Game of Thrones Season 7 Preview: Everything Essential to Know Before the Premiere

A condensed account of all the madness that unfolded—and heads that rolled—last season.

The running joke with Game of Thrones is that it’s just like Twitter—there are 140 characters and you never have any idea what is going on. But the good thing about a show that is so willing to slit the throats of even its most prominent stars is that, as it enters its penultimate season, there’s suddenly a much more manageable volume of characters and storylines. Let’s take a look at where we left off before the season seven premiere (and the inevitable HBO Now crash) this Sunday, July 16.

King’s Landing

Cersei Lannister did us all a favor and blew up a bunch of tertiary characters when she decided to blow up the Sept of Baelor in the season six finale, wiping out most of the Tyrell clan, including Queen Margaery and her brother Loras, the High Sparrow, and all of his mutilated minions. As a result, her son Tommen jumped out of the window (in a GIF that will live on in infamy) and she seized power for herself.

In one of the last scenes of the season, we see Cersei, in her Rhythm Nation get-up, being crowned the queen. Her brother/lover Jaime arrives from the Riverlands to see what she has done and is very concerned. The problem is that Cersei has pissed off the Tyrells, the Lannister’s only remaining allies among the great houses, and Cersei’s claim to the throne is tenuous at best. She may be in charge, but she has no talented advisors, little popular support, and will probably be embroiled in a scandal about how she got there in the first place. Hey, what other crazy blonde with insane short hair does that sound like?

The North

Jon Snow has been named the King of the North thanks to the surly 8-year-old Lyanna Mormont and his victory at the Battle of the Bastards that capped off the last season. But that battle was really won by his sister Sansa Stark, who called Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish and on the Knights of the Vale to pull Jon out of the fire.

Will these two be in cahoots?

Jon is not nearly done fighting. Instead of heading off to topple the Lannisters in King’s Landing like his older brother Robb would have, he’s building a coalition to take on the Night King and the Army of the Dead when they march on the living. Ser Davos Seaworth will help Jon lead his coalition containing all the houses of the North, the Wildling army he’s amassed, and the Night’s Watch. His biggest problem, however, is going to be his sister Sansa. After all, she is the one with the Stark last name and, with Littlefinger’s prodding, doesn’t seem content to play second fiddle. Also what will everyone do when they find out the truth of Jon’s parentage, that he’s actually half Stark and half Targaryen.

The Mother of Dragons

The biggest threat to the status quo, of course is Daenerys Targaryen, her huge fleet of ships, her army of Unsullied and Dothraki, and her three fully-grown dragons sailing for King’s Landing. Cersei’s depleted forces are surely no match for Dany’s forces, especially now that the eunuch Varys has enlisted Ellaria Sand and her daughters, as well as Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns, who want nothing more than to take revenge on Cersei.

Another formidable duo.

Dany also has some great advisors on her side, including Tyrion Lannister, who has intimate knowledge of King’s Landing and its defenses thanks to when he lead the Lannisters to victory at the Battle of Blackwater Bay back in season two. There is also Varys and all of his wonderful little birds who will probably still be whispering in his ears as soon as he lands.

Out in the Wild

There are still a few key characters who aren’t accounted for in the three main areas of intrigue. We last saw Arya Stark when she assassinated Walder Frey after feeding him a pie made of the flesh of his own sons. There are still a bunch of names on Arya’s kill list, including Cersei, The Mountain, The Hound, Mellisandre, and a couple of the Brothers without Banners.

Speaking of The Hount and the Brothers, we last saw The Hound after he had found god (or seven) and some jerks killed all of the people in his Bible study group. He got revenge by murdering them and possibly joining up with the Brothers without Banners.

Mellisandre was expelled from Winterfell after Ser Davos discovered that she burned Princess Shireen at the end of season five. Jon banished her from the North and she’s now just roaming around. Maybe she’ll hook up with the Band of Brothers, who also follow the Lord of Light. It would sure make things easy for Arya.

Arya’s brother Bran, who is now the Three-Eyed Raven, is still north of The Wall and trying to make his way back to Winterfell to tell Jon Snow about the Night King and who his real parents are. As usual, Jon Snow knows nothing.

Also wondering around is Brienne of Tarth, who we last saw rowing away from Riverrun on an errand for her lady Sansa Stark. We assume that she’s headed back to the North to join Sansa, but since this is Game of Thrones she could just be rowing forever.

Until Sunday.

Related: For Sophie Turner, the Scariest Part of Playing Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones Was Dying Her Hair