'Game of Thrones' Season 8 Golden Company Explainer: Harry Strickland and His Mercenaries May Be Crucial to Ending

Is this Harry Strickland leading his Golden Company to Westeros? HBO

The Golden Company, a mercenary organization based in Essos across the Narrow Sea, could be crucial to the balance of power in the final season of Game of Thrones. Mentioned in previous seasons of Game of Thrones and also making a brief cameo in the trailer for Game of Thrones Season 8, understanding the Golden Company—and their leader, "Homeless" Harry Strickland—could be crucial to the battles ahead when Game of Thrones returns for its final six episodes on April 14.

Though the Golden Company has a large role in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, they've so far only been mentioned on HBO's Game of Thrones. In Season 4, Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) suggests Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) hire the Golden Company to secure the Iron Throne—perhaps Stannis should have listened. We also learn Daenerys' advisor and former lover Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) once fought in the Golden Company, before taking over another mercenary organization known as the Second Sons. Even Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) once fought for the Golden Company, soon after his exile from Westeros.

But it was only in Season 7 that it looked like the Golden Company might finally enter the picture, when Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) requests a new loan from the Iron Bank of Braavos to purchase the Golden Company's services in her war against, well, everyone. "My only venture at this moment is re-establishing control of this continent and every person on it," Cersei tells Tycho Nestoris (Mark Gatiss) of the Iron Bank, later confirming the Golden Company contract to Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). "Highgarden bought us the most powerful army in Essos, the Golden Company. Twenty thousand men, horses, elephants, I believe."

The first trailer for Game of Thrones Season 8 confirms the Golden Company's role in the final season. The Golden Company briefly appear in the trailer, arrayed in their namesake resplendent armor aboard a Greyjoy ship, presumably en route from Essos to Westeros with the help of Euron Greyjoy's fleet.

There's a good chance the man with his back to us is the Golden Company leader Strickland, played in Season 8 by German actor Marc Rissmann (The Man in the High Castle, Into the Badlands).

But to best understand the Golden Company, we must go beyond the hints dropped throughout Game of Thrones and look at the A Song of Ice and Fire book series.

Founded by a bastard son of Aegon IV Targaryen (great-great-great-great grandfather to Daenerys Targaryen, unless we're reading the family tree wrong), the Golden Company was originally led by exiled lords and knights from Westeros, who fled across the Narrow Sea. Members of the Company are known to wear all of their possessions, bedecking themselves in plundered gold and jewelry. They believe themselves better than other sellswords, which they often are.

The Golden Company are frequently fickle, going where the money is and turning on rich patrons who fail to live up to their end of a bargain. In the book series, the Golden Company briefly contemplates joining with Daenerys, but instead back a different claimant to the Iron Throne, a character who doesn't appear in Game of Thrones. They follow this would-be king, Aegon VI Targaryen, back across the Narrow Seas to Westeros. By the beginning of the latest novel in the series, The Winds of Winter, the Golden Company have invaded and captured Storm's End, the seat of House Baratheon—a location so far unseen in Game of Thrones.

It seems likely the Golden Company will play a very different role in the final six episodes of Game of Thrones , perhaps either bolstering the garrison at King's Landing or marching north to attack the armies of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) from behind as they guard Winterfell against the White Walkers.