Game of Thrones returns soon, albeit with a slightly shorter season, sure to thrust us into even more political intrigue, epic battles, heartbreaking character deaths and jaw-dropping plot twists, which is pretty much what it's known for. All the plot threads are slowly but surely coming together -- the war for the Iron Throne, as well as the struggle against the White Walkers. While from afar it might seem simple enough (a lot of people assume Daenerys will take the throne and her dragons will destroy the White Walkers) there are a lot of little details people seem to have forgotten.
It's understandably difficult to keep track of all the different factors that might lead to your favorite character's heroic survival or tragic demise, that's why we've put together this little refresher course covering both the larger and smaller points we've come across over the last six seasons so both newcomers and long-time fans might have a better chance to see the fates of their favorites coming (trust us, it makes it easier). Since the show has pretty much surpassed George R.R. Martin's books, all we can do is guess at where the story is headed, so we'll be touching upon several theories. After all, the only thing we know for certain is that it's still not safe to hope for a happy ending. Now tread carefully, the list is dark and full of spoilers.
15 WHO HAS VALYRIAN STEEL?
Throughout the series, we've seen several swords forged from valyrian steel, a material we now know can kill White Walkers as seen in the season five episode "Hardhome" (written by David Benioff and D.B Weiss). There's Longclaw, which belongs to Jon Snow, Oathkeeper, wielded by Brienne of Tarth, Widow's Wail, last seen atop Joffrey Baratheon's corpse and finally, Heartsbane, which Samwell Tarly wisely thought to steal from his family's keep at Horn Hill.
These blades no doubt hold some significance and we may see them all used against White Walkers when they're done messing about in the North (the real North, according to some) and inevitably breach the Wall, bringing a cold, merciless winter with them. It'll be a good thing to keep in mind as the series nears its end. Maybe this season we'll see Widow's Wail wielded by someone else, possibly Jamie Lannister, since Tommen (who would have inherited the blade) is now dead.
14 WHAT'S WITH DRAGONGLASS?
It was recently revealed that dragonglass (obsidian) was the material the Children of the Forest used to create the White Walkers, but we should also remember that dragonglass is also capable of killing White Walkers, as we saw in the season three episode "Second Sons" (written by Benioff and Weiss). A lot of it was lost in "Hardhome" when the Wildlings and brothers of the Night's Watch fled the attack, but all may not be lost. Stannis did tell Samwell Tarly in the season five episode "Kill the Boy" (written by Bryan Cogman) that dragonglass is abundant in Dragonstone.
More and more the odds of survival against the White Walkers look better with every season. Now all that needs to happen is for Westeros to get its act together so they can muster up a large enough force to properly deal with the Night King and his horde of undead wights.
13 CHOOSING SIDES
One of the most important and yet most confusing things to keep in mind is where everyone's allegiances lie. The War of the Five Kings may have long since ended but a new war is coming and we have to know the different sides. There are quite a few minor houses all over Westeros and we're not going to go into those. Rather, we'll focus on the four major factions you need to remember.
The Lannisters have the Iron Throne but are pretty much on their own because Cercei decided to murder everyone; the North (and the Vale) has rallied together around Jon Snow and the Stark family; Daenerys has a massive armada crossing the Narrow Sea; and finally, Euron Greyjoy has assembled the Ironborn and seeks to take Westeros for himself.
12 THE STATE OF KING'S LANDING
It would be unwise to assume the victor based how many soldiers they have in their armies. The Lannisters rule King's Landing and they are broke. The Crown was hurting for money when Ned Stark arrived in season one and the situation has only gotten worse, as it owes a tremendous debt to the Iron Bank of Braavos. The War of the Five Kings drained its coffers further and it's unlikely they'll be able to properly fund another war.
We've already seen that the people of King's Landing are starving and poor so they turned to religion, placing faith in the High Sparrow who died in the Great Sept along with Margaery and Loras Tyrell when Cercei had it demolished with wildfire. The fiercely religious people are now likely wholly against their Lannister rulers. We should expect to see King's Landing at its most vulnerable as it crumbles from within.
11 MAGGY'S PROPHECY
In "The Wars to Come" (written by Benioff and Weiss), the first episode of season five, we saw Cercei visit a witch in the woods (known in the books as the Essosi witch, Maggy the Frog) and pay in blood for a prophecy. Cercei asked three questions: When she'd marry the prince, if she'd be queen and if she and the king would have children. Maggy predicted that she'd marry the king (Robert Baratheon), that she would be queen until a younger, more beautiful queen takes it all away from her, and finally, that she'd have three children, all of whom would die.
Almost everything Maggy predicted has come to pass. Cercei married Robert, became queen and lost all three of her children. All that's left is for someone younger and more beautiful to take her down from her throne. Cercei knows her fate and it'll be interesting to see how she fights it, or if she does.
10 DAENERYS' ARMY
Daenerys Targaryen has amassed a formidable force against the houses of Westeros. With help from Tyrion, Varys, Daario, Missandei and of course, her three gargantuan dragons, she has admirably been able to ensure freedom throughout Slaver's Bay (now known as the Bay of Dragons). Her determination, compassion and conviction has drawn others to her cause. So who will we see fighting alongside her in season seven?
While the Second Sons and Daario Naharis are staying behind in Meereen, we know she has the Dothraki horde of tens of thousands, several thousand Unsullied soldiers, the Iron Fleet and Dorne, as well as the Reach as allies. That's quite a large force, and if she's able to maintain them, taking Westeros should be no trouble at all. From the various images around the web, it looks like she'll soon have the aid of the North as well, but we'll have to wait and see.
9 THE WALL
The Wall lies north of the Gift, built thousands of years ago, the wall defends the rest of Westeros from wildlings (or did) and the White Walkers. It stands at 300 miles long (though Sam does incorrectly say 500) and 700 feet high, with 19 castles lining it, though only three are manned: Castle Black, the Shadow Tower and Eastwatch, peopled by brothers of the Night's Watch.
In the beginning of the series, we can assume there were several hundred men across the wall. After the Great Ranging led by Jeor Mormont back in season 2, the Night's Watch lost hundreds of brothers, and in the aftermath of the Battle of Castle Black in the season four episode, "The Watchers of the Wall," the Night's Watch has an estimated 70 or so brothers. Jon Snow left it all to Edd, who has quite the task ahead should the White Walkers decide to show up.
8 THE BIRTH OF JON SNOW
Bran recently found out the truth about Jon Snow, through his journey into the past. He wasn't Ned Stark's bastard son. Ned was always faithful to his wife. Jon Snow was Lyanna Stark's son with Rhaegar Targaryen. Many of the fans of the novels figured this out for themselves years ago but now there is no doubt. This changes a lot of things, since we now how that Targaryen blood flows through his veins. Could he be the one to ultimately sit on the Iron Throne?
After the Battle of the Bastards in the episode of the same name (written by Benioff and Weiss), he was named the White Wolf, the new King in the North around which all the northern houses have sworn allegiance (much to Littlefinger's disappointment, but we'll get to that).
7 THE STATE OF THE NORTH
The greatest change for the North has been in Winterfell, from which the Starks rule once again, having just taken it from the vile Ramsay Bolton. Now almost every northern house, even the houses that were initially hesitant, have sworn themselves to their new King in the North: Houses Mormont, Glover and Umber to name a few. We can't forget that Jon also has the Wildlings and knights of the Vale (for now) under his command. It'll be interesting to see how the Wildlings and northerners get along in the upcoming season.
There are, of course, those who betrayed the Starks and swore fealty to Ramsay Bolton. House Karstark, for example, has held a grudge against the Starks for a while now, beginning when Robb Stark beheaded Rickard Karstark for betraying him. Their fate has not yet been shown, but we can assume that this is not the end of the conflict between the Starks and Karstarks.
6 LITTLEFINGER'S INTENTIONS
Littlefinger is one of Westeros' master manipulators, matched only by Varys. We know that it was through his machinations that the War of the Five Kings began, all because he wants the throne and because a part of him believed it might bring him closer to Cat (some guys just can't take a hint). We seem to know his long-term goals, but what will we see from him in the next season?
We know he isn't fond of Jon Snow becoming the new king in the north but he seems to want or need Sansa (it's difficult to tell with Littlefinger), so will he end up withdrawing his troops or will he begrudgingly play along with Snow's campaign for the time being? We wouldn't put it past him and we have to assume that he'll betray Jon Snow the first chance he gets.
5 BRAN'S JOURNEY
Bran has been through a lot. He was pushed from a window after witnessing a sordid embrace between the Lannister twins, losing the use of his legs in the aftermath; he also learned he was a warg, trekked northwards to meet the three-eyed raven, and encountered wights and ex-brothers of the Night's Watch. He lost his brother, lost his friend and of course, lost Hodor.
With time and training, Bran has gotten the hang of being a warg, going so far as to control Hodor at one point in the season three episode "The Rains of Castamere" (written by Benioff and Weiss). Now he has to master the Sight as the new three-eyed raven. Through his visions, he's discovered the truth of Jon Snow's birth and we look forward to seeing what he'll do with that information once he returns south. We last saw Bran with Meera below the Wall, saying farewell to Bran's undead Uncle Benjen. It's likely we'll see Bran reunite with Jon Snow in Winterfell.
4 THE NIGHT KING
Not much is known about the White Walkers. We know that the Night King has been creating White Walkers with the baby boys that Craster offered up as tribute, a process we saw in season four episode "Oathkeeper" (written by Bryan Cogman). However, in the season six episode "The Door" (written by Benioff and Weiss), it was revealed that Leaf created the Night King by forcefully burying a shard of dragonglass into one of the First Men.
We know that he can create White Walkers, raise the dead and reach people using the Sight as we saw in "The Door" when he touched Bran in a vision, leaving a physical mark on his arm and using it to gain access to the three-eyed raven's sanctum. We can probably assume the war against the White Walkers definitely won't be won using the Sight. How will it be won, then? Will the Night King die in a dragon fire or could we see him somehow return to mortal flesh?
3 THE WHITE WALKERS' MARCH
We've watched as the White Walkers amassed an army of the undead to eventually take the south. They remained an elusive menace in the icy lands beyond the wall until the very end of season two when they decimated the Night's Watch at the Fist of the First Men in a battle we never got to see. Their next major attack was at Hardhome, which resulted in thousands more added to the Night King's army of wights.
Then the Night King, using Bran, broke through the mystical barrier guarding the three-eyed raven and killed him. We know that they're generally heading south and we know that the White Walkers and the undead can't just breach the Wall, since its protected by magical safeguards, as Benjen explain in the episode, "Winds of Winter" (written by Benioff and Weiss). It'll be interesting to see how they intend to get through it in season 7.
2 BROTHERHOOD WITHOUT BANNERS
Since Arya escaped their grasp, Beric Dondarrion and his Brotherhood Without Banners remained in the background, almost forgotten, until the Hound recently encountered them while searching for the rogues responsible for massacring a small community of villagers, as well as the man who saved Sandor. It didn't take long for the Hound to find his vengeance, but it led him to something unexpected.
The last time Beric and the Hound met each other, one of them died and returned from death. This time, there was just talking and, more surprisingly, hospitality and respect (for the most part), which is pretty rare in Westeros, when you think about it. Beric and Thoros speak of the threat to the North and of the will of the Lord of Light, apparently convincing Sandor to join them in their fight. If they are heading that way, there's a good chance they'll encounter Jon Snow or even Melisandre.
1 FOLLOWERS OF THE LORD OF LIGHT
The Lord of Light has evidently been subtly guiding the world through his priests and priestesses. We first saw Melisandre use her magic to aid Stannis, who she thought was the lord's chosen. After his death, she turned to Jon Snow and brought him back from the dead, much like another priest, Thoros of Myr. Thoros brought Beric Dondarrion back a shocking six times. Clearly, they're capable of astounding things and each one attributes it to the Lord of Light, who has a purpose for both Beric Dondarrion and Jon Snow.
So, which are the ones we need to pay attention to? There's Melisandre, who was exiled in the episode, "The Winds of Winter," there's Thoros of Myr, still travelling with the Brotherhood Without Banners, then there's the mysterious Kinvara who's in Daenerys' service, garnering support from other Red Priests and Priestesses. We cannot wait to see what the Lord of Light has in store in the next season!
What other details do you think might come to the forefront this season? Tell us in the comments!