Game of Thrones is finally on the way back for its final season, promising to bring answers to all of our questions about dragons, white walkers, and, presumably, whether Hot Pie’s new restaurant business was a success. Still, it’s it’s been a while since we’ve visited the Seven Kingdoms, so before we get the final piece of HBO’s epic hit series, here’s a quick rundown of everything you need to know before you watch Game of Thrones Season 8. The most shattering reveal of Season 7 came in the finale, confirming one of the longest-held theories in all of Game of Thrones fandom. “General rule of thumb: Stark men don’t fare well when they travel south.”
“True, but I’m not a Stark.” Jon Snow is not, it turns out, the bastard son of Ned Stark. He’s actually the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, which makes him the rightful-ish heir to the Iron Throne. As his sister Lyanna was close to death due to childbirth complications, Ned promised to keep her secret at all costs, lying about Jon’s parentage to protect his identity. Not even Jon knows he’s a Targaryen, which is why, in true GoT fashion, this reveal was intercut with shots of Jon making out with Daenerys Targaryen, his secret aunt. Surprisingly, that’s not the most shocking thing about the scene.
Instead, it’s the ramifications of Jon having both Targaryen and Stark blood coursing through his veins. As we learned from the Three-Eyed Raven, Jon’s a walking, talking one-man song of ice and fire with roots that go back to Robert’s Rebellion, the big brawl in Westeros that predates the events of the series. Robert Baratheon cut down Rhaegar on the battlefield and seized the Iron Throne, setting into motion the narrative we’ve been following for seven seasons, but it was all based on a lie. When Lyanna left Robert to run off with Rhaegar, the story throughout the Seven Kingdoms was that she was kidnapped. In reality, though, it seems Rhaegar and Lyanna were deeply in love, marrying in secret just before they met their ultimate fates.
Game of Thrones has used “Winter is coming” as its ominous tagline since 2011, and Season 7 finally delivered on that promise. As the final image of the season, we see the undead army of White Walkers on horseback advancing on the Seven Kingdoms. The woefully outmatched remnants of the free folk and the Night’s Watch helplessly watch as the Night King flexes on the realms of men by having his new ice dragon huff, puff, and blow the Wall down.
That’s right: the Night King has resurrected an undead, unkillable dragon as the deadliest weapon in his considerable arsenal. So what’s the deal with all the ice zombies? In short, wights are the undead hordes of soldiers who serve the White Walkers, former humans turned into zombie-like ice monsters that serve under the Night King.
The Night King’s true motives aren’t yet known, but we know that he’s extremely powerful and can control the entire army with a sort of telepathy. Fire can destroy the wights, but only dragon fire, dragonglass, and Valyrian steel can kill White Walkers. Samwell Tarly has discovered that Dragonstone, the historical seat of House Targaryen, is sitting on a mountain of dragonglass, and Jon Snow and his men have been mining it and turning it into weapons in preparation ever since.
As for the Night King, it’s unclear if anything can stop him. In the third episode of season 7, Bran tries to describe the Greensight for his sister Sansa, telling her that it allows him to see everything, everywhere, all at once, and also that he can’t be lord of Winterfell because he’s actually a raven. Or something like that. “It’s difficult to explain.”
Bear with us for a moment. After nearly being killed back in Season 1, Bran has visions, and those visions psychically summoned him to meet the Three-Eyed Raven north of the Wall, and while it’s never been officially confirmed on the show, it’s implied that the Three-Eyed Raven Bran meets is Brynden Rivers, a former commander of the Night’s Watch. He was killed by the Night King in season 6, though, leaving Bran as the last green-seer and the new Three-Eyed Raven. The scope and purpose of Bran’s new powers are yet to be revealed, but any sequence of events that complicated is undoubtedly going to play a big part in season 8’s storyline. In season 7, the Stark kids have reunited in Winterfell. Bran’s been beyond the Wall in search of the Three-Eyed Raven.
Arya has been training to become the perfect assassin with the Faceless Men before being forced to escape their clutches. Sansa, however, hasn’t been up to anything nearly as cool. She’s been used as a pawn for years, first by the Lannisters and then in Littlefinger’s ongoing machinations. By the time she becomes the Lady of Winterfell, finally emerging as the master manipulator instead of the manipulated pawn, all three remaining Stark children have been forever transformed. Bran, dealing with the burden of near omnipotence, has difficulty relating to his sisters on a human level. Arya and Sansa are suspicious of each other’s motivations.
Who can blame them for having trust issues? Just when it seemed the Stark sisters would succumb to paranoia and suspicion, they got their act together and teamed up against their true foe, Littlefinger himself, Lord Petyr Baelish. When Sansa called Arya to the Great Hall at Littlefinger’s request, it seemed as though she was going to accuse her sister. But then, when Sanas levels her charges of murder and treason, we got the swerve. “How do you answer these charges… Lord Baelish?” Baelish believed he’d driven a wedge between the Stark sisters, but he wasn’t counting on Bran filling in the blank parts of the story that caused the division between Arya and Sansa.
Baelish tried to persuade her that she was mistaken, only to be interrupted by the voice of the all-seeing Three-Eyed Raven, revealing Littlefinger’s betrayal of Ned Stark way back in season 1. That was a series wrap on Lord Baelish, as Arya stepped up and slit the throat of what was arguably the most important character in the narrative of the series thus far. The meeting of the heaviest hitters in the Seven Kingdoms in the ruins of the Dragonpit at King’s Landing in the season 7 finale gave the audience a taste of where everyone stands in the final stretch of the great game. Cersei, Jaime, and Tyrion Lannister, Euron Greyjoy, Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, a dragon, a White Walker, all the major players and key elements in the struggle for the future of Westeros were front and center in one of the most intense non-battle sequences in the series. Jon and Dany hoped to persuade the Lannisters to at least temporarily call a truce and focus on the true enemy, the Night King and his army of White Walkers Cersei, shaken by the exhibition, agrees to the proposed truce on the condition that Jon won’t take up arms against the Lannisters. Alas, Jon Snow cannot tell a lie, he rejects Cersei’s offer, saying that he can’t serve two queens, seemingly spoiling any chance of a truce and a united force to stand against the Night King.
In Tyrion’s last interaction with Queen Cersei, in which he hopes to convince her to take up arms against the undead army bearing down from the North, he gets sidetracked by daring Cersei to kill him. “I’m about to step into a room with the most murderous woman in the world who’s already tried to kill me twice, that I know of. Who’s an idiot?” This is not exactly an uncommon outcome of the Lannister siblings’ conversations, but this time it ends when Tyrion breaks the tense moment by downing several glasses of wine, another common outcome.
As he attempts to find common ground with his sister as the Hand of her rival queen, Cersei reveals that her family is her only concern, and it dawns on Tyrion that Cersei is pregnant. Following this conversation, Cersei abruptly declares that she’ll send her armies north to meet the White Walker threat, and admonishes Tyrion to “remember my kindness.” Of course, that kindness comes with a nefarious plan.
Cersei reveals to Jamie, her brother and the father to her unborn child, because that’s just how Westeros rolls, that she has conspired with Euron Greyjoy. Instead of retreating to the Iron Islands as he’s led everyone to believe, he’s actually sailing to Essos to retrieve the Golden Company: 20,000 mercenary soldiers poised to seize and control Westeros while the armies of the Seven Kingdoms kill themselves in the North. Jamie, however, sees the reality of the White Walkers’ threat, and wants nothing to do with Cersei’s double-cross. With Jaime leaving Cersei’s side knowing the truth of her plan, it should be interesting to see what he does with this information in season 8.
He is driven, more than anything, by his desire to keep the Seven Kingdoms safe for Cersei and his unborn child. In order to do this, he’s got to take up arms against her cause. The audience last sees Jaime in season 7 riding into the unknown as the winter’s first snowfall begins in King’s Landing. When we last saw Melisandre, the Red Priestess of Asshai was delivering a very cryptic farewell on the cliffs of Dragonstone. “I’ve done my part. I’ve brought ice and fire together.”
Melisandre worships the Lord of Light, and has shown she is capable of powerful blood magic, though her powers and relationship to the prophesied Prince That Was Promised have never been fully defined. Her destination is likely the Red Temple of Volantis, home to hundreds of Red Priests and Priestesses, possibly with power similar to Melisandre’s own, guarded by a thousand-man army known as the Fiery Hand. It’s theorized that Melisandre may return to Westeros in season 8 to tip the balance of power with her massive army. It’s worth noting that in season 6, Melisandre was revealed to be hundreds of years old, so it’s quite possible that she was in Volantis for the Doom of Valryia, the legendary collapse of the advanced civilization that birthed House Targaryen. In the season 7 finale, Tyrion deduces that Cersei is pregnant. The very next shot is a cut to the Dragonpit, original site of the King’s Landing Parley.
One fan theory suggests that, at some point during that time lapse, Tyrion may have struck an agreement with Cersei to ensure that her unborn child would be the king or queen to succeed Daenerys. Tyrion believes Dany is unable to have children, but his involvement in this plot would explain his look of great concern while listening to Jon and Dany engage in some potentially baby-making behavior later in the finale. Another popular theory involving Tyrion is known as “A+J=T,” or Aerys plus Joanna equals Tyrion. George R.R.
Martin’s books often mention the Mad King Aerys’ lust for Tywin Lannister’s wife, Joanna, and Joanna died while giving birth to Tyrion. If it’s true that Aerys is Tyrion’s true father, it could provide another reason for Tywin’s lifelong hatred for Tyrion and give a whole new meaning to Tywin’s final words to him “You’re no son of mine!” Tyrion’s been a fan favorite since the very first episode, so perhaps we’ll see him riding a dragon off into the sunset to close out this epic tale. Check out one of our newest videos right here!
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