Although the word "endgame" has been appropriated by another blockbuster franchise heading into its own final installment, fans are still eagerly anticipating the fast-approaching endgame of HBO's own blockbuster series. In order to fully prepare yourself for the Great War to come, it's important to recap Game Of Thrones Season 7 before diving into the eighth and final season. This has always been a show full of moving parts, featuring dozens of main characters, shifting allegiances, and complicated schemes.
With Season 7 having aired almost two years ago, in the summer of 2017, and without the benefit of source material that fans have pored over and committed to memory, it may be hard to remember every single thing that happened in those seven episodes. But now is not the time to be fuzzy on the details, so if you haven't had time to re-watch the series in the lead-up to Season 8, here's everything you need to remember about Game Of Thrones' penultimate season.
First of all, let's revisit where Season 7 picked up. Season 6 ended with Cersei single-handedly perpetrating a massacre more deadly than the Red Wedding: the explosion of the Sept of Baelor claimed the lives of Margaery, Loras, and Mace Tyrell, the High Sparrow, Kevan and Lancel Lannister, Maester Qyburn, and Cersei's own son, King Tommen Baratheon. At Winterfell, Jon Snow was crowned King in the North after defeating Ramsay Bolton in the Battle of the Bastards. And in the East, Daenerys Targaryen finally set sail for Westeros, having brokered alliances with Theon and Yara Greyjoy, Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes, and the grieving Queen of Thorns, Lady Olenna Tyrell.
What happened when Dany arrived in Westeros at long last? A lot…
The Breaker of Chains landed on her ancestral family home of Dragonstone and, like Aegon the Conqueror before her, made it her landing stage for her impending invasion of Westeros. But, wanting to set herself apart from her bloodthirsty ancestors, Dany decided against simply unleashing her dragons on King's Landing, desiring instead to conquer the continent without slaughtering its citizens and burning their cities to the ground. So, against the advice of Olenna Tyrell, who urged her to "be a dragon," Dany decided on a gentler approach: besiege King's Landing with her Westerosi army while her Unsullied take the ancestral Lannister home of Casterly Rock.
This plan proved to be a disaster on multiple levels. While sailing to Sunspear to collect the Dornish army for the siege of King's Landing, Yara Greyjoy's Iron Fleet was set upon by Euron Greyjoy. In the ensuing battle, Obara and Nymeria were killed, Ellaria and Tyene were captured, and Yara was taken prisoner by Euron himself, with Theon electing to jump into the sea and save himself rather than face his uncle and attempt to free his sister.
In the West, the Unsullied took Casterly Rock unopposed, but it turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory. Cersei had ordered the Lannister troops to abandon the tactically-worthless castle (with its dry gold mines) and take the strategically-crucial Highgarden (with its bounty of food) instead. To cap it off, Cersei had the Unsullied ships burned in the harbor, stranding the better part of Dany's troops half a continent away from King's Landing. And at Highgarden, Jaime executed Olenna Tyrell by making her drink poison — although the fierce matriarch didn't go down before she vengefully admitted to having killed Joffrey. "Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me."
The recently-anointed King in the North found his rule immediately threatened when Daenerys (at the urging of Melisandre) sent him a letter demanding he travel to Dragonstone and swear fealty to the queen. All of his counselors, including his sister Sansa, urged him against this course of action, reminding him that the last time a Stark rode south at the bidding of a Targaryen ruler, his grandfather Rickard and uncle Brandon were both murdered by Dany's father Mad King Aerys in horrific fashion.
But Jon, who had just received word from Sam Tarly at the Citadel that Dragonstone was built on a literal mountain of dragonglass, ignored their advice. He saw a pact with Daenerys as doubly advantageous: not only would she be a crucial ally in the fight against army of the dead, but she was literally sitting on top of a pile of one of the only known weapons capable of killing a White Walker. On Dragonstone, he refused to bend the knee to Daenerys, but the dragon queen was nonetheless charmed by the Northerner and convinced by his warnings of the undead. She allowed him to mine the dragonglass, which he took with him beyond the Wall in his rashly-conceived plan to kidnap a wight and bring it to Cersei to convince her to join the fight.
On this fools' errand, Jon brought with him Tormund Giantsbane, Sandor Clegane, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, Jorah Mormont, and Gendry. Thoros was injured by an undead polar bear and, surrounded by wights, Jon sent Gendry back to the wall to send a raven to Daenerys for help. Unable to escape, Thoros succumbed to his injuries, thus ending the possibility that the Red Priest could bring any of our heroes back to life should they fall in battle. Dany showed up with her three dragons and roasted the army of wights, but the Night King took down Viserion with a well-thrown spear. In the chaos, Dany was forced to leave Jon behind as she evacuated the rest of his men… but Jon was saved by his half-undead uncle Benjen, who sacrificed himself to help get Jon to safety. Reunited with Dany, Jon finally bent the knee and accepted her as his queen.
Sansa, Arya & Bran
Meanwhile, Jon's half-sisters — or cousins, as fans learned in Season 6 that Jon was actually the secret son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen — were facing struggles of their own at Winterfell. Arya, after executing Walder Frey in the Season 6 finale, used his face to poison the rest of the Freys, getting revenge for the Red Wedding and ending their traitorous house once and for all. She then intended to travel south to assassinate Cersei, but a run-in with Hot Pie, who told her that Jon had just been crowned King, changed her mind. Reversing course, Arya traveled north to her homeland instead… and enjoyed a brief, tentative reunion with her direwolf Nymeria along the way.
Although Arya missed Jon, as he had already departed for Dragonstone, she was reunited with her sister Sansa and brother Bran (who finally arrived at Winterfell after passing through the Wall in the premiere). Littlefinger tried to ingratiate himself with Bran by presenting him with the Valyrian steel dagger used in the attempt on his life in Season 1, but Bran was already beyond all human emotions; he gifted the dagger to Arya in turn, and bid a harsh, unsentimental farewell to Meera, who he sent back to her father, Howland Reed, at Greywater Watch.
Arya and Sansa's warm reunion quickly soured after a pair of discoveries: Arya's bag of faces, which Sansa found in her sister's room; and Sansa's letter to Robb urging him to swear fealty to Joffrey, which Littlefinger led Arya to find in his room. Distrustful of each other, Petyr Baelish played the sisters off one another — but with the help of their brother's Three-Eyed Raven knowledge, they were finally able to see through Littlefinger's subterfuge and teamed up to take him down. After a brief trial, Arya slit the traitor's throat with his own dagger.
Cersei & Jaime
After Euron presented Cersei with the "gift" of Ellaria and Tyene, the queen promised to marry the pirate when the war was won (and let him keep Yara for himself). In retaliation for Myrcella's death, Cersei kissed Tyene with the same poison Ellaria used to kill Cersei's daughter. Cersei suffered her first defeat when Dany took the field on Drogon's back, roasting the supplies the queen was carting back to King's Landing from the Reach, leaving Cersei unable to feed her city. (A ballista Qyburn had built for Cersei injured Drogon, but failed to kill the dragon.) Jaime narrowly escaped this conflict with his life, while Cersei's newly-minted Warden of the South, Randyll Tarly, was roasted alive along with his son Dickon (Sam's father and brother).
After speaking with Tyrion, Jaime was able to talk Cersei into attending a meeting with Jon and Dany, in the hopes of striking an armistice between the two sides. Cersei would only agree to the truce on the condition that the King in the North remain neutral in the ensuing war between Lannister and Targaryen; but seeing as he'd just bent the knee to Dany, Jon was unwilling to break his honor and promise to stay out of the conflict, so Cersei walked out. Meeting with her privately, Tyrion both deduced that his sister was pregnant (when she uncharacteristically refused a glass of wine) and seemingly convinced her to accept the armistice.
However, Cersei revealed to Jaime that her agreement was just a ploy. In reality, she had no intention of sending her troops north to help Jon and Dany, and she had sent Euron to Essos to hire the mercenary army the Golden Company, to help her destroy the remnants of Jon and Dany's forces after their war with the White Walkers. Disgusted by her short-sightedness, Jaime finally abandoned his sister-lover and rode North.
So where did everybody leave off? After curing Jorah of his greyscale, Sam abandoned the Citadel and arrived at Winterfell armed with the knowledge that, not only was Jon the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, he was their legitimate son; the lovers had married in secret, making Jon (whose real name is Aegon Targaryen) the most direct heir to the Iron Throne, over Daenerys.
On their way back to Winterfell from King's Landing, Jon/Aegon and his aunt Daenerys consummated their passion with some boat-sex, while Tyrion seemed concerned by their coupling.
After receiving a small amount of absolution from Jon, Theon proved himself to his fellow Ironborn and set off with them to rescue Yara from Euron.
Before departing for Volantis, Melisandre told Varys that she intended to return to Westeros, where she — and him — would die.
As Jaime departed King's Landing, leaving Cersei alone with no one but creepy Qyburn and the mute Mountain for company, the first flakes of snow started to fall on the city. Winter has come.
The Night King reanimated the corpse of Viserion and used the undead dragon to destroy the Wall, allowing his army of wights to spill into Westeros.
Who will survive the Great War to come? Find out when the eighth and final season of Game Of Thrones premieres on HBO on Sunday, Apr. 14.