Previewing a clash of queens, the kings in the North, and more about the future of the Emmy-winning fantasy series.
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season six finale of HBO's
Before season six began, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss made it clear that fans were entering the final stretch of Game of Thrones, with only 10 to 15 episodes remaining following the sixth season finale: "We're approaching the finish line. From the outset, our hope was to tell a complete story — beginning, middle and end. We are writing the final act now, and the last thing we want to do is stay on stage after the play is over."
Following the conclusion of "The Winds of Winter," the play's final act is closer than ever — even if season seven feels tragically far away. Given where the show ended in season six, there's plenty to know and plenty to expect from the next wave of Thrones, whenever it finally hits.
War between Daenerys and Cersei is all but inevitable, as the Dragon Queen and her forces finally make their move on Westeros. What chance does Cersei have? Not much of a chance at all, but her fall will be legendary, and it's only a matter of how the particulars of the legend play out.
Likewise, there's a war brewing between two kings in the north of Westeros: the recently crowned Jon Snow, and the unknowably ancient Night King, commander of the White Walker forces. These two warriors last met on the battlefield at Hardhome, but season seven is guaranteed to put them back on each other's radar.
Jon Snow and Sansa are already together, ruling over Winterfell, though there's some debate about Sansa's true intentions. Bran Stark currently resides beyond the Wall, and is expected to ride south soon. Arya Stark returned to Westeros in the season finale, and her next move is anyone's guess. But for the first time in years, the table is set for a true Stark reunion — though it's hard to say exactly how it'll come together, and how the new family dynamics will play out.
In the excitement about a possible Stark reunion, don't lose sight of the equally likely Lannister get-together. With the clash of queens on the horizon, Tyrion is about to return to Cersei and Jaime's attention, putting all three Lannister siblings in the same storyline for the first time in years. To say that they left things on a tense note would be a furious understatement.
Another family reunion brews on the horizon, albeit one nobody ever expected: Jon and Daenerys. Turns out, they're related, as Jon's father is actually Daenerys' brother. That revelation complicates matters on a number of levels, especially for fans who wanted to see these two leaders unite in marriage (although such things haven't stopped Targaryens in the past), but it also probably means Jon Snow will ride on top of a dragon at some point… if not in season seven, then season eight. It is known.
Game of Thrones is contracting, with several familiar faces back in each other's orbits for the first time in years — and in many cases, the first time ever. Expect season seven's pace to more closely match season one, back when there were less and less locations on the world map, and more focus on tighter stories. Indeed, don't be surprised if the opening credits become focused squarely on Westeros, without a thought paid to Essos.
A Song of Ice and Fire, the books on which Thrones is based. Instead, keep an eye on the Citadel at Oldtown, Samwell Tarly's new home base. You don't introduce a massive library filled with thousands and thousands of ancient books if those pages don't pay off in the finale; or something like that. Despite a long road to get there, and a virtually absent season for the character, Sam's knowledge gleaned at the Citadel will doubtless play a big role in the war to come.
Yes, the sixth book in Martin's saga, and not the season six finale. By the time season seven rolls around, Martin's sixth Ice and Fire novel might finally sit on shelves, giving readers a bit more insight into the likely penultimate season of Game of Thrones than they had in season six. Conversely, if the book remains unpublished… well, that's an outcome most readers don't want to consider, but a conversation that will exist all the same.
The White Walkers are marching on Westeros. The only way into the Seven Kingdoms is through the Wall. Getting through the Wall requires defeating the magical properties keeping the Walkers at bay. Best way to do that? Destroy the Wall. Planting the flag now: season seven features or ends with the Wall's collapse, setting the stage for the likely final season.
If the Wall's collapse feels like end game material, that's because it is. With only a handful of episodes remaining in Game of Thrones, expect the show to start accelerating its storytelling and wrapping up character arcs with ruthless efficiency. The players are all in their proper place; now it's time to see who wins and who dies.
Follow THR's Game of Thrones coverage for more deep dives, interviews and news.
Broadcast TV Scorecard: Complete Guide to What's New, Renewed and Canceled
TV Pilots 2016: The Complete Guide to What Lives, Dies and Still Has a Pulse