All together now: Characters converge on Westeros in ‘Game of Thrones’ season 7
Summer may be kicking into high gear in most parts of the country, but winter is about to arrive in prime time. That’s good news for millions of diehard fans who can’t wait to see what happens in the Seven Kingdoms this season.
The Lannisters, Targaryens, Starks and the rest whisk viewers back to Westeros and beyond in the season premiere of “Game of Thrones,” airing Sunday July 16, on HBO. Based on George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series of fantasy novels, the sweeping drama chronicles the lives of several powerful families that inhabit a fictional medieval-esque universe.
By the end of last season, many of the key characters were on the move and, after following several distinct storylines for the past few seasons, fans are hoping things will finally come together this season. For years, the Stark family motto, “winter is coming,” has loomed over the series — a warning of what’s to come. In season 7, winter has arrived, and the characters battle for control of the Iron Throne in an epic war that will surely take out some key players by the time the dust, or snow, settles.
Writers had to pack all of the action into just seven episodes this season, which presented a serious challenge. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, executive producer David Benioff explained their approach.
“So it’s really about trying to find a way to make the storytelling work without feeling like we’re rushing it — you still want to give the characters their due, and pretty much all the characters that are now left are all important characters,” Benioff said.
Among the leaders marching off to war is the newly minted King of the North Jon Snow (Kit Harington, “Pompeii,” 2014), who’s managed to unite the North and retake the Starks’ ancestral home of Winterfell. He’s joined by a small but formidable group of loyal friends, such as tough-as-nails wildling Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju, “The Fate of the Furious,” 2017) and small-but-fearsome Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey, “The Worst Witch”).
It was once believed that Snow was the late Ned Stark’s (Sean Bean, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” 2001) bastard son, but it’s recently been revealed that he is actually the son of Stark’s sister Lyanna and the long-dead Rhaegar Targaryen, giving him a legitimate claim to the throne, although he doesn’t know it yet. However, fans who believe that this makes Jon safe this season should be on notice that Harington told the publication Games Radar that his character was in “mortal danger like anyone else.”
Also this season, Jon’s long-lost halfsister, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke, “Me Before You,” 2016), crosses the Narrow Sea after years in exile in a bid to reclaim her birthright. She arrives in Westeros alongside her Dothraki, Unsullied, Dornish, Tyrell and Greyjoy allies — as well as her dragons, of course. The Mother of Dragons is poised to take the Iron Throne, but first it appears she’ll retake her rightful place at erstwhile Targaryen fortress Dragonstone.
If Daenerys wants to sit on the Iron Throne, she’ll likely have to face ruthless, and some might argue mad, Queen Cersei (Lena Headey, “300,” 2006), who destroyed the Great Sept of Baelor with wildfire at the end of last season. She and her lover-brother, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “Black Hawk Down,” 2001) are left to rule and defend their kingdom after the deaths of their three children.
Fan favorite Peter Dinklage (“The Station Agent,” 2003) portrays Cersei and Jaime’s brother, Tyrion, who now serves as an adviser to Daenerys. Only time will tell if the Lannister siblings will be reunited, but it’s doubtful it would be a happy reunion. Cersei despises Tyrion, blaming him for the death of their mother, who died giving birth to him, and now for the death of her father, whom Tyrion murdered in season 4.
Tyrion’s estranged wife Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner, “Another Me,” 2013) is also a major player in the fight for the Iron Throne. Heavily featured in the season 7 trailers, Sansa has helped Jon unite the North, and she has a number of scores to settle in the South. All the while, she’s shadowed by Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen, “The Wire”), a brothel owner and political wheeler and dealer.
Sansa’s sister Arya (Maisie Williams, “The Falling,” 2014) is finally making her way back home after years of training with the Faceless Men. Meanwhile, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright, “Closed Circuit,” 2013) is presumably the only one who knows Jon’s true parentage.
Numerous other characters will come together this season, and, if the past is any indication, some of them may not make it out alive. For now, the ensemble cast also includes Alfie Allen (“SoulBoy,” 2010) as Theon Greyjoy, Gwendoline Christie (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” 2015) as Brienne of Tarth, Jerome Flynn (“Ripper Street”) as Bronn, and Conleth Hill (“Two Down,” 2015) as Lord Varys. Pilou Asbaek (“Borgen”) continues his role as new villain, Euron Greyjoy.
Knights in shining armor, flaming swords and fire-breathing dragons aren’t exactly typical prime-time fare, but viewers can’t seem to get enough of the critically acclaimed show, which is among the most highly rated series on television. Its viewership has increased every season since it premiered April 17, 2011, to a “mere” couple of million viewers. In contrast, season 6’s finale attracted nearly nine million live viewers, and the average number of viewers per episode approached 25 million last season when multiplatform views are accounted for, making “Game of Thrones” a hit of epic proportions.
The Seven Kingdoms saga continues in the premiere of season 7 of “Game of Thrones,” airing Sunday, July 16, on HBO.
Kristofer Hivju as seen in “Game of Thrones”