“Game of Thrones” Season 7 will premier this coming Sunday, July 16. After six seasons, HBO’s hit show has killed off more characters than anyone can remember, but there are still just a few major players.
To catch viewers up for the new season, PJ Media has chosen the seven most important characters to keep track of as Season 7 starts. Enjoy! (And heads up, Spoilers are coming.)
1. Cersei Lannister.
Season 6 ended with the Queen Mother, Cersei of House Lannister (Lena Headey), in firm control of the Iron Throne, after blowing up the Sept of Baelor with wildfire.
Cersei has been a major player since Season 1, when the very first episode ended with Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) peeping on her doing the dirty with her twin brother Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). She was the queen to Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) and mother to Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free, Aimee Richardson), and Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman, Callum Wharry), all of whom are now dead.
Cersei arranged Robert’s death in Season 1, and tried to convince King Joffrey to have mercy on Ned Stark (Sean Bean). She relied on her influence as a mother to have power over King Joffrey and King Tommen, but faced stiff competition from Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), who married both Joffrey and Tommen.
In a fit of insanity, Cersei empowered the Faith of the Seven to arm themselves, becoming the “Faith Militant,” also known as the “Sparrows.” This backfired, leading to Cersei’s infamous “walk of shame” in Season 5. At the end of Season 6, she destroyed the Sept of Baelor (the Westerosi equivalent to the Vatican or Westminster Abbey), killing the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), along with Margaery and her brother Loras (Finn Jones).
At the end of Season 6, Cersei was crowned queen in her own right, proving the point from Season 1 that “power resides where men think it resides,” not in the line of succession. In Season 7, she will try to hold on to her power. In the trailer, she spoke about enemies to the east, to the west, to the south, and to the north.
Her brother Jaime (who is also the father of her three children) is a complex character. After throwing Bran out a window and hoping he would die, Jaime attacked Ned, was captured by Robb Stark (Richard Madden), released by Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), and captured again, having his right hand chopped off in Season 3. He is known as the “kingslayer” for killing Aerys II Targaryen, but he actually saved the city of King’s Landing by killing the king, who was going to use wildfire to blow up the city.
Now Cersei has used wildfire, and Jaime looks worried. There is a prophecy that the valonqar, or little brother, will kill Cersei. Could this mean Jaime will turn on her?
2. Jon Snow.
While Cersei has consolidated power in the south, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) has been crowned the King in the North. Snow believes himself to be the son of Ned Stark with some other woman, but the audience knows that he is the child of Rhaegar Targaryen (the son of Aerys II, “the mad king”) and Lyanna Stark, and therefore has a claim to the throne of Westeros, not just the North.
“Snow” is the last name of bastards — illegitimate children — in the North. Jon went to join the Night’s Watch because he was never fully accepted at Winterfell with the Starks. But he was captured by the Wildlings north of the Wall and became involved with Ygritte (Rose Leslie). He rejoined the Night’s Watch, fighting prominently in a major battle in “Watchers on the Wall,” Season 4 Episode 9, in which Ygritte died.
He was elected Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and let the Wildlings go south of the Wall. For this, his brothers mutinied and killed him, but Melisandre (Carice van Houten) resurrected him in the second episode of Season 6.
After his resurrection, Jon was freed from his Night’s Watch vows and headed south to win Winterfell from Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon). Jon won the “Battle of the Bastards” thanks to the aid of Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen).
In the final episode of Season 6, he was hailed as “King in the North.” But Jon may not go south for the Iron Throne — it seems likely he will try to rally an army to fight the White Walkers (the great zombie army north of the Wall).
Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), who joined Jon’s army after the defeat of Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), notes in the Season 7 trailer, “If we don’t put aside our enmities and stand together, we will die. And then it doesn’t matter whose skeleton sits on the Iron Throne.” Cersei might disagree.
3. Daenerys Targaryen.
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) has spent six seasons in Essos, the continent east of Westeros. At the end of Season 6, she finally sailed west to retake the Iron Throne. She is the last surviving child of the last Targaryen king, Aerys II.
In Season 1, Dany married Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) of the Dothraki, a Mongol-like horse people, who could become a threat to Westeros if they crossed the sea. Drogo died, and when Dany walked into the fire on which his body burned, she walked out with three live dragons.
After a season of intrigue in the city of Qarth, Dany took her dragons to Slaver’s Bay, conquering the three cities of Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen, freeing the slaves in each city. She also enlisted the Unsullied, elite slave soldiers from Astapor. She stayed in Meereen for two seasons, struggling to rule a people far different from her own. After a confrontation at the fighting pits (the Game of Thrones version of a Roman gladiatorial coliseum), Dany rode her dragon back to the Dothraki Sea, a long stretch of grassland where Dothraki roam.
Captured again by the Dothraki, Dany actually consolidated the armies of their tribes by killing all the leaders (khals). At the end of Season 6, she boarded ships with her armies: Dothraki, Unsullied, and dragons. She also has two important advisers from Westeros: Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage).
The trailer shows Dany in Dragonstone, the ancestral seat of House Targaryen. It is likely she will launch an attack on the Iron Throne from there, to “take what is mine, by fire and blood.”
4. Sansa Stark/Petyr Baelish.
Sansa is the eldest living Stark. She has teamed up with Jon at Winterfell, but seems likely to make a claim on her own. Petyr Baelish (known as “Littlefinger”) is one of the most cunning schemers on the show, and he has teamed up with Sansa to empower and manipulate her.
In Seasons 1 and 2, Sansa was betrothed to Joffrey Baratheon, the crown prince and later king. He abused her, and she learned to be cunning and ruthless in the capital of King’s Landing. She married Tyrion Lannister, but fled the capital after King Joffrey’s poisoning, for which both she and Tyrion were suspected.
Littlefinger helped Sansa escape, taking her to the Eyrie and then arranging a marriage between her and Ramsay Bolton. Bolton raped and abused her, and she escaped with the help of Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). Then Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) protected them.
Sansa successfully convinced Littlefinger to bring the army of the Vale to help Jon Snow beat Ramsay Bolton. She is currently with Jon’s entourage.
Littlefinger first showed up in Season 1, when he befriended and then betrayed Ned Stark. After rising through guile and brothel management to the status of Master of Coin (the royal treasurer), he later arranged the marriage of Margaery Tyrell to King Joffrey, earning nobility in the process. This enabled him to marry Lysa Arryn (Katie Dickie) — and later kill her — and gain control of the Vale, which he has used to empower Jon Snow.
While Littlefinger and Sansa are working with Jon for now, Littlefinger has a history of betraying Starks, and Sansa has learned how to scheme from him. Expect their relationship with Jon to be interesting.
5. Tyrion Lannister.
Tyrion Lannister is the dwarf brother of Cersei and Jaime. While he is currently part of Daenerys’ entourage, he may have a claim to the throne in his own right. He is perhaps the most beloved character on the show, and has one of the most interesting stories.
While Jaime threw Bran from the tower and Cersei wanted him to die, Tyrion designed him a special saddle to allow a crippled boy to ride a horse. But Catelyn suspected that Tyrion tried to kill Bran, and she almost had him killed. His father Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) named him Hand of the King (a grand vizier). Tyrion orchestrated the successful defense of King’s Landing in the “Battle of Blackwater” against Stannis Baratheon in Season 2.
After this, he was marginalized by Tywin in Seasons 3 and 4. Accused of killing Joffrey, he demanded a trial by combat, and lost. Lord Varys (Conleth Hall) and Jaime freed Tyrion, and Varys traveled with him to the east. Out there he traveled past old Valyria, was enslaved, and then freed by Dany. He has since joined Dany’s crew, and advised her about Westeros.
Tyrion may be the bastard son of Aerys II Targaryen, and thus have a tenuous claim on the Iron Throne. His cunning and wit have made him a helpful ally and a fascinating character. Expect more from him.
6. Bran Stark.
Bran Stark is Sansa’s little brother, and he may end up becoming the most consequential character in the entire series.
In the very first episode, Bran sees Jaime and Cersei in the throes of passion, and he doesn’t understand what he’s seeing. But Jaime throws him down from the tower, and he becomes a cripple for life. He does hear in a vision, however, that “you will never walk again, but you will fly.” Bran has the power to warg into animals, controlling them with his mind.
Bran escaped after Theon captured Winterfell in Season 2, but Theon burned two boys’ bodies, convincing most people in the North that Bran and his brother Rickon (Art Parkinson) were dead. Bran headed north to the Wall, and past it, to find the “three-eyed raven,” a seer who would train Bran to have visions. The seer, whose real name is Brynden Rivers (Max von Sydow), trains Bran to see through the eyes of the ancient trees in Westeros, the weirwoods.
This power allows Bran to see the past, and it becomes downright eerie in Season 6, when Bran wargs the halfwit giant Hodor (Kristian Nairn) to “hold the door” in the future, an urgent message which echoes into the past version of Hodor, who seizes and shakes, saying “hold the door” over and over again, which eventually becomes “Hodor.” This tragic and moving scene left an impression on viewers, almost as powerfully as the notorious “Red Wedding” in Season 3.
Bran’s power over Hodor reveals that he can indeed change the past, which has tremendous implications for the story of Game of Thrones. Some have suggested that Aerys II’s mad ravings “Burn them all,” which gave him the nickname “the mad king” may have originated from Bran’s fights against the White Walkers.
Bran also sees that Jon Snow is the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, meaning that Bran knows Jon has a claim to the throne of Westeros.
7. Arya Stark.
Feisty little Arya has grown into a dangerous assassin by Season 6, much to the woe of anyone on her increasingly short kill list. She is back in Westeros, and causing a great deal of trouble.
Arya is the youngest daughter of Ned Stark, but she never wanted to be a lady like Sansa. Jon had a small sword crafted for her, which she named “needle.” Arya trained at swordplay with Syrio Forel (Miltos Yerolemou), the First Sword of Braavos. After seeing her father lose his head in Season 1, she headed north toward the Wall in Season 2, but was captured by Tywin Lannister’s forces and held in Harrenhall. While there, she gained the ability to name three people for death thanks to Jaqen H’gar (Tom Wlaschiha, Patrick O’Kane, and Cedric Henderson). Jaqen leaves her, but gives her a coin to go to Braavos.
Escaping from Harrenhall, she joined up with the Brotherhood Without Banners, but was then captured by Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann), “the Hound.” Arya used her coin to go to Braavos and find the House of Black and White, an assassin institution. She trained with them, but they ask her to leave her identity behind, something she could not do.
Arya then returned to Westeros in Season 6, taking revenge on Walder Frey (David Bradley) for the “Red Wedding,” in the finale. Her direwolf Nymeria is still roaming around. Expect both Arya and Nymeria to make a big appearance this coming season.
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