Update: the Golden Company arrive in King's Landing in the Season 8 premiere, Winterfell. Alas, they didn't bring any elephants, but they're impressive nonetheless. Original article as follows...
The first trailer for Game of Thrones has arrived, bringing with it lots of shots of, well, just about everyone you care about in peril. But it also quickly reveals a new bunch of characters too.
Although only seen briefly, the trailer reveals the Golden Company being brought to Westeros by Euron Greyjoy and his Iron Fleet, as he planned with Cersei back in the Season 7 finale. These are likely the biggest new characters for the upcoming season, since there's not much time left, but who exactly are they?
In the context of the show, the most notable mention we've had of them came during The Dragon and the Wolf, when Cersei unveiled her plans, where she tells us the Golden Company have "20,000 men, horses, elephants."
Aside from that, the Company was first mentioned back in Season 4, when Davos suggested that Stannis purchase them to help his bid to win the Iron Throne, but Stannis refuses to use sellswords. Around the same time, Jorah warns Daenerys against trusting Daario Naharis because he's a sellsword, and we learn that Jorah himself used to be a member of the Golden Company.
Now they're coming to Westeros, to lend their swords to Cersei's cause. They're currently led by Harry Strickland, who is going to be played by German actor Marc Rissmann (Into The Badlands, The Last Kingdom, Overlord; pictured below), and expected to feature in just a couple of episodes.
In the books, they have a larger role. In A Feast For Crows, word starts getting around that the Golden Company have broken their contract with Myr, who are on the precipice of war against Lys and Tyrosh. There's a lot of speculation as to why, because their motto is 'Our word is good as gold' and they pride themselves on not breaking their contracts.
In A Dance With Dragons, we learn that Viserys Targaryen hosted them, and they laughed at his plans, and that the former leader of the company had conspired with Illyrio Mopatis to pledge their allegiance to Daenerys Targaryen. With a change of leadership, though, and plans in a state of flux regarding Daenerys, the Golden Company instead decide to pledge their loyalty to another Targaryen: Aegon VI, the alleged son of Rhaegar Targaryen, who has been cut from the TV series. They go with him to Westeros, landing in the Stormlands with a plan to take Storm's End, something it's already been revealed they accomplish in The Winds of Winter.
Harry Strickland, meanwhile, is known as Homeless Harry, and is very different from the guy we see in the trailer. The show version looks of the same golden lion ilk as Jaime Lannister was back in Season 1, but in the books he's older, portly, and with thinning hair, who is thought of as a coward because he shows a reluctance to fight.
Going further back, the Golden Company has its genesis in the First Blackfyre Rebellion, a civil war that broke out when King Aegon IV Targaryen legitimised his bastard children on his deathbed, and one of them - Daemon Blackfyre - made a claim for the Iron Throne, which was currently held by Daeron II Targaryen.
The family was split into two, with the Targaryens defeating the Blackfyre's in the epic Battle of the Redgrass Field. Those that were able escaped to Essos, led by Aegor Rivers, aka Bittersteel, one of the most prominent and celebrated warriors in the Blackfyre Rebellion, who'd had a very personal rivalry with his brother Brynden (who'd go on to become the Three-Eyed Crow).
Rivers formed the Golden Company because he saw all of the other exiles joining up to other sellsword companies, and wanted to preserve some of House Blackfyre's remaining power, and they quickly forged a reputation as the best in the business, honouring their founder with a war cry 'Beneath the gold, the bitter steel'.
While Aegon hasn't made it into the show, there are two Targaryens in Westeros - and they're the people they've been hired to fight against. It'd be interesting to see if those family politics and history were touched upon at all once they learn they'll be going up against a rightful Targaryen ruler, although there might not be enough time for it with just six episodes in the season.
NCTJ-qualified journalist. Most definitely not a racing driver. Drink too much tea; eat too much peanut butter; watch too much TV. Sadly only the latter paying off so far.
A mix of wise-old man in a young man's body with a child-like wonder about him and a great otherworldly sensibility.