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game of thrones jon snow daenerys targaryen
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Are their days numbered?
IT'S WINTER

Every plotline in Game of Thrones, ranked and explained

By Evan Higgins

Game of Thrones’ eighth and final season begins Sunday, April 14, bringing to a close a journey of eight years, 67 episodes, and hundreds of plotlines.

The HBO show’s sprawling universe defines the series (along with sex and murder). It’s also one of its most frustrating features. Last season alone, GoT killed off what could be the entire cast of most shows.

Don’t worry, though, we’re here to help. We’ve outlined all the major and minor plotlines of the seventh season to get you ready for Sunday’s premiere. We’ve also ranked them from 10 to 1 by their likely importance to the final season.

And if you’re looking for more detail on the seventh season (not to mention everything that came before), we’ve also created a Game of Thrones recap chatbot to walk you through it, as well as think through your dream ending for the show. Simply start the intro quiz below to launch it:

10: Grey Worm + Missandei = K.I.S.S.I.N.G.

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First comes love, then comes quashing your enemies.

This quiet love story has been building for the past few seasons, but we finally saw Grey Worm and Missandei make good on all those purloined glances the night before Grey Worm left for his first battle in Westeros.

Please note: Grey Worm and Missandei are a better looking couple than Jon and Dany.

Season eight implications: Probably none, though it will surely help humanize Grey Worm’s plight next time he gets into a life-or-death situation.

Number of deaths: 0

9: Theon comes back from the dead

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Theon Greyjoy (right) fights Harrag, who… you know what? There are only so many names you need to know at this point. Forget Harrag.

After years of maiming and torture, Theon seemed to be returning to his regular self at the start of last season. That is, until he abandoned his sister Yara in a fit of cowardice when their Uncle Euron stormed their ship on behalf of Cersei Lannister.

Oddly, this moment of weakness seems to have reinvigorated Theon’s will to fight. He’s now hellbent on rescuing Yara from the clutches of Cersei and his uncle.

Please note: Theon has become a walking, self-perpetuating redemption arc.

Season eight implications: With Theon planning a rescue mission, Euron’s hold on the Iron Islands and much of Westeros’s waterways could be at risk.

Number of deaths: Countless crew members, but no lords or ladies.

8: Sam cleans toilets, saves lives

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“Samwise burned with a magnificent madness, a glowing obsession to surmount every obstacle, to find Frodo, destroy the Ring, and cleanse Middle Earth of its festering malignancy.”

Samwell Tarly’s journey to become a maester—a cross between a doctor, scholar, and royal advisor—led to a number of useful discoveries: where to locate a giant dragonglass cache (which does to White Walkers what garlic does to vampires); how to cure greyscale; and the proper way to clean bathroom stalls.

Oh, and he discovered that Jon Snow is actually the true-born heir to the Iron Throne because his father, Rhaegar Targaryen, had annulled his previous marriage before he married Jon’s mother, Lyanna Stark—making little baby Jon Snow totally legit.

Please note: There’s dragonglass below Dragonstone (seems obvious, I know, but still). Also, Greyscale is horrifying, but it can be cured with disgusting on-screen transitions.

Season eight implications: Jon’s royal parentage will undoubtedly come into play at some point during the final season. And that cache of dragonglass is worth keeping an eye on: It’s so potent that Sam (a self-described coward) used it to kill a White Walker a few seasons ago.

Number of deaths: -1 (Jorah was a goner until Sam intervened.)

7: Jon and Dany fall in love

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Jon and Dany bend the knee.

As the war for the Iron Throne heated up, so did the tension between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, two star-crossed lovers who are also, in the Game of Thrones way, family members (though they don’t know it yet).

They first met as adversaries on Dragonstone, but it was immediately obvious to everyone they were meant for each other. After a season of exchanging smoldering looks—and a last-minute rescue by Dany—the two finally gave in to temptation.

Please note: Everyone saw this coming a mile away. But we couldn’t have predicted that incredibly awkward montage where their lineage is explained while they hook up.

Season eight implications: Now that Jon and Dany are an item, their alliance is stronger than ever—it may even lead to Jon riding one of Dany’s dragons. The question is: Will this new romance survive Jon learning that Dany is his aunt?

Number of deaths: 0

6: Bran says goodbye to being a human person

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Don’t mind this human who is also a time-traveling all-seeing bird thing who creepily watches you from afar and then tells your secrets to future generations.

Bran completed his transition into the Three-Eyed Raven, fully taking up cognitive residency in both the past and the present. The result of this was twofold: Over the seventh season, he acted as an exposition machine, confirming Littlefinger’s betrayal of Starks, the coming threat of the White Walkers, and Jon’s royal parentage.

He also underwent a noticeable loss of humanity, as he seemed unable to warmly greet his long lost sisters, and gave little more than a monotone goodbye to his constant companion, Meera Reed.

Please note: Jon Snow is actually Aegon Targaryen, Daenerys’ nephew and the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne.

Season eight implications: With Bran going full Three-Eyed Raven, the many rumors about how Bran’s new powers affect the greater history of the realm are looking all the more convincing.

Number of deaths: 1 (metaphorical death of the sweet boy that used to be Bran Stark)

5: Arya and Sansa “face off”

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“It’s still weird you have a suitcase of faces.”

When the two Stark sisters finally made it back to Winterfell after years apart, they seemed to quickly fall back into their old habits of bickering and backstabbing—except they weren’t.

Their elaborate infighting turned out to be a ploy to draw out Littlefinger’s treachery. It worked, and they capped their performance with a brutal public execution.

Please note: Sansa and Arya are friends now. (Also, Littlefinger talked a big game but wasn’t shit.)

Season eight implications: House Stark is united, an undeniably important step in shoring up humanity’s defense in the coming war against the Walkers. Losing Littlefinger in the balance was an added bonus.

Number of deaths: 1 (but it was oh-so-satisfying)

4: It’s winter

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Remember in season one when we thought maybe “winter” was a metaphor for something more normal?

This metaplot connected a series of disparate events, as the White Walkers made their way south to—and then through—the Wall. During their march they gained a dragon, fought a skirmish against Jon and Dany, and took down a chunk of the Wall, without even breaking a sweat.

The Great War has officially began. Winter has arrived.

Please note: The Night King—the fearsome leader of the White Walkers so dastardly he even took down a dragon—never opens or moves his mouth when he’s on-screen and it is extremely off-putting once you notice it.

Season eight implications: The fact that the Wall, the Seven Kingdoms’ greatest defense against the Walkers, didn’t even make them pause is something that every living creature should take note of.

Number of deaths: Countless, with plenty more to come

3: War for the Iron Throne part 1: A new hope

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A neat trick of Game of Thrones is that you have to turn off all the lights in your apartment to be able to see what’s happening on the screen.

Cersei and Dany began their war for the Iron Throne by gathering allies. Dany was able to secure Ellaria Sand, Olenna Tyrell, and Theon and Yara Greyjoy. Cersei brought in their Uncle Euron Greyjoy, the Tarlys (who turned on their liege lords, the Tyrells), and the Iron Bank of Braavos. The early battles saw Cersei win a round of decisive victories, as she took down the Tyrells and Sand Snakes, and captured Yara Greyjoy. It was a strategy that rebalanced what looked like a lopsided war. That is until Dany struck back (more on that below).

Please note: Olenna copped to plotting King Joffrey’s death way back in Season 4, so it’s not really a revelation for the audience when she tells Jaime Lannister. But telling someone you murdered their brat heir as they force you to kill yourself is actually a pretty badass way to go.

Season eight implications: With Ellaria Sand and Olenna Tyrell dead or captured, it’ll be tougher for Jon to rely on them as support in his fight against the army of the dead. At the same time, Euron’s early victories earned him the promise of Cersei’s hand in marriage. How that will shake out next season is anyone’s guess.

Number of deaths: Countless, including a record number of important women leaders

2: Wight Club leads a hunting expedition north of the Wall

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Gentlemen only.

Jon Snow led a ragtag group of warriors north of the Wall to capture a zombie in an effort to convince Cersei and Dany to put aside their differences until after the army of the dead is defeated. The upshot? Jon was able to capture said zombie and forge a nominal truce—but only with the help of Dany and the sacrifice of one of her dragons.

Please note: White Walkers can reanimate dragons! (Come on, that’s cool!)

Season eight implications: While the zombie wasn’t able to convince Cersei to suit up for the good guys (more on that below), the plotline did birth an “ice dragon”—something that drastically rebalances the odds in favor of the White Walkers.

Number of deaths: ~6 humans, 1 “good” zombie, dozens of “bad” zombies, and the zombification of a dragon.

1: War for the Iron Throne part 2: Dany strikes back

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Jaime has complicated feelings, and we have complicated feelings about him. But everyone hates Cersei, who also hates herself and everyone around her.

After suffering major losses at the hands of Cersei, Dany took her dragons out on the road, killing the Tarlys and taking back all the land Cersei claimed in the first stage of their war. Thanks to the help of Tyrion and Jaime, the two Queens finally sat down to negotiate peace in the face of the wight Jon brought back from the North. Of course, Cersei being Cersei, she later revealed to Jaime that she is now planning to wait out the Great War and then take on the victor.

Please note: No redemptive arc for Cersei.

Season eight implications: Cersei’s preemptive betrayal weakens the army of the living’s chances significantly (most of the people in Westeros reside in the South). At the same time, her loss of Jaime makes her all the more likely to continue spiraling into full Disney villain.

Number of deaths: Many of Cersei’s forces, including Randyll Tarly and his heir Dickon.