Will the Golden Company Betray Cersei Lannister and Determine Westeros' Ruler?

The 20,000-man army is composed of the most skilled swordsmen in Essos.

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(Image credit: HBO)

Game of Thrones season 8, episode 3 spoilers ahead. The Battle of Winterfell was bloody and violent, but it ended in victory for the living, bringing the Night King's 1,000-year campaign for another Long Night to a screeching halt. He and his entire army were slain, and what was left of the North lived to see another day. In the preview for the next episode, Daenerys sets her sights on King's Landing, determined to seize the throne. There's just one problem: Cersei has the King's Landing soldiers, the Iron Fleet, and the Golden Company at her disposal.

In terms of battle strategy, Team #Jonaerys proved they're not great at thinking things through—the most blaring example of their tactical inefficiency was their game plan at Winterfell. They positioned the Dothraki army at the front of the line, and we watched in horror as their flaming swords were snuffed out one by one as they rushed into the darkness. The soldiers of the North (many of whom were drafted off the streets) were next, mowed down by the undead without putting up much of a fight. Lastly, the Unsullied stood closest to the castle, barely holding it down as the last line of defense.

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(Image credit: HBO)

The Night King may have been defeated, but he took a lot of people down with him; when he re-animated the dead at Winterfell, they became wights, forever lost the moment that Arya plunged her Valyrian steel dagger into the villain's stomach. Many of our faves were left standing, but they found themselves surrounded by the corpses of their comrades. Daenerys, as usual, seems undaunted by the massive downsizing of her troops. It's almost like she doesn't understand the huge impact of the fight against the dead on her chances of storming King's Landing. We can chalk it up to the fact that she's still got two dragons or just blame it on delusions of grandeur. Either way, homegirl really believes that she has a shot at the Iron Throne. Gotta love that Targaryen entitlement!

The reality is that Daenerys and what's left of her army might be riding east towards their certain death. Back in King's Landing, Cersei has assembled an Avengers-level defense. She's got both land and sea covered—potential baby daddy Euron Greyjoy supplied his Iron Fleet for her cause—and what's more, Cersei has the manpower of the Golden Company in her employ. In the seventh season of GoT, the current Queen of the Seven Kingdoms took out a very large loan with the Iron Bank in order to pay for the highly-desired services of the Golden Company. Made up of 20,000 of the most skilled swordsman in the free cities (the Unsullied could be considered the best, but they were enslaved), the Golden Company has quite the reputation. They, along with the other troops in King's Landing, could very well be the deciding factor in the Long War, and Cersei's banking on their skills to help her win.

Further reading into the history of the Golden Company, however, hints that their loyalties can turn—for the right reasons, that is. The private army was actually founded by a Targaryen, one Aegor "Bittersteel" Rivers. As one of the illegitimate sons of King Aegon IV Targaryen, Bittersteel created the now infamous battalion of sellswords in an attempt to usurp the throne. Though he was ultimately defeated, the Golden Company continued, offering their services to the highest bidder.

Cersei is currently using borrowed funds from the Iron Bank and the profits from House Tyrell to employ the Golden Company, but what would happen if the sellswords' price suddenly skyrocketed? Daenerys has likely accumulated a great amount of wealth on her conqueror's tour, so could she somehow buy Cersei out? The Golden Company could also turn on Cersei based off of their connection to House Targaryen; it's not out of the realm of possibility that Commander Harry Strickland could take one look at Daenerys (or Jon/Aegon!) and her dragons and switch sides.

We really don't know what's going to happen at King's Landing, but honestly, if we survived the Battle of Winterfell and the Night King, I feel like we can survive anything. Game on.

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Lagos-born and Houston-raised, Ineye Komonibo is a writer and editor with a love for all things culture. With an academic background in public relations and media theory, Ineye’s focus has always been on using her writing ability to foster discourse about the deep cyclical relationship between society and the media we engage with, ever-curious about who we are and what we do because of what we consume. Most recently, she put her cultural savvy to work as a culture critic for R29 Unbothered, covering everything from politics to social media thirst to the reverberations of colorism across the African diaspora.