Last year’s Game of Thrones was a particularly bloody affair, with nearly 40 main and supporting characters (including Ramsay, Maergaery, the High Sparrow, Hodor and many more) meeting the many-faced God over a marvellously murder-y series.
Still, one advantage to the cull is that the smash-hit fantasy has been simplified as we head into its penultimate season, with only a few large groups and alliances remaining in the battle for both the Iron Throne and to protect the realm from White Walkers.
So with the board cleared, here are the main players still kicking around in the Seven Kingdoms this year, and where we’ll find them in the opening episode. Time for you to Throne up on your Westerosi wisdom!
Check out our recap of Game of Thrones season 6
After blowing up most of her enemies (and half of the locals) in the Sept last year, pretty much everyone left in King’s landing is on Team Cersei. The newly-crowned Queen is flanked by her brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and loyal Dr Frankenstein type Qyburn (Anton Lesser), and based on the trailer Cersei (Lena Headey) seems keen to crush the enemies surrounding her with the power of the large Lannister army.
Oh, and we’re guessing you can put Bronn (Jerome Flynn) vaguely on this team too, seeing as he seems to still be helping Jaime out this year.
Speaking of Cersei’s enemies, here’s another wannabe Queen who’s hoovered up a lot of the supporting cast to her side – Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen, aka The Mother of Dragons, aka Stormborn, aka The Unburnt, aka Mhysa, aka Khaleesi, aka Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Lady of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the realm, aka the owner of Westeros’ longest bus pass.
On her side Dany’s got thousands of Dothraki warriors and Unsullied soldiers, three dragons, the Iron Fleet and the forces of both Dorne and House Tyrell as they look for revenge against Cersei Lannister.
In terms of main characters fighting Dany’s corner we can count Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Varys (Conleth Hill) Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan), Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), the Sand snakes (Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers and Jessica Henwick) and Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) – in other words, an AWFUL lot of people.
With that many people behind Dany and the Iron Throne in her sights, we wouldn’t put any Silver Stags against her – and by the looks of things she’ll be getting down to business quickly as she arrives in ancestral home Dragonstone in the series’ first episode.
After the events of the series finale Jon Snow (Kit Harington) has been declared King in the North, and he has some solid backing – pretty much all the Northern houses and the powerful Knights of the Vale have united behind House Stark once again.
On his team we have advisor Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) wildling chief Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju), Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsay), as well as his sister Sansa (Sophie Turner) – though if rumours are to be believed, Sansa and Jon might have a few leadership struggles as the series continues, with Jon apparently facing a “revolt” in future episodes.
Also kicking about is Aidan Gillen’s duplicitous Littlefinger (aka Lord Baelish), who despite bringing the Knights of the Vale to Jon’s aid last series seems keen to drive a wedge between the Stark siblings. Oh well – maybe he still thinks chaos is a ladder and wants a leg up.
Anyway, based on the trailers this year will see Jon use his new clout to try and unite the realm against the threat of the White Walkers, before taking the fight to them himself (he appears to battle one hand-to-hand in some footage) – but we’re betting it won’t be too easy to convince Cersei and Daenerys to put their differences aside.
Still, we do at least know that the three will be meeting this series, which is pretty exciting after 6 series of them apart.
Team White Walkers
The ones to beat – while we don’t know much about what this gang of ice-monsters and their army of zombies want, they’re marching on the Wall and probably aren’t just popping by to borrow a cup of sugar.
All we can hope is that they haven’t turned poor Hodor into one of their undead minions. There’s only so much heartbreak we can take.
There are still a few characters kicking around who aren’t quite included in these groups yet, so we’ll quickly run through those as well.
Headed to the Wall we have Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Meera (Ellie Kendrick), and we’re assuming they’ll soon track down Jon to tell him the truth about his parentage. Over in Oldtown we have Sam (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray) learning the secrets of the maesters (we wouldn’t be surprised to have them meet up with Jon too), while the Hound (Rory McCann), Beric Dondarrian (Richard Dormer) and Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye) of the Brotherhood without banners continue their journey north to join the fight against the Walkers. In locations unknown, we also have Red Priestess Melisandre (Carice van Houten), fresh from her banishment by Jon Snow.
And how could we forget remaining Stark sibling Arya (Maisie Williams, pictured), last seen murdering old enemy Walder Frey as revenge for her murdered mother and brother? It’s currently unclear what she’ll be up to this series, but we’re sure it’ll be suitably bloody and may involve a reunion with Jon and the rest of her family.
Broadly speaking, we’re gonna bracket most of the above characters as part of Jon’s team, especially the Brotherhood crew who seem to be fighting wights along with him in the trailers.
Also still out in the world is Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk, pictured) and the rest of the Iron Islanders, with the psychotic pirate potentially circling a alliance with Cersei based on rumours about the series – so let’s add him to Team Cersei’s tally.
Oh, and Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) might also still have a part to play. While he was banished by Danaerys last series to find a cure for his greyscale, fans have spotted someone suffering from the disease in one of the trailers who they’ve taken to be Ser Jorah. Fingers crossed he can sort himself out and take his rightful place back on Team Dany before the series is over.
So that’s how things stand as we return to the Seven Kingdoms this week – but who knows how long they’ll stay like that? Will half the cast be wiped out in episode one? Will Jon triumph over the White Walkers? Will Dany stop Cersei’s reign of terror? And will Gendry (Joe Dempsie) finally row that boat to dry land?
Well, there are only two ways to find out – gaze into the fires of R’hllor with Melisandre, or wait until Monday morning. We’ll let you know if she gets back to us.
Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres exclusively on 17th July on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV at 2am, repeated at 9pm on the same day