Spoilers abound. It is known that at the end of last season of Game of Thrones, Cersei Lannister confided in her brother Jaime that she planned to reinforce their position in the south with sellswords from across the Narrow Sea, by using looted Tyrell gold to hire the famed Golden Company.
Now who exactly are the Golden Company and why are they so important to the future of the kingdoms.
Apparently, the Golden Company appears relatively late in the books. Appearing relatively late in the books, the Golden Company is inexorably entwined with elements that have been omitted from the television series, but even without all that book context, the show has given us enough to talk about the Golden Company and how they might factor into Season Eight.
The appearance of the Golden Company in Season Eight may not strictly adhere to whatever GRRM has planned for them in The Winds of Winter and beyond.
Here are a few details about the notorious Golden Company:
According to Watchers on the Wall:
It is believed that the Golden Company's troop strength is upwards of twenty-thousand men. And we still don't know what kind of weapons these trained soldiers will wield.
Depending on what happens when the North encounters the White Walkers, the number of soldiers in the combined Stark/Targaryen defence forces will drop. But barring any catastrophic losses, if the Stark/Targaryen coalition is successful in repelling the army of the dead, they'll probably have a numerical edge on forces in the field defending Cersei's position. But a simple numerical edge might not be enough.
The northerners (and allies) will probably have to substantially outnumber the sellswords to overcome the Golden Company's experience.
This depends entirely on dragons though.
Dragons are certainly a force-multiplier for the northern army. Cersei seemed to emphasize that the Golden Company had elephants, as if that somehow was the same as having dragons. They'd have to be very, very impressive (and fireproof) elephants to stack up.
Hypothetical elephant-mounted scorpions might still be somewhat effective against the dangerous ghoul-dragon Viserion (the Night King might not enjoy being hit by a scorpion-bolt) but unless the missiles are bearing Valyrian-steel heads, the shafts will be more of an annoyance than a threat.
The Golden Company enjoys the benefit of their soldiers' discipline relative to the average conscripted Westerosi infantryman – but that can't compare to the discipline of the wights. The undead don't get spooked, they give maximum effort, and when directed they follow their directions without question.
If the common interpretation of the first teaser trailer is correct, the Riverlands could see a tremendous battle between the wights and the living (as symbolically represented by the animated teaser's ice and fire motif) – probably near the rivers of the Trident. The show has gone to some lengths to indicate that the wights are not adroit in water, so crossing rivers would probably best be done at fords – but the undead giants could wade across otherwise impassable stretches without floundering or being swept away.
The Golden Company may help Cersei regain control of on re-establishing control of the continent. And they might also help her exact her revenge on Sansa Stark and her brother Tyrion Lannister. Until Jaime secured his condemned brother's clandestine release, Tyrion had been in Cersei's power, doomed to die as a result of being found guilty of regicide. Sansa had been a valuable hostage and something of a project for Cersei, when there was the possibility of Sansa marrying Joffrey. Until Sansa was spirited away from King's Landing by the late, unlamented Littlefinger.
We've seen sellswords engage in special forces operations before.
Loyalty to the highest bidder:
Back when Lord Eddard Stark was alive and Hand of the King, Petyr Baelish responded with a question to Ned's assertion that the Hand needed the support of the city watch goldcloaks – men who had a duty to keep the king's peace.
In the books, the Golden Company broke an existing military contract with Myr because it was seizing the opportunity to participate in the succession struggle happening in Westeros. That particular scenario won't necessarily be replicated on the show, but it indicates that if the stakes are high enough and the opportunity too enticing to pass up, the sellswords might have their own ideas.
The Golden Company may have a big part to play in the epic battle that has been teased for the final season. These soldiers do have elephants. And imagine the undead getting an army of elephants, couple that with a dragon and the battle just got more epic.