Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Comprehensive Game of Thrones Refresher [Contributor: Melanie]

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It's almost time again, kids!

Actually we’re like several months past time. In fact, had Game of Thrones started this season when it normally does, it would actually already be over. Which was frustrating for a while but now that we’re almost there I’m not complaining... as much. And as we are nearing time for another batch of GoT epicness, it’s time for me to help refresh those of you less savvy with the intricate world and relationship tree of Westeros and beyond. So settle in for a refresher in everything you need to know before the premiere in less than two weeks.


Even though it stills seems like a ton of characters are still running around, this is actually the fewest number of characters we’ve had (thanks to Cersei blowing up half of them in last season’s finale). But there’s still a shocking amount of people who are going to be running around on the screen in the coming weeks, so you’ll want to remember their faces and why they’re important…

Cersei Lannister

Talk about the little engine that could. This chick has been plugging away since episode one, serving as wife to one king, mother to two more, and finally being named queen in her own right at the end of last season. (When King Tommen jumped out of his bedroom window upon the devastating explosion at the Sept of Baelor that killed hundreds, including his wife and her family). She shed a tear-ish for the death of her final child, and gloated in her final victory over rival House Tyrell. Then Cersei, backed by her sycophant ally Qyburn, named herself Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men. Not everyone seemed to share in her smirk, however...

Jon Snow

He started the show as the Bastard of Winterfell, Ned Stark’s recognized bastard who was raised as a lord alongside his legitimate siblings. But the cold shoulder he received for his status as a Snow led him to the Wall where he served as a steward in the Night’s Watch before being elected Lord Commander himself. He was then promptly killed in a mutiny and resurrected by Melisandre. Jon Snow shed his black cloak for the Stark banner and reclaimed Winterfell from rival House Bolton before he was named King in the North in a unanimous call from the Stark bannermen. He reluctantly accepted the mantle.

Surprise, surprise, however! It turns out Jon Snow is in fact no Stark bastard at all, but a Targaryen bastard by Lyanna Stark (Ned’s sister) and Rhaegar Targaryen, the one-time crown prince who was killed in single combat by Robert Baratheon in a jealous rage.

Daenerys Targaryen

The last legitimate scion of House Targaryen, Daenerys has clawed her way from the shy, obedient younger sister, to khaleesi of a Dothraki horde, and queen in her own right. She spent the last few seasons building her armies and inner circle, decimating the slave trade in Slaver’s Bay, and winning over the allegiance of several Great Houses in Westeros. She’s finally set sail to the western continent, backed by three dragons, a massive Dothraki khalasar, thousands of Unsullied troops as well as mercenaries, and the support of Houses Greyjoy, Tyrell, and Martell. Despite Cersei’s current position as queen, Daenerys attests she is the true Lord of the Seven Kingdoms by birthright.

Tyrion Lannister

The youngest son of Tywin Lannister and Joanna Lannister (second cousins) and the youngest, hated brother of Cersei Lannister. While he spent much of his time drinking, gambling, and taking prostitutes to bed, he used his sharp mind in court, serving as Hand of the King to Joffrey Baratheon and then later Master of Coin before he was exiled for murdering his father. He first joined Daenerys Targaryen in an unsteady alliance but has since become her close friend and most trusted mentor. At the end of last season, she named him Hand of the Queen.

Sansa Stark

The oldest legitimate child of Ned Stark and Catelyn Tully. Sansa has spent years at the Baratheon court in King’s Landing being emotionally tortured by Joffrey and his mother, before escaping to the Vale where she formed an alliance with Petyr Baelish, whom she is personally disgusted by but still heeds his counsel. She was forced into marriage with Ramsay Snow (after he was legitimized by his father and became Lord of Winterfell after murdering him). She was freed from Ramsay when her brother, Jon, took back the castle and the ancestral Stark lands. Baelish managed to instill a sense of dought in Sansa at her brother being named King in the North when the title rightly belongs to her.

Jaime Lannister

The middle child of Tywin and Joanna and Cersei’s younger twin brother, as well as lover. He spent much of last season fighting in the Riverlands to help keep the Frey stronghold there, despite backlash from those loyal to their ancestral lords, House Tully. He was forced to reconcile with some parts of his past when he crossed paths again with Brienne, loyal retainer of House Stark, with whom he has a complicated relationship. He returned to King’s Land to find the last of his children with Cersei dead after she destroyed the Sept of Baelor and named herself queen. He looked on, displeased at the events.

Arya Stark

The youngest living Stark child. She spent much of the past few seasons training to become a Faceless Man in Braavos. After mastering the skill, she returned to Westeros to begin exacting revenge on the names in her hit list, starting with Walder Frey. In last season’s finale, she murdered Walder and his sons in retaliation for their murder of her mother and brother during the events of the Red Wedding. It seems she’s making her way to Winterfell for a heartfelt reunion with her brother and sister.

Bran Stark

It took this Stark kid about five seasons to actually become interesting but it finally happened. He is the oldest legitimate Stark son who, in the very first episode, was paralyzed after being thrown off a tower by Jaime Lannister when he discovered his relationship with Cersei. He became more in touch with the Old Gods and the Stark’s animist roots, learning the ability to warg into other animals and have prophetic dreams. One of his visions revealed to him the true identity of Jon Snow’s parents but his curiosity got the best of him when one of his visions lead him straight to the Night’s King who left a dangerous, magical brand on Bran’s arm.


Not everyone in Game of Thrones is a main character. And sometimes the side characters and people who show up once a season are the ones who make the most difference. There are plenty of them running around and some you may not have seen in a long time.

Brienne of Tarth: The Stark retainer who is loyal exclusively to Sansa Stark. She acts as Sansa’s personal bodyguard and advisor. She has a complicated but close relationship with Jaime Lannister.

The Hound: This dude is back from the dead. He was formerly a loyal bully serving House Lannister but his strange obsession with Sansa and growing hatred of Joffrey made him go rogue where he traveled, for a time, with Arya before she abandoned him in the wilds to die. Or apparently not. Spoilertastic set photos suggest he might be fighting for House Stark.

Theon and Yara Greyjoy: The Greyjoy siblings fled their home after a coup put their uncle on the throne. They threw their ships and forces behind Dany in the promise that she would give them the Salt Throne.

Euron Greyjoy: The younger brother of Balon Greyjoy who murdered his brother and usurped his niece’s claim to the Salt Throne. He is loyal to no one but himself and has a bounty on Theon and Yara’s heads. According to interviews, he sees Cersei as his best bet for power this season.

Qyburn: Cersei’s psychotic, Dr. Frankenstein-esque advisor who was thrown out of the Citadel for performing horrifying medical experiments. He seems quiet and kind, but his experiments and past tell a different story.

Melisandre: The Red Priestess who is a devoted follower of the Red God (R’holler). She is banished from Winterfell when Davos reveals she burned Princess Shireen at the stake as a sacrifice to her god. She is a devout believer in the prophecy of the Prince that Was Promised.

Varys: The former Master of Whispers under Robert and Joffrey, Varys has been the wildest of cards since he was first introduced, promising his only master was the realm. He helped Tyrion escape at the end of season four and joined Daenerys as official member of her council and emissary.

Lady Olenna: While the Tyrells are gone, Lady Olenna -- the Queen of Thorns -- remains and is out for blood. She’s pledged what remains of House Tyrell to Dany’s cause.

Samwell Tarly: Jon Snow’s best friend, whom he sent down to the Citadel to be trained as a maester for the Wall. He’s claimed the son of Gilly as his own, despite it being a bastard from Beyond the Wall.

Davos Seaworth: Formally the loyal advisor to Stannis Baratheon, he backed Jon Snow and his forces when they retook Winterfell and swore allegiance to him thereafter.

Jorah Mormont: Jorah is confirmed for this season, though he’s now a continent away from his believed khaleesi. If he doesn’t die of the Greyscale first he will have some interesting surprises waiting for him next season with his child niece now Lord of Bear Island.

Benjen Stark: FINALLY. Benjen had been a topic of motivation for years for Jon Snow after he went missing on a mission. After he was killed, he was brought back to life by the primordial magic Beyond the Wall but, like the White Walkers, cannot pass through the wall.

Gendry Waters: Gendry hasn’t been seen since season three, but the bastard son of Robert Baratheon is now the only living person in Westeros descended from the Baratheon line. Rumors that he will reappear this season have been circulating all over the Internet -- though what part he really has to play is unclear.


Things in Game of Thrones are broken up by land, which makes it both easier and incredibly confusing at the same time. But knowing which geographic factions are aligned with which helps a great deal in figuring out what the heck is going on.

In the North

Status: The Starks control Winterfell once more and Jon has been named King in the North by his remaining bannermen, wildlings, and loyal Night's Watch brothers. They’re the first line of defense against the oncoming invasion of White Walkers, though they still cannot pass through the Wall, which is defended by magic. Unfortunately, Bran has been marked by the Night’s King, allowing him to pass through magical barriers to find him. If Bran goes south of the Wall, he may take the Night’s King with him.

On the mystical side of things, we learn that the Children of the Forest were the first
creatures in Westeros and, through their use of Dragonglass, can fight back and kill White Walkers. They can even use the glass as a way to prevent one from turning into a wight after death. I imagine the massive collision here will be Northmen, Wildlings, Night’s Watch, and Children of the Forest. Dany will likely join up to combine her massive forces and three dragons in the fight.

Prognosis: There is the danger of infighting with Petyr Baelish pouring some poison words in Sansa’s ear. If it is publically revealed that Jon is Rhaegar’s bastard, not Ned’s, it’s possible the North will turn on him. And Sansa, who has always had a shaky relationship with her half-brother, might look at him differently. That being said, I also see Sansa stabbing Baelish in the back -- literally -- and doing away with him.

In the Riverlands

Status: The Riverlands are in a period of massive flux. After the Tully’s were unseated as lords of the area and replaced by House Frey, the entire area has been in open rebellion and the Lannisters have been forced to step in to help the small Frey forces keep their hold on the area. That hold ultimately slipped when Arya murdered Walder Frey and his oldest two sons. It’s unknown what’s going on there. Though the Blackfish was killed in the Siege of Riverrun, Edmure Tully is still alive in a Frey cell (though not the most popular guy around after he turned on his own men to aid the Lannisters in retaking the keep). What happens to the Riverlands will depend on whether or not Cersei wants to allot resources to trying to take it back. But, considering her paranoia, she will likely keep her armies close.

Prognosis: The Riverlands might rally around Sansa, the only officially living child of Catelyn Tully. They were once pledged to Robb, with their territory being absorbed into Robb’s northern kingdom. Jon Snow -- a bastard with not only no connection to Catelyn but a vitriolic relationship with the late Lady Stark -- won’t inspire any loyalty from the Riverland lords. If Sansa attempts to do anything with her uneasy feelings toward Jon’s kingship, they’ll likely back her.

In King’s Landing

Status: Speaking of messes... the Crownlands. Yikes. Last season, King’s Landing was still under the tight control of the Faith Militant who had found their way into the court by convincing the impressionable King Tommen of their teachings. With no alternative and all her enemies in one place, Cersei decided to just knock out every bird she could with one massive explosion. After refusing to appear for her trial, Cersei used King Aerys’ old wildfyre cache to destroy the Sept and everyone in it -- including the Faith Militant, the majority of House Tyrell, and the remaining Lannisters who stood against her.

Now Cersei has named herself queen in her own right -- no longer queen mother or
consort. It wasn’t exactly with thunderous applause either. The only true ally she seems to have at court is Qyburn, her quietly psychotic Master of Whispers who has become Hand of the Queen. But Cersei’s old prophecy from the wood witch still has some things left in it: She predicted that Cersei would have an enemy in the form of a younger brother and a younger, more powerful queen would unseat Cersei.

Prognosis: Cersei’s rule was doomed from the start and I don’t see it lasting a long time. Like Joffrey’s death came early in the season, I imagine hers will as well. Not to mention the season is down three episodes which means stuff might kick off a lot quicker than we’re used to. And there are plenty of trailer shots showing Dany and her armies storming King’s Landing. That being said, Dany may bypass the throne for the time being and focus on the Wall, while Cersei’s court implodes on itself.

In the Reach

Status: The Reach has been thoroughly cleaned out of heirs thanks to Mace, Margaery, and Loras all being obliterated in the same massive wildfyre explosion. Olenna seems to have taken control of the House in the absence of her son and grandchildren, and has pledged the Tyrell armies (the largest army in Westeros) to Dany’s claim. The Tyrells have historically supported the Targaryens and were considered among the first in line to pledge for Daenerys, should she make a gambit. That’s come to pass, so I foresee the Reach calmly bending the knee. It was Marg who had designs on the Iron Throne, not the Tyrells themselves.

Prognosis: The Reach is loyal to House Targaryen and I don’t see that changing now that they’ve lost literally everything. If Dany is promising revenge, they’ll likely cast in their lot there.

In Dorne

Status: Dorne was subject to a coup at the beginning of last season when Elaria and the Sand Snakes viciously wiped out Dornan and Trystane after they both proved to be highly passive where the transgressions against their house were concerned. After taking control, the Sands accepted a deal from Varys and Olenna to pledge their armies to Dany’s forces.

Historically, the Dornish -- specifically House Martellv-- have had blood ties to the Targaryens. Princess Daenerys made peace with House Martell by marrying Maron Martell, despite her love for her bastard half-brother Daemon Blackfyre. It seems no coincidence that Queen Daenerys returns to the place where her namesake made peace to join forces for war.

Prognosis: Dorne has always been an independent land, until about a hundred years or so before the show began. Elaria seems bloodthirsty and Dany is poised to offer all the blood and fire they could want. Things could could messy though if Tyrion finds out Elaria is responsible for the death of his niece. Besides that, it seems Elaria and Dany will get along just fine. After all, they have a mutual grievance with the Lannisters for murdering Elia Martell (Dany’s sister-in-law and the sister of Elaria’s lover).

In the Narrow Sea

Status: Dany won’t be in the East much longer. The season trailer show her touching ground in Dragonstone. She ended last season in not only the greatest position she’s ever been in, but by far the best position of any player on the board. While much of Westeros is in the midst of infighting and political strife, Dany has finally unified her forces by doing away with troublesome elements (a.k.a. Daario), unifying her forces, and forming more alliances than a game of Risk. She’s backed by Houses Tyrell, Dorne, and Greyjoy. In addition to their armies, she boasts her own forces of Unsullied troops, mercenaries, and the largest Dothraki horde in history. Oh, and the three massive dragons.

The numbers are on her side, but is the support? Dany went her whole life believing the people of Westeros would simply flock to her side. Jorah ruined that fairy tale by pointing out that, while many will likely support her, she will have to win their trust first. She seems to have won Tyrion -- who started out season five as an unhappy drunk ready to die, to admitting at the end of season six that he truly believes in Dany and her abilities to rule -- over. And with Cersei -- likely the most unpopular ruler in history -- sitting the throne, I don’t see too many people crying about her getting ousted.

Prognosis: Winning the Iron Throne will likely come swiftly to Dany, despite how much build-up there has been over the course of six seasons. She’ll land on Dragonstone, ancestral seat of House Targaryen and then her true destiny lies to the North, where her forces and dragons will be needed at the Wall. In the books, Dany has several prophetic dreams where she sees herself fighting the White Walkers on dragonback. Dany also seems to be the most likely candidate for the prophecies of Azor Ahai and the Prince that was Promised -- the ruler and warrior foretold to revive dragons and fight the White Walkers.

Also, fans have been waiting literally 20 years to find out whether the Dany/Jon ship has
any hope at being canon. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. Because who doesn’t love a good romance between aunt and nephew (where the nephew is technically nine months older)?


So hopefully that gave you all the refresher you need if you slacked on re-watching episodes. It’s a lot of information... but really, so is the show. Spend this final week before we return to Westeros studying up so you don’t look like a noob at your Game of Thrones watch party. Winter is finally here, the dragon has three heads, and I am hype!

Game of Thrones season seven premieres on HBO July 16th at 9 PM.


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