Game of Thrones’ seventh season is fast approaching. If you’re having trouble remembering what happened last season — and to whom — you’re not alone.
While there are a number of great, in-depth videos on YouTube breaking down the sixth season, sometimes you just want a quick description of the biggest moments, who’s still alive (and/or dead) and what everything has been building to.
The seventh season promises to be one of the most intense and important yet. Although it will be shorter than previous seasons — HBO will only air seven episodes instead of the standard 10 — episodes will run a tad longer to help make up for it.
Here’s everything you need to know — and everyone you should remember — heading into season seven.
Here’s the good thing about Game of Thrones’ seventh season: the only people left are those characters who actually matter. All of the secondary and tertiary characters have either been killed off or abandoned, allowing audiences to focus on just the most important people.
That select group of people start with the Lannisters.
At the end of the sixth season, Cersei Lannister had managed to acquire what she wanted all along: the Iron Throne in King’s Landing. She had become a different type of queen from the early seasons, one that ruled over Westeros on her own, not as the mother of a King or the wife of one. After two seasons of Cersei being stripped of her power — and dignity — the queen has returned, wiping out the High Sparrow, his fanatical leaders and the rest of King’s Landing elite in one blow. At the end of the tenth episode, Cersei unleashed a fiery attack on the Great Sept of Baelor, using wildfire to create a fatal explosion.
It’s been a difficult ride for Cersei, but things seem to have worked out in her favor. The same thing can’t be said, unfortunately, for Jamie Lannister. After reclaiming Riverrun from the Blackfish, he bid a final farewell to one of his closest friends and only real confidante, Brienne of Tarth. It’s been an emotional ride for Jamie and just when he returns home, ready to see his beautiful son Tommen, and his sister, the love of his life, everything comes crashing down.
Tommen, who was Cersei and Jamie’s last remaining child, committed suicide during last season’s finale, joining his wife, Margarey Tyrell, in death. With the young king’s death, the witch Maggy’s prophecy has been partially fulfilled. Part of that prophecy declared that all of Cersei’s children would die and Cersei would become Queen once again. The prophecy also declared, however, that Cersei wouldn’t be in power for long, eventually suffering the fatal consequences from her decisions.
Does that mean Cersei is going to die this season? Probably not, but the show is certainly building up to that moment.
But what about the younger Lannister brother, Tyrion? In past years, we would have included him with his siblings, but now he’s been away from King’s Landing and his family for years. Instead, Tyrion will act as a perfect segue into the next army of characters we’ll be traveling with this season ...
Daenerys Targaryen and her legion of soldiers
The time has come for Daenerys Targaryen to reclaim what is rightfully hers.
The last time we saw Daenerys, she was headed toward King’s Landing with newfound allies in both the Martells of Dorne and the Tyrells of Highgarden , along with her army of Unsullied men. We’ve spent nearly six seasons waiting for this to happen, but the battle between Daenerys and Cersei — with what’s sure to include some level of Stark interference — is finally gearing up to happen.
Tyrion is now Hand of the Queen, declaring his loyalty to Daenerys and her mission. Tyrion has spent quite some time trying to prove his loyalty to Daenerys and working on getting her to trust him. Now, the two will finally be able to work toward exacting the same goal: taking over King’s Landing, ruling Westeros and ending the Lannisters’ reign.
This won’t be a walk in the park, though. Last season ended with Bran Stark learning about Jon’s true parentage. We know he’s on his way back to Winterfell where he’ll meet up with the other surviving members of his family and there’s a very good chance that Jon will also learn about who he really is. Already dubbed “King of the North,” when Jon discovers that he has a birth right to the Iron Throne, there’s no reason he won’t toss his name in the overcrowded hat and try to fight his way into kinghood.
All of which brings us to our next important family.
Just like Cersei and Daenerys, this is gearing up to be a big season for the Starks — specifically Jon Snow and Sansa.
Following Jon’s climactic battle with the evil Ramsay Bolton and reclaiming Winterfell for his family, Jon was crowned King of the North. He’s preparing for quite a few events this season, but none are as important as defending the North from the inevitable appearance of White Walkers. Jon has taken on these frightening, mythical creatures before, giving him a slight advantage in the upcoming war.
Right now his attention is one hundred percent on the White Walkers and being the King of the North that’s needed. Remember how last season ended, with people chanting Jon’s name and accepting him as one of their own? That’s a proud moment for Jon, who until then was cast as an outsider because of his bastard lineage. With Bran on the move toward Winterfell, however, Jon will likely soon learn about what his brother saw take place in the Tower of Joy.
When Jon learns the truth behind who his real parents are — Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targareyn, making him the nephew of Daenerys — he may head off to King’s Landing to take on the Lannisters and his aunt. What would Game of Thrones be without a little family drama?
But there is one other person that Jon needs to take care of before he can focus solely on his royal future: Peter “Littlefinger” Baelish. Last season ended with Sansa turning down Baelish’s marriage proposal, showing that she has seen through Littlefinger’s two-faced nature. When Baelish approached Sansa with his vision of their future, sitting side-by-side as King and Queen upon the Iron Throne, Sansa wasn’t hearing it. Really, why would she? This was the same man that essentially did nothing to save her from being sexually assaulted and emotionally abused by Ramsay Bolton. There’s no reason to help him.
But there is perhaps no one more ambitious than Baelish. People are disposable pieces on his continuous quest for the crown. When the people of Winterfell started cheering Jon’s name at the end of last season, Baelish rolled his eyes, clearly displeased with the direction things were headed in. It would be foolish to assume that Baelish will just leave things as they are. Prepare for an attack — albeit a sneaky one — from Baelish on Snow in some capacity.
And finally, everyone’s favorite Stark: Arya. When we last saw Arya, she had become a fearless assassin, slitting the throat of Lord Walder Frey. This has been the Arya we’ve been waiting to see, as we watched her prepare to become a badass warrior. She came into her true self while at the Twins in Westeros and now she’s headed home for the Stark family reunion.
The main focus, however, seems like it will be on Sansa and Jon. Let the games begin.
What about the rest?
Even though Game of Thrones killed off most of its unimportant characters last season, there are a number of interesting players set to return this season. The Hound is alive, Brienne and Pod Pod have escaped Riverrun with the Valyrian sword Oathkeeper and the Children of the Forest are key to the destruction of the White Walkers.
There are many returning characters with big parts left to play, but they will all be supplementary to what’s happening with the main players in the game of thrones. Their roles are important, but they will be there to ensure the main story gets told.
This is shaping up to be one of the most interesting, intense Game of Thrones seasons yet.
Winter has finally come to Westeros and the greatest war ever seen in the show’s history is about to begin.
Game of Thrones’ returns on July 16 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.