After an agonizing wait of nearly two years, the HBO series “Game of Thrones” will finally return Sunday for its eighth and final season.
The first episode of Season 8 airs at 9 p.m.
Hard-core fans of the show have had that date and time set in stone for months, but perhaps a refresher course is in order for more casual viewers.
When we last left the Seven Kingdoms:
- Jon Snow, the King of the North, hooked up with Daenerys Targaryen, the Mother of Dragons, as they sailed for his castle at Winterfell. (Dany is also his aunt, but he doesn’t know that. It’s a long story.)
- Bran Stark and Samwell Tarly discovered Jon is actually not the bastard son of Ned Stark, as he and everyone believe. Jon is, in fact, Aegon Targaryen, son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, who married in secret before the uprising that cost the Targaryen family the Seven Kingdoms. Rhaegar, the brother of the Mad King Aerys Targaryen, was later killed by the usurper Robert Baratheon, who was betrothed to Lyanna (it’s complicated). Lyanna died shortly after giving birth to Jon, and made Ned Stark, her brother, promise to protect him.
- Arya and Sansa Stark executed Littlefinger, who was trying to stir up trouble between the Stark sisters after Jon left Winterfell.
- Cersei Lannister, the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, revealed the truce she made with Jon and Daenerys was a ruse. Instead of allowing their armies time to fight off the White Walkers, a threat to the entire realm methodically approaching from the North beyond the Wall, Cersei sent Euron Greyjoy and his fleet to hire the Golden Company, a mercenary army she plans to use to defend her crown.
- Disgusted at this revelation, Cersei’s brother (and occasional lover) Jaime Lannister broke with her and headed north to fight the Walkers. PS: Cersei is also pregnant (again, it’s complicated).
- The Night King, the terrifying leader of the White Walkers, killed and re-animated one of Daenerys’ dragons, making it part of his undead army. With the help of the dragon’s icy breath, he breaks through the Wall and leads his army into the Seven Kingdoms.
Got all that?
What we can expect in Season 8 is a mystery; the show-runners have been meticulous about keeping potential spoilers hidden.
All we really know is the final season will have just six episodes — but they’ll all be more than an hour long. But some of the highlights we’re hoping to see and questions we want answered are:
Will Jon Snow learn his true identity?
It was established in earlier seasons that Jon “knows nothing,” but it feels like discovering his true ancestry is something that has to happen. Of course, that revelation will lead to it’s own complications, not the least of which is Jon is actually the rightful heir to the Iron Throne (oh, and he just slept with his aunt).
And speaking of Aunt Dany, how will she react if/when she finds out she’s not the first in line for the crown?
Oh, and did their little boat tryst lead to a potential Stark/Targaryen heir?
Clegane Bowl? Clegane Bowl.
It’s a family feud that the show has been teasing since it’s first season: A battle between Sandor Clegane (“The Hound”), former bodyguard to wretched boy-king Joffrey, occasional partner of Sansa and Arya Stark and reluctant member of the Brothers Without Borders, and his hulking older brother Gregor (“The Mountain”), who is the chief protector of Cersei Lannister.
As his nickname suggests, “The Mountain” is terrifyingly huge, completely evil, and (apparently) an undead wight. In addition to mutilating his younger brother when they were children, he memorably dispatched Oberlyn Martell of Dorne by crushing his head. The Hound has sworn that he’ll get revenge against The Mountain; here’s hoping he at least gets his shot.
How many battles will there be?
With Winterfell and the North apparently the first in line to meet the Night King and the White Walkers as they march from the wall, logic dictates they’ll have to fight it out. And showrunners have hinted that the upcoming conflict will make The Battle of the Bastards (Season 6) and the Battle of Blackwater Bay (Season 2) look like minor skirmishes. With the potential matchup between the Night King’s Undead Ice Dragon and Dany’s Very Alive Ones, the battle could be AWESOME.
But will that be the only battle we see? Doubtful. After all, whoever emerges victorious from the North will invariably head to King’s Landing to duke it out with Cersei; she pointed out as much in Season 7. And with the Golden Company on the way across the Narrow Sea to help her defend her crown,
Who (if anyone) will survive?
“Game of Thrones” fans have long since learned not to get too attached to characters on the show, no matter how important they seem to be (RIP, Ned Stark, Catelyn Stark, Robb Stark, all three Baratheon brothers, all of Cersei’s children, and a whole lot of others).
But someone is going to have to make it through the final season, right?
They can’t kill ALL the Starks, right?
Or Jaime and Tyrion? Jorah Mormont? Grey Worm and Missandei? Samwell and Gilly? Gendry? Hot Pie? Tormund and Brienne?
The series can’t end with the Night King victorious, with all of the Seven Kingdoms overtaken by the undead, right?