DEATH AWAITS US ALL

‘Game of Thrones’: Here’s What Will Happen in Season 7 (We Think)

The seventh season of HBO’s fantasy epic premieres on Sunday. Here’s what to expect.

The final pieces of the game of thrones are fast moving into place. Jon Snow rules in the North, Cersei Lannister holds King’s Landing, and Daenerys Targaryen, backed by an armada and three dragons, will soon touch down in Westeros to reclaim the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, the Night King’s army of White Walkers and wights is quickly descending to plunge the world into darkness. And this year, we have a scant seven episodes before the madness ends.

We’re calling it now: we know exactly what the last shot of the season will be—and where a few stops along the way will take us. (By “know,” I mean “can make a few informed guesses amid mostly wild speculation,” but what’s a high-stakes game without a good wager going in?) Be warned of potential spoilers, look into the flames, and read on for the clashes, reunions, secrets, and betrayals to come in Season 7—or at least the ones we’d bet money* on.

*I am very bad with money.

Gendry Will Finally Stop Rowing

Remember Gendry? The bastard son of Robert Baratheon was last seen three seasons ago, nervously rowing toward King’s Landing after Davos rescued him from the dungeons of Dragonstone. The young blacksmith couldn’t swim at the time, had never been in a rowboat, and was at least a full night and day’s worth of paddling away from the nearest landmark. (The coastal town Rook’s Rest, itself at least several days’ ride from King’s Landing.)

No one’s seen or heard from him since. He should probably be dead. But the circumstances of Season 7 mean Gendry is suddenly (OK, maybe) kind of a big deal again.

Winter is here and Westeros’ war against the Night King is about to begin. That means in addition to dragonglass, Jon Snow and friends have to somehow scrounge up more of the White Walker-killing, ultra-scarce Valyrian steel—or at least melt down and rework the handful of blades already made of the famously difficult metal. Guess whose old master was the rare blacksmith to know how to do just that?

Tobho Mott, who was paid by a concerned Varys to take Gendry on as apprentice and hide his Baratheon roots, hailed from the Free City of Qohor. There, smiths are “known,” according to Jorah, for their ability to reforge Valyrian steel. Whether Mott taught Gendry the secrets of reworking the metal is an open question. But as the Ringer’s Riley McAtee points out, a reader posed this very query to George R.R. Martin back in 2002, to which the author (tellingly) deflected with, “Interesting question.”

It’s not really a stretch to imagine Gendry playing a role in Jon Snow’s prep against the Night King, especially as the new King in the North inevitably seeks help from King’s Landing, where Gendry probably is. Plus, Arya is back in Westeros now and these days the show loves an unlikely, happy reunion. The chance to pair Arya in a scene with her old crush, at least once, feels too tempting to turn down. Just keep him away from leeches and redheads.

Jaime and Cersei Will Be Driven Apart for Good

Once destructively codependent, the Lannister twins have been growing apart. Jaime’s time spent traveling with Brienne, living paragon of knightly honor (the sort Jaime loathes himself too much to dare aspire to be like, but inwardly admires) allowed him perspective on his relationship with his petty, vindictive sister. Cersei, too, has treated her brother more coldly since he returned, initially revolted at the sight of his missing hand.

Jaime still loves her to death, though. He spent last season doing her bidding in the Riverlands before returning home to King’s Landing, only to find she had done the unthinkable: detonated the explosive wildfire hidden under the Sept of Baelor. Hundreds died, and the twins’ last living son, King Tommen, walked himself out a window rather than live on without Margaery.

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Jaime earned his “Kingslayer” nickname by stabbing Mad King Aerys II Targaryen to death for even planning to do what Cersei has done. His life is now a nightmare moral quandary—you could see it in his disturbed face as his sister was crowned queen. This is important because, whether this season or next, a fatal line of Maggy the witch’s prophecy may come true.

In Season 5’s “The Wars to Come,” the witch foretold to a young Cersei the major events of her life: her marriage to a philandering king, the deaths of all her children, and her rise to the throne. She also, perhaps, foretold Daenerys’ homecoming, in a line Cersei seemed to think referred to Margaery (RIP): “Queen you shall be, until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.”

The show cut Maggy off before she got to her final line from the books: “And when your tears have drowned you, the valonquar shall wrap his hands around your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” Cersei assumed “valonquar” (Valyrian for “little brother”) refers to Tyrion. But what if it’s Jaime? He’s technically younger too, if only by minutes.

With distance growing between the two lovers and Jaime’s sense of morality eating away at him, how long until the mad queen’s ruthless reign pushes him too far?

Sam Will Uncover Vital Secrets from Oldtown

The worst joke-teller in Westeros was last seen inside the expansive library at the Citadel, where maesters-in-training soak up knowledge of science, history, and medicine. With time ticking down until White Walker o’clock, Sam is poised to uncover vital, forgotten secrets. Maybe he’ll learn where to find or how to forge Valyrian steel. Or, with Jorah unlikely to stay away much longer (there isn’t a dragon, White Walker or TV screenwriter alive who can keep that guy from Dany) maybe Sam will help uncover some cure for greyscale instead.

Jon Snow will also soon learn he’s half Targaryen, a discovery Bran made through his visions last year. With the stacks of ancient lore at the Citadel, Sam may be able to piece together how well Jon fits the description of the Prince Who Was Promised. That legendary hero, often called Azor Ahai, once saved the world from “the cold breath of darkness” with a “flaming sword,” and is prophesied to be reborn and do the same again this time around.

A quick refresher: The hero is said to be reborn “when the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers” amidst “smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone.” Jon was born amidst the smoke of battle at the Tower of Joy, and the salt of his dying mother Lyanna Stark’s tears. As for the bleeding red star? Ser Arthur Dayne’s sword, supposedly forged “from the heart of a fallen star,” was red with blood (and conveniently placed in full view of the camera) at the foot of Lyanna’s bed in Bran’s vision.

Melisandre was convinced Jon’s the one, but she didn’t know the circumstances of his birth and had no proof to convince him. If Sam returns north (according to plan) and finds Jon and Bran at Winterfell, perhaps his studies have world-saving potential.

Arya Will Reunite With Old Foes—and Two Friends

Our little Many-Faced Assassin is finally back in Westeros to cross more names off her kill list and find what’s left of her family. Right now, she’s in the Riverlands, having just slit Walder Frey’s throat at the Twins. She’ll probably head up to Winterfell next. But first, like we said, this show loves a surprise reunion.

Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, one name on her kill list, also happens to be stomping around the Riverlands. He’s with the Brotherhood Without Banners, led by Thoros of Myr (a second name) and Beric Dondarrion (a third). Melisandre (a fourth) predicted she and Arya would meet again the last time they spoke and might be in the area as well, moping her way south from Winterfell.

But there’s one name not on the kill list with whom a reunion would be even sweeter: Nymeria, Arya’s long-lost pet direwolf. Arya was forced to shoo her beloved pup back into the wild in Season 1 after she bit Joffrey and Cersei ordered her killed. In the books, Arya hears of a female alpha wolf leading a giant pack through the Riverlands. There’s a good chance Arya will run into her old pal this year, along with Gendry.

Jon Will Discover He’s a Targaryen and Meet Two Queens

Bran knows the secret. Benjen Stark knows the secret. Even Littlefinger sort-of hints at knowing Jon Snow’s secret when reminiscing about Lyanna in Season 5. But with Benjen stuck north of the Wall and Littlefinger’s interests directly at odds with Jon learning his lineage, it’ll fall to Bran to break the news. He and Meera are currently headed down to Winterfell, so it’s only a matter of time.

Or so we hope. (Avert your eyes to the next paragraph to avoid concrete spoilers, as opposed to speculation.) Costume designer Michelle Clapton recently let spill in an interview that Jon will meet not only Dany this season (as was expected) but Cersei as well. It feels…unlikely that Cersei would ride for days and days to make nice with the North. With Jon desperate to rally forces against the Night King, it’s more likely he’ll be the one riding south to try and reason with her. Let’s hope he does it after Bran sits him down for a long fireside chat.

Varys and Littlefinger Will Play Their Endgame

The long-running feud between Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish and Lord Varys has been on the back burner for two seasons now. (To recap: Littlefinger is largely the architect of the entire game of thrones, having sparked the War of the Five Kings by convincing Lysa Arryn to kill her husband, then-Hand of the King Jon. He also betrayed Ned Stark, pitting the Lannisters and Starks against each other. Varys, meanwhile, has worked like mad to counter Littlefinger’s moves and restore a rightful heir to the kingdom. He currently backs Dany.)

But with Varys back in Westeros and Littlefinger plotting to land his own bum in the chair, their interests are set to physically clash for the first time in years. Varys’ plan at this point is to unite Daenerys’ forces with Dorne and Highgarden. Littlefinger, on the other hand, wants to pit Sansa against Jon and make her his queen; he said as much in a rare moment of transparency in the Season 6 finale. Whether that honesty, and his over-ambition, will come to bite him in the ass is a moment we (and Varys) pray for.

The Wall Will Come Crumbling Down

In disobeying the Three-Eyed Raven and warging around where he didn’t belong, Bran ended up bumping into the Night King and earned himself a nasty mark on his arm. That mark is what allowed the Night King to find Bran inside the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave, and break the spell that guarded it. As Benjen warned in the aftermath, the same would go for the Wall itself should Bran cross south—which he certainly will. It would be cataclysmic. But it would also make for a fantastic last shot of the season, no?

Cleganebowl, GET HYPE!

OK, so we’re not actually sure the Clegane brothers will ever throw down in the Thrones fandom equivalent of Ali vs. Frazier. And true, the two are nowhere near each other right now. But travel times have been shrinking exponentially on the show. Zombie-Mountain is still lumbering around King’s Landing, and The Hound was resurrected, in a sense, last year in the Riverlands. Why bring these two towering brothers with a gnarly history of resentment and regret back to life if not to have them brawl it out? Dan, Dave, any dumb excuse will do at this point. Deus ex machina, have at it! To the rest of you, we say: get thee hyped.