The sixth season of Game Of Thrones debuts in just over two months on HBO, and it’s sure to be one of the biggest TV events of the year. We’ve already delved into the mystery of the poster that was recently released for the season, showing the possibly-deceased-possibly-not Jon Snow looking morose and bloodied. Beyond hints and theories about Jon Snow, however, we really don’t know a whole lot about where this season might be headed. That’s particularly true given the show is finally surpassing the work of George R.R. Martin, who’s working on the written series at a notoriously slow pace.
Really, we’re in full wait-and-see mode here. But one way to approach speculation about season six is to take a look at some of the series’ most evil characters who, up to this point, have driven much of the action with their antics. Be warned: some spoilers follow!
It’s hard to imagine a much more despicable character than Walder Frey (who’s played to perfection by David Bradley). Sure, he has reason to hate the Starks after Robb Stark basically trashes a solemn vow to marry into the Frey family and thus lend it legitimacy. Actually, a lot of what we blame on bad guys in this series can be blamed instead on Robb’s libido (or, you know, heart). Nevertheless, Frey’s the one who took a humiliating slap in the face and retaliated with the freaking Red Wedding—the festive slaughter that headlined a list of shocking TV moments compiled by Ask Men.
To this point, Frey has probably had as big an impact on this series as any villain, or has at least done the most damage to folks we care about. And entering season six, he’s in a bit of a desperate situation, with his family and legacy crumbling a bit despite his pact with the Lannisters. We may be in for some kind of sinister, desperate power grab from Frey.
Others in this series appear more openly evil than Tywin. Yes, he’s an antagonist, but he can seem more stern and uncompromising than truly evil. Nonetheless, Tywin has a pretty questionable past, is undeniably a vicious tyrant, and has driven his three powerful children to the point of ripping Westeros to shreds with their combined cunning, thirst for power, and desire to please him. He’s a bit like a puppet master dangling other evils from his fingertips. Unfortunately for entertainment’s sake, he’s also dead.
Tywin can cast an interesting shadow over season six in ways that go beyond his lingering influence on his children. Specifically, some of the famed Lannister wealth appears unaccounted for. In addition to providing information on the Irish lottery, Lottoland put together a list of the 15 richest characters in fiction, and they found that Tywin had some £1.2 billion in estimated wealth lying around. While we know Cersei’s had some trouble with royal finances, there would appear to be a heap of gold at her disposal at Casterly Rock. Given that Cersei will enter this season on a mad quest for vengeance against pretty much everybody, that gold could do its own evil….
Ramsay Bolton might be the most sadistic character in the whole series, and that’s saying something. When you can make an audience pity the utterly cowardly and traitorous Theon Greyjoy, you’re doing some serious evil. But the miserable bastard son of Roose Bolton is also one of the most intriguing characters heading into season six.
That’s because of all the ways the show has strayed from the books, Jon Snow’s ending (or, you know, possible-not-ending) was one of the biggest changes. In the books, we were all gearing up for an epic good vs. evil showdown as Jon prepared to abandon the wall to take on Ramsay and retake Winterfell. In the show, this is never really on the table, though we do see Ramsay’s position weakened significantly as his prized prisoners Theon and Sansa Stark escape during his victory over Stannis Baratheon. The assumption is that Sansa and Theon did survive their ambiguous leap of faith, so we’re left with Ramsay weakened politically and Jon Snow weakened physically. Will they have a showdown anyway?
Finally, there’s the living, walking embodiment of the threat to man’s existence in Westeros. The towering, terrifying ice king leading a legion of White Walkers down from the North is almost certainly the biggest threat our heroes (and villains for that matter) have faced, and it’s almost certain that he’ll be a bigger factor in season six.
There was an interesting theory put forth at Medium that the White Walkers can actually be looked at as oppressed protagonists, and in the off chance that’s really what’s going on, perhaps the Night’s King isn’t a villain at all. But come on… if you’ve seen the guy, you’re 99-percent sure he’s pure evil. And as of now, we’re pretty low on ways he might be killed…
Many more evil characters abound of course, and there might be an argument to be made that some are worse than the ones on this list. But in terms of impact on Game Of Thrones moving forward, these four—even the dead lord and the undead ice king—are the most significant villains.