Even though Game of Thrones trades on the moral ambiguity of its cast — the idea that even the best people can make grave mistakes — there’s no question that certain characters stand out as more heroic than others.
For instance, everyone expects greatness from Jon Snow (Kit Harington), what with the fact that he recently conquered an enemy no greater than death itself. Likewise with Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), finally set to make landfall in Westeros for the first time in Thrones history, with an army of fan-favorite forces to boot. However this whole story ends, it’s a strong bet that Jon and Dany will play instrumental roles in pulling the Seven Kingdoms’ collective feet out of the proverbial fire — or bitter cold boil, as it were.
Those two central figures aside, Thrones is littered with characters who have the potential for true acts of heroism — folks who haven’t fully lived up to that potential yet, or haven’t in quite some time, but are poised to step up with moments of greatness as season seven pushes forward. Here are the folks we’re hoping to step up their hero game in the coming season, some more likely than others:
1. Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan)
Her brother Theon (Alfie Allen) already enjoyed a hero moment at the end of season five and into the beginning of season six, when he liberated Sansa (Sophie Turner) from the Bolton-controlled Winterfell. Season seven could see Theon’s sister stepping up the plate in a similar regard, perhaps even on a larger scale. She’s in charge of the Greyjoy fleet, at least as it pertains to Daenerys‘ army, and she has at least one ocean-dwelling monster to worry about as the show moves forward: Uncle Euron (Pilou Asbaek), the snarling stranger who crowned himself king of the Iron Islands. In trailers for season seven, we’ve seen violent scenes set in fiery ocean settings, suggesting a Battle of the Greyjoys. Whether a sacrifice play or an outright strategic master play, Yara’s time to show her prowess as a navy commander and supreme Iron Islands warrior looks to be at hand this season.
2. The Sand Snakes
Ever since their introduction in season five, the Sand Snakes have been a source of derision, not fully accepted by the masses of Game of Thrones fans. Perhaps that’s set to change in season seven, now that their poisoned fangs are pointed in the right direction — or, at least, are pointed in the same direction as ever before, but with new backing and energy in the form of Dorne’s alliance with House Targaryen. Everyone keeps clamoring for a Cleganebowl between brothers Sandor and Gregor, but what about this possibility: “Sand Snake Mountain,” in which the late Oberyn Martell’s daughters challenge the zombified Mountain in a direct attempt at vengeance? Of course, the odds are not in their favor, but a direct attack on the Lannisters‘ single most physically imposing asset would be a heck of a way to earn some character redemption.
3. The Hound (Rory McCann)
Sand Snakes aside, the person we really want to see taking on the Mountain is his brother. Thankfully, we’re in position for exactly that, given the fact that Sandor Clegane returned to the fold in season six. He’s now riding alongside the Brotherhood Without Banners, making his way north to grind his axe against the true enemy facing Westeros: the White Walkers. Hard to imagine exactly how his sword crosses path with the Mountain during that journey, but if the Hound’s trajectory sees him facing his fears of fire by taking down monsters made of ice, before he gets his shot at his undead brother, we’ll all be very happy campers indeed.
4. Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer)
He’s already the MVP of season seven, at least as far as trailers are concerned. The one image of Beric kissing his flaming sword to life in the midst of a wintery landscape is already seared into the minds of fans everywhere, and it hasn’t even happened on the show yet. While we’re now guaranteed to see Beric in glorious action when season seven hits, it’s equally wise to start preparing for the Lightning Lord facing down death yet again — perhaps for the final time. The pet theory we’re developing in our neck of the woods: Jon Snow will die, again, during that same battle, and Beric will sacrifice his final life to revive the fallen King in the North. More on that theory here.
5. Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey)
As the breakout character of season six, the Lady of Bear Island enters season seven with a ton of interest from the fans. The Starks were always the star players on the series, as far as children are concerned, until the arrival of Bella Ramsey’s tough-as-winter Lyanna. Given the success of the character, it’s worth hoping, if not expecting, for more Lady Mormont screen time, and an opportunity to rally other unexpected allies to the Northern cause, like the Targaryen forces. How to accomplish such a thing? Perhaps through a meeting of the minds with another surly lady on the other end of the age spectrum: Olenna Tyrell of Highgarden (Diana Rigg), the last surviving member of her house. Seriously, if season seven passes without a scene between the Queen of Thornes and the Queen of Bears, it will rank as one of Thrones‘ saddest missed opportunities.
6. Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen
Both of these Westeros legends died long ago, but their actions have reverberated throughout Thrones long after their death. Look for those consequences to increase in volume in season seven, as Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) enters the fray with the privileged information that Lyanna and Rhaegar are Jon Snow’s true parents — which means the current King in the North is a secret Targaryen. As a result, expect whatever frostiness exists at the start of Jon and Daenerys‘ interactions to eventually thaw once his true lineage comes to light. Belated thanks, Mom and Dad!
7. Samwell Tarly (John Bradley)
Make no mistake: Sam the Slayer has enjoyed his fair share of heroic moments, even including his brief scenes in season six standing up to his cruel father. But given his recent road trip, Samwell has been away from the show’s main action for a good little stretch now. We’re expecting that to change now that he’s finally training at the Citadel of Oldtown. There’s already plenty of speculation about how Sam’s status as a maester-in-training could lead him toward critical information in the war against White Walkers, and we’re fully onboard with that theory: Sam, the man who killed a White Walker with dragon glass, will rejoin the fold in season seven with a wealth of knowledge as sharp as a thousand Valyrian swords.
8. Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)
He saved King’s Landing once before, by driving a sword through the back of a powerful ruler who was on the edge of sentencing his own people to death. Will history repeat itself in season seven? Certainly, Cersei (Lena Headey) has no shortage of enemies who are in position to take her out of power. But the deadliest enemies are the ones you don’t expect, and there’s no way Cersei would ever expect to lose at the hands (err, hand) of her own brother and lover. But given how visibly appalled Jaime was at the sight of Cersei’s wildfire tactics at the end of season six, and given the king-slaying he enacted well before the series under similarly fiery circumstances — not to mention the prophecy that Cersei will one day die at the hands of “the younger brother,” who she has long suspected to be Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), but may actually be her younger twin — the elements are in place for Jaime to be a tremendous hero to Westeros at large by taking out the Mad Queen.
9. Gendry (Joe Dempsie)
Robert Baratheon’s bastard blacksmith son needs to return eventually, doesn’t he? Here’s hoping he shows up in season seven with a swath of Valyrian weapons that he’s been building since his last appearance in season three. The hero we need, if not the one we deserve.
Give us your own season seven hero predictions in the comments below, and keep checking back with us at THR.com/GameOfThrones for more theories, news, interviews and more leading up to the premiere on July 16.