The most recent episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ aired nearly two years ago, so it’s likely you have a lot of burning questions before the final season begins April 14 (April 15 in the UAE). We certainly did, so we compiled them all here.
In the HBO drama’s final six episodes, the army of the undead will likely clash with the citizens of Westeros, as a separate battle for power unfolds for the Iron Throne.
What’s the Iron Throne, and why does everyone want it?
‘Game of Thrones’ is set on a map not vastly unlike our own. Most of the action takes place on the main continent of Westeros. The unified realm consisting of most of the continent and its small islands is called the Seven Kingdoms, which were established by Aegon the Conqueror, the first king of the Targaryen dynasty, some 300 years ago.
The whole shebang is ruled over by the king or queen of the Andals and the First Men, which is the fancy title for whoever sits on the Iron Throne.
So, much like the field of potential Democratic nominees for the 2020 election, everyone wants power — and the Iron Throne is the epitome of that.
What is R+L=J?
Anyone born with murky parentage in this world is giving a last name based on the region of their birth. One born in the icy North would receive the last name “Snow.” Jon Snow, one of the show’s main characters, is presented as just that: the illegitimate child of Ned Stark.
From the jump, something about this scenario seems off. The elder Stark was presented as a virtuous dude, but the audience is led to think that he strayed in a time of war. Not everyone was fooled, however, and the theory known simply at “R+L=J” began circulating. In the season seven finale, it was proved to be true.
The theory centres on Jon Snow’s true parentage, which, as it turns out, does not involve Ned Stark. He’s actually the son of Rhaegar Targaryen (son of the Mad King and brother to Daenerys) and Lyanna Stark (Ned’s sister).
Part of the reason for Robert’s Rebellion was Rhaegar kidnapping Lyanna when she was engaged to Robert Baratheon — or at least that’s how most people on the show have described what went down. This eventually led to Robert killing Rhaegar and Jaime killing Aerys Targaryen II, i.e. the Mad King.
But, as we discovered in last season’s finale, Lyanna and Rhaegar were actually in love, and they secretly married before Lyanna became pregnant with Rhaegar’s child and died giving birth to the baby.
In the show, Bran Stark has a vision of Lyanna covered in blood in the Tower of Joy, telling her brother, “Promise me, Ned.” That promise was to raise Jon Snow as his own and to keep his identity a secret to save the child from then-King Robert, who would have executed any Targaryen heir.
How are Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen related?
Daenerys is the daughter of the Mad King and brother to Viserys and Rhaegar. Given “R+L=J,” that makes Daenerys the aunt of Jon Snow. Unfortunately, the only characters who know this are Bran Stark and Samwell Tarly — and news didn’t reach Jon and Daenerys before they had sex in the Season 7 finale.
What do I need to know about Bran, and what’s the Three-Eyed Raven?
In Season 2, Bran embarked on a long journey, during which he learnt he might be a Warg, someone who can control the minds of animals and see through their eyes. He also began dreaming about and seeing a Three-Eyed Raven, which he sought beyond the Wall. That was where he found the Three-Eyed Raven, who turned out to be a very old man in a cave. The Three-Eyed Raven has many abilities, including seeing things that have happened back in time, and he trained Bran how to use these powers for himself.
During a trip through time, Bran witnessed a dying Lyanna Stark asking Ned to watch after her child, who Ned named Jon Snow. Later, Samwell Tarly confirmed this account after reading about the child at the Citadel.
Eventually, Bran attempted to see through the eyes of the Night King, which created a psychic bond between them, allowing the Night King to enter Bran’s mind and vice versa. The Night King brought white walkers to the cave, where they killed the Three-Eyed Raven. Bran escaped and, in doing so, became the Three-Eyed Raven himself.
What’s that green fire, and where does it come from?
It’s called Wildfire. Made by the Alchemists’ Guild, an old group of pyromancers who claim it’s magical, it’s an extremely powerful substance that, once lit on fire, can burn until it’s all but disappeared or smothered with sand. It can be applied on any substance, including water. Think of it like uberpowerful lighter fluid used by soldiers.
Tyrion used it to destroy most of Stannis Baratheon’s fleet during the Battle of Blackwater. And, long ago, the Mad King stored barrels of it under King’s Landing with plans to destroy the city during Robert’s Rebellion, but he was killed before he got the chance. Years later, Cersei used it to blow up the Great Sept of Baelor with most of the Sparrows and House of Tyrell inside.
Where do the dragons come into play?
Remember Aegon the Conqueror, who conquered most of Westeros and set up the Iron Throne some 300 years before the current story? He was able to do all that because he was riding with three basically indestructible dragons. They had long been a staple of the Targaryen household. These were the final three in existence, however; most of the others died in a giant volcanic eruption called the Doom of Valyria about 150 years ago, at which point dragons were thought to be extinct.
Fast-forward roughly a century and a half to Season 1, when Daenerys was given three petrified dragon eggs as a gift to celebrate her betrothal to Khal Drogo. She was drawn to the eggs, beginning to believe they could be hatched. But then a witch betrayed her, destroyed the baby in her womb, took away her ability to bear children and turned Khal Drogo into a vegetable (who Daenerys then killed mercifully).
When Daenerys built a funeral pyre for Drogo, she tossed the eggs (and that witch) on top for good measure. After lighting it, she walked into the flames, because, why not? Everyone thought she died, but instead, the next morning she awoke to three dragon pups hanging onto her. She named them Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion.
Long story short, these are incredibly powerful creatures who bonded with Daenerys and will probably determine the war to come.
But what about the zombie dragon?
OK, OK, we were getting to this. So, Daenerys learnt to fly the scaly monsters — and used them in a few battles, which terrified her enemies, as they feared she could conquer Westeros as Aegon did.
In season seven, though, the Night King threw an ice spear at Viserion, killing him. The Night King then reanimated the fallen dragon’s corpse, which was pretty bad news for everyone, particularly since the dragons can break through the Wall — which was exactly what zombie Viserion did, allowing the Army of the Dead to enter Westeros proper, setting up the show for the big war to come.
Who is the Night King?
That icy, blue-eyed fellow was the first White Walker, who was created when the Children of the Forest, a non-human race who originally inhabited Westeros, stabbed one of the First Men with dragonglass thousands of years ago. He now serves as the leader of the White Walkers and their wights.
What’s the difference between wights and White Walkers?
Not all icy creatures are created equal. White Walkers have the important superpower of reanimating human and animal corpses by turning them into wights. While we know the Children of the Forest turned some First Men into White Walkers, we don’t know if all of the White Walkers can make more of their own kind. We do know that the Night King can change human babies into White Walkers with merely a touch.
Wights have no such power to turn corpses and living people into other things, and they make up most of the “army of the dead.”
It appears that the White Walkers simply want to conquer the world, and that makes sense given their origins as basically being the weapons of the Children of the Forest. They’ve attacked before, thousands of years ago, and despite that “long winter,” they were eventually defeated, driven north and kept there by a newly built Wall.
But we haven’t gotten their side of the story yet, so who knows? Maybe they actually have some kind of just cause aside from total domination.
What weapons are needed to kill them?
We know of two substances that can take down the White Walkers: dragonglass and Valyrian steel.
The former is a volcanic glass that’s fashioned into such weapons as spears and daggers. Samwell Tarly learns of its effectiveness after travelling beyond the Wall, when he stabbed a White Walker in the shoulder, and the White Walker shattered. Sam later learnt there is a massive store of the material in a mountain on Dragonstone. It’s important to note, however, that dragonglass is also used to turn men into White Walkers, making it one heck of a double-edged substance.
Valyrian steel, meanwhile, is metal that was forged in the era of the ancient Valyrian civilisation. Myth has it that the pieces were forged with magic and dragonfire, though no one knows for sure. All we do know is that the weapons cannot be forged any longer, and there is a finite amount left in the world.
We know of a few Valyrian steel swords floating around the world. There’s Oathkeeper, which Jaime gave to Brienne (who currently possesses it), and Widow’s Wail, which Jaime carries. Jon Snow carries Longclaw, and Sam took Heartsbane from his family home before setting out for the Citadel. Meanwhile, Arya carries a dragonglass dagger.
Stabbing and cutting up wights with regular weapons won’t do much, but they are flammable, don’t seem to be able to cross water and can be felled by the two substances that kills White Walkers. The most efficient way to get rid of a bunch of wights seems to be destroying the White Walker that had transformed them.