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Ever since the very beginning of Game of Thrones, the members of House Stark repeatedly issued an appropriately stark warning: “Winter is coming.” Those words no longer apply. Winter is here — and so is war.
The Emmy-winning fantasy epic returns this month for its seventh season, featuring a shortened order of seven episodes, as opposed to the traditional ten. What the latest round of Thrones lacks in episode number, it’s set to compensate with heated battle — literally heated, too, given the arrival of dragons in Westeros, and assuming a certain queen still has her hands on caches of wildfire.
While Thrones built its reputation on unpredictability, even the earliest days of the series offered a hint of what was eventually coming down the pike: tensions between Houses Stark, Lannister and Targaryen fully boiling over, with an inhuman threat pressing ever nearer all the while. As of the season six finale, we now know the main players in that impending conflict. Without further ado:
1. The Mad Queen
Like her father Tywin (Charles Dance) before her, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) now stands tall in the Red Keep, poised to unleash her cruel tactics on anyone bold enough to challenge House Lannister. Unlike Tywin, Cersei actually sits upon the Iron Throne, the de facto Queen of Westeros following the suicide of her youngest son Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman). Indeed, with all three of her children now dead, Cersei is completely free of her emotional anchor and moral center, such as those things ever existed.
Even before Tommen’s death, Cersei showed just how far she was willing to push it in the name of self-preservation, incinerating the entire Sept of Baelor and the thousands of people in the immediate vicinity just to kill a few enemies. Mission accomplished, but at what cost? The invoice will surely be paid in season seven, as Cersei enters the coming war with a crown on her head and wildfire in her arsenal, but lacking in numbers and trusted allies, certainly compared to her new adversaries. Even her lover and brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) can’t quite look her in the eye anymore. If any of the main warring parties stands a chance to fall before the end of season seven, Cersei is number one on the board.
Learn more about the Lannisters:
Follow THR’s Game of Thrones coverage all season long for news, interviews, analysis and more. Season seven premieres July 16.