Last season, Game of Thrones accidentally scored a casting coup. An actor who was introduced in episode 7 turned out to be the actor of the season: Bella Ramsey, aka Lyanna Mormont.
Her character only appeared in two scenes. Three, if you count the single, dialogue-less shot in episode 9. But at 13 years of age, the girl stole every moment she was on camera.
But who is Lyanna Mormont? She will be back this season. But when? And where? How will she affect the story going forward?
Let's take a step back and refresh our memories of all the Mormonts, perhaps one of the most quietly influential houses of the series.
Ser Jorah Mormont
Of course, when we say Mormont, most people instantly jump to Jorah, Dany's longtime faithful servant and Lyanna's uncle. Jorah was originally banished to Essos after getting involved in the slave trade to pay off his debts. (His second wife, Lynesse Hightower, had very expensive taste and he went broke trying to keep her happy.) When Ned Stark found out, he went to Bear Island to execute Jorah, only to find he had fled.
Jorah originally joined Dany's entourage to spy on her for Varys, in hopes of getting a pardon. Instead, he fell helplessly in love and has been her most influential councilor over the years, despite being banished at the end of Season 4.
Lord Commander Jeor Mormont
Jorah's father Jeor, Lyanna's grandfather, abdicated rulership of Bear Island prior to Robert's Rebellion, though, to be honest, we don't really know why. We meet him in Season 1, not long after his son, though the show was slow to make the connection between the two. Jeor rose to Lord Commander in 288 AD, about a decade before the events of our story. As we know, he was killed in a mutiny by his own men during the great ranging.
While Jon Snow has tried to model himself after Ned as an honorable man, his assassination left him questioning this model in Season 6. Since then, his behavior seems to be more influenced by the former Lord Commander Jeor, the man who once groomed him to be a commander of men, and whose valyrian steel sword he carries, Longclaw. (Does Lyanna realize that's her family's sword Jon carries, by the way?)
Two of our most important characters, carrying a legacy of being taught by Mormonts in their formative years. Interesting, no?
Lady Maege Mormont
A quick note on this character, who was more prominent in the books than the show, where she only appeared in the background at best. (The shot above is from the Season 1 finale when Robb is named King in the North.)
Maege Mormont was Jorah's sister, and the Head of House Mormont after Jorah fled. She favored wearing battle leathers and is shown in armor during what few shots we see of her. She and her oldest daughter Dacey join with Robb Stark's forces against the Lannisters, and (at least in the books) have as many successes on the battlefield as the men. Both were killed in the Red Wedding, leaving Maege's younger daughter, Lyanna as the ruler of Bear Island.
The first time we hear from Lyanna is in a letter.
Stannis, stationed in Castle Black, sent ravens demanding the northern lords bend the knee to him. In response, Lyanna sends back a tart response that brings a smile to Jon Snow's face. "Bear Island knows no king but the King in the North, whose name is Stark."
Lyanna goes head-to-head with Davos.
When Jon found himself in the presence of Lyanna a year later, he was no longer smiling. As far as she was concerned, she saw no Starks before her, when they came asking for help retaking Winterfell, but a Lannister-Bolton and a Snow. Perhaps her maester might have tried to talk her into listening, but Lyanna was as fearsome and opinionated as she was small.
Luckily, Sansa and Jon had a secret weapon with them: Davos Seaworth, who knew how to connect with young women Lyanna's age after his years spent with Shireen. It was he who convinced her to give them her 62 fighting men (and women), and take a chance on the underdogs in the fight.
Lyanna was present at the Battle of the Bastards.
This scene was proof that Lyanna really did steal every last scene she appeared in last season. She didn't speak a word in this parlay scene ahead of the Battle of the Bastards. She appeared exactly once, sitting behind Sansa, snarling.
It was darling.
Lyanna crowns a king.
Having picked the correct side in the fight, Lyanna Mormont has certainly earned her way into Jon Snow's inner circle at Winterfell, once again making it so that one of our main characters has a Mormont advisor. But Lyanna is more than an advisor. She is a leader. And she's not afraid to call out men three and four times her age who want to hustle in, but didn't even stand with Jon Snow when he asked for help.
As far as she's concerned, Jon Snow may be a bastard but he is a Stark, and the Stark blood runs through his veins. Note that Lyanna carries her mother's last name, and that Maege had no declared husband, leading to many to speculate about her own parentage. Perhaps that's why she's willing to overlook his bastard status and be the first to declare him King in the North.
The others are quick to follow suit. Kingmaker is a powerful position, indeed.
What will Lyanna do next? We'll find out when Game of Thrones returns to HBO at 9 p.m. on Sunday, July 16.