Spoilers for Game of Thrones season 7, episode 4 follow.
Nestled in amongst the brutal warfare and Stark family reunions of this week’s Game of Thrones was a reference that would have flown straight over the heads of show-only fans: Cersei mentioned that she was planning to regain control of Westeros with the help of a mercenary group called The Golden Company…
Who are the Golden Company?
The Golden Company are the largest, most expensive and notorious set of mercenaries in the Free Cities of Essos – these cities include Braavos, Volantis, Myr and others we’ve heard of. Mercenaries are often painted as unreliable in Game of Thrones, but the Golden Company have never broken a contract.
They were formed by a bastard son of Aegon IV Targaryen, Aegor Rivers, long before the events of GoT, and they were initially run with the help of a group of men from House Blackfyre – a ‘cadet house’ founded by the bastard son of another Targaryen. Their reputation is almost impeccable.
Why have we never seen the Golden Company before?
Because they don’t appear very much in the books, and the plotline they appear most prominently in seems to have been completely cut from the show. That story suggests one of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martell’s children was secretly exchanged and taken away from King’s Landing before the Mountain killed Elia and her children. With the help of Varys, he survived to adulthood: his name is Aegon Targaryen, and he uses the Golden Company to help him invade Westeros and take the Baratheons’ vacant region – the Stormlands.
While we’re unlikely to see any of that storyline, some fans are theorising that we might expect to see the return of a character we know. In George R.R. Martin’s books, Daario Naharis (played by Michiel Huisman) is a former Golden Company member.
We last saw him in charge of Meereen, where he was leading the Second Sons as guards of the city after Daenerys left it. If he left his post there, perhaps he’d rejoin the Golden Company and return to Westeros – otherwise, we’re likely to meet some brand-new mercenaries later this season.