The seventh season of HBO’s Game of Thrones is set to premiere this Sunday, July 16th. The show has been steadily building in popularity over the course of its run, with the season 6 finale breaking the show’s previous viewership records, and conversation about each new episode taking over social media and media sites. It’s been more than a year since the last episode aired, and given a cast of hundreds of players, and events crisscrossing a continents-spanning map, even the most dedicated fans may want a refresher course on where the story left off. So without further ado, here are the top five things to remember about season 6:
Spoilers ahead for season 6 of Game of Thrones.
1) Jon Snow survived a series of stabbings
Jon Snow was murdered at the end of season 5, and resurrected at the beginning of season 6 by the Red Woman, Melisandre. He reunited with Sansa Stark, who ran away from her abusive marriage to Ramsay Bolton and begged Jon to challenge the Boltons for control of Winterfell, where Jon and Sansa were raised as siblings. Jon was initially reluctant to declare war, but he successfully defeated the Boltons in a battle that took an enormous effort, and left Sansa’s brother Rickon dead and Jon beaten within an inch of his life. In recognition of his accomplishments, Jon was crowned King in the North. His status has been recognized by several formerly Stark-allied Northern families, the Wildlings he helped rescue from north of the Wall, the men of the Night’s Watch, and Lyanna Mormont, the little-girl general from Bear Island with only 62 soldiers.
2) Most of the main characters in King’s Landing were burned with wildfire
Cersei Lannister mass-murdered most of King’s Landing by burning everyone with wildfire, including fan-fave Margaery Tyrell, most of her kin, a couple of Lannisters, and also the annoying High Sparrow. This backfired on her when her youngest son, Tommen, committed suicide upon finding out his wife Margery was dead. RIP our gentlest king and Cersei’s last living child. Now Cersei is childless and an orphan, and when we last saw her, she claimed the Iron Throne. We can only anticipate more acts of violence from her in the future.
Thankfully, Olenna, Margaery’s grandmother, is safely in Dorne, plotting away with Varys (representing Daenerys’ interests) and Ellaria (representing the Martells) against the Lannisters, which brings us to our next point...
3) Daenerys set sail for the Iron Throne
Daenerys Targaryen has finally sailed for Westeros, with her three dragons and Tyrion Lannister in tow, as the new Hand of the Queen. Daenerys has also secured an alliance with Ironborn Yara Greyjoy, who is determined to reclaim the Iron Islands from her uncle, who seized them after he murdered her father. After seasons upon seasons of Daenerys ruling lands in the East and not making any headway in her attempt to reclaim the Iron Throne, which was once ruled by her father, the “Mad King,” she finally boards a westward ship in the season 6 finale! About time.
4) Stark sibling savagery
After seasons of assassin training and being forced to renounce her identity, Arya Stark finally overcame the House of Black and White and traveled back to Westeros. In one of season 6’s greatest moments, Arya killed Walder Frey after serving him a pie baked out of his sons’ dismembered parts, eliminating them from her long revenge list. Also on that list: Cersei Lannister. In another great revenge scene, Sansa Stark let Ramsay Bolton’s dogs eat him alive, getting vengeance for her abusive marriage and Rickon’s murder.
5) Bran is the next Three-Eyed Raven
Season 6 featured a lot of screwups on Bran’s part, including accidentally giving Hodor brain damage and a permanently limited vocabulary while making Hodor’s life’s goal to hold the door against an army of wights. Also, Bran maybe had a hand in making the Mad King go mad. But his unfortunate failures have only earned him more magical powers and responsibility. At the end of season 6, he assumed his magical seer role as the next Three-Eyed Raven, replacing the old man fused inside a tree who held the title previously, and returning to his visions of the past.
Bonus things to remember:
- The status of Benjen Stark has been revealed
Benjen went missing in the beginning of season 1, and numerous characters have referenced him throughout the show. At one point, he was used to lure Jon Snow to his temporary death. At the end of season 6, Benjen saved Bran Stark and his companion Meera, then explained that the White Walkers left him for dead. But the Children of the Forest saved him from turning into a wight by jamming a piece of dragonglass into his heart. He is officially undead, so he can’t leave the north.
- Sam went to college
Samwell Tarly has reached a massive library in Oldtown, where he can now do more research. This is one of those plotlines that haven’t paid off yet, but it could lead to discoveries and more exploration into the White Walkers.
- Jon Snow’s origins were finally explained
Confirming fan theories, as the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran witnessed a vision of Lyanna Stark holding a newborn son, fathered by Lyanna’s captor, Rhaegar Targaryen. Lyanna entrusted the boy to Ned Stark, who raised him as his own, and who we now realize is Jon Snow. The R+L=J theory is canon, meaning Jon is Daenerys’ nephew. That might mean the two of them don’t get the happy romantic ending fans have suggested was going to be the final happy ending to Game of Thrones. Season 7 will probably clarify the situation between them, as they either embrace their family connections; murder each other, destroying everyone’s hopes and dreams; or weirdly but still possible, get married as a strategic alliance of their armies. Guess which one of those endings sounds more like Game of Thrones?