This man's arms must be *aching* by now
Warning: Massive show and book spoilers ahead. Turn back now if you’re sensitive about such things.
Game of Thrones season 6 saw the return (and, in many cases, subsequent demise) of multiple characters who’d been missing for ages: Osha and Rickon. Edmure and the Blackfish. Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr. Best of all: The Hound. Welcome as those comebacks were, there remain notable faces from earlier seasons of the show who appear to have disappeared without trace or, more importantly, a storyline reason for doing so. Ahead are nine such characters who could still have significant roles to play in Arya’s ongoing quest for vengeance, Cersei’s defence of the Iron Throne, and the inevitable human vs white walker face-off.
9. Hot Pie
Through seasons 1-3, this former baker’s apprentice became one of Arya’s closest allies – once she was done threatening to kill him for trying to nab Needle. After escaping Harrenhal with the help of Jaqen H’ghar, the pair (along with Gendry) were captured by the Brotherhood Without Banners, who gifted Hot Pie to The Inn At The Crossroads as payment for meals. Hot Pie has been making bread there ever since, and provided vital info on Arya’s possible whereabouts to Brienne and Podrick in season 4.
With season 7 once more centred on Westeros, and Arya back on home turf but lacking obvious allies, there’s a strong chance of Pie making a return next year. If for no other reason than the show’s creators are running out of popular characters to kill off.
8. Ser Pounce
Prior to her wildfiery season 6 demise, it was rare than Margaery Tyrell got outmanoeuvred. Yet that’s exactly what occurred in season 4 when she attempted to give Tommen her own, personal interpretation of a visit to Highgarden. Following grandmother Olenna’s instructions to get closer to Westeros’ new king, Margaery snuck into his chambers in order for some pre-marital, uh, swordplay – only to be interrupted by Tommen’s pet cat, and his tale of Joffrey’s threats to kill it. Mood killer. Ser Pounce has since gone unmentioned, but after Tommen’s suicide is surely in the market for a new owner. Preferably not Qyburn.
7. Salladhor Saan
No detailed storyline explanation for this one. Put simply: Saan was the show’s most badass pirate in seasons 2-4, rescuing Ser Davos following the Battle Of Blackwater, and convincing him not to proceed with a futile plan to assassinate Melisandre. One last hurrah – perhaps on the high seas, with his troops decimated by Dany’s en route to Westeros – would be a far more fitting send-off for the character than the heated exchange of words with former friend Ser Davos that preceded his original season 4 departure.
Battle of the Bastards was one of the all-time great Game of Thrones episodes – but its bizarre lack of Jon Snow’s direwolf, even at a point where he seemed to be facing certain death, was a big immersion-killer. (For financial reasons, showrunners had to choose between featuring Ghost or giant Wun Wun in the big battle scene, and its aftermath at Winterfell.) Worse than the absence itself is that it wasn’t even addressed in the script. Jon could have mentioned to Sansa that Ghost had been ordered to roam freely until the battle was resolved, for instance.
Perhaps his storyline omission will be explained at season 7’s outset. Even if that doesn't happen, with winter (and White Walkers) coming it's imperative that Ghost returns to Jon's side, pronto.
5. Illyrio Mopatis
Who’s on her way to Westeros with three scaly flame-breathers? Daenerys Targaryen. Who gifted Daenerys the eggs that hatched those twisted firestarters? Illyrio Mopatis. What’s never been explained is how the Pentos-based merchant prince came upon these dragon-kinder eggs, and what interest he has in seeing Dany claim the Iron Throne. He’s pals with Varys, whose motives are seemingly to serve the realm and regain (then retain) a plum job in King’s Landing, but Illyrio has demonstrated no such desire. There’s an important story thread to be resolved here. Meaning that it likely never will be.
It’s easy to forget that Ghost isn’t the only surviving four-legged Stark sidekick. Season 6 saw Summer and Shaggydog join Grey Wind and Lady in direwolf heaven – yet Nymeria hasn’t been sighted since Arya set her loose in the Riverlands after biting Joffrey, way back in season 1. The act that caused Cersei to demand Lady’s execution instead.
With Arya back on the mainland and on a quest for blood, a season 7 reunion with Nymeria makes complete sense. Just don’t get your hopes up about her surviving the series as a whole.
Row, row, row your boat, gently into oblivion… Back in season 3, after being seduced and leeched by Melisandre, Gendry was snuck onto a one-man craft by Davos Seaworth and instructed to head towards King’s Landing. Since then, nothing. Presumably he’s still rowing. No Varys-style teleportation device for you, bastard.
Thing is, with the death of Tommen (don’t forget, the populace of Westeros still believe he is – well, was – Robert’s son), the Baratheon bloodline is technically extinct – and so the revelation that one of Robert’s offspring, even if it’s a bastard, is alive could throw Cersei’s claim to the throne into chaos. There’s even scope for a storyline based around him potentially being the true heir. More likely the show creators will avoid ever mentioning him again, with actor Joe Dempsie saying last year that he had “absolutely no idea” whether he’d be brought back. Shame.
2. Ser Ilyn Payne
“Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, The Hound…” So begins Arya’s revenge list when first mentioned in the show, and three of those characters are – theoretically – still out there to be fed family-body-part pie, stabbed in the eyes, or de-faced (literally) in pitch blackness. Remember that it was Payne, as the King’s Justice, who beheaded Arya’s father, Ned – triggering her escape from King’s Landing with Yoren, and escapades since.
Payne quietly dropped off Arya's list after actor Wilko Johnson was diagnosed with terminal cancer; but amazingly he fought back to beat the disease, and has since mentioned the possibility of returning to the show. “My character hasn't actually been killed off and I may well be in the next series,” he told MTV ahead of season 6. That didn’t occur, but with Cersei in desperate need of allies after claiming the Iron Throne, there’d be no more appropriate time for a return than at the outset of season 7.
1. Catelyn Stark
Don’t say I didn’t warn you about spoilers. Now, in the books, Momma Stark is brought back from the dead (by the Brotherhood Without Banners, no less) as the vengeful, merciless Lady Stoneheart – and now that the show has twice established this can happen (with Beric Dondarrion and Jon Snow), it’s time to complete the hat-trick with the ultimate shocker. Okay, less of a shocker now you’ve read this.
Assuming Cersei’s reign ends murderously, her last breath being prompted by Arya, or Tyrion, or Dany would still count as fairly predictable; Catelyn coming back to life then avenging the death of her husband and first-born would be anything but. It’s a bit too feel-good to be a realistic prospect, but the character in the books has certainly been kept around for some important purpose. Could that purpose transfer to the show, despite years of denials from Thrones' producers? Here's hoping.