The rampantly popular Game of Thrones — an HBO show so jam-packed with violence and sex that it made even non-nerds fall in love with high fantasy — makes its return Sunday night with what will be the first of seven episodes in its seventh season. Here’s everything you need to know before you hum along to that ever-addicting theme song. Oh, spoilers ahead, obviously.
The comeback kids
As expected, season 6 was Game of Thrones’ most massive season yet, filled with twists and turns, long-awaited reveals and more than one type of resurrection.
Jon Snow, stabbed to death by his fellow Night’s Watchmen in a mutiny at the end of season 5, stayed dead for almost two episodes before his not-surprising-at-all resurrection at the hands of Melisandre.
Jon’s half-sister (actually, more on that later) Arya decides not to become “no one” and join the quasi-death cult Faceless Men, triumphantly proclaiming, “A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell, and I’m going home.”
And Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, Arya’s old captor-slash-traveling companion, made his highly speculated-about return, not having appeared since his ambiguous defeat by Brienne of Tarth in the finale of season 4.
Still no sign of Gendry, though — guess he’s still rowing.
So, to sum up...
With no new book source material from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire — the sixth book, The Winds of Winter, is inching closer to development hell, with Martin saying, “I think it will be out this year. (But hey, I thought the same thing last year).” — season 6 was new to everyone.
After his resurrection, Jon Snow allied with basically anyone alive and willing to help — the Wildlings, a few loyal Northern houses, Davos Seaworth — to retake Winterfell from Ramsay Bolton and free Rickon Stark. Jon failed at the latter because Rickon couldn’t zigzag, apparently, but succeeded at the former with help from the Knights of the Vale, who arrived in the nick of time at the behest of Sansa Stark and the slimy Petyr Baelish. Sansa fed Ramsay to his own hungry pups, and the Northmen, spearheaded by feisty 10-year-old Lady Lyanna Mormont, declared Jon the King in the North. With their family home retaken, Jon and Sansa turned their eyes north toward the Night King and the army of the dead.
In the Crownlands, Cersei Lannister seemed to be down and out: her walk of atonement, poor policymaking and general cruelty ruined her political support; her lover and brother, Jaime, was off fighting various battles; her daughter, Myrcella, was killed by the Sand Snakes; and her last living child, King Tommen, was being pulled away from her by both his wife, Queen Margaery Tyrell, and the High Sparrow, a radical religious leader. So she blew them all up. Seriously. She used wildfire to blow up the Great Sept of Baelor, killing the High Sparrow, Queen Margaery (and her father and brother), tons of the Faith Militant and countless lords, ladies and civilians. Now she stands alone at the top, First of Her Name and all that stuff, as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. But how long will her reign last?
Not long, hopes Daenerys Targaryen, who, at the end of last season, finally started to make her voyage back across the Narrow Sea. The Mother of Dragons had a less exciting season than some — no resurrections, no wildfire explosions, no ice zombies — but she made some fantastic allies. Coming with her to Westeros: newly appointed Hand of the Queen and best fictional dwarf ever Tyrion Lannister, the ever-loyal Missandei and Grey Worm and the vengeance-set Sand Snakes and Olenna Tyrell, plus the renegade Ironborn siblings, Yara and Theon Greyjoy. Oh, and three dragons. Three big dragons.
The sixth season also advanced some other plotlines. As mentioned, Arya ditched the Faceless Men and crossed Walder Frey off her list. The Hound returned, got a little vengeance and met up with the Brotherhood without Banners. Samwell Tarly, with Gilly and little Sam in tow, stole his dad’s Valyrian steel sword and arrived in Oldtown to study to be a maester. And Jaime Lannister retook Riverrun, securing the Riverlands for the crown.
The biggest shockers of the season came with Bran’s storyline, though. While training north of the Wall with the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran, Meera and Hodor were attacked by the army of the dead. What happened was complicated — time travel always is — but Hodor now-famously held the door and is killed by the wights as his companions escape. Later, Bran had a vision of a young Ned Stark discovering his sister, Lyanna, dying after giving birth to a son: Jon Snow. Twenty years after some very attentive readers of A Game of Thrones picked up on Martin’s clues and hints, the theory known as R+L=J (Rhaegar Targaryen+Lyanna Stark=Jon Snow) was officially confirmed in show canon. And if Rhaegar and Lyanna were married, that makes Jon the rightful king.
What to expect this season
Jon, the Wildlings and the Northmen will likely be occupied with the army of the dead for much of Season 7, but the trailers seem to show that Jon will find a little time to visit Daenerys at her newly reclaimed seat at Dragonstone. Jon meeting Dany — who, little does he know, is his aunt — should be interesting, especially since they are both quite eligible to be wed, though neither of them is eager for marriage. Plus, Jon would likely reunite with Tyrion, who he took quite a liking to during their brief time together in season 1, and Theon, who he rather despised during their time growing up together in Winterfell.
Bran and Meera are headed south of the Wall. Bran needs to tell Jon about his parentage — though the rest of Westeros might ask for more definitive proof than “I saw it in a tree vision” — but his heading south might allow the White Walkers through, too, because of the connection the Night King apparently formed with Bran.
Daenerys’ new digs in Dragonstone won’t be permanent, she hopes — she’ll be making for King’s Landing as soon as she can to take the Iron Throne. It looks like Euron Greyjoy might try to ally with Cersei, so a Greyjoy battle could be on tap if Yara and Theon run into Uncle Crow’s Eye.
And with The Hound alive and his brother, Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, sort of alive as a silent zombie, there’s speculation that the two might meet. Given their hatred and shared penchant for violence, swords would clash in what would be the most awesome duel in Game of Thrones history: Cleganebowl. Of course, this is unlikely — but wouldn’t it be awesome?
Stick with The Post throughout Season 7 of Game of Thrones (which airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO) for weekly episode reviews.