After the phrase "like watching paint dry" was officially replaced with "watching ice melt" last week as fans stared at melting ice on screen for what felt like hours to discover the premiere date for the new season of Game of Thrones, we all learned that winter won't be returning until July this year. With only two seasons remaining and the Stark family finally back on the rise, anticipation for new episodes has reached a fever pitch. George R. R. Martin's epic fantasy saga has translated from page to screen unlike any series of novels we've ever seen, and now that the show has surpassed the novels in sequence of events, what comes next is unknown to even die hard novel loyalists. What will the show runners do when left to their own devices?
Last season we saw plenty of shocking deaths, revivals, and returns of beloved characters we hadn't seen in a while, but the breadth of players in this game is so massive, there are still a few names we fondly remember and would love to see return in season seven. We learned with the resurrection of Jon Snow that even death isn't the end sometimes, so Game of Thrones could decide to dish out some fan service to any of these favorites. As we inch closer and closer to discovering who will win the game and take their place on the coveted iron throne, let's break down faces we're hoping haven't lost quite yet. Who would you most like to see return for season seven?
15 Benjen Stark
Jon Snow's personal hero, and the little brother of Ned Stark, Benjen took a vastly different path than his elder sibling and worked his way up the ranks to become First Ranger of the Night's Watch. Shortly after Jon Snow joined the Watch, Benjen went out on a ranging expedition north of the Wall and never returned. The members of the Watch venture out in search of Benjen, only to face a range of catastrophic adversaries and discoveries. Benjen isn't seen again until season six, where he saves Bran and Meera from the White, only to disappear again once he leads them to the weir wood tree near the Wall that he cannot pass, due to his undead likeness. Surely Benjen wouldn't pop up for such a brief time never to be seen again. His mission is to defeat the dead and defend the living, so here's hoping we see him back in action again soon.
14 Salladhor Saan
The pirate-lord whose highest price is the chance to bed Queen Cersei hasn't been seen since season four, where he's paid by Ser Davos to sail to Castle Black. Salladhor Saan shows up at various point in the first four seasons to trade his ships for gold and for the promise of sex when it appeals to him. He's a fairly straight shooter and strikes up an unlikely partnership with Davos, but Salladhor disappears after this most recent journey. Did he go home to his wife and the rest of the payment from Davos? Did he die? Here's to hoping we'll find out in season seven.
13 The Hound
The brutal, heartless, murdering machine Sandor Clegane evoked little to no sympathy for being left for dead by Brienne back in season four, but nevertheless his return in season six was welcome. The Hound's executions were merciless, but as time went on his barely recognizable sympathy toward the Stark girls became intriguing. Now that he has joined the Brotherhood Without Banners, The Hound journeys to take on a new kind of enemy with the White Walkers. An upcoming battle with the undead is enticing, but the real war we want to see before Game of Thrones runs its course is between The Hound's own brother The Mountain, so here's to hoping for Cleganebowl 2017.
12 Syrio Forel
From day one, Game of Thrones has never shied away from exploiting the death of a character, more often than not going for the highest shock factor possible. For that reason, it's a hard pill to swallow that Syrio Forel, "The First Sword of Braavos" is actually gone. Syrio has such a rich presence in the first season of the show, guiding Arya through the lessons of water dancing so she could learn to defend herself with Needle. How then, could they not show his demise when put to the true test to combat the leader of the Kingsguard? At the end of season six Arya has finally reclaimed her identity, so maybe this is a step toward reuniting with her original mentor and taking back her family name.
The potentially last surviving bastard child of Robert Baratheon, Gendry is also the last known member at all of House Baratheon. Since Stannis and his daughter were sacrificed during season give, Gendry is the only hope Westeros has for the revival of House Baratheon. We haven't seen Gendry since season four, when Ser Davos frees him from his cell in Dragonstone and is sent back to Kings Landing on a rowboat. Gendry's storyline feels completely unfinished, as what would the point of keeping him alive be if not to cause some uproar with the unlimited claims to the throne? Does anyone see an Arya and Gendry reunion happening this year? After all, House Stark and House Baratheon are allies.
10 Hot Pie
Speaking of Gendry, no one could forget Hot Pie, the baker extraordinaire and partner in crime to Arya and Gendry. Although Hot Pie and Arya never meshed particularly well, their most recent goodbye was touching, and the last time we saw Hot Pie he was continuing to perfect his wolf bread recipe for her. Season four is becoming a common resting place for several since unseen characters, as the last time we saw Hot Pie, he was sending Brienne and Podrick away with some of that delicious bread along with some insight into Arya's whereabouts. Hot Pie manages to be an annoying thorn in the side of everyone he comes across, but he's helpful when it matters.
One of the six direwolf puppies adopted by the Stark family, Nymeria, like the other wolves, have sauntered in and out of episodes as they see fit. After narrowly avoiding execution as a result of the well-deserved bite mark she left on Joffrey's arm, Nymeria escaped Kings Landing never to be seen again. Now that her owner is making her way back from her journeys of escape and rediscovery, it's possible that Nymeria could resurface to reunite with Arya Stark as she reclaims the family name and all it stands for. After all, a direwolf is invaluable now that winter is here.
8 Beric Dondarrion
The leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners, a band of misfit deserters from various Houses, Beric Dondarrion has made several appearances throughout the Game of Thrones seasons. Beric is the first example we see of the ability to bring characters back from the dead, as his multiple resurrections continue to take more and more of his humanity away. The last time we saw Beric, he was with The Hound, recruiting him for a battle against the White Walkers. Since he loses pieces of himself with each resurrection, we can't help but wonder how long he'll remain intact before becoming less like a human and more like the opponents the Brotherhood is seeking to fight against.
7 Thoros of Myr
A red priest for the Lord of Light who has a fondness for alcohol, Thoros is Beric's literal lifeline in the Brotherhood Without Banners. Thoros's resurrection ritual was the inspiration behind Melisadre's successful attempt to bring Jon Snow back to life. The last time we saw Thoros, he was with Beric and The Hound, instructing the hanging of the men who gained their reputation by slaughtering an entire religious community whom The Hound was traveling with. With Thoros standing by to revive two ruthless fighters each time they die, it's hard to see a battle that can't be won as long as he's around. Could there be a confrontation between Thoros and the two red priestesses who have lined up to each serve their own choice of throne?
6 Theon Greyjoy
Yes, I know Theon is technically still alive, but the half boy, half lost puppy who follows around his sister in season six isn't quite the same character we were introduced to back in season one. After he's tortured and castrated by Ramsay Bolton and renamed Reek, Theon loses his identity, become Ramsay's own personal pet. Now he stands by Yara's side, supporting her as a queen, but remember when he inadvertently attempts to seduce her the first time he ventures back to the Iron Islands? With the new alliance between Yara and Daenerys tentatively secured, here's to hoping Theon can rise from the ashes and gain some of his swagger back.
This mysterious character has only appeared once so far in the series, but her presence was intriguing enough to warrant a request for more. In season two, Quaithe appears in Qarth to warn Dany about men who are after her dragons. Quaithe is a shadowbinder who possesses the power of clairvoyance, and her loyalty could be endlessly valuable in a battle for the throne. Her warning allows Ser Jorah to discover Pyat Pree's ill intentions with Dany's dragons, so why not bring Quaithe back to assist Dany as she sails to Kings Landing to stake her rightful claim on the iron throne? Let's keep this girl power streak going.
4 Jojen Reed
We've seen plenty of characters raised from the dead, but I know this one is a long shot since his body was destroyed in order to prevent his reanimation as a White Walker. However, nothing seems impossible when it comes to the mystical forces in Game of Thrones. Jojen was killed by White Walkers, and his body was obliterated by Leaf using magic of the forest, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that magic could also bring him back. Bran is now officially the three-eyed raven, so maybe we'll at least catch a few glimpses of the enigmatic Jojen via a vision or two to get more insight into Jojen's past.
3 Ilyn Payne
Ser Ilyn Payne, the tongue-less executioner who beheaded Ned Stark in the first season, is only seen and not heard when his grim reaping service are required. The last time we saw Ser Ilyn in season two he was on standby for Cersei to execute all of the women in hiding in the event that Stannis Baratheon won the Battle of Kings Landing. Tyrion was scheduled to be executed by Ser Ilyn upon conviction for the murder of Joffrey, but killed his own father and escaped before coming face to face with Ilyn. All eyes are on Kings Landing as every throne contender builds an army to overthrow the Lannisters, so it wouldn't be a surprising appearance if Ser Ilyn returned to serve up some beheading in the near future.
2 Illyrio Mopatis
Illyrio, whose loyalty appears to lie with the Targaryens, has played a vital role in the events that have unfolded over the last six seasons. Brokering the match made between Dany and Khal Drogo, Illyrio gifted Dany with the three dragon eggs as a wedding present. Did he know these eggs could actually hatch, or were they really just meant as a memento? Varys and Tyrion took refuge in Illyrio's home and was permitted to do so because of the history between Illyrio and the former, so it seems likely that Illyrio has heart of Dany and her three dragons making moves with an army. Chances are he'll conveniently rejoin the game now that his dragons have hatched and his old friend is near.
1 Catelyn Stark
The character we want to see most is also unfortunately the longest shot, as the show runners have previously commented on the possibility of Lady Stoneheart's debut on Game of Thrones to be slim to none. In the books, the reanimated form of Catelyn Stark joins the Brotherhood Without Banners to take revenge on members of the Frey family and everyone else who has wronged her and her fellow Starks. Since Thoros has proven to be a source of reincarnation, the case for Lady Stoneheart's appearance is still being made across the fandom. Who wouldn't want to see a zombified Catelyn Stark wreaking havoc on all of Westeros? Yes please.