Closure is coming.
For years, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the showrunners behind Game of Thrones, have had a plan. It's a long-term plan based on George R.R. Martin's bestselling A Song of Ice and Fire novels, which Game of Thrones is based on. With six seasons done and just seven books to draw from... Well, the math is pretty simple, even if there's no direct correlation between 1 book : 1 season of TV.
HBO has signed the cast and crew for eight seasons, which gives Benioff and Weiss some extra wiggle room to resolve every story and tie every bow in a neat and tidy knot. What we know of their plan has around 13-15 episodes remaining total, splitting what's left between Seasons 7 and 8.
The show cleaned house in Season 6, killing off a number of characters and their respective storylines, which leaves only so many plot threads left to address. With a finite number of episodes, stories, and characters remaining, here's what we're hoping to see in the next batch of episodes, aka Season 7.
15 Cersei gets her "Mad King" on
Cersei's last tether to humanity is gone. All three of her children are dead, leaving her nothing to live for but spite. Yet she's just been named queen of the Seven Kingdoms. What does an all-powerful Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) look like when she has no children to love or protect? Probably a lot like the "Mad King" Aerys Targaryen.
The Mad King was every bit as crazy as his nickname suggests, and that madness gave way to unimaginable cruelty. There's a reason Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) betrayed and executed him, after all. Most famous among his crimes was a huge storehouse of Wildfire he collected in the tunnels below King's Landing, with the intention of detonating all of it rather than lose the city to Robert's Rebellion. Cersei has just used some of that Wildfire to destroy the Sept of Baelor, proving that there's no length she won't go to in order to destroy her enemies and hold onto power.
So where does she go from here? Her subjects already hate her, and becoming queen will only magnify their feelings. Jaime didn't seem thrilled at what she'd done in his absence (more on him later). And there's a certain massive fleet of ships headed straight for her.
Cersei is going to unravel in Season 7, and we can't wait to see what she does next.
14 Daenerys invades Westeros, kicks all the butts
It's taken her six seasons, but Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) has successfully amassed enough forces to attack her enemies in Westeros and seize the Iron Throne. She's got the Second Sons, the Unsullied, and the entire Dothraki nation. She's got three fire-breathing dragons. She's got countless ships, and the combined might of House Tyrell, House Martell, and (most of) House Greyjoy. There may be no bigger army, anywhere.
Narratively speaking, Game of Thrones is going to need most of that military might situated in Westeros for the fight against the White Walkers. But before that happens, there's an inevitable conflict brewing between House Targaryen and House Lannister, aka Queen Daenerys vs. Queen Cersei.
At a glance, it looks like Cersei doesn't have a prayer. But if there's one thing we know after watching Game of Thrones for six years, it's this: don't underestimate Cersei Lannister.
That being said...
13 Cersei's comeuppance
It's time. With the White Walker war looming and Cersei having nothing to offer to that fight, it adds up that she will finally meet her ignoble end.
But who will do the deed? There's a long list of characters who could give Cersei a poetic demise, including Arya, Sansa, Bran, Brienne of Tarth, Lady Olenna, and maybe even Daenerys. But the most likely culprit of all is the one she hates the most — and vice versa: her youngest brother, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage). And since he's on his way back to Westeros alongside Daenerys, he's got to be looking forward to Cersei seething at the sight of him not only still alive, but Hand of the freaking Queen.
We hope to see Tyrion abandon his composure and lunge at his sister, squeezing the life from her throat with his bare hands (as prophesied). But as satisfying as it would be to watch Cersei die thanks to the person she's been more cruel to than any other, the ultimate twist would be for her to turn the tables and overpower Tyrion, requiring Jaime to step in at the last moment and save his brother by killing his sister. He may love her above all others, but they've got baggage, and that baggage is piled pretty high now thanks to Cersei's recent activities.
Raise your hand if you'd pay to see Tyrion and Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) dance on Cersei's grave.
12 Arya continues her hit list
Sure, she could head home to Winterfell now — and how awesome would her reunion with Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) be? But this is Arya (Maisie Williams), and she's got stuff to do.
She's somehow mastered the ability to disguise herself with other people's faces without that pesky side effect of going blind, even though she never officially graduated from Jaqen H'ghar's assassin school. (One of a few question marks hanging over her storyline at the moment.) The one thing beyond question is that she's picked up some serious assassin skills from the likes of Syrio Forel, Jaqen, Sandor Clegane, and the Waif. She's just wiped out a few major names from her kill list — Walder Frey (David Bradley) and his sons — and others have been eliminated elsewhere in the world. Let's run down who's left:
- Cersei Lannister
- Beric Dondarrion
- Thoros of Myr
- Ilyn Payne
- The Mountain
She seems to have taken the Hound off the list herself; even though she claimed to still hate him, we know she eventually found him to be a kindred spirit. The Mountain is at King's Landing protecting Cersei, but we'd much rather see him die at someone else's hands (see the next entry). It's unlikely Arya will need to deal with Cersei, what with Daenerys' impending invasion. Ilyn Payne (the executioner who decapitated Ned Stark) hasn't been seen in a while, but he's probably somewhere in the capitol as well. Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr are members of the Brotherhood Without Banners [originally we identified them as the Brotherhood Without Borders; thank you to our sharp-eyed commenters who caught the error!], who are traversing the Seven Kingdoms, preparing for the war against the White Walkers. And Melisandre (Carice van Houten) is heading south...pretty much in Arya's exact direction.
The superlative for "Most Likely to Encounter Arya" goes to: Beric and Thoros. Why? Because it will bring her right back into the Hound's company, who she believes to be dead, allowing for all kinds of juicy drama. She could also run into Melisandre, who's narrative purpose might be fulfilled now (bringing Jon Snow back from death). It would appear that her time has come to an end as well.
These brothers have so much bad blood between them. Gregor Clegane (Hafthor Bjornsson) is a brutal, cruel man who shoved his younger brother Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) into a brazier as a child, mutilating one side of his face. They've hated each other all their lives, and recent events have set them on shockingly different paths.
Gregor, a man so large he's nicknamed "the Mountain," technically died from poisonous injuries inflicted on him by Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascall). But he was reanimated by Qyburn's (Anton Lesser) dark science, and now serves as Cersei's personal guard. Sandor, also known as "the Hound," made a surprise return in Season 6, having changed his ways (well, a little) after a brush with death — and some softening up from the time he spent with Arya. When we last saw him, he seemingly signed on with the Brotherhood Without Banners.
In order for Gregor and Sandor to get their grudge match — a conflict fans lovingly refer to as Cleganebowl — some pieces of the puzzle still need to be arranged. The easiest solution would be for the Brotherhood to join Daenerys' cause and help with the sacking of King's Landing, which would put the Hound and the Mountain on opposing sides of the battle. But maybe the showrunners have a more clever method in mind. Either way, this is one reunion viewers have been salivating over for a very long time.
10 Bran steps up
In "Blood of My Blood," Season 6's sixth episode, Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawie) told his nephew Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) that he was the Three-Eyed Raven now, and that the Night King (Vladimir Furdik) is coming to Westeros:
"One way or another, [the Night King] will find his way to the world of men. And when he does, you will be there waiting for him. And you will be ready."
That's a clear mission statement for Bran and Meera (Ellie Kendrick) going forward. They have two things to accomplish: return to the Seven Kingdoms (aka, get themselves south of the Wall), and finish Bran's training. First, they have to pass the Wall. After that, there's only one logical destination for them. Think about it. If and when the Wall comes down, Castle Black falls with it. If the Wall's no longer standing between the Walkers and Westeros, the next logical line of defense for the world of men is Winterfell. And who has the story already maneuvered into place to stand against them there?
Bran's big brother, Jon Snow.
Second, Bran must learn to control his abilities. He's a Warg, and a Greenseer. Anything else? The show has worked hard to make it clear that Bran has a pivotal role to play in the war to come. How exactly does he fight the Night King? Can he warg into one of Daenerys' dragons? Enter the past to change history? And with the original Raven dead, who's left to teach Bran what he needs to know? Are there more Children of the Forest somewhere that could train young master Stark? Or will Bran teach himself?
So. Many. Questions.
9 Littlefinger gets back to what he does best
Lord Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) is never a more interesting or delicious character than when he's up to no good. But Season 6 gave him virtually nothing to do. He was in just a few episodes, first responding to Sansa's threats over selling her to Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) after rallying the Knights of the Vale, and then coming to her aid at Winterfell with them at his back. The season finale saw him trying to sow a few seeds of discord between Sansa and her brother Jon.
It's clear that Littlefinger will be sticking around Winterfell at least for the beginning of Season 7. It's also clear that his obsession with Sansa isn't going away anytime soon. We want to see his long-term machinations come to fruition in Season 7. He's been playing "the great game" longer than anyone else, and he should be working every side against each other as he tries to take the Iron Throne for himself. One way he can do that is fan the flames of Sansa feeling marginalized next to Jon.
But let's set the record straight about one thing: despite what you may have seen or heard, Sansa was not upset over Jon being declared King in the North. Watch that scene carefully; she smiles as the various lords swear their allegiance to Jon. It's only when Littlefinger catches her eye that she drops the grin. She'd just told Jon in their previous scene that she considered him a full-fledged Stark; we truly don't believe she had a problem with him becoming king. Sansa has never shown any overt desire for power.
But she bristled at being a marginalized woman, back at the war council before the Battle of the Bastards. This is an itch Littlefinger can scratch to improve his own position, and you can bet he'll try to. With the impending showdown with the White Walkers on the horizon, will Baelish put aside his pursuits? As Varys once said, "[Littlefinger] would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes."
8 Ser Jorah returns to Daenerys
Ser Jorah Mormont's affliction with Greyscale is one of many storylines that has moved far beyond George R.R. Martin's source material. So how his illness will play out is anyone's guess.
The real question is, is it possible for Ser Jorah (Iain Glen) to get a happy ending? There's no real chance of getting his heart's greatest desire: winning Daenerys' heart. He's probably happy to settle for earning her forgiveness. But she's just left Daario Naharis behind in Meereen, because his love for her would be a liability in Westeros. Ser Jorah loves her too, although she's stated her desire for him to be by her side when she takes the Seven Kingdoms. But he's preoccupied at the moment, roaming Westeros or Essos, looking for his cure.
Only one thing is certain: We will see Ser Jorah again. His story was left dangling way up in the air, and there's no chance that the show will just end his story that way. Whether he manages to find a cure or not, it's more likely he'll die in battle — defending his Khaleesi, no doubt — than somehow get a happily ever after by her side.
7 Sam does...something...important at the Citadel
Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) was sorely underused in Season 6. His journey with Gilly (Hannah Murray) and little Sam from Castle Black to the Citadel (with a stop off at not-so-dear old dad's place) took the entire season. Varys (Conleth Hill) crossed the Narrow Sea not once but twice, Sansa and Jon managed to tour the entire North while seeking allied Houses, and other characters like Jaime, Arya, and Brienne traveled all over the place and back again.
Having Sam and Gilly take an entire season to get from point A to point B sends up all kinds of narrative flags. Wouldn't it have made more sense to for Sam to be well into his Maester training by now, if Jon is going to need his help by the time the Night King arrives? There doesn't appear to be any specific timeframe set for Maester training; all that's known is that novices acquire a chain link after being tested in a particular field of study. After acquiring enough links to form a chain that can be worn around his neck, he is officially named a Maester.
Is it possible that Sam already possesses enough proficiency to rise through the ranks at the Citadel and acquire his chain quickly? Or maybe he doesn't need to become a Maester at all. He's there, in theory, to learn crucial info to help fight the White Walkers.
The Citadel is a major location in Westeros, with its enormous, lighthouse-like tower. It's in Oldtown, a city on the continent's southwestern coast. Could it be that something big will go down there? Something that the story required biding Sam's time in Season 6 to wait for?
6 Jaime Lannister gets a better plot
Jaime got plenty to do in Season 6, it just wasn't terribly interesting. His two most watchable moments were his sweet reunion with Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), and his chilling threats against Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies).
Jaime is one of Thrones' most confounding characters. At one moment he's charming, honorable, and likable. The next, he's shockingly depraved. He has a flawed moral compass — though at least he has one, unlike his sister — and it's his undying devotion to Cersei that causes him to wage war against his own better nature. Pretty much every dark and nasty thing he's ever done was done for her benefit. But some of the series' characters bring out the best in him. Brienne and Tyrion, for example. Jaime has demonstrated a remarkable selflessness in protecting both of them.
Who is Jaime Lannister without Cersei? Who does he become if she dies? Does he turn into a kinder, more ethical man? Or a darker, more vengeful one? Could he have something to offer in the fight against the White Walkers?
Season 7 looks likely to answer these questions, so here's hoping Jaime winds up on the side of light.
5 Brienne and Tormund
Oh, quit laughing. You know you want it.
The moment Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) laid eyes on Brienne of Tarth at Castle Black, it was lust at first sight. He's had his surprisingly handsome (for a Wildling) gaze fixed on her ever since. Sadly, Brienne does not appear to feel the same way, culminating in actress Gwendoline Christie's hilarious reading of the line, "and that Wildling fellow with the beard..." She was raised as a Lady, after all, and his "Free Folk" ways are downright barbaric by her standards.
But they're both fiercely loyal allies of the Starks. This being Game of Thrones, neither of them are very likely to make it to the end. There are plenty more battles to come, so Brienne needs to let go of her reservations and, you know, live in the now.
As the song says, "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with..."
4 Euron Greyjoy makes his move
The last we saw of the newly-anointed king of the Iron Islands, he asked his people to build him a thousand ships. A preposterous request to be certain, but then, what little we know of Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) is that he's wild-eyed and in love with himself. Would he ask for a thousand ships if he didn't believe his people could build them? Hard to say.
Granted, they are a seafaring people, and they definitely know a thing or two about shipbuilding. But wouldn't it take a really long time to build even a hundred ships, much less a thousand? And Euron would need all one thousand of them to take on his niece and nephew, who are now aligned with the dragon queen and her repurposed slaver ships, the Tyrell and Martell fleets, and the full might of the Unsullied and Dothraki. What kind of threat could Euron even pose at this point? Is there any chance he could have a change of heart and add his forces to Daenerys' existing warriors in the fight against the White Walkers? (Don't hold your breath on that one.)
As we've pointed out, there's not much story left — most likely about 15 more episodes. So unless Thrones' producers are planning a significant time jump before the end (possibly between seasons 7 and 8), or those Iron Islands residents are impossibly fast builders, Euron's plans seem like a silly rabbit trail. Whatever he's planning, we hope he pulls the trigger soon. And then the show wraps up his loose end very quickly.
Actually, more screen time for any of the Greyjoys would be welcome. Yara (Gemma Whelan) and Theon (Alfie Allen) were barely seen this season, and we're really hoping Theon gets a chance to redeem himself. Perhaps he could save Yara's life by sacrificing his own? That'd be a strong end for such a conflicted character.
3 Make time for characters who've been shortchanged
Season 6 was a fantastic steamroller of plots, plowing ahead with major events and long-awaited developments/fan service. The downside to all that rearranging of the game board is that a number of beloved characters were quite underutilized this year.
We've already mentioned Littlefinger, Sam and Gilly, Ser Jorah, Euron, Yara and Theon, and Bran and Meera. Each had some brilliant moments in Season 6, but were barely seen otherwise. Bran in particular has been set up since the show began to be a key figure, and this season the gloves really came off for him, with him losing Hodor (Kristian Nairn), the Raven, Leaf, and his direwolf, Summer. Indirectly, he lost Osha and Rickon, too, who were part of his journey for a long time. Bran needs to step up in a big way and prove himself worthy of these sacrifices.
Who else do we want to see more of? How about Varys, who was seen numerous times but never had a storyline of his own. Brienne and Podrick (Daniel Portman) sat out several episodes, and frankly we're ready to see her stick around and protect the person she's sworn to back instead of being sent away yet again. Bronn (Jerome Flynn) got entirely too little to do this year. As much as we enjoy his "battlefield buddies" bromance with Jaime Lannister, it'd be even more fun to see him reunite with Tyrion, or maybe play off of someone completely different for a change.
And what about Edd (Ben Crompton) and the Night's Watch? They haven't been seen at all since Jon and Sansa left Castle Black. They stand between Westeros and the White Walkers, so we have a bad feeling about their future prospects. It'd be nice to see more of Edd before the end. There's also Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) of Dorne. The show made a big deal about her usurping the rule of her brother-in-law, Doran Martell, but then she dropped out of sight (for nearly an entire season) until a short scene showed her joining Olenna Tyrell in signing on with Daenerys Targaryen in the season finale. Was there really nothing else to the intrigue and betrayals in Dorne?
2 Jon learns the truth
Sooner or later, Jon Snow has to find out that he's not the son of Ned Stark he is (by birth) a Targaryen. Specifically, he's the son of Lyanna Stark and Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, as the show revealed in the Season 6 finale, "The Winds of Winter." At present, we know for certain of just one person in all of Westeros who knows the truth of Jon's heritage: Bran Stark, who was raised as Jon's brother. (In reality, they're cousins.)
There's one other who could know the truth, but his current status in the Seven Kingdoms is completely unknown. Howland Reed, father to Meera and Jojen Reed and loyal supporter of Ned Stark during Robert's Rebellion, was present at the Tower of Joy when Ned found his sister Lyanna and promised to raise and protect Jon. That said, Howland was never seen in the Tower, and it's unknown what Ned told his friend after emerging from the Tower with his baby nephew. So it's possible Howland may know the truth, but just as likely that he doesn't.
Either way, Bran is the more likely candidate to tell Jon the truth.
Why is it so important that Jon learn of his real parents? Well, follow this logic: Daenerys Targaryen is coming to Westeros, likely mounting an invasion of King's Landing, and the odds of victory are strongly in her favor. She wants to rule the Seven Kingdoms, but Jon Snow is now at the head of the biggest of those kingdoms, which in theory puts them at odds. Yet with Westeros in need of every last person capable of fighting to counter the White Walkers, the most logical conclusion is that sooner or later, Jon and Daenerys will need to realize that they're both decent, moral rulers who don't need to be enemies, allowing them to join forces.
The easiest way to make that happen is for the two of them to learn that they are aunt and nephew. And there's already a perfect go-between in place who can vouch for them both and help broker their peace: Hand of the Queen, Tyrion Lannister.
1 The Wall comes tumbling down
The Season 7 finale must set up the show's endgame, and it's no secret that the endgame is expected to be the war against the White Walkers. Unless the show has something wildly unexpected in mind, the only way that war can happen is if the Wall is brought down. And once that happens, Westeros will be overrun by the dead. That's why we want to see the Wall crumble by the Season 7 finale.
How do you bring down a 700-foot-high Wall of ice that's 300 miles wide and embedded with powerful magic spells? According to George R.R. Martin's books, there's a big, magical horn called the "Horn of Joramun" (also called the Horn of Winter) that can bring the Wall down when it's blown. But it was lost long ago north of the Wall, and no one has ever found it, that we know of. The Horn has never even been mentioned on the show (though it may have been glimpsed at one point), so Benioff and Weiss could choose to ignore it in favor of another method.
There's also the matter of the Night King having left his mark on Bran. It allowed him to track Bran very quickly, and permitted him passage to a place protected by magic. Sound familiar? If Bran goes south of the Wall, will that allow the Night King and his minions to do the same? Or was his mark a one-use thing?
The Night King is nothing if not relentless. Somehow, he's going to find a way past the Wall, and when he does, Game of Thrones will enter its final act, where all bets will be officially off.
What do you want to see in season 7? How much better can this show really get? Sound off in the comments.