Believe it or not, the seventh season of Game of Thrones is nearly halfway over. The first half of the season has been thrilling and fast-paced, but almost entirely stocked with the show’s most prominent characters. (Well, except for Hot Pie, of course.) With just four episodes left — and with armies colliding in Westeros and White Walkers heading south — it may be time for some sidelined characters to reemerge. But who?
The Night King
Ben Lindbergh: In the first three episodes of this season, every actual, wannabe, and figurative king and queen in Westeros has gotten major minutes on screen. Except for the Night King, who we haven’t seen since a hazy, indistinct glimpse in the first few seconds of the premiere. Raven traffic in Westeros is at an apparent all-time high, and Dany, Euron, Jon, and Jaime, among others, have crisscrossed the map in pursuit of power or protection, but the Night King hasn’t made any attempt to circumvent the Wall, despite being in the neighborhood and — if Bran’s and the Hound’s visions were picturing the present — on the march.
At this point the Night King has been bad enough company that he has to have the land beyond the Wall to himself, so he can’t be doing much recruiting. And with Bran on the south side of the Wall, it’s possible that the ice’s enchantments won’t hold. So what’s taking the conscripted army of wights — who never have to stop for food, sleep, or bad weather — so long to invade? It could be that the Night King is searching for the Horn of Winter, a maybe-mythical item believed to be capable of bringing down the Wall. (The maesters are skeptical that such an object exists, so you know it must be out there.) It’s possible that he’s waiting for the sea east of the Wall to freeze so his army can plod past without dipping its undead toes in the water. Or maybe he’s just vibing to “Passionfruit.
Don't read that David Brooks article. Watch the Night King vibe to Passion Fruit instead. pic.twitter.com/FAJ83mzWih— (null) (@juliacraven) August 1, 2017
Granted, to this point the Night King hasn’t been big on dialogue or character depth, and he’s at his most menacing as an enigma. In light of his onscreen skill set, it might be better to bench him until the stage is set for a fight scene. But the longer he dallies, the less urgent the need for preparation appears — and before the final showdown, we have to get some sense of what he wants and why. Here’s hoping the rest of Season 7 supplies some answers.
Jason Concepcion: Daenerys Targaryen came to Westeros with thousands of Unsullied, tens of thousands of Dothraki, an Ironborn fleet, and three dragons — and promptly began the humbling process of blowing a 3–1 lead. Her Hand, Tyrion Lannister, has masterminded the destruction of a large portion of the Targaryen navy and an ill-advised attack on Casterly Rock. Varys, Dany’s master of whisperers, had no idea that the Lannister army and its Tarly allies were marching on Highgarden. Grey Worm is trapped on the other side of the continent. Missy is great. (She’s always great!) But Dany needs an infusion of energy and military competence.
IS THAT DAARIO NAHARIS’S MUSIIIIIIIIC?! OK, OK, OK. I know … Jorah, now free of greyscale, is a lock to take command of the Targaryen army. But what about the cavalry? What about those wild Dothraki screamers? Who will keep them in hand? Daario, that’s who. Now, when last we saw him, Dany had just dumped him by making him the governor of Slaver’s Bay. But we all know that Daario Naharis — noted mercenary, man with a dagger in the shape of a naked lady — is not government material. He was born to ride horses, fight wars, and fuck. Bring. Him. Back!
Kate Knibbs: Remember Quaithe? It’s fine if you don’t. Quaithe is so sidelined that she hasn’t appeared since the second season. A refresher: She is a mysterious shadowbinder from Asshai with bold and sassy face jewelry who popped up to say eerily accurate and slightly rude things to Jorah while he and Daenerys wandered around Qarth.
Quaithe had a bigger role in George R.R. Martin’s books, and I’m hoping she will appear once more as prophecies continue to play a role in the show. After all, someone has to tell Jon and Dany they’re related, and Bran is too damn weird to do so with any reliability. I’m also hoping she’ll reappear because, honestly, it’s annoying when television shows introduce characters who seem like they’ll play a big role and then just disappear them. Quaithe is the Judy Winslow of Game of Thrones, and I hate it.
Mallory Rubin: You guys remember Gendry, right? Former blacksmith’s apprentice? Spent some memorable moments with Arya on the road? Protested helplessly as Melisandre put a leech on his, er, freshly forged blade? Looks like this?
We last saw Gendry rowing away from Dragonstone after a sympathetic Davos sprung him from Stannis and Melisandre’s clutches. But on the sail to Dragonstone, the red priestess told the formerly bull-helmed one the truth of his parentage: Gendry is King Robert’s son. What’s more, after Joffrey’s massacre of his “father’s” bastards back in Season 2, and the subsequent deaths of Renly “Is He a Ham?” Baratheon and Stannis “Do Your Duty” Baratheon, Gendry is, as far as we in showland know, the last living member of the family line.
And he’s coming back. I’d say “SPOILER ALERT!” but at this point, his impending reemergence is a more poorly kept secret than Jaime and Cersei’s twincest, Tyrion’s sex cavern, or Bran’s new peyote habit. Joe Dempsie, who plays Gendry, attended the show’s Season 7 premiere and has spoken fairly candidly with the press about his long-awaited return. So the question is no longer “if,” but rather “what happens when?”
Will Gendry return to the place he last left? Let’s hope: Jon keeps talking about mining dragonglass in order to make weapons, and Gendry might know how. In King’s Landing, he worked under Tobho Mott, the rare armorer capable of working Valyrian Steel. Did Gendry learn the craft? If so, can he apply the teachings to working obsidian? And could he be a political asset as well as a military one? Dany’s ancestor, Aegon the Conquerer, raised Orys One-Hand from bastard status to founder of House Baratheon. Could Dany attempt to reboot the once-proud house through Gendry? Our boy won’t want to make a play for the throne; as he told Arya in one of the show’s more painful exchanges to date, he’s only ever wanted a family, only ever wanted to belong. Could Dany pounce on that desire through an alliance, compromising Cersei’s claim without injuring her own?
“When I hit that steel,” Gendry said back in Season 1, “it sings.” As the Song of Ice and Fire progresses, we’re all ready to hear that tune.
Brienne of Tarth
Katie Baker: Brienne of Tarth is sworn to protect Sansa Stark, arguably one of the most important humans to currently exist in the realm. She’s one of only a few people who have in their possession a weapon that ostensibly has the capability to slice up some White Walkers. And her complicated, fascinating relationship with Jaime Lannister cannot be forgotten. Should Arya make her way to Winterfell, as it seems that she might, she’ll be reuniting with the tall lanky blond with whom she has a historically awkward relationship. (The Hound may have been on Arya’s kill list, but that doesn’t mean she necessarily appreciated his [probable!] demise at the hands of another.)
Going forward, there are many colliding plotlines that could or should involve Brienne and her stone-faced dedication to keeping her promises. Protecting Sansa might mean having to do something about the nefarious Littlefinger — or at least we can hope; some sort of Tough Decision involving Jaime seems inevitable. I try not to think about the googly-eyed Tormund’s role in all of this, because it reminds me too much of Missandei and Grey Worm, and the show doesn’t typically let people live happily ever after, you know? With Sansa leading the North in Jon’s absence (and snarking Littlefinger at every turn), the White Walkers encroaching upon civilization, and the Lannisters dead set on world domination, there’s no way that we won’t be getting more of Brienne in the last few episodes of this season. Whether this is good or terrible news for Podrick, however, I can’t decide.
Alyssa Bereznak: All my fellow Bronnheads out there have likely noted the obvious hints of his return to the spotlight. For one, it has been entirely too long since we’ve had a good Bronn zinger. The GoT writers’ room seems so desperate for one that it’s resorted to making other characters quote him: “As a good friend of mine once said, ‘Give me 10 good men, and I’ll impregnate the bitch,” Tyrion said in Episode 3 while describing his plan of attack on Casterly Rock. The line is from an early conversation between him and Bronn about the Eyrie, right around the time the two fell in love.
If that’s not enough proof for you, then consider the fact that Bronn made a sneaky cameo in the last episode:
That’s our favorite sellsword on the right, casually taking Highgarden alongside Randyll and what’s-his-son Tarly. The fact that he played a part in Jaime’s siege, combined with Tyrion’s throwback quotation, suggests that the two may soon meet on opposite sides of the battlefield. I’m already dreading all the bromance-ruining possibilities of that encounter, but for now we can at least celebrate the sure return of Westeros’s most gifted singer. (I see you, Ed Sheeran.)
Megan Schuster: Ghost as a character is most hindered by the stupidity of his master’s decisions. Fighting outnumbered against Ramsay Bolton’s army in the Battle of the Bastards? Who needs a loyal direwolf to help even the playing field? Going south to Dragonstone to meet with a queen and her three dragons? Might as well leave Ghost behind! Jon, like Robb before him, doesn’t seem to grasp that Ghost is his most powerful ally, one designed by nature to protect him at all times. Through all the Jon-Sansa scenes and the semi-hostile meetings with his bannermen at Winterfell, we have yet to see Ghost in Season 7. We’re long overdue, friends.
Ghost needs to play a role in the last four episodes of the season because he’s going to be necessary for Jon’s survival. We know from early trailers that, at some point, Jon is going out beyond the Wall. He’s going to face off against wights and, in all likelihood, the big, bad White Walkers themselves.
And oh, would you look at that, guess who conveniently has experience saving people from wights?! If Jon doesn’t take Ghost with him beyond the Wall, it will be his dumbest decision to date — and that includes handing over his Valyrian-steel sword to Dany’s men. Jon! Don’t overthink this! Let Ghost eat!
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer