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When Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) set sail for Westeros at the end of the season six finale, Game of Thrones fans were left with the hope that the Mother of Dragons would scorch her political rivals in short order. And then they learned they would be waiting more than a year for her arrival in the Seven Kingdoms.
Indeed, the time between seasons six and seven of the Emmy-winning HBO epic has felt about as long as the winter destined to hit Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and his fellow Westerosi, though there’s now an end to the wait in sight: July 16, 2017, the official premiere date of Game of Thrones season seven.
With a release date (and first teaser) officially on the board, it’s worth taking stock of where things stand as we look forward toward season seven. Here’s what we know so far:
• First and foremost, as if the long wait between seasons wasn’t torturous enough, get ready for some more difficult news: when Game of Thrones returns, it will be with a shortened episode order. Past seasons have clocked in at 10 episodes a piece. Not so for season seven, which will instead consist of seven episodes. There’s a silver lining: fewer episodes means increased budget per episode, suggesting a seriously action-packed season.
• Because Game of Thrones won’t return until mid-July, it will not be eligible for this year’s Emmy Awards. This comes after Thrones went on to win 12 awards during the 2016 Emmys ceremony.
• Season seven will feature four different directors: series veterans Alan Taylor, Jeremy Podeswa and Mark Mylod, along with Thrones newcomer Matt Shankman, best known for directing 39 episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
• As always, Game of Thrones will feature some new faces this season. The most notable addition to the cast so far is Jim Broadbent, who will be playing a maester of the Citadel at Oldtown — the same place where Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) is currently studying, surrounded by an endless array of books.
• Speaking of books, the sixth and latest installment in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, the novels on which Thrones is based, remains unpublished. At the top of 2016, Martin revealed in a blog post that he would not be able to release The Winds of Winter before season six of the HBO series, which led to some critical plot twists like Jon Snow’s true parentage being revealed on the show before being revealed in the books. Unless Martin can release Winds before July, the show will continue surpassing the pace of the novels.
• Even without the books to guide us forward, season six ended with enough loose threads for fans to tie together: Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) presides over King’s Landing, Jon Snow rules over the North, and Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen is heading to Westeros to rule them all. The second book in Martin’s series is called A Clash of Kings, and it certainly looks like an all-new royal rumble will be taking place in season seven. Watch the video below for more on our season seven theories.
• With that said, the series’ biggest threat remains very much in place: the White Walkers, steadily marching toward the Wall, ready to wage wintery war on all mankind. The inevitable clash between the living and the dead was further teased in HBO’s Facebook Live announcement of the premiere date, which featured a steady stream of fire pounding an enormous block of ice. We can quibble over the success of the event all day long, but the point remains, fire and ice are on a head-to-head collision course — and if you’re a fan of the Wall? It’s time to start worrying for its future, because that thing is almost certainly coming down.
• Season seven marks the penultimate year of Game of Thrones. Before the season six premiere, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss confirmed to THR that they were looking at no more than 75 total episodes before all is said and done on the series. Shortly after season six, HBO confirmed that the series would end with season eight.
• With all that said, it’s an open secret that HBO desires more Game of Thrones, even after the main story plays out. There’s an endless amount of possible spinoffs, including adaptations of Martin’s Dunk and Egg novellas, or realizations of other aspects of ancient Westeros history. Even if it feels like it’s taking forever for Thrones to arrive, and even if it feels like it will be gone too soon, Game of Thrones will never truly die — which renders us, the viewers, the winners. There is no middle ground.
• OK, some middle ground: the most winningest winners are the Game of Thrones fans lucky enough to attend this year’s Comic-Con, which will commence just three days after the season seven premiere. Expect sunny San Diego to look a whole lot like winter come July.
Keep checking THR.com/GameOfThrones for news, interviews, analysis and more as the HBO series heads towards its seventh season premiere on July 16.
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