Sunday 20 August 2017

Winter is finally here for Game of Thrones but what else do we know ahead of season 7?

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
(Left to Right) Nathalie Emmanuel as Missandei, Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, Conleth Hill as Varys, Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen, and Jacob Anderson as Grey Worm - Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO
Nathalie Emmanuel as Missandei - Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
Kit Harington as Jon Snow - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
Conleth Hill as Varys - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
Rory McCann as Sandor "The Hound" Clegane - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
Kristofer Hivju as Tormund Giantsbane and Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister -  Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO
Bella Ramsey as Lyanna Mormont - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
John Bradley as Samwell Tarly and Hannah Murray as Gilly - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
Ellie Kendrick as Meera Reed and Isaac Hempstead Wright as Bran Stark - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
Aidan Gillen as Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish and Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
Maisie Williams as Arya Stark - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
Ed Power

Ed Power

After six years, a body count in the thousands and a life-time supply of gratuitous nudity winter is finally (almost) here. The penultimate series of HBO’s Game of Thrones arrives in July and it seems George RR Martin’s sword and sorcery epic is at last pivoting towards its end game.

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS
The first official images from the forthcoming season were released by HBO this week, fuelling a bonfire of speculation as to what lies in store for the inhabitants of Westeros.

Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains and Caster of Ser Jorah into the Friendzone has, it appears, finally crossed the Narrow Sea. In King’s Landing, meanwhile, Mad Queen Cersei sits on the Iron Throne, with brother-with-benefits Jaime steadfastly at her side. To the far north Jon Snow, having bounced back from an unfortunate case of being dead, is Lord of Winterfell and has the fur-lined cape to prove it.

What’s most telling about the new shots is how thoroughly glum everything looks. On the insistence of show-runners David Benioff and DB Weiss the filming of series seven was pushed back several months to coincide with the real world turning of the seasons (“We're starting a bit later because at the end of this season, 'Winter is here' – and that means that sunny weather doesn't really serve our purposes anymore.”)

Thus the shadows are deeper, the colours more washed out. The Long Winter has arrived. Here is the rest of what we know...

Daenerys has made land-fall

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Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO

Fans of the Mother of Dragons have had a frustrating time of it these past several seasons. Whenever the exiled Targaryen heir seemed poised to sweep back to Westeros, the show found another reason to keep her in far away Essos.

However, the long delay is at an end with Daenerys and her dragons finally switching continents. She has apparently established a base at Dragonstone, the original seat of her royal house and more recently HQ of Stannis “world’s best dad” Baratheon. With her are clever clogs Tyrion Lannister, scheming Varys, bodyguard Grey Worm and advisor Missandei. Of her dragons there is not a trace. Don’t worry – expect them to make their presence felt before long (Benioff and Weiss have revealed Drogon and the gang have grown to the “size of 747 jets”).

 

Littlefinger hasn’t taken the hint from Sansa

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Aidan Gillen as Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish and Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO

Lord Baelish’s dream of one day ruling Westeros with Sansa Stark – daughter of his life-long crush Catelyn Stark – at his side is entirely ludicrous. But, ever the devoted schemer, he’s been busy planting seeds of doubt regarding the trust-worthiness of Sansa’s brother – yes, you’re right Lord Baelish, “half brother” – Jon Snow. The latest shots show Littlefinger and Sansa mooching about at Winterfell. Is this the first bubbling of a conspiracy – or a mundane chat about the weather?

 

Is the Night King finally making his move?

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Kit Harington as Jon Snow - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO

“There’s only one war that matters – the Great War,” says Jon Snow the season seven trailer released by HBO in March. He naturally refers to the Night King and his servants The White Walkers.

Many viewers expected the undead hordes to sweep south of the Wall at the end of the previous series. However, for the moment, ancient magics render the barrier impassible by the Walkers and the wights in their thrall. With Bran Stark also moving south, it is likely that events will this year conspire to weaken the Wall’s defences and clear the way for the Night King and his shadowy minions.

 

Jaime is still standing by his queen / sister / secret girlfriend

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Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO

Despite misgivings regarding her homicidal megalomania Jaime is, for the time being, staying true to Crazy Cresei. His doubts were telegraphed in the look he threw as she was crowned queen last season (having eliminated the entire political elite of King’s Landing when she detonated the Great Sept of Baelor using wildfire). Yet the Lannisters prize loyalty above all else (aside, obviously, from money/incest/ sleeping with prostitutes) – for now, Jaime is keeping it in the family.

 

What’s Gilly reading…?

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John Bradley as Samwell Tarly and Hannah Murray as Gilly - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO

Of all the secondary characters, it is likely that smarty-pants Samwell Tarly will play the most significant role in GoT’s final reckoning. He’s off to learn to be a Maester at at the Citadel, the better to help Jon Show defend the Seven Kingdoms against the walkers .

In the new pictures we see his significant other Gilly reading the legend of Azor Ahai – the mythic hero who, it is rumoured, will return to save Westeros. The fan speculation is that Jon Snow is the chosen one. In July, all will hopefully be revealed.

 

Who are the new characters?

HBO put out a casting call last year seeking a priest, a warrior, a merchant and a young lord. It was stipulated that they should have British RP – i.e. vaguely posh – accents, suggesting the new protagonists will be primarily from King’s Landing. One confirmed newcomer is Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent. “I'm an old professor character,” he said. “I did five episodes. I did sort of one major scene in each episode.”

 

There’s no escaping Ed Sheeran

Alongside the violence and the wobbly private parts, Game of Thrones is famous for its musician cameos. Sigur Ros, Snow Patrol and the drummer from Coldplay have previously visited Westeros – this year it will be the turn of ginger pop hobbit Ed Sheeran.

 

We know at least one character will make it all the way through the season

Picking favourites is a fraught business on GoT as the show delights in killing major characters. But Sophie Turner has let slip Sansa, at least, will make it all the way through the forthcoming seven-episode run. She commented: “We're about to start shooting the next X-Men, we just finished shooting season seven of Game of Thrones. Then I've got a couple of movies to do before X-Men starts and then we go onto season eight. So, I've got a busy year lined up.”

 

Game of Thrones season seven begins on Sky Atlantic July 17

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