This Sunday night, the highly-anticipated Game of Thrones Season 6 finale will air … and you know what that means. Yes, it probably means dragons and ice zombies and death. You know, the usual trappings of a GoT finale. But it also means that the interminable wait for more episodes is about to begin once more. Once the credits roll on "The Winds of Winter," we'll have 10 full months to go until our next trip to Westeros. And because I'm apparently as sadistic as Ramsay Bolton, I'm about to make that long wait even more excruciating with these Game of Thrones Season 7 spoilers.
"But wait," you might be thinking. "What spoilers? Season 7 hasn't even started filming yet!" It's true that production for each season of GoT doesn't typically begin until July, and that we're now officially well past the end of George R.R. Martin's published source material, but neither of those things means we know absolutely nothing about the season ahead. Thanks to a combination of casting notices, location scouting, and previews from Martin's sixth novel, The Winds of Winter, there are certain things that we can already surmise about the seventh season of Game of Thrones.
In honor of the Faith, here are seven spoilers about Season 7 to tide you over until next spring.
1. Short And Sweet
Seven is a magic number — not just for the High Sparrow, but also for showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who have suggested that Season 7 will only contain seven episodes, rather than the usual 10. (Season 8 is supposedly planned to only contain six episodes, bringing the total number of hours left in the series to a mere 13.)
While the exact episode count has yet to be officially confirmed by HBO itself, this reduced order might actually be a good thing. It would keep the show from spinning its wheels on the way to its endgame, and it would also mean Benioff and Weiss would have more time and money to spend on each individual episode, hopefully delivering viewers more jaw-dropping setpieces like last week's Battle of the Bastards.
2. Bye-Bye, King's Landing?
Game Of Thrones is famous for its far-flung filming locations throughout Europe, which lend the series an air of exotic realism. But according to GoT fan site Watchers On the Wall, there's one crucial location the production won't be returning to next year: Girona, Spain.
The Spanish town stood in for King's Landing and Braavos this year. While it's not a surprise that we'll be leaving Braavos behind, given that Arya is on her way back to the Seven Kingdoms after quitting the Faceless Men, it's a bit of a shock to hear that the crew may not be returning to the site of the Westerosi capitol. Is this confirmation that Cersei will indeed burn the city to the ground in this week's finale?
3. The North In Turmoil
With filming set to begin next month, the show has started casting roles for the upcoming seventh season, including a pair of minor characters who could mean big things for the North. According to Watchers On the Wall, casting directors are looking for a 16-year-old Northern girl and a 10-year-old Northern boy to be part of "a high-stakes scene with leading cast members."
Although it's possible that this pair will be featured in another one of Bran's revelatory flashbacks, the fact that the description says they'll be sharing a scene with leading cast members leads me to believe they'll exist in the present. And the mention of "high stakes" clearly indicates that, although Jon won the battle against Ramsay, the war for the North is far from over. Could these kids be fleeing to Winterfell to report that the Wall has fallen and the White Walkers have officially invaded?
4. A Conspiracy Against Magic
When Season 6 began, most of the show's storylines had caught up with Martin's novels, with a few exceptions, like the Greyjoys and their kingsmoot, Jaime and his trip to the Riverlands, and Sam and his voyage to Oldtown. Nine episodes later, and one of those storylines is still lagging behind the rest: Sam's. In his last appearance in A Feast for Crows, the Night's Watchman finally arrives at the Citadel in a chapter that is full of portents for developments to come.
Sam meets with an intriguing new character named Archmaester Marwyn, whose name had previously been mentioned in passing by both Mirri Maz Duur and Qyburn. When Sam tells Marwyn what he learned about Dany and her dragons during their pit stop in Braavos on the way to Oldtown, Marwyn in turn tells Sam about a conspiracy against magic the Grand Maesters of the Citadel have been secretly executing for centuries. Marwyn then sets sail to find Daenerys and offer his services as her personal maester. While it's possible that Sam will arrive in Oldtown and possibly even meet Marwyn in the Season 6 finale, the full ramifications of this conspiracy surely won't be felt until Season 7.
5. Euron's Reign Of Terror
In anticipation of the still-unscheduled publication of The Winds of Winter, George R.R. Martin has been releasing sample chapters from the upcoming novel. Perhaps not coincidentally, most of those chapters feature characters that have either been cut from the show, killed off prematurely, or whose storylines have been altered beyond recognition (Arianne Martell, Barristan Selmy, Theon, Sansa, etc.). But one preview chapter, read aloud by Martin himself this spring in front of a salivating crowd, shed new light on a character who has only recently been introduced on the show: Euron Greyjoy.
In the chapter, Euron has imprisoned and tortured his younger brother, priest Aeron Greyjoy. It is revealed that Euron used to sexually abuse Aeron when they were younger, and has personally murdered two of his own brothers in addition to King Balon. He feeds Aeron hallucinogens which make the priest see visions of Euron as a god sitting on a throne with all the world's various other gods impaled upon it, and he then lashes Aeron to the prow of his ship as he sets sail to do battle against the royal fleet. With Ramsay Bolton finally gone to the dogs (literally), is Euron about to become the show's next Big Bad?
6. A Dornish Alliance
One of the biggest storylines in Martin's latter two novels involves the reveal of a long-brewing alliance between the Martells and the Targaryens. Prince Doran had secretly betrothed his daughter Arianne to Viserys; when Viserys was killed by Khal Drogo, he was forced to quickly change plans, and sent his son Quentyn off to find and woo Daenerys instead. With Arianne and Quentyn never making the translation from page to screen, and Doran dead by Ellaria Sand's hand, this will obviously never happen. But the show could still forge an alliance between the two families.
When Dany finally arrives in Westeros, Dorne would be a logical place to stop first, given that her brother Rhaegar was wed to Elia Martell, and the Dornish hate the Lannisters as much as she does. With Yara Greyjoy already at her side, could Daenerys add Ellaria and the Sand Snakes to her raiding party, completing her feminist takeover of Westeros? It seems very possible — especially since Watchers On the Wall reports that the GoT crew is considering the Canary Islands as a possible Season 7 filming location. Those have a very Dornish look about them, don't you think?
7. The Lands Of Always Winter
In an innocuous 2012 interview with Smarter Travel about the geographical inspirations for his series, Martin dropped an intriguing tidbit about his upcoming novels: Namely, that they would be venturing even further North before the end. "What lies really north … We haven’t explored that yet, but we will in the last two books," the author said in response to a question about the Lands of Always Winter, the mythical realm of the White Walkers. (The show has already afforded viewers a glimpse of this realm that's not in the books, when we saw the Night King turn Craster's son into a White Walker with the touch of his fingertip back in Season 4.)
Obviously, given how much the show has been departing from the books lately, there's no guarantee that we'll see the Lands of Always Winter on GoT just because we do in the books. (Heck, Martin's own plans may have changed since that interview.) But with the White Walkers likely to become more important than ever in the show's final two seasons, it would be nice to flesh them out a bit more so they can transition from one-dimensional horror movie villains into complex antagonists worthy of GoT's endgame.
Undoubtedly, more and more spoilers will begin to leak out as filming commences next month. But even with this limited knowledge, Season 7 is already shaping up to be perhaps the most thrilling and action-packed season in Game of Thrones history. Too bad we'll have to wait the better part of a year to see it …
Images: Helen Sloan (3), Macall B. Polay (3), Screengrab/HBO