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‘Game of Thrones’ cheat sheet: Your guide to Season 7

There will be blood.

Game of Thrones won’t be back on our screens for a few more agonizing months, but that definitely won’t stop us from obsessing over it in the meantime.

Now that the show has moved past the storylines published in George R. R. Martin’s series of novels and we’re entering the home stretch everyone involved is being even more secretive than usual — but the cast and creators have shared a few tasty tidbits for us to chew on before the Season 7 premiere rolls around.

Here’s what we know about Season 7 so far:

The show won’t return until this summer.

Usually, Game of Thrones debuts in April, just in time to distract us as the broadcast shows start airing their season finales. But this time around, HBO has pushed the premiere date back to summer, with a specific timeslot yet to be announced. This is mostly to accommodate the later production schedule for Season 7, which started filming a few months later than it normally does because…

Winter is here.

As Sansa Stark observed at the end of Season 6, Ned’s warnings have finally come true, and winter is gripping Westeros for the first time in decades. Because of this, the show shifted its production schedule in order to wait for the weather conditions in its filming locations (primarily Ireland, Spain, Croatia and Iceland) to get a little chillier.

“Now that winter has arrived on Game of Thrones, executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss felt that the storylines of the next season would be better served by starting production a little later than usual, when the weather is changing,” explained Casey Bloys, president of HBO programming, in a statement.

The season is shorter, but just as intense.

Much to our dismay, Season 7 of Game of Thrones is only seven episodes long instead of the usual 10, mostly because showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss know how much story they have left to tell and they don’t intend to stretch it out unnecessarily (even if we’d like them to).

“I think we’re down to our final 13 episodes after this season. We’re heading into the final lap,” Benioff told Variety following Season 6.

"From pretty close to the beginning, we talked about doing this in 70-75 hours, and that’s what we’ll end up with. Call it 73 for now," he later told Deadline.

Current plans are for Game of Thrones to end after Season 8, which, if we do the math on that 73 hours estimate, would leave six episodes for the show’s final season.

Image: hbo

"What do you mean, Season 8 is only six episodes?!"

But rest assured, the producers are cramming as much action as possible into the abbreviated season. "I’m just in awe of how everybody’s managing to fit as much as there is into seven episodes, because it doesn’t necessarily feel like a normal season, it feels bigger," Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm) recently told Mashable.

"It’s gonna be a crazy season. It’s definitely going to blow a lot of people’s minds," added Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy). "It’s still the same running theme; characters that haven’t crossed each other’s paths before will do, and they’re gonna take it even further this time. People have loyalties that they have to examine."

All your favorites are back (perhaps even more than you’re expecting).

Game of Thrones certainly racked up the body count in Season 6, but we still have Arya, Sansa, Jon, Bran, Tyrion, Cersei, Jaime, Daenerys, Theon (and his much more awesome sister, Yara), Littlefinger and their various followers still on the board for the final battle between the houses.

Currently, Cersei is sitting pretty on the Iron Throne (and Jaime seemed understandably concerned about it in the Season 6 finale), but with Daenerys heading to Westeros with an army of Unsullied and an alliance with Tyrion and the Greyjoys, and the Northerners rallying around Jon Snow (nee Starkgaryen) as the King in the North, it’s clear we’re about to have a rumble. And that’s not even counting the White Walkers and whatever the Sand Snakes are plotting with Lady Olenna Tyrell and Varys over in Dorne.

Image: hbo

This can’t end well.

Everyone who survived last season is expected to be back but there have also been some cast members spotted in Belfast whom we haven’t seen in a while, such as Joe Dempsie’s Gendry, one of the many bastard sons of Robert Baratheon, who was last seen rowing away from Dragonstone to parts unknown in Season 3.

As Alfie Allen observed, more characters will be crossing paths as the storylines converge in Season 7, which may mean we could be in for some long overdue reunions too — perhaps between Bran and Arya and their siblings?

Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth) also hinted at what we’ve long suspected — that the encroaching threat of the White Walkers will help bring many of these warring factions together for a final showdown between the living and the dead.

"The progress of the show with the White Walkers and all that stuff, it’s pretty obvious nobody’s going to be able to take this force on on their own," Cunningham recently told IGN. "So when we’ve had all these, for all these seasons, disparate stories come from disparate ends of Westeros — and it’s been signaled from the end of last season — that there’s a lot of people and situations going to be coming together. It was kind of interesting to meet some people who I normally only meet on a red carpet. Who that is and when that happens remains to be seen."

We’ll also meet some new faces…

The only official piece of casting news that HBO has confirmed so far is that Jim Broadbent will play a "significant" mystery role in Season 7.

UFC president Dana White also seemed to confirm that champion Conor McGregor would make a cameo in the new season, but McGregor later dismissed the rumor and HBO declined to comment on it, so mark that one in the maybe column for now.

…And a new director.

Matt Shakman — best known for his work directing It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (a show that counts Benioff and Weiss among its many fans) — will make his Game of Thrones directorial debut in Season 7, along with veteran helmers Alan Taylor, Jeremy Podeswa and Mark Mylod.

Image: HBO

HBIC

Emmy-winning costume designer Michele Clapton is also back on board for "Season 7 and beyond," according to Benioff and Weiss, after taking a brief sojourn from the show during Season 6, returning just in time for the finale, for which she designed Cersei’s crowd-pleasing spiked dress as the opportunistic Lannister took the Iron Throne.

We’ve already seen a glimpse of it.

The show’s return is still a distant dream, but we’ve actually already seen footage from Game of Thrones Season 7 — HBO offered a split-second look at the new season in its preview of 2017.

The end is nigh.

The show has yet to be officially renewed beyond Season 7, but HBO is definitely working under the assumption that Season 8 will be Game of Thrones’ last, no matter how many episodes we eventually get.

But that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of Westeros forever. During the Television Critics’ Association winter press tour in January, Bloys told reporters that HBO is exploring the idea of a prequel or spinoff series once Game of Thrones is over.

"It’s such a big property we would be foolish not to explore it, but it’s a pretty high bar,” Bloys said. “We’ll take some shots at it. I’m not going to do it just to do it. It has to feel very special. I would rather have no sequel and leave it as-is then have something we rushed out.”

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; we still have two seasons left to enjoy before we have to say goodbye to the Starks, Targaryens, Lannisters and their cohorts.

To tide you over until summer, check out our 9 predictions for Game of Thrones Season 7 and some of the best fan theories we’ve discovered on the web.

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