Who Will Be 'Game Of Thrones' Next Big Bad Now That Ramsay's Out Of The Picture?

Spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 6 ahead. It is an understatement to say that the death of one of Game of Thrones' most heinous villains was exciting for viewers. It was downright invigorating — as if the day of the episode was Christmas and Halloween and your birthday all wrapped in one "Battle of the Bastards." Yet while the death of Ramsay Bolton was certainly worth celebrating, his absence from the show going forward raises two big questions — who will be Game of Thrones ' next big villain, and will anyone be able to truly take Ramsay's place?

Drama-heavy series often need a Big Bad to remind us that even if our heroes aren't perfect, at least they aren't evil. This character is also essential because he or she (or it, in some cases) drives the plot — the protagonists want something, and the villains won't let them get it. On Game of Thrones, Ramsay seriously nailed both of these characteristics, and it will be difficult for someone else to step up to the plate of supreme evil. In Season 7, all the characters we like (the Starks, Danaerys and co, etc.) or at least don't totally hate (Cersei, the people of Dorne, etc.) are going to start butting heads, and that doesn't bode well for the Game of Thrones body count. And with all that conflict about to occur, it's worth wondering who will be GoT's next true villain, the character viewers are going to totally, completely, hate.

The most obvious answer is The Night King, the guy who pretty much exemplifies the phrase "chillin' like a villain." The whole crew — Lannister, Stark, Targaryen, Wildings, Brotherhood without Banners, all of Dorne, etc. — needs to get together and take this guy down for obvious reasons: the possibility of winter forever, everybody turning into weird zombie things, and the end of civilization as they know it. But at the same time, viewers don't yet hate The Night King, and it's hard to imagine him becoming the true Big Bad. After all, the Night King isn't cruel to be cruel, like Ramsay was. The King, like many of the other GoT characters, does some terrible things, but these acts seem to primarily be for survival of his people. And besides, its not like he asked The Children to turn him into a predator of the human species (well, probably not). It may be easy to hate a man who behaves like a monster, like Ramsay, but it's harder to truly hate a creature who didn't ask to be the monstrous figure he's become.

Then there's Melisandre and Cersei who are both mild sociopaths, but who have still managed to win us over with their gumption and powerful vibes. These qualities prevent them from becoming Big Bads, as whenever these women do something that is horrible or crazy, they do it to protect what they believe in and want to keep safe. Ramsay, meanwhile, tortured and maimed and flayed for fun. And whereas the women both have passion — Cersei for her children and Melisandre for the Lord of Light — Ramsay has no such feelings. Big difference.

I can't hate either the sorceress or the Queen, no matter how hard I try, as they're just trying to make it as powerful women with missions in a dangerous and sexist society. Compared to Ramsay, and Joffrey before him, who brought such heavy sociopath game to the table by torturing only for fun and power, it's hard to envision either Cersei or Melisandre as figurative mustache-twirling villains.

A popular strain of theorizing is that one of our favorite characters like Daenerys or Sansa is going to snap and turn evil, Mad King Aerys-style. But at this point, fans love these characters so much that it would be hard to relish their villainy and see them as Big Bads, if that were to happen. Unlike how fans were certain since the beginning, practically, that Joffrey and Ramsay were supreme evil, we've gotten to see Sansa and Dany as empathetic, likable characters, so it's impossible to consider them as prime candidates for the most heinous titles.

My money's on the idea that there is no super-villain in Season 7. I think this season will be about all our favorites working together and figuring out a peace, either via battle or compromise, so they can all fight against what's to come. Whether all these groups will be able to put aside their differences remains to be seen, and at the same time, viewers will probably learn more and more about the Night King's origin story via Bran — therefore slowly learning to not hate him while also greatly wanting the demise of all both him and his legions. In short, it seems incredibly unlikely that there'll be a huge Big Bad in any form in Season 7.

Game of Thrones has done its best to completely abandon character tropes — many of our favorites being brutalized in horrible ways, or evil characters turning into people we like (Jaime and Cersei, The Hound, etc.) — so it stands to reason that the show will also eliminate the idea of one supreme evil dude that fans totally despise. Now that Ramsay is gone, and with him most of what's keeping the Starks back, the show might not need someone who is super scary to keep this series interesting, anyhow.

No matter what happens, I'm so excited to see what the writers and George R.R. Martin come up with. It is bound to be a real treat, and Season 7 cannot come soon enough. For now, I'll just level a "Boy, bye" at Ramsay and continue toasting to his death Cersei-drinking-wine-style.

Images: Helen Sloane/courtesy of HBO, Giphy (4)