Get to Know Game of Thrones Lethal Mercenary Harry Strickland
It would be funny—not ha ha funny, but bitterly funny—if it turned out the biggest threat to the seven kingdoms ends up being humans after all. For eight seasons Game of Thrones has been saying that all the palace intrigue and bloody chess playing for the Iron Throne was a joke compared to the existence of the Night King. This former man-turned-super weapon was the existential threat that made all that noxious human behavior look as petty and absurd as it really was. While the Lannisters gained and lost and regained power, while the Starks nobly tried doing what’s right and dying by the generation-load, while your various would-be conquerors and sadists, from Stannis Baratheon to Ramsay Bolton plotted and butchered their way through the Seven Kingdoms, the real threat, we were told, stood beyond all human ambition, desire and bloodlust. He was death itself. Then Arya Stark put a Valryian steel blade in his gut and we were back to worrying about people again.
The penultimate episode now brings us the Last War. Cersei Lannister kept her armies—yes, plural—from joining Dany and Jon up north and waited to mop up whatever was left. She’s extremely lucky that what’s left breathes oxygen and bleeds red blood. Had the Night King won, he’d have absorbed the entire losing army and would have swarmed and destroyed Cersei and King’s Landing and every other living thing. Arya saved Cersei’s ass. Now Cersei has her rested Lannister army and the Golden Company to fight the exhausted northerners, Dothraki and Unsullied, and one very lonely dragon.
Which brings us to Harry Strickland, the man at the helm of those sellswords from Essos. If Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss wanted to end the series on a cynical note, the mercenary Strickland would whip Jon and Dany’s army but good and Cersei would remain on the Iron Throne. While that still feels unlikely (but not impossible), a Strickland primer would do you well before this Sunday’s episode. Here’s what you need to know about the Golden Boy at the head of the Golden Company.
He brings no elephants.
Cersei was able to hire Strickland and his army thanks to sacking Highgarden and looting its wealth. He appeared briefly earlier this season, next to the preternaturally annoying Euron. Strickland has already disappointed Cersei by revealing he did not bring elephants along with the rest of his war party. He did bring 20,000 men, though, minus the ones Euron killed on the boat trip over.
House Strickland are longstanding members of the Golden Company
The Golden Company is a fearsome fighting force, the most infamous mercenary company in the Seven Kingdoms. They’re made up of knights and Westerosi noblemen who struck out on their own after the failed Blackfyre Rebellion. Harry Strickland, of House Strickland, is one of a long line of his forebears to serve in the Golden Company.
The Golden Company fought for someone else in the books.
In the books, Harry Strickland and the Golden Company are not fighting on behalf of the Lannisters. George R. R. Martin has famously not finished the “The Winds of Winter,” so who knows if he intended them to eventually be under Cersei’s employ. In “A Dance With Dragons,” however, Strickland and his men are instead employed by a man claiming to be Aegon Targaryen. No, not Jon, but the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martell, who wants to invade Westeros. Strickland then leads the Golden Company on a successful mission to take Griffin’s Roost. In a chapter from “The Winds of Winter” we have actually seen, The Golden Company sack the Baratheon stronghold of Storm’s End.
This Sunday, however, Strickland and his men will be fighting on Team Lannister. They’ll deploy everything they’ve learned in battle to help Cersei maintain her icy grip on the Iron Throne. While Strickland can’t raise the dead, he is a veteran military commander. If Game of Thrones were going to end in Cersei’s favor, he’ll be a big reason why.
Featured image: Season 8, episode 5 (debut 5/12/19): Marc Rissmann. Photo: Courtesy of HBO