Right now, we don’t know much about season 8, episode 5 of Game of Thrones. As the penultimate installment of the show, it’s set to feature some kind of showdown between the forces of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) to determine the fate of the Iron Throne. Very little information is available other than that, but HBO did release a batch of preview photos Wednesday, one of which prominently features Captain Harry Strickland (Marc Rissmann).
Wait, who’s Captain Strickland again? At a time when many story lines on Game of Thrones are coming to a close, some fans may be surprised to have to learn the name of a new character. But it’s only thanks to Strickland that Cersei has an army comparable to Daenerys’ right now. He’s the commander of the Golden Company, the mercenary group Cersei hired using the wealth acquired from the conquest of Highgarden. Strickland arrived in Westeros at the beginning of season 8 with thousands of men and horses — but no war elephants, much to Cersei’s disappointment.
The Golden Company is the most famous mercenary company in the world of Game of Thrones. It was formed by Westerosi nobles and knights who fled the continent after participating in the failed Blackfyre Rebellion (the second-most-famous Targaryen civil war). House Strickland was one of the houses that went into exile, and its sons have served in the Golden Company ever since.
Harry Strickland does appear in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books, but as of A Dance With Dragons, the Golden Company has a slightly different role than in the TV show. Far from being hired by the Lannisters, the book version of the Golden Company has been hired by a Targaryen! Not Daenerys, though. In Martin’s fifth book, a young man claiming to be Aegon Targaryen (not Jon, but the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martell of Dorne) hires the Golden Company to invade Westeros. Aegon’s surrogate father and protector, Lord Jon Connington, is not terribly impressed by Strickland, whom he judges more fit for arranging lucrative contracts than military conquest. But once the Golden Company commits to Aegon’s cause, they succeed in taking Connington’s ancestral home of Griffin’s Roost; in an early preview chapter from The Winds of Winter, they also conquer the Baratheon castle of Storm’s End.
This Sunday, the Golden Company will be defending the Iron Throne instead of trying to conquer it. We’ll have to wait until then to see how Captain Strickland fares.
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