In our special ‘Send the Ravens’, we preview the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ and tell you anything and everything you need to know ahead of the debut on April 14…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
The end is finally here.
‘Game of Thrones’ will come to a close after six more episodes with the debut taking place this Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET on HBO with the epic fantasy series concluding six weeks later on Sunday night, May 19.
It’s been well over a year since ‘Game of Thrones’ season 7 aired on HBO because of an intense shooting schedule along with post production that required a lot of work before the final episodes were ready for public consumption.
Now the final season is upon us including the battle between the living and the dead in the North not to mention the war for the Iron Throne that will conclude during these last six episodes.
Obviously after expanding for the better part of seven seasons, ‘Game of Thrones’ has really condensed down to a couple of key locations and only handful of remaining characters who will be left when this series finally comes to an end.
As a reminder of where we left off and where we are going, our ‘Game of Thrones’ season preview will dig into all facets of the show including a recap from season 7, the major storylines ahead of the final season, new characters being introduced and everything else in between to get you ready for these last six episodes.
With that said, let’s travel to Westeros as we preview the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’.
TRAVELING TO THE NORTH
Where We Left Off
Jon Snow bent the knee to Daenerys Targaryen declaring her queen before they traveled south together in an attempt to reach a truce with Cersei Lannister so they could all join forces to prepare for a battle against the Army of the Dead.
While the two sides had been at war with each other all season long, Jon brought along an undead wight as evidence that these lifeless zombies not only existed but they were coming for every living thing in the known world. The demonstration seemingly convinced Cersei to agree to the cease fire so they two sides could team up against the Night King and his army of White Walkers preparing to invade from beyond the Wall.
In reality, Cersei always planned to double cross Jon and Daenerys and she was sending no such army to the North to help them defend against the Army of the Dead. Cersei has always been focused on two main goals — to maintain the power she holds as queen and protect the new child that she’s carrying inside of her.
Cersei not only turns her back on Jon and Daenerys after they leave King’s Landing but she has also conspired with Euron Greyjoy to travel across the Narrow Sea and bring back the Golden Company — a sellsword mercenary army bought and paid for by the Iron Bank of Braavos that will fight for her.
Cersei intends to allow Jon and Daenerys to battle the army of the dead and when that war is over, she will send in her own troops to clean up whatever is left. Either she will fight back the last remnants of the Night King and his army or she will wipe out the remaining forces from the Targaryen queen.
Either way, Cersei’s end game remains the same as she plans to occupy the Iron Throne when the war is finished.
Euron’s journey may not be unimpeded, however, after his nephew Theon Greyjoy manned up to command a ship of his own from the Iron Army with plans to find his murderous uncle and kill him to retrieve his sister Yara, who had been kidnapped early in the season.
After learning of Cersei’s betrayal, Jamie Lannister decides to turn his back on his sister as he leaves King’s Landing while preparing to travel North to battle alongside Jon and Daenerys after pledging his word to help the living fight the dead.
As for Jon and Daenerys, their new bond eventually brings them together in every sense of the word as they sail North to reunite with his family and prepare for the war against the Night King. While Jon and Daenerys bond in body and spirit, Tyrion Lannister kept a watchful eye on everything — perhaps out of jealousy because he too has fallen in love with the dragon queen or it could be out of fear that this new union could serve to harm both of them more than help in the coming wars they will have to fight.
What’s To Come
There is still very little known about what to expect in the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ as the showrunners have been specific in revealing almost no information in the few pieces of footage that have been released ahead of the last six episodes. In reality this is a great move because everybody involved in ‘Game of Thrones’ knows viewers are going to turn out in droves to see how this story ends without seeing a single second from the season before it starts.
That said, we do know a few things that are coming up during the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ as well as a few educated guesses based on the original books from George R.R. Martin.
Jon and Daenerys will arrive in the North where he will be reunited with his sister Sansa, who has been serving as the Lady of Winterfell in his absence. Jon sent Sansa a message while he was gone that he decided to bend the knee to Daenerys Targaryen, which means she will arrive at Wintefell as the queen of the Seven Kingdoms — including the North.
That means everybody at Winterfell will be expected to bend the knee and serve the new dragon queen.
It’s also expected that Jon will finally reunite with his sister Arya, who he hasn’t seen since leaving to join the Night’s Watch and she moved to King’s Landing with her father Ned Stark all the way back in season one. Remember, Jon is the person who made Arya’s sword Needle for her so that bond is remarkably deep and there were be more than a few tears shed when those two finally embrace again.
We also know from the footage in the ‘Game of Thrones’ trailer that Jamie Lannister will make his way to the North where he have to assume he will not only prepare to fight for the living but he will also tell Jon and Daenerys about his sister’s betrayal. Chances are it won’t stop them from choosing to fight the army of the dead coming from beyond the Wall but at least they know what’s coming for them once that war is finished — and assuming they are still alive.
Cersei will likely be biding her time in King’s Landing waiting for the Golden Company to arrive alongside her betrothed future husband, Euron Greyjoy. Out of all the Lannister children, Cersei seemed to pay attention to her father’s teachings far more than either of her brothers, which means she’s not only a master manipulator but she’s a supreme strategist.
As much as may seem like this series is destined to end with Daenerys as the queen of the Seven Kingdoms, no one should discount Cersei’s ability to hold onto her power and wipe out every enemy standing in her way. A key element to remember is that the showrunners behind ‘Game of Thrones’ said they were going to give this series the ending that it deserved — not necessarily the ones the fans have been hoping for all along.
And finally, the majority of the first half of the season will undoubtedly follow Jon and Daenerys arriving in Winterfell as they begin preparations for the upcoming war against the Night King, the White Walkers and his army of the dead.
More on that a little later…
Where We Left Off
Last season saw Jon Snow as King in the North begin assembling all of the Northern houses behind House Stark in the aftermath of the Boltons being eradicated. As Jon traveled south to parlay with Daenerys Targaryen in hopes of mining the dragonglass needed to fight back against the army of the dead, he left his sister Sansa in charge.
While he was gone, Sansa reunited with her sister Arya before the two of them teamed up together to root out the manipulative bastard responsible for so much of their family’s misery over the past few years. That meant turning the tables on Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, who had done his best to convince Sansa she needed to betray her own sister before Arya did the same to her.
Remember, Baelish was the person responsible for convincing Lysa Arryn to kill her own husband, which set off the chain of events that led to Ned Stark being named Hand of the King to Robert Baratheon. From there, Baelish orchestrated Ned eventually being captured and beheaded for treason as he continued to amass power from behind the scenes. Baelish was the person responsible for attempting to kill Bran Stark back in season one, which he then blamed on the Lannisters and that set off a whole other chain of events.
Long story short, Baelish was manipulating just about anybody and everybody in a position of power as he continued to move further and further up the food chain himself. Remember his words — ‘chaos isn’t a pit, chaos is a ladder’ and he created plenty of it. Ultimately, Baelish’s last attempt to usurp power was the one that backfired because he attempted to turn sister against sister and the Starks finally saw through him.
Baelish was tried and convicted before Arya slit his throat with the same Valyrian steel dagger that he used to frame Tyron Lannister in the attempt on Bran Stark’s life back in season one.
Much of the information used to finally discover all of Baelish’s misdeeds came from Bran Stark, who returned from north of the Wall where he was transformed into the Three-Eyed Raven. Bran no longer identifies as himself but rather just as the Three-Eyed Raven where he can see into the past and the future, which is how he knew all of Baelish’s crimes before then relaying that information to his sisters.
Meanwhile, Samwell Tarly spent much of last season at the Citadel where he was training to become a maester. He did manage to heal Jorah Mormont from his affliction with grey scale before sending him back to Daenerys, where he rejoined her army.
During his studies, Samwell also discovered something else rather interesting — it was a wedding that was performed in secret between Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. The stories about them had been nothing but lies — that Rhaegar had kidnapped and raped Lyanna, which then led to Robert Baratheon leading an army against the Targaryens before eventually overthrowing the entire dynasty.
In reality, Lyanna left with Rhaegar willingly because they had fallen in love and wanted to be together.
As Samwell arrived in the North to share this news with his friend Jon Snow, he meets Bran Stark again after helping him to get beyond the wall several seasons ago. Bran tells Samwell about Jon’s true parentage — that he is actually the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, born as a bastard out of wedlock in Dorne, which would technically make him a ‘Sand’ (the term for bastards in Dorne versus ‘Snow’ in the North).
That’s when Samwell reveals the information he found out about Rhaegar and Lyanna’s wedding, which Bran then confirms in one of his visions.
When all of the facts converge, Bran realizes that Jon Snow’s actual name is Aegon Targaryen, the natural born son to Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, which makes him the true heir to the Iron Throne. Lyanna had made her brother Ned promise to protect her son when he was born because if anyone found out he was a Targaryen, it would have made him a target.
Instead, Ned took the boy as his own bastard son and raised him to keep him out of harm’s way. Now Bran and Samwell know the truth — that Jon Snow aka Aegon Targaryen is the only son to Rhaegar and Lyanna and the actual heir who belongs on the Iron Throne.
Finally beyond the Wall, the Night King raises his full army and brings them south to Eastwatch-by-the-sea — the eastern most castle maintained by the Night’s Watch.
Earlier in the season when Jon Snow had traveled beyond the Wall to capture the wight to bring back with him to prove the army of the dead was real, Daenerys had been forced to rescue him, which meant flying there on the backs of her three dragons. During the fight, the Night King used his ice spear to take out one of Daenerys’ dragons, Viserion, as he fell to an icy grave into the water.
Later, the Night King had his army bring Viserion back out from the water and he used his power to re-animate the dragon, transforming him into a member of his army.
So now with a dragon in the ranks, the Night King flies to Eastwatch-by-the-sea and he has Viserion blast the Wall with his blue fire. The immense heat eventually crumbles the Wall while the members of the Night’s Watch — including Jon’s friends Tormund and Beric Dondarrion — run for their lives as the Night King finally makes his way into Westeros for the first time in centuries.
What’s To Come
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where too much time passes in the final season before Jon Snow finds out about his true parents and that he is actually the heir to the Iron Throne. Jon has seemingly fallen in love with Daenerys but she also happens to be his aunt by blood because her older brother Rhaegar is his father. That will certainly make for some awkward pillow talk.
It’s also highly unlikely that Jon will just forget his oath to Daenerys for the sake of trying to take the Iron Throne for himself. He seems like he would be more satisfied as the Warden of the North rather than trying to dish out commands while sitting on a throne in King’s Landing.
Still the revelation about Jon’s true identity will undoubtedly send shockwaves throughout the entire final season.
It will also be interesting to note where Sansa’s loyalties lie after her brother bent the knee to the dragon queen without even consulting her first. Over the years, Sansa has transformed from a whiny twit to powerful woman capable of leading armies — if she didn’t call for help from the Knights of the Vale at the ‘Battle of the Bastards’, Jon would be dead and Ramsay Bolton would still be King in the North.
And of course there’s Arya — the master assassin who still has a couple of names left on her kill list that she’s been repeating ever since watching her father get beheaded back in season one. Arya will be reunited with Jon this season but she will also likely cross paths with ‘The Hound’ again after they traveled together throughout seasons 3 and 4 before she thought she left him for dead following a fight with Brienne of Tarth.
While there are several characters still alive on that list — including ‘The Hound’ and his zombified older brother ‘The Mountain’ — the one name that could end up being crossed off is Cersei Lannister.
As a trained killer with the ability to wear the faces of the dead, Arya probably possesses more skills than anyone else to sneak past the guards at King’s Landing and end the war with one swipe of her sword while simultaneously snuffing out one of the people most responsible for the pain and suffering of her family over the past few years.
Could Arya be dispatched to kill Cersei and end the war? Something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
As for the Night King and his mission to destroy the living…
Let’s Talk About the Night King
The Night King’s introduction into ‘Game of Thrones’ wasn’t totally unexpected, although the version we’ve got on the series alters from the stories told about the same character from the original books by George R.R. Martin.
We told a detailed version of that tale in a past edition of ‘Send the Ravens’, which you can read about HERE but for clarity sake we’re only going to tackle the version of the Night King from the show for now.
A couple of seasons ago after Bran finally made his way to the cave of the Three-Eyed Raven, he met the Children of the Forest — the mythical creatures that once occupied Westeros before they engaged in a bloody battle against the First Men, who came to settle in the newly discovered land.
In an effort to turn the tide on the fight, the Children of the Forest kidnapped one of the First Men, tied him to a weirwood tree and shoved a shard of dragonglass through his heart. The entire ceremony was done to help the Children of the Forest create the ultimate weapon against the First Men — a killer consumed by death.
Unfortunately the plan worked too well as the Night King was born but he didn’t just want to kill the First Men invading Westeros. Instead, the Night King was all consumed with spreading death to any living creature that stood in his way. He began creating an army of soldiers in his likeness aka the White Walkers and he then began raising the dead to serve at his command.
Because of this ultimate force of evil attempting to snuff out all life in the known world, the Children of the Forest abandoned their war against the First Men so they could team together in an attempt to stop the Night King and his army. The battle was eventually won at the end of ‘The Long Night’ as the White Walkers were driven back north and the Wall was resurrected to help keep them from ever returning.
Now thousands of years later, the Night King has once again amassed a monstrous army and he intends to travel south and wipe out every living thing that stands in his way.
As single-minded as the Night King might be, it turns out his desire to spread death to all those who are living isn’t the only thing on his mind. While we will never hear the Night King speak, the actor who portrays him said in an interview leading into the final season that there is a very specific target in mind when he launches his attack in Westeros.
“People will see he has a target he wants to kill, and you will find out who that is,” Vladimir Furdik told Entertainment Weekly in an interview.
Let the speculation begin but my money is on Bran Stark aka the new Three-Eyed Raven.
The Night King seemed hell bent on finding the original Three-Eyed Raven and he discovered his secret lair after Bran made the ill-fated mistake to travel outward in a vision that ended with his arm being touched by the icy overlord. When the Night King arrived, he laid waste to the remaining Children of the Forest before then killing the last remnants of the Three-Eyed Raven.
Before he died, the Three-Eyed Raven passed along all of his knowledge and information to Bran Stark. It would only stand to reason that the Night King is now bound and determined to wipe out the new Three-Eyed Raven, which would mean killing Bran Stark.
Another possibility is that the Night King is either coming after Samwell Tarly or the baby he helped to ‘steal’ away from the tribute being paid to the White Walkers by Craster. Way back when, Samwell discovered that Craster was gifting his male children to the White Walkers as some kind of fee that allowed him to live and exist north of the Wall without any interference. When Gilly’s baby was born and it was a boy, Samwell whisked her away to save her and her child but they eventually encountered a White Walker coming to collect.
That’s when Samwell discovered that dragonglass can kill White Walkers after he destroyed the one coming for Gilly’s baby. It’s possible that the Night King is seeking out that child or the person who stole him away from the White Walkers.
Obviously those are just educated guessses but it’s unclear who else the Night King could even know about south of the Wall considering he hasn’t been there in centuries.
From the very first season of ‘Game of Thrones’ it was easy to see that creator George R.R. Martin loved a good prophecy because they’ve been sprinkled throughout the seasons with a million theories as to what they mean or how the predict the future.
Ahead of the final season there are a couple of prominent prophecies to watch that are specific to the show more so than the books, which do differ in a few spots.
The Prince Who Was Promised
First the main prophecy that we have to address is ‘The Prince Who Was Promised’ — or as it was slightly altered for ‘Game of Thrones’ — ‘The Prince or Princess who was promised will bring the dawn’.
The Red Priestess Melisandre showed up at Dragonstone to inform Daenerys Targaryen about this prophecy last season while adding that she can’t say for certain who exactly might be the ‘prince or princess’ in question but she does implore her to find Jon Snow because he will also play an important role in the war to come.
She also mentions the ‘Long Night’ — a historical event in Westeros history (and also expected to be the basis for the upcoming ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel) when winter lasted for more than a generation and the White Walkers first emerged from the north in an attempt to wipe out all life in the known world. According to legend, the Long Night ended after Azor Ahai used his flaming sword known as Lightbringer to drive back the White Walkers and help defeat them.
The prophecy then said that ‘the prince that was promised’ would return one day to save the world again after being plunged into darkness and his would be a ‘song of ice and fire’.
For years, Rhaegar Targaryen — the crown prince and Jon Snow’s father — believed he was this prince but as years moved forward, he realized it couldn’t be him and perhaps it would be one of his children. That’s why he named two of his sons Aegon (including Jon Snow) because Aegon I Targaryen was the person who first conquered Westeros on the back of his dragon thus creating the Seven Kingdoms.
So it stands to reason that Jon Snow might just be this mythical prince with a sword of fire — remember his sword Longclaw is made of Valyrian steel, forged in dragon fire, which means it can kill White Walkers — and he is made of ice and fire because his true parents are a Stark and a Targaryen.
Then again, Daenerys isn’t out of the running yet either because she literally brings the fire with her dragons and she is unburnt as we’ve seen her walk through the flames several times on this series.
As Melisandre mentioned when telling Daenerys about this prophecy, nothing is for certain — she once claimed that Stannis Baratheon was the ‘prince who was promised’ and we all know how that turned out. Either way, this prophecy will undoubtedly be the most interesting one of all during the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’.
One more note, before leaving Dragonstone, Melisandre told Varys that she would return to Westeros one day because that is where she will die and she said the same for him. Melisandre was revealed to be hundreds of years old in a past episode but she may see this final battle as the last one she will influence. As for Varys, he’s been a power player since season one but it’s interesting that he would somehow be included in the death prophecy ahead of the final season.
Cersei Lannister’s Prophecy
Another prophecy that holds particular interest in this final season is one that Cersei Lannister received several seasons ago. In the flashback, Cersei visits the dwelling of a fortune teller named Maggy the Frog.
In the version on the show, Cersei is allowed to ask three questions about her future. In her prophecy, Maggy tells Cersei that she will marry a prince (Rhaegar Targaryen) but rather a King (Robert Baratheon) but they won’t have any children together. She tells Cersei that she will have three children, however, and gold will be their crowns…and gold their shrouds as well.
That means, Cersei will have three children and they will all die before she does — and all of those things have already happened with Joffrey, Tommen and Myrcella all dying tragic deaths in past seasons.
The last piece of the prophecy revealed by Maggy is that Cersei will eventually be forced to give up her throne for a younger, prettier queen who will take her place. Now that could have originally been seen as Margaery Tyrell, which would probably explain why Cersei despised her so much after she was married to Joffrey and then expected to wed Tommen as well.
The more obvious choice now would be Daenerys Targaryen, who is younger and definitely wants to take the Iron Throne away from Cersei.
Now one part of the prophecy that is left out of the show but mentioned in the books is Maggy telling Cersei that she will die at the hands of the ‘valonqar’, which is translated to little brother. For years, book readers have assumed that meant Cersei would be killed by either Tyrion or Jamie (because technically as twins, she was born first). Because this wasn’t included in the show, it’s tough to imagine that part of the prophecy holding true.
The Battle of Winterfell
For all the secrecy surrounding the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’, one massive event that has been talked about is the upcoming ‘Battle of Winterfell’ that will presumably pit the living against the dead when the Night King and his army arrive from beyond the Wall.
The battle scene has been teased as the biggest and longest in television or film history.
It took 11 weeks to film with over 750 people involved in the production. The battle is expected to eat up the entire episode with Miguel Sapochnik directing after he helmed a previously epic episode that featured the ‘Battle of the Bastards’ in season 6.
Obviously details surrounding the actual battle are unknown but there’s little doubt this will be one of the most talked about episodes in ‘Game of Thrones’ history as the long teased war between the living and the dead comes to fruition.
“What we have asked the production team and crew to do this year truly has never been done in television or in a movie,” co-executive producer Bryan Cogman said about the episode.
“This final face-off between the Army of the Dead and the army of the living is completely unprecedented and relentless and a mixture of genres even within the battle. There are sequences built within sequences built within sequences. David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] [wrote] an amazing puzzle and Miguel came in and took it apart and put it together again. It’s been exhausting but I think it will blow everybody away.”
Because ‘Game of Thrones’ is condensing rather than expanding with this final season, don’t expect to be introduced to too many new characters but there’s at least one to watch in these last six episodes.
German actor Marc Rissmann will portray Harry Strickland — the leader of the Golden Company that is expected to come to Westeros to help Cersei Lannister maintain her grasp on the Iron Throne.
The Golden Company — famously the largest and most expensive mercenary army in the known world — reportedly consists of over 10,000 men and they’ve never broken a contract, which means they keep going until the job is done. The Golden Company also uses ‘war elephants’ during their conquests as well as horses, knights and archers.
It’s easy to understand why Cersei chose the Golden Company as her personal army to fight back against Daenerys, although she will still be vastly outnumbered thanks to the hordes of Unsullied, Dothraki screamers and two dragons that make up the Targaryen forces.
Then again, it’s tough to say how many of those will survive in the war of the living against the dead.
No matter how thorough this final season may be, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every loose end will be tied up.
There are a few key elements outside of the major plot taking place this season that ‘Game of Thrones’ will hopefully address.
As previously mentioned, Arya’s list is one particular loose end that could easily come up during the final season. Arya may decide not to cross off at least one name — ‘The Hound’ Sandor Clegane — but it’s safe to say she would gladly execute just about everybody else on there. Melisandre is also on that list after she took Gendry back in season 2, so that’s another possibly ending for the ‘Red Woman’ this season.
Speaking of ‘The Hound’, the long rumored ‘Clegane Bowl’ could also finally take place during the last season as brother Sandor and Gregor fight it out until only one of them is left alive. ‘The Hound’ has always hated his older brother and it appeared possible that these two would face off before now but it has never happened.
Of course, ‘The Mountain’ Gregor Clegane is barely even alive any longer after he was reanimated and brought back after poison from Oberyn Martell’s spear nearly killed him. Still, one last showdown between the Clegane brothers would be a welcomed bit of fan service in this final season.
A few other loose ends that could potentially be addressed before the end of the season is who ends up leading the rest of the Seven Kingdoms after the war is finished? If Cersei is successful in her campaign, she’s also made a lot of enemies in Dorne and in The Reach after wiping out the royal families in both places. In Daenerys’ case, she would be forging new relationship with the people who will help her maintain power over the Seven Kingdoms. It would seem like a natural fit for Jamie Lannister to return as the head of Casterly Rock, perhaps with a new wife that would help him carry on his family’s name but again this is a lot of speculation. We may not get any of those answers in this final season.
There are probably a million more random moments from the series that will be theorized to death but it’s likely at least a couple of these will be solved before the season is finished.
Trailers and Teasers
Here’s every trailer and teaser for the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ ahead of the show’s return on Sunday night.
We will be recapping each and every episode in depth for the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ as well as our weekly ‘Send the Ravens’ column that will answer any questions you might have about what just happened or what’s about to happen.
Stay tuned each Sunday night for more ‘Game of Thrones’ coverage with the final season premiere starting on April 14 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.