgot: Another of Arya’s friends from the early seasons, Hot Pie is best remembered for his passion for pie. You probably already knew that.
Last seen: At the Inn at the Crossroads, relaying to Brienne and Pod all the boring details of how to make the perfect kidney pie. That was Season 4, Episode 7.
Current whereabouts: Hopefully still at that inn. Hot Pie might be the happiest character in all of Westeros, having found relative peace doing what he’s best at. Let’s keep it that way.
Chance for a return: The inn is south of the Twins, where Arya is currently located, so a reunion for the two is a stretch, as Arya is most likely to head north now. But plenty of travelers pass through here — it’s the same inn where Catelyn Stark ran into Tyrion in Season 1. If there’s a scene here in Season 7, Hot Pie should be expected to make an appearance.
Ser Ilyn Payne
In case you forgot: Payne, in his role as The King’s Justice, is the dude who chops off Ned Stark’s head.
Last seen: Our Executioner-in-Chief was accompanying Cersei as she holed up during the Battle of the Blackwater. Ostensibly there to protect the Queen, Sansa, and the other ladies at Maegor’s Holdfast, Ilyn Payne’s true purpose is to execute Cersei and Sansa should King’s Landing fall to Stannis.
Current whereabouts: Tywin briefly mentions Ilyn Payne in Season 4, but we haven’t seen him since that Season 2 battle. He’s presumably still in King’s Landing.
Chance for a return: The actor who portrays Payne, English rocker Wilko Johnson, was declared cancer-free in October 2014 after an 11-hour surgery to remove all traces of his pancreatic cancer. Though Johnson is healthy now, his character’s place on the show isn’t clear. Since Ilyn Payne is a mute, it’s hard to find any role he could play that couldn’t be easily handed to the Mountain, and that may be the simplest reason for why he may not return. But if Cersei needs more muscle when Dany knocks on the door to the Red Keep, Payne should theoretically be in the area.
In case you forgot: Ser Pounce is Tommen’s cat.
Last seen: Somehow, Ser Pounce has appeared in the show only once: In Season 4, Episode 4.
Current whereabouts: The Red Keep? The Great Sept of Baelor just blew up and we have a new queen — I don’t think anyone in King’s Landing is paying much attention to this cat. Has anyone remembered to fill his water bowl?
Chance for a return: If Cersei liked pets, she’d definitely be a cat person and not a dog person. But let’s face it: Cersei doesn’t like pets. This little guy is probably on his own now.
Disclaimer: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.