Winter is Here. After 60 hours of family feuding, political intrigue, incest, and multiple devastating deaths – the dour warning that served as the words of House Stark has nearly come to pass. Following an extended hiatus, Game of Thrones is returning with a truncated season, albeit with jumbo-sized episodes. So, here is your guide to bring you up to speed with where the show left off as we prepare for winter. Which is almost here. In mid-July.
To kick things off, we’ll start in Westeros’s capital King’s Landing, which bore witness to the most game-changing of events in last season’s finale. The newly-crowned Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), blew all her problems away with a stockpile of wildfire, killing all her enemies, including – well, it would be easier to list the people she didn’t kill. Now sitting the Iron Throne, her closest allies consist of her new Hand of the Queen, Qyburn, along with his Frankenstein’s Monster of a Queensguard Captain – the reanimated Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane. Her courtiers are surely not happy about having a ruler who employs such extremist tactics to assure her power, and neither, would it seem, is her brother-lover Jaime. Jaime, who murdered the king he was sworn to protect, did so to prevent a similar act of devastation from occurring. The look that passes between the two during Cersei’s coronation suggests Jaime’s loyalty to his sister is dwindling. Cersei’s most redeeming feature was the love she had for her children – before they were all killed, that is. She now has little to lose except her hold on the realm.
Moving north, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) won a victory against the Boltons and retook Winterfell in the name of Stark with the aid of Sansa (Sophie Turner). She reached out to Littlefinger, who appeared with his knights of the Vale just as the battle was at its most bleak. In the wake of this victory, the northern lords wasted no time in proclaiming Jon their new King in the North. Will this cause any conflict with Sansa? Sansa is the eldest living legitimate Stark, while Jon is still a bastard. And how likely is Littlefinger to stir the pot? At this point, we would hope Sansa has outgrown Littlefinger’s influence, but would Jon care for such machinations? Reclaiming the North was a necessary move to stabalise the Stark’s power in the region, but Jon knows of the true threat beyond the Wall.
Speaking of the Wall, we last saw Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Meera north of it last year, but they must be set to emerge on the other side early this season. Bran recently put his prematurely acquired Treenet powers to use and discovered the true parentage of Jon, which could have a significant impact on the endgame. Bran is surely headed for Winterfell, so will Jon finally learn of his ancestry? Or will this information evade him for yet another season?
The last Stark left to mention is Arya (Maisie Williams), who we last saw getting revenge on Walder Frey for the slaughter of Robb and Catelyn at the Red Wedding, but not before serving Lord Frey a healthy portion of pie made from his sons’ remains. Arya is very much driven by revenge and there’s still plenty of names left on her murder mantra, but how far will she continue down this dark path?
Last season also saw the return of Arya’s former reluctant road companion, The Hound (Rory McCann), after she left him for dead. Sandor’s newfound life of pacifism was cut short when he relapsed into axe murdering, getting revenge on rogue members of the Brotherhood Without Banners for killing his peacenik friends. Thereafter, Clegane was recruited by the Brotherhood, whose next mission seems to be heading north in preparation for the Great War.
Brienne and Podrick, when we last saw them, were heading north after failing to gain the loyalty of the Blackfish, who subsequently perished in the Lannister/Frey siege on Riverrun. Samwell arrived at the Citadel to commence his Maester training; Jorah is still out there with his festering greyscale; Melisandre was exiled from the North after Davos discovered her involvement in the burning of Princess Shireen; Euron Greyjoy remains a wildcard after being crowned King of the Iron Islands.
And finally, after seasons of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) attempting to learn the art of diplomacy, the Mother of Dragons has secured a somewhat stable peace agreement in Slaver’s Bay and now sails across the Narrow Sea with Tyrion as her Hand and an armada made up of Greyjoy, Tyrell, and Martell loyalists. Not to mention her army of Unsullied and Dothraki – and of course, three dragons. Are things going a little too well for her? Well, we’ll just have to see how this season shakes out.
And that’s it! We’re all up to speed and ready for the ensuing winter. We’re in the final stretch and only 13 episodes remain, 7 of which make up this penultimate season. So grab your furs, everyone – the Long Night is upon us. And the night is dark and full of terrors.