In the recent season of Game of Thrones, we finally saw the demise of everyone’s favorite, love-to-hate him villain Ramsay Bolton. But as soon as the joy faded of seeing someone evil finally get what they deserve, we were left with a startling realization: Which villain are we supposed to hate now? After all, to watch Game of Thrones is to root against characters just as much as you root for them.
It’s easy to forget, but the sixth season also saw the deaths of Roose Bolton, Walder Frey, the High Sparrow, and a host of other lesser villains like the Waif. Call it the great villain purge of 2016 if you’re inclined, but Game of Thrones is clearly in a very interesting place as it moves into the seventh season — which is said to be one of two final seasons totaling 13 episodes.
So who will be the big baddie in the seventh season and beyond? Here are five prime suspects going from the most obvious to the least obvious. And don’t worry. There are plenty characters ready to fill the void left by Ramsay.
1. The White Walkers
With 13 episodes remaining in the series, if the White Walkers don’t turn into the central villains in Season 7 then we’ll all start to wonder if they’re some big practical joke that’s been played on us since the start of the series. But the truth is that Season 7 will certainly be the season where the White Walkers start to become the central conflict of the series. With Daenerys’s army and dragons en route to Westeros while most of the scattered conflicts throughout the Game of Thrones world have seen resolutions in recent seasons, the table appears to be set for what has been billed as the main event for as long as Game of Thrones has been around.
2. Cersei Lannister
Cersei Lannister is now Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, which isn’t exactly a promising prospect given the kind of person she is and what she’s been through. Even before her last child Tommen committed suicide, she had decided that the use of wildfire to annihilate the Sparrows, Queen Margery, and a host of other rivals was worth the potential cost to innocent civilians. Now that she has no children left, Cersei for the first time has nothing to lose — an absolutely terrifying scenario. Combined with the fact that her liberal use of wildfire clearly aligns her with the rule of Mad King Aerys II Targaryen, Cersei figures to be a cruel, unstoppable force on the Iron Throne.
3. Euron Greyjoy
Euron Greyjoy arrived on the scene in Season 6 and immediately put himself in the running for top villain in Game of Thrones. When we last left Euron, Theon and Yara had taken off with the Iron Islands’ best ships after he had claimed the Salt Throne and set his sights on linking up with Daenerys Targaryen. You can expect Euron to take on a bigger role in Season 7 as he attempts to exact revenge on his nephew and niece while taking their place at Daenerys’s side. While it was tough losing Ramsay Bolton this past season (in a love-to-hate him way), Euron figures to be the closest thing to a pure villain in the upcoming season.
4. Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish
In many ways you can consider Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish the biggest villain of Game of Thrones aside from the non-human threats. His actions in the first season, most notably his betrayal of Ned Stark, are responsible for nearly every event that has occurred in Westeros during the War of the Five Kings — and he’s still scheming. Now that we know (possibly) that his ultimate plan is to rule the Iron Throne with Sansa Stark at his side, the bullseye has been placed directly over Jon Snow now that he has become King in the North. If Petyr is firmly in control of his plan, the end game is surely coming soon with only two more seasons left.
5. Daenerys Targaryen
This is the wild card. From a story perspective, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that Daenerys’s army is so vast and powerful if she is truly one of the heroes of the series. After all, who wants to watch a version of David and Goliath where Goliath is the hero and quickly dispatches a smaller David? So the question is whether we’ve been unknowingly following the rise of Game of Thrones’s most powerful human villain.
There are two main ways this shift could happen in the series, one of them being more direct and the other indirect. The direct route would be for Targaryen Madness to emerge in Daenerys’s actions — something already alluded to in the most recent season when Tyrion Lannister talks her out of full-scale retribution on the Slavers. But an equally interesting way Daenerys could become a villain is if we see her actions from the perspectives of characters we follow in Westeros. If her actions reclaiming the Iron Throne have unintended consequences on other Game of Thrones characters, it’s possible that what seems like justice for Daenerys could have devastating results if the War of the Five Kings escalates with Cersei on the throne.
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