10:00am PT by Josh Wigler
'Game of Thrones': The Forces of House Stark, Ranked
With the stakes as high as they are on HBO's Game of Thrones, at least Jon Snow has one thing going for him: good company.
The King in the North takes on his new responsibility in season seven alongside some incredibly capable allies, some who are more warrior-minded than others. With House Bolton officially purged from Winterfell (not to mention the earth), Jon has the right home base and the right group of confidants to start making preparations for the coming war with the White Walkers.
While he lacks the sheer firepower that Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is bringing to bear upon season seven, Jon more than makes up for numbers with quality of characters. Really, the list of people who are either currently in Winterfell or are on their way is an impressive one indeed, a veritable who's who of your favorite people on Game of Thrones.
Here's the lineup, ranked in order of their utility in the great war to come.
10. Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen)
Chaotic times call for chaotic measures, and nobody thrives in chaos quite like Petyr Baelish. The smirking Lord of the Vale currently walks the halls of Winterfell, presumably plotting moves against Jon Snow. Not exactly a trusted person to lean on when the going gets tough — and "tough" is about to become a severe understatement as the White Walkers march toward the Wall. Littlefinger might not be an asset in that conflict, but given his self-preservation instincts, he might be the best bet to get out of the North before the snow hits the fan.
9. Arya Stark (Maisie Williams)
Only on this list would Arya rank so low. And frankly, we don't even know if she will make it to Winterfell this season at all. It's entirely possible that her thirst for vengeance will take her elsewhere, like King's Landing. But it's that very bloodlust that raises red flags. Will she be focused enough on the White Walker war when the time comes? Will her thirst for revenge get in the way? Arya's abilities learned from the House of Black and White could be useful in the conflict, though something suggests the Night King isn't going to be so easily fooled by a veritable mask.
8. Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman)
Honor, loyalty and integrity aren't often rewarded on Game of Thrones. In fact, those things often lead to terrible punishment (see Ned Stark for more). In the case of Brienne and Pod, however, these two soldiers have committed themselves to vows more sacred than their mortal forms. That kind of loyalty, backed up with actual skill, will go a long way toward navigating the Great War and protecting the people who are ranked higher on this list.
7. The Brotherhood Without Banners
At the moment, Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) is already the MVP of season seven, based solely on his flaming sword moment in the trailer. Whether or not his ragtag band of fighters can live up beyond that billing is anyone's guess. In any case, we're bound to get at least one breathtaking Brotherhood battle, an even more exciting prospect now that The Hound (Rory McCann) is traveling with the pack.
6. The Wildlings
Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) leads the Free Folk, whether he wants to or not, and he did so very effectively during the Battle of the Bastards. While they needed some assistance from the Knights of the Vale in the end, the Wildlings put up a hell of a fight against House Bolton's forces. Plus, they know firsthand just how rough it's going to get when the White Walkers finally arrive. Nobody has skin in the game quite like the Wildlings. Expect their grit to be tested even further in the episodes ahead.
5. The Night's Watch
Dolorous Edd (Ben Crompton) has command over Castle Black, leading the last line of defense standing between Westeros and the White Walkers. Sadly, their numbers have diminished greatly over the years, not that they were ever really impressive at the start of Thrones. Even so, without the Wall, there's no barrier against the army of the undead. If the Watch falls, Westeros won't be far behind — and sadly, we think we'll be looking at that very outcome before season seven ends.
4. The Great Northern Houses
Two words: Lyanna Mormont. The Lady of Bear Islands was the breakout character of season six, and with any luck, the trend will continue as season seven unfolds. More than any one individual, the Northern alliance is absolutely instrumental in the fight against the White Walkers; a divided North is the last thing Jon Snow needs if he's going to stand any kind of chance against the greatest threat humanity has ever seen.
3. Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham)
A leader is nothing without at least one airtight ally in his corner. Davos is that man for Jon Snow. He's unfailing in his loyalty, as seen through his dedication to Stannis all the way until the man's dying day. He's the one who convinced Melisandre (Carice van Houten) to bring Jon back to life. He knows better than just about anyone how much is at stake if the White Walkers invade Westeros. No one is going to have Jon's back quite like Davos, and no one is going to match him for level-headedness and empathy — crucial qualities that must endure in the coming conflict.
2. Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner)
Sure, how much damage can Sansa do against a White Walker, directly? Don't scoff: Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) would laugh right back in your face. That said, Sansa isn't this high on the list because she's going to drive dragonglass into anyone's backs anytime soon. Instead, she's the person who will hold the North together when the time comes, the person who has accumulated the necessary political acumen to keep the realm together when the dust settles on the war ahead. She might even be the person who can broker the necessary deals with Daenerys' contingent. After all, Sansa is the one who has the Knights of the Vale on speed dial. How hard can it be to get a dragon's phone number?
1. Jon Snow (Kit Harington)
He fought the White Walkers, and walked away with his life intact. He died at the hands of traitors, and somehow walked away again with his life intact — more or less, anyway. Now, he's in charge of the entire North, the one man in a position of power who is willing to call out the true threat facing Westeros for what it is. There's a reason Lord Snow survived death, and it's because he's needed in the battle that's yet to come. He is the prince who was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire. It is known.
WILDCARD: Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright)
When Bran makes it back to Winterfell (something that both photos and trailer strongly suggest), he's going to be the most powerful person in the room, full stop. He's already arguably the most powerful person on the show, what with his ability to warg into other creatures and witness events across time — even interact with those events, based on the Hodor incident. Bran spent an entire season away from the screen because his power levels were growing at a faster level than any other character, faster even than Isaac Hempstead Wright himself. Now that we're in firm end-game territory, there's no one with more destructive power than Bran — something that could be a huge boon in the war for mankind, but also has the complete opposite potential to backfire severely. After all, Bran still boasts the Night King's mark on his forearm; is it possible that his return to Westeros will allow for the White Walkers' arrival as well? Because his powers have so much potential for good and ill alike, Bran has to be considered the biggest wildcard in the mix by far.
Watch the video below for more on what's ahead for Jon Snow.
Game of Thrones returns Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO. How would you rank the forces in the North?