Warning: Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones recently hit us with their biggest seasons yet, and it sent the internet into a frenzy. It featured one of the most satisfying deaths we’ve ever seen in the series, suitably closing all sorts of open-ended plot lines. To top it all off, we got an insanely realistic, cinematic battle that was incredible in every sense of the word.
The scale was massive, the story was solid, and the ending was perfect. But when it was all said and done, last season resulted in eliminating the man who’d quickly become the central villain of the series, Ramsay Bolton. To clarify: Bolton absolutely needed to be shuffled off this season, and the way he went was intensely satisfying (both for Sansa Stark and the Game of Thrones audience).
The bastard Bolton was set up as the one truly evil presence in the series, entirely uncomplicated in his sinister intentions. Without him around though, it leaves a vacuum in the Game of Thrones universe with no immediate successor. This doesn’t mean there aren’t contenders; let’s run through the list, shall we?
1. Cersei Lannister
Things are not going well at King’s Landing right now. The first indicator: The ruler of the realm literally has no time to even acknowledge the civil war raging in the North, with most of his time occupied by battling the Faith Militant (before later allying with them).
Those same issues were the direct result of Cersei’s ill-fated meddling, having initially empowered them to take Margaery Tyrell off the board. It backfired horribly, and many theorize that Cersei is plotting to burn the entire city to the ground as a result (something she’s promised on multiple occasions throughout the series).
With Tyrion confirming the existence of secret stores of wildfire throughout King’s Landing in “Battle of the Bastards,” we now know she has the means. The only question is whether or not she’ll go full villain to destroy an entire city.
2. The High Sparrow
The High Sparrow has been an intriguing character since he first appeared last season. Starting out as a religious figurehead devoted to helping the poor and impoverished of King’s Landing, he’s since risen to power as one of the most influential forces in the entire city. In his short time as the High Septon, he’s imprisoned the Queen, the Queen Mother, and the heir to House Tyrell, all with little to no retribution from his opponents.
The High Sparrow now has the ear of King Tommen, gaining almost complete control over King’s Landing, and setting up a climactic battle with Cersei in the season finale. We’re still not entirely sure what his endgame is, but we’ve seen hints at something sinister in his manipulation of the royal family.
3. Daenerys Targaryen
Daenerys’s arc this season has seen her enter an unsettling yet interesting place. She’s always been the idealist among all the various forces competing for the Iron Throne, having stayed in Essos as long as she has for the noble cause of abolishing slavery.
Still, we’ve seen brief moments of that trademark Targaryen cruelty along the way. She’s burned people alive, locked others away in darkened vaults to starve to death, and burned even more people alive (at this point, it’s pretty much her thing — fire and blood and all that). It’s led many to believe she may end up evolving into the show’s villain. “Battle of the Bastards” did little to convince us otherwise.
Upon her return to Meereen, her first suggestion for solving her problems with the Wise Masters was to raze Meereen, Yunkai, and Astapor with the help of her dragons, killing both the guilty parties and hundreds of thousands of innocents. Tyrion managed to talk her out of her more murder-y plan, but the fact that it was even considered lays some frightening groundwork for the future of her character.
4. Euron Greyjoy
Despite the fact that we’ve only just met Euron Greyjoy on HBO’s Game of Thrones, he’s actually a well-established (and supremely evil) character in the books.
What we know of him from A Dance With Dragons tells us about the torture and sexual abuse of his brother Aeron; the murder of at least three of his brothers; and a plot to sail to Essos to use a magic horn to mind-control Daenerys’s dragons into obeying his commands. Essentially, he’s Ramsay Bolton with more ambition, and it makes him incredibly dangerous.
Game of Thrones hasn’t yet established the magic dragon-controlling horn story thread, but given the fact this current plan involves forcing himself on Daenerys in exchange for a 1,000-ship navy, his current intentions are far from honorable.
5. The White Walkers
Lest we forget, the greatest and most powerful evil in the whole Game of Thrones universe is still lurking beyond the Wall, and they seem intent on invading Westeros with an army of zombies in tow. The list of weapons capable of killing them is short, limited to dragonglass and Valyrian steel; both of which aren’t exactly commonly circulated among standing armies in the region.
We’ve slowly been introduced to their formidable power as well as their origin this season, setting them up as the primary antagonist by the time we arrive at the series finale sometime around 2018.
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