Everything You Need to Know Before the 8th and Final Season of Game of Thrones (A Helpful Illustrated Guide)

Only a few hours until the season begins, team.

The road has been 20 months long. Dark and full of terrors. But the time has come. The time for weeping, screaming and flipping the bird to your television screens. Here’s everything you need to know before the 8th and final season of GoT pops off tonight.

Major Characters (Alive)

Jon Snow:
Yes, everyone’s favorite bastard (besides Gendry “The Hammer” Baratheon” of course). Adopted son of Ned Stark, Jon has been the relentless, brooding and deep voice of caution in regard to the coming threat of the White Walkers. Little does he know, his heritage is more complex and more regal than he or any of the fandom first assumed. Turns out, he’s not a bastard at all but the true heir to the Iron Throne being the offspring of Rhaegar Targaryen (Daenerys’ older brother) and Lyanna Stark, Ned Stark’s younger sister. A rough road he’s had. First, he’s been exiled, stabbed to death, resurrected and the most awkward? Slept with his aunt, Dany Targaryen.  Family reunions will never be the same, that’s for sure.

Daenerys Targaryen:
Mama of dragons, breaker of chains… eh, you know the rest. Starting off as a pawn so that her older brother, Viserys could command the Dothraki (think Essosi version of the Huns with a dash of indigenous Americans). She quickly turns her misfortunes around and took control of the tribes, conquered the eastern continent, assumed command of the Unsullied (the fierce slave eunuchs), then sails her forces over to Westeros to conquer the known world like her ancestor, Aegon. Let’s not forget that she was a willing participant in Targcest 2.0 with her (unknown) nephew and aforementioned King in the North, Jon Snow. Oh, and she has 2 (RIP Viserion) very large fire-breathing dragons. The Westerosi equivalent of nukes.

Cersei Lannister:
Cersei. Savage, and the current occupant of the Iron Throne. A widow of her own dastardly doing (RIP Robert Baratheon). Now childless, losing all three of her children to rivals of her own making, Cersei can always be counted upon for the pettiest of revenge acts. Probably the most unsympathetic of all the characters on the series, she doesn’t put it past her to take the low road. Never forget the atomic bomb AKA wildfire she used to blow all of her enemies up underneath the series’ equivalent of the Vatican. Too bad she didn’t see her actions causing the death of her last child, Tommen. Now, she’s pregnant, most likely with her brother/lover’s baby. The schemes don’t stop there. Last season we learned she had absolutely no intention of helping the northerners in their fight against the Night King. Gotta love a liar.

Jamie Lannister:
Jaime. King Slayer. Golden Hand. Brother/lover. The list goes on but I don’t have enough time to type it all out. In summation, his resume is similar to his evil sister’s. Three kids, all now dead. Took out the “Mad King” (Dany’s father) while acting as his glorified bodyguard. Just an overall complex character. However, unlike his sister, he has a few redeeming qualities most likely brought out by his tall and fierce bestie, Brienne of Tarth. We’ll just have to see how things turn out for him this season.

Tyrion Lannister:
Everyone’s favorite dwarf. Tyrion’s history is a tad tragic. Bullied and humiliated since birth by his family who blamed him for the untimely demise of his mother during childbirth. Tyrion has always been an outcast which made him an easy scapegoat for the murder of his nephew Joffrey (no RIP here, good riddance.) Tyrion turned lemons into lemonade though and bulled a mob-style hit on his abusive father while the elder Lannister was sitting on the pot. Not the most dignified way to go out, just saying. In between drinking and knowing things he is now the hand of Queen Daenerys. If that’s not a come up, I don’t know what is.

Arya Stark:
All out badass (and probably Scorpionic) Arya enjoys lists and masquerading as other people more than assuming the duties of a lady. After witnessing the death of her father Ned, she commences on a series-long revenge plot, becoming a skilled, shape-shifting assassin thanks to the tutelage of the House of Black and White. At the end of season 7, she was reunited with her siblings. The good news? She’s still got that list and based on her success rate thus far, the subjects of said list have a lot to worry about.

Sansa Stark:
The oldest Stark daughter, aristocratic and learned Sansa, probably had one of the roughest go’s in terms of storyline. Forcibly married to not one but TWO psychopaths (Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton) she was used time and time again as a bargaining chip by glorified pimp Littlefinger. Beaten, bruised, humiliated, poor girl will need therapy for years. The trauma will undoubtedly last forever. However, just like her 2nd husband Tyrion, Sansa successfully makes lemonade as well. Finally doing unto others as was done to her. The golden moment of season 6 was feeding Ramsay to his own hungry dogs and commissioning the Colombian neck-tie to Petyr Baelish (Little Finger.) She is now head of the north beside her brother, Jon. Well deserved but with KiTN bending the knee at the end of last season, we’ll have to see if she’s able to hold her place as Lady of Winterfell against Daenerys.

Bran Stark:
Rough times for baby Stark here. He begins his arc being forced out a window by Jamie in the first episode, having spied on the Kingslayer and Mad Queen getting it on in the tower. As a result, he became paralyzed but the silver lining? He gains fantastic and supernatural powers becoming the ‘Three-Eyed Raven,’ gaining the ability to see deeply into the past and present all over the known world. He can even ‘warg’ (animate his consciousness into the bodies of animals). Downside? He kinda loses all sense of empathy gaining these powers. Needless to say with these new-found abilities, the Starks are pretty stacked.

Now let’s get to the juicy stuff, shall we?

Season 1 Recall
The series starts off with the King of Westeros, Robert Baratheon (Cersei Lannister’s first husband), cajoling his best buddy Ned (Eddard Stark) to be his Hand (basically Westeros’ version of a consigliere) in the capital. Jon Arryn the former Hand has kicked the bucket. And the suspected culprits? None other than the Lannisters (surprise, surprise.)  Turns out it was actually machiavellian Little Finger (no surprise there.) Bran witnesses Jamie and Cersei doing the indecent and ends up a quadriplegic. Bad start.

Robert gets done-in by a wild-pig after getting too inebriated for his own good (some wine as a gift from his ever loving wife). As a result, he dies. Astute and savvy Ned discovers Robert’s “son” Joffrey is actually Jaime’s incestuous offspring and plots to make Robert’s brother Stannis “the mannis” as king of the seven kingdoms instead. However, Ned honorable as he is, makes the gargantuan mistake of communicating to Cersei his plans. Another mistake? Trusting Little Finger, the man who has carried a torch for your wife Catelyn for ages. No worries Ned, I think we’ve all made the mistake of trusting the wrong person once or twice in our lives. Sadly this leads to his demise. Sansa is kidnapped, Arya is able to flee, Robb Stark wages war and Ned? Well, he becomes the headless Northman. Rough times.

Meanwhile, the Night’s Watch — a sort of glorified penal community masquerading as a monastic order — run into the first White Walker anyone has seen in ages. Jon gets his Sherlock Holmes on and heads north to do some investigating.

Over East, Daenerys is forcibly married to Khal Drogo (Aquaman), who succumbs to death after being cursed by a vengeful witch. When I say vengeful I MEAN vengeful. She doesn’t stop at Drogo, she makes sure Dany’s baby, still in the womb comes out stillborn. Of course, it’s always a bad idea to piss off a Targaryen, so Khaleesi returns the favor by strapping Miri Maaz Duur (the witch) onto Drogo’s funeral pyre, strolls into the flames with her three petrified dragon eggs and when the sun rises? She comes out buck-naked but unburnt and with three baby reptiles. Gotta love that blood magic.

Season 2 Recall

Full out war between our favorite northern family the Starks and our least favorite southron fam, the Lannisters. Sh*t is hitting the fan. Eldest Stark, Robb captures Jamie as a prisoner of war, but over emotional Catelyn lets him go (smh) in the hopes of having her children (Arya and Sansa) returned to her. Needless to say, things don’t go as planned. With psycho Joffrey now reigning as King, no one can reign the bastard (see what I did there?) in.

So what happens next? The Starks are of coursed stabbed in the back in classic Julius Caesar VS. the senate fashion by the Greyjoys, Theon in particular as some show of tribute to his deadbeat dad, who take Winterfell. Luckily, Bran and Rickon are able to flee. Stannis Baratheon throws up the dukes against his younger brother Renly, who assumes he is owed the throne somehow…

IDK dude.

So of course, Stannis, power hungry for the thrown enlists the aid of his paramour, Melisandre the Red Witch. What does she do? What she’s best at. The Macabre. The broad conceives and delivers a demon-shadow that creeps into Renly’s camp and shanks him. Talk about brotherly love.

With no one in his way now, Stannis attempts to lay siege to King’s Landing by way of water, sailing into blackwater bay. Unfortunately, he suffers an embarrassing defeat when Tyrion employs the use of wildfire, the aforementioned napalm of the 7 kingdoms to burn all of his ships. Sorry Stannis, just have to take the ‘L’ on this one.

Season 3 Recall

Enter Robb Stark who does the foolish and consorts with a gorgeous medic from Volantis (Talisa). Starstruck, he calls off his engagement to Walder Frey’s daughter whom he was promised to as payment for services rendered. As a result, and sadly no surprise, the Starks are betrayed (once again) by Frey who is angered at the broken promise. He enlists the help of the Lannisters to assassinate not just Robb, but his mother Catelyn, his pregnant wife Talisa and the rest of the Stark men at the aptly named Red Wedding. Appalling.

North of the wall, our favorite bastard takes up within the wilding camp and falls for master archer, Ygritte, kissed by fire (red-haired).

A stroke of universal retribution, the Greyjoys (Theon) are betrayed by the Boltons, who assume control over Winterfell. Theon Greyjoy is then subjected to the WORST and several seasons long water-boarding (among other cringey things) by the twisted Ramsay Bolton.

Jamie suffers an amputation, Tyrion is disrespected and demoted as Hand of the King, drowns his miseries in what? None other than his favorite beverage, wine. And last but not least, Daenerys finesses the f*** out of the slave masters over east, taking control of the 8000 strong army of Unsullied and having a bonfire with the former masters as the main course. Yas Kween.

Season 4 Recall

Ok, a bit of advice? Avoid ALL weddings ever held in Westeros. If you get an invite? Burn it. The season opens with Joffrey poisoned right after he says his ‘I do’s’ to Margaery Tyrell, daughter of Mace Tyrell and heiress to the richest and most fertile kingdom in Westeros, the Reach AKA Highgarden. Tyrion, of course, takes the fall but the real culprit is the queen of thorns, Olenna Tyrell– Margaery’s granny.

After suffering enough humiliations, Tyrion commits patricide (because that’s what happens when you try people for too long) after losing a trial by combat (RIP Oberyn). He’s fortunate enough to command the love of his brother Jaime, the only Lannister that has ever been kind to him. Subsequently, he’s able to be smuggled out of the city along with his wife Sansa (though this happens separately) who is taken by pedophiliac Little Finger to the Vale. The Vale being the only stronghold safe for her now since her aunt Lysa, sister of Catelyn still lives.

Of course, Little Finger’s F*ckery is endless so what does he do? Why marries the unstable Lysa of course, then commits a murder of his own by pushing her out of the moon door– a giant hole in the castle that leads to a bottomless pit. Yeah, there’s no coming back from that one.

Jon returns to the wall after betraying his lady love, because who could ever assume that Jon would be capable of anything sneaky or political? He arrives just in time to aid his black brothers in fighting off a wildling siege. Too bad his gf dies in the process. He’s saved by the impromptu but timely arrival of Stannis’ army. Bran is carried north by Hodor and Co. to become better acquainted with the Three-Eyed Raven and develop his newfound abilities. Meanwhile, Arya arrives at Braavos to start her own training all Kill-Bill like as an assassin.

Season 5 Recall

Welp, since Margaery is now without a husband she wastes no time. Instead, she’s espoused to young Tommen, who is nowhere near as sadistic as his older brother but is easily controlled and just as weak-willed.

Cersei who just can’t help her jealous, see you next Tuesday and competitive impulses, employs the uses religious fanatics called the Sparrows to usurp Margaery. Let this be a cautionary tale at trying to screw people over folks, it always comes back. Usually tenfold. Cersei learns this the hard way when these very zealots turn on her too. As it turns out, fornication and incest are not condoned by the seven. Shame. Shame. Shame. *Rings bell*.

Petyr Baelish, true to form double-crosses Sansa and marries her off to Ramsay Bolton. She then spends her wedding night being raped in the presence of the stinky Reek (formerly Theon Greyjoy). Stannis is still attempting the impossible, winning back the Iron Throne and is convinced by Melisandre that torching his own daughter will gift him the position of king he so longs for.

Naturally, things don’t pan out that way he or she planned. Shireen is barbecued, his wife hangs herself out of guilt and Stannis dies at the hand of Brienne who had sought justice since Renly was killed. The only good thing to come from the whole f-d up charade is the opportunity for Sansa and Theon to make their escape from Winterfell. Killing Ramsay’s psycho girlfriend in the process. Finally one of the Starks take a “W”.

Speaking of which, Jon our secret prince is appointed Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. He makes a very provocative move, much to the chagrin of his comrades by inviting the Wildlings who, let me remind you have been beefing with the NW for ages, down south to take shelter against the White Walkers.

Of course, people aren’t happy about this. Things go south and he’s stabbed to death by mutineers who are angry at his choice. Yet again, another ‘L’ for the Starks. Can’t catch a break.

Daenerys, on the other hand, lucks out during her difficult tenure as Queen of the East. Just in time, brainy and witty Tyron arrives to offer timely council on governing.

Season 6 Recall

Turns out Jon is probably the luckiest of the Starks. Might have something to do with that whole “prince who was promised” prophecy but what do I know.  Melisandre, regretful at the horrible council she gave the late Stannis does the only redeeming thing her storyline has given her and resurrects him, Christ, style.

If I never said it before, I’ll say it now: thanks Mel.

Universal reciprocity is a thing I tell you, the mutineers at Castle Black learned the hard way when Jon comes back to life and hangs them for their betrayal. Again, don’t f*ck people over and think you can get away with it.

Then, the first and probably the most emotional reunion ever in GoT occurs and Jon reunites with his sister Sansa at Castle Black despite their past and her being “awful to him” when they were younger. Sansa and Jon the plot to take back their ancestral home Winterfell. All seems lost when they’re unable to convince the other northern houses to submit until Sansa, is able to use her charms to sway Little Finger into lending the army of the Vale over. The battle is won and the Stark banner looks so damn good hanging off those battlements. Jon is also able to pummel Ramsay to a pulp then Sansa’s able to finish the job and feed him to his dogs. Sigh, some people will never learn what goes around, comes around. I don’t think I was the only one who shed a tear (or 1000) of joy.

Over at King’s Landing Cersei isn’t having that great of a time. What can I say, karma’s a b*tch. Her hair’s chopped off unflatteringly and she’s walked through the streets naked by the sound of a bell. As always, it’s always a bad idea to sleep on Cersei because she decides she WILL NOT be humiliated thus. She decides to exact revenge. Luring them and most of the capital upper echelon to the Sept of Baelor (a monstrous worship center much like a cathedral), before taking a page out of Dany’s father’s book and pulling a Hiroshima with wildfire. Little does she know, thanks to her arrogance and brutality, her son Tommen distraught over losing his wife swan dives from the tower and meets his end.

Last but not least, Arya. BAMF. She pulls a Lady Stoneheart (who doesn’t exist in the series, only the books) and exacts revenge against the Freys for the murder of her family at the Red Wedding. Colombian neck-ties all around! Not only does she cook Walder’s sons into his dinner, she uses one of the faces she stole from the house of Black and White and offs the man. Again, karma is a b*tch. No sympathy here. More good news for the Starks when Jon is promoted, not as ‘Warden of the north’ but KING. King in the North. Hailed by all the two-faced lords who turned their backs on him. Good thing he’s the forgiving type. Season 6 didn’t disappoint when it comes to the long-awaited “W’s the Starks have evaded for 5 seasons.

Season 7 Recall

Finally after 6 seasons, Daenerys sails into Westeros rolling deep with not just the Dothraki but Varys, Tyrion and the Unsullied at her back. Oh, and of course, her dragons. Her first course of action? To take Cersei down. Of course, before this happens she meets Jon and Davos who attempt to convince her that he needs her help and she needs his.

Dany isn’t really having it though but soon realizes she’s not really in any position to turn down help since quite quickly, she loses most of her forces to Cersei. The Iron Fleet commanded by Yara Greyjoy (Theon’s sister) is burned, The Sandsnakes are killed/captured, and Olenna is basically an old lady with her wit and sharp tongue as her only weapons.

Impatient, Daenerys decides she’s tired of taking counsel from Tyrion and flies on the back of her dragons to the reach to BURN THEM ALL!!! (like daddy like daughter, eh?) Once she takes the field of fire, she decided to execute anyone who doesn’t prefer her blonde locks over Cersei’s. As a result, she torches Randyll Tarley and Dickon Tarley, Samwell Tarley’s (Jon’s robust and bookish bestie) father and brother. I have a feeling this will be a source of contention in the future, but again, what do I know?

She returns and sees that Jon’s not giving up on the whole ‘we’re all going to die if you don’t listen to me and give me dragon glass’ thing so she lets him go (because he was a prisoner all this time). Like Rambo, Jon assembles a team of Westerosi black ops to go and capture a dead guy (White Walker) to show Cersei and the rest of the kingdom that the threat to the north is indeed real. They are successful of course, but not without casualties. Thoros of Myr and Viserion, one of Dany’s dragons meet their end in the process.

Jon, feeling guilty and honorable decides to bend the knee when he’s saved and safely on a boat. That’s cool, just give up the north’s autonomy, the one thing your brother, father, step-mom and thousands of your men died for in one sitting. No big deal.

Sansa, Arya, and Bran have a reunion at Winterfell; Bran’s powers come in handy and he utilizes those powers to expose Littlefinger’s two-faced-ness (not a word but it is now). If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Being a sneaky double-crosser and screwing people over will NEVER end well for you. Little finger is promptly executed by Arya. Good riddance but thanks for the memories, Petyr, we’ll never forget them. Samwell arrives at Winterfell and meets Bran who in tandem, discovers Jon’s true parentage. All while showing a montage of Lyanna, Rhaegar marrying and Jon banging his aunt. Yuck.

The Night King, ever resourceful has the newly dead Viserion pulled from the lake and reanimated into an ice-breathing dragon. No bueno. But wait, there’s more. Viserion must’ve taken a page out of Barry Allen’s book because he speeds towards the wall in the last episode only to blow it to bits making way for the giant un-dead army to march south.

Bad times ahead but we made it, fam. We’re in for a wild ride. Watch the beginning of the end tonight on HBO at 9PM EST and be sure to check out the first official photo’s of the season HBO graciously released, here.