The final season of Game Of Thrones arrives in the imminent future, bringing a long-awaited conclusion to the vast, interconnected narrative. While the wait has been long, fans can take solace in one simple fact; the wait has been even longer for book readers, who have been praying for Winds Of Winter for nearly a decade. In any case, Season 8 is set to premiere on Sunday, April 14th. While some have opted for a late-game rewatch, the seventy-plus hour commitment may prove too Herculean a task for some (perhaps consider watching our Top 10 Best Episodes instead). Even a revisitation of the abridged seventh season is a tall order for the more casual viewer. Therefore, here is a quick refresher of some of the key storylines you need to remember.
While Walder Frey and his house are busy celebrating their own unearned glory, newly minted Faceless Man Arya Stark puts her macabre talents to the task. Donning the late Lord Frey’s face, Arya addresses the entire male Frey line, raising a toast of the poison variety. Eager drinkers though they are, the remaining Frey sons take the bait and are summarily wiped off the face of Westeros in agonizing fashion. After four seasons, the Red Wedding has been avenged, and Arya decides to indulge in a bit of victory bar-hopping. Upon running into her once-homie Hot-Pie, she learns that Jon Snow reclaimed Winterfell in the name of house Stark, and sets her course accordingly.
In Winterfell, Jon Snow and Sansa Stark deal with the remaining Northern Lords, bickering occasionally over differing views on diplomacy. While Jon is rightfully concerned about the White Walkers in the North, Sansa is equally wary about Cersei Lannister in the South. Luckily, they manage to placate the Northern Lords, while a scheming Littlefinger appears increasingly in over his head. Meanwhile, Cersei and Jaime Lannister stroll atop a fancy new map, and it’s clear that a rift between them is growing. While Jaime is distraught about the death of their son Tommen, Cersei would rather shrug it off and focus on the ongoing war. As it happens, she’s already facing the likes of House Tyrell, House Martell, and Daenerys Targaryen’s Unsullied soldiers slash Dothraki horde. She proceeds to send a few reach-outs to some of the Crown’s remaining allies, including King Of The Iron Islands Euron Greyjoy.
Meanwhile, Dany and her squad finally reach Westerosi soil. Setting up base camp in Dragonstone (Stannis’ old castle), Dany has a tete-a-tete with Varys, plots war-moves with Yara Greyjoy, Olenna Tyrell, and Ellaria Sand, and cautiously obeys Tyrion Lannister’s suggestions to sit on a Dragon-launched nuclear strike. After receiving a cryptic message from a disgraced Melisandre, Dany’s camp send a peaceful invitation to Jon Snow, inviting him to bend the knee, albeit in a friendly fashion. Her forces, led by House Greyjoy and House Martell, proceed toward King’s Landing to begin a siege. Unfortunately, they are intercepted by a battle-hungry Euron Greyjoy, and the entire Iron Fleet. It doesn’t end well: Theon reverts to Reek mode and flees, two of the Sand Snakes are killed by their own weapons, and Ellaria, Yara, and Tyene Sand are taken, prisoner.
The news reaches King’s Landing in no time. Cersei is naturally thrilled, as she finally gets a chance to unleash her long-pondered revenge ploy on her daughter’s killers. Jaime continues to hold it down as the commander of the Lannister army, though he is put off by Euron’s increasingly lewd kingly desires. The momentum continues to shift in Lannister favor when Jaime brilliantly predicts Tyrion’s plan to take Casterly Rock, and mobilizes to seize Highgarden instead. Unfortunately, Jaime’s glory is short-lived, as Olenna Tyrell hits him with an undeniably satisfying mic-drop revelation: it was she who murdered King Joffery, back in Season 4. She smugly requests the message be passed to Cersei, and Jaime storms off in defeat.
After debating the merits of siding with Dany, Jon Snow and Davos Seaworth take the plunge and swing over to Dragonstone. Jon and Dany square off in an epic parley, in which their separate agendas become clear: the former wants to protect the realm from White Walkers, the latter wants to launch a campaign against King’s Landing. Unable to find common ground, Jon is held as a “not-a-prisoner,” while Dany decides to mount a counteract against the Lannister forces. At the very least, she allows him to mine Dragonglass, which is super-effective against White Walkers. While this is going on, Samwell Tarly cleans Maester dung, studies (soon to be) important books, and engages in a bit of miracle medicine by saving Jorah Mormont from a gruesome fate. After one too many dismissals, Sam and Gilly decide to head to Winterfell, but not before making a clutch discovery about Jon’s parentage.
After a long and harrowing journey beyond the wall, Bran aka the Three-Eyed Raven, makes it back to Winterfell. He’s changed, to say the least; zen, cryptic, and a bit of a voyeur. Arya makes it back to Winterfell shortly thereafter, where she is reunited with her siblings. While it’s all initially warm and fuzzy, it doesn’t take long before old sisterly dynamics to resurface - much to the delight of the chaotic Petyr Baelish. Upon witnessing Arya and Brienne bonding over a shared love of combat, Baelish plants a few seeds of doubt in Sansa’s head. While this is going down, Jaime Lannister and Bronn are marching back to King’s Landing, with spoils of war in tow. Their parade is met with fire and blood upon the arrival of Dany and her Dothraki army. While the Lannister and Tarly men stand firm, the results are nothing short of a massacre. Jaime escapes after nearly killing Dany, Tyrion looks conflicted at the Lannister army’s firey corpses, and Sam’s father and brother are executed by way of Dragon Firing Squad.
Stumped as to how they might proceed, Tyrion suggests that the Dragonstone crew bring the dead to Cersei, in an attempt to negotiate an armistice - or better yet, an alliance. Jon Snow, a freshly healed Jorah Mormont, and Gendry Baratheon decided to head beyond the Wall to capture a wight. As they depart, Tyrion and Dany argue over succession; clearly, the tension between Queen and Hand is beginning to permeate. Upon reaching the Wall, Jon’s crew is joined by Beric Dondarrion, Thoros Of Myr, The Hound, and Tormund Giantsbane. They proceed to capture the wight, but not before Thoros falls in battle. Sadly, their plans go south once the Night King and his army arrive, circling the heroes on an icy island. Luckily, Gendry is the Westerosi equivalent of Usain Bolt, and managed to fire off a raven in the nick of time. Right when hope appears lost, Dany comes through with the last-minute rescue. Yet the Night King seems to have been expecting her arrival, and he proceeds to murder Dany’s dragon Viserion with a casual spear toss. Everyone is understandably sad, but they ultimately escape unharmed with wight in tow.
While Sansa and Arya find themselves squabbling over a variety of philosophical differences, Tyrion’s Dragonpit Parley comes to fruition. Though the wight plan appears to be effective, Cersei storms off after Jon Snow pledges allegiance to Dany. Brienne tries to appeal to her old homie Jaime, but he knows Cersei’s stubbornness knows no bounds. Eventually, Tyrion steps up, and he and Cersei manage to come to a closed-door agreement; though the pair appear to reach an understanding, the actual nature of their scheme remains unknown. Tyrion reports a job well done, and Cersei vows to assist in the upcoming battle against the dead. Despite Jon’s unyielding honor nearly costing the mission, Dany finds herself smitten. She and Jon proceed to take their relationship to the next level, though Tyrion’s ominous glares suggest disapproval.
Meanwhile, secret betrayals are popping off willy nilly. Cersei reveals to Jaime that she never intended to help the Northern cause. Instead, she sent Euron off to hire a sellsword army called the Golden Company, in order to bolster her forces. Jaime is left "big mad" by the revelation, and decides to fulfill his oath, finally turning his back on Cersei. Last we see him, he’s heading North draped in all-black traveling apparel. The Stark sisters eventually settle their differences, and Sansa pulls the “psyche” on Baelish, sentencing him to death for starting The War Of The 5 Kings, betraying Ned, and manipulating their mother. He immediately enters simp mode, but Sansa and Arya are having none of it. He’s executed with Arya’s shiny new dagger and nobody mourns him. Not long after, Sam and his family arrive, and Sam proceeds to nerd out with the all-seeing Bran. Together, they conclude that Jon is not actually a bastard (as many in the series have been quick to remind him), but rather the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Not only does that make Jon the true heir to the Iron Throne, but it also makes him Dany’s nephew...with privileges.
In the closing moments, Beric Dondarrion and Tormund Giantsbane patrol the wall, only to bear witness to the army of the dead’s approach. While they brace themselves for a seige, a terrifying cry fills the air. Unfortunately, the Night King has revived Viserion, and together they make short work of the Wall. As the long-standing structure falls, the Night King and his army take their macabre campaign south of the wall, beginning the march toward Winterfell. At long last, winter has arrived.