Winter is finally here, and it’s shaping up to be a cold one.
HBO’s highly acclaimed series Game of Thrones enters its seventh season with fewer episodes than usual—seven, in lieu of the usual 10—but with more anticipation and excitement than ever.
A quick catch-up: Westeros is on the brink of war as Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) rally support, while the mysterious White Walkers move closer and closer to the Seven Kingdoms. With just 13 episodes left (six more are coming in the eighth and final season), showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss must wrap up all the loose ends created in George R. R. Martin’s original sprawling novels—and that means answers may come faster than ever before.
Production on the show started later than any previous season, pushing the premiere date to July rather than the usual April start time. The delay wasn’t a cruel prank on the fans—the producers had no choice but to wait for snow to film the scenes that take place in Winterfell and north of The Wall.
“At the end of this season, ‘Winter is here’—[so] sunny weather doesn’t really serve our purposes anymore,” Benioff told Entertainment Weekly in summer 2016. “So we kind of pushed everything down the line, so we could get some grim grey weather even in the sunnier places that we shoot.”
With Martin still toiling away on the latest book in the series, the show has sped past where the novels left off, leaving all fans—book readers and show watchers alike—completely in the dark about where the story will go. That uncertainty has only doubled the excitement for the show’s return. (And don’t forget: New York Mets superstar Noah Syndergaard will have a cameo appearance as a Lannister soldier. We may get a glimpse of Conor McGregor as well.)
Here are 13 reasons why Game of Thrones Season 7 could be the most intense and best yet. And beware—spoilers WILL follow.
Game of Thrones returns on July 16 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.