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Without George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels serving as a guidepost for what to expect from Game of Thrones moving forward, fans are as in the dark as ever about what’s coming next — footage from the various trailers and some other strong hunches notwithstanding.
Consider the first three episode titles and descriptions a gift from the Seven, then, or at least from HBO. Details are finally here about the first three hours of the penultimate season of Game of Thrones, and your favorite heroes and villains are front and center with healthy helpings of conflict on their plates.
The first episode of season seven is called “Dragonstone,” directed by Jeremy Podeswa and written by series creators and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. The episode’s description: “Jon (Kit Harington) organizes the defense of the North. Cersei (Lena Headey) tries to even the odds. Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) comes home.”
All of which is to be expected, of course: Jon’s top priority is preparing humanity for the coming onslaught of undead ice monsters, which requires significant fortification of not just his own people in the North, but Westeros at large. Cersei, meanwhile, enters season seven with the flashiest and most recent move on her resumé — the wild-fiery destruction of King’s Landing — but without a whole lot in terms of alliances; certainly something she’ll want to figure out quickly if she’s to stand a chance at seeing the light of season eight. Dany’s homecoming is a foregone conclusion too, and the episode’s title backs up what we already know from the season seven trailers: the Mother of Dragons is setting up shop at Dragonstone, the original seat of House Targaryen before it was bequeathed to Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane).
Season seven’s second episode is called “Stormborn,” yet another reference to Daenerys, who earned the first of her many monikers due to being born on Dragonstone years ago during a powerful storm. The episode is written by executive producer Bryan Cogman and directed by series veteran Mark Mylod, who helmed season five’s “High Sparrow” and “Sons of the Harpy,” as well as season six’s “No One” and “The Broken Man.” According to HBO’s description, “Daenerys receives an unexpected visitor,” which barely narrows things down at all; it could be Jon, it could be Melisandre (Carice van Houten) who has been seen lurking near Dragonstone in the trailers, it could be Jorah (Iain Glen) returning with the cure for greyscale… really, the possibilities are wide open.
As for Jon, he’s set to face “a revolt,” which helps bolster theories that Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) and potentially even Sansa (Sophie Turner) are sowing seeds of discontent within Winterfell’s ranks. Meanwhile, “Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) plans the conquest of Westeros.” You can go ahead and preemptively tack that scene onto Dinklage’s next Emmy reel.
Finally, there’s the third episode of season seven: “The Queen’s Justice,” once again directed by Mylod, once again written by Benioff and Weiss. The episode’s description: “Daenerys holds court. Cersei returns a gift. Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) learns from his mistakes.” The episode title alone as well as their prominence in the description guarantees high levels of activity from both the Mother of Dragons and the Mad Queen, with perhaps the “gift” being linked between them. In fact, Tyrion once described himself as “the gift,” didn’t he? Could he already be in Cersei’s custody and used as a bargaining chip in her feud with Dany this early on in the season?
The queens aside, what to make of Jaime learning from his mistakes? Lord of Light knows he’s made his share; “don’t sleep with your siblings” and “don’t push little children out of very tall windows” should be at the top of the list of lessons learned. Our bet: we’ll start to see Jaime trending away from Cersei, as their final scenes together in season six suggested, pushing the pair closer to fulfilling Maggy the Frog’s prophecy than ever before. You can learn more about that theory, which ties the Lannister twins’ fate in deadly and predestined fashion, in the video below:
Game of Thrones returns July 16. Stay tuned to THR.com/GameOfThrones for more news, analysis and interviews throughout the season.
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