After six seasons of foreboding about the coming storm, winter is finally imminent. In the spine-tingling words of Jon Snow, “The Great War is here.”
Season 6 left fans breathless with a final few over-the-top episodes that were arguably among the finest hours of television ever produced and, now, millions await Season 7 with feverish anticipation. Some 50 million people, in fact, watched the show’s Season 7 trailer in the 24 hours after it first aired.
The seventh season premieres on July 16—the first episode of just 13 that will stretch over two final seasons.
Here are six things to know before you settle in for what’s sure to be a thrilling Season 7 ride:
1. Jon Snow
The Season 6 finale saw Jon Snow very much alive and crowned King in the North after beating Ramsay Bolton and reclaiming Winterfell. The Game of Thrones hero was ruthless in having his would-be murderers executed.
The mystery of Jon’s parents was finally revealed in the finale, confirming one of the show’s most popular and long-held fan theories. Bran journeyed back in a vision that showed Ned Stark’s sister Lyanna giving birth to Rhaegar Targaryen’s child. As Ned Stark approached his sister’s blood-soaked bed, she begged him to promise—with her dying breaths—to protect her newborn son. Ned brought his nephew back to Winterfell and raised him as his bastard son.
What does this mean? Jon is now at the very center of the ice and fire Venn diagram. He is a dragon-taming Targaryen, meaning he can ride Daenerys’s dragons. But—to the dismay of fans who longed for a Jon and Daenerys love story—the two are blood relatives; Daenerys is Jon’s aunt.
And Sansa Stark, by law, is the true heir to the North as Ned’s own blood.
2. Daenerys Targaryen
The Season 6 finale saw Khaleesi set sail with her mighty fleet for Westeros with her trio of dragons and Tyrion Lannister at her side.
Khaleesi has been setting herself up to take over the Seven Kingdoms and, in the Season 7 trailer, she says: “I was born to rule the Seven Kingdoms. And I will.”
She left heartbroken lover Dario Naaharis behind in Meereen, so will Season 7 see her have a new man in her life? Fans have long cheered for a partnership between Khaleesi and Jon Snow, and while the two have been revealed to be relatives, neither of them are aware of this glitch. It’s certainly not unlike Game of Thrones to indulge in an utterly disastrous wedding.
One thing’s for certain: Khaleesi’s arrival in Westeros will add another thrilling ripple effect to the show.
3. Cersei Lannister
After all the foreshadowing of Wildfire, Season 6 saw Cersei finally blow up the Sept of Baelor, and most of King’s Landing, killing the High Sparrow, Lancel, Margaery and Lora Tyrell, among dozens of others.
Her actions, however, cost her one remaining son, as Tommen leaped out of a window to his death after learning of his mother’s betrayal.
Cersei then placed herself upon the Iron Throne, but don’t expect her reign to last long. The Protector of the Seven Kingdoms has no allies left, as she says herself in the Season 7 trailer—she has enemies to the North (Jon Snow), the South (Dorne), the West (Euron and the Iron Islands) and the East (Daenerys Targaryen and her army).
4. The Lannister Brothers – Jaime and Tyrion
The look of shock and dismay on Jaime’s face when Cersei sat up on the Iron Throne said plenty. Jaime returned to King’s Landing to find his only remaining child dead, and the crowning of Cersei had to remind him of the one Mad King he’d already killed.
Tyrion, who is a huge Game of Thrones fan favorite, is now serving as Khaleesi’s right-hand man and is sailing with the Mother of Dragons to Westeros.
Could Jaime and Tyrion unite against their tyrannical sister?
A witch once told a young Cersei she would die at the hands of the “valongar”—or “little brother.”
5. Stark Sisters – Sansa and Arya
Sansa Stark prompted cheers from a legion of Game of Thrones fans when she delivered one of the show’s most satisfying moments—when she fed the evil Ramsay Bolton to his dogs. She’s toughened up considerably in the past few seasons and will stand tall when the Great War arrives. Her one major issue is the presence of the creepy Littlefinger, who wants to make her his wife.
Finally, after six seasons, could we see the Stark sisters reunited? The fierce duo would make for a formidable foe.
Arya, meanwhile, became one of the show’s greatest heroines in Season 6. She overcame blindness and an attempted assassination, learned how to fight without her vision, and disobeyed the Many-Faced, despite the risk to her life. She decided she couldn’t be a faceless assassin, retrieved her sword, and, after a violent chase through the streets; she finally killed the Waif.
Then, in perhaps the most gratifying Arya moment in six seasons, she proclaimed “A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell, and I’m going home.” Fans can’t wait.
While she crossed a few more people off her kill list, there are surely a few more on it.
6. Bran Stark
The youngest remaining Stark is also perhaps the most complicated. After disappearing from the series, he returned with a vengeance in Season 6. He inadvertently enabled the White Walkers to destroy the Three-Eyed Raven, and kill Summer and poor Hodor. And he traveled back to the moment Jon Snow was born, to learn the true parentage of the man he believed was his half-brother.
He’s on his way back to Winterfell for the reunion of his ability to travel back to the past and is positioning himself to be an essential character over the final two seasons. The heartbreaking episode of Hodor’s death, when we learned the origin of “Hodor,” proved that Bran can impact moments in time.
What other past and future moments will be attributed to Bran? There is a popular fan theory, for instance, that Bran once traveled back in time to build the Wall of Westeros. “Bran the Builder,” the founder of House Stark, has been mentioned several times over the six seasons. The mystery person built the Wall and Winterfell with the help of giants, the story goes. Could Bran be Bran the Builder?
Bran is on his way back to Winterfell and, separated since the series’ first episode, the Stark family reunion is one of the most eagerly awaited moments.