The wait is nearly over – Game Of Thrones season 7 starts on July 16 for fans in the US and July 17 in the UK.
The new episodes will air in the US on HBO at 9pm Sunday evenings and simultaneously in the UK at 2am Monday morning on Sky Atlantic.
We’ll also be able to watch them on NowTV and, repeated, on Monday evenings at 9pm.
Here’s six important things you need to know.
1. Season 7 will have seven episodes, not the usual 10
However, the shooting window was the same length as previous seasons, suggesting that these seven episodes will be absolutely jam packed.
2. Winter is here
Previous series have started in April but the people behind the show say they needed different shooting conditions this time.
Casey Bloys, President of HBO programming, said in a press release, ‘now that winter has arrived on Game of Thrones, executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss felt that the storylines of the next season would be better served by starting production a little later than usual when the weather is changing.’
In other words, the need for grey skies, drab weather and lashings of snow was now unavoidable.
A factor which speaks volumes about the tone we can expect for the forthcoming season.
3. The trailers speak volumes
A teaser trailer for the new season features the sigils belonging to the show’s predominant houses fighting for prominence amidst the intertwining triple heads of the Targaryen dragon.
Soon enough though, the sigils all appear to crumble away to dust before the appearance of recurring symbol associated with the white walkers and then a piercing blue eye flash upon the screen.
While this hints initially at Daenerys arriving in Westeros and destroying the ‘spokes on a wheel’ as she has calls the other Great Houses, it also strongly foreshadows the true battle that lies ahead for all of Westeros against the threat from beyond the Wall.
As Jon Snow says in the only new line of dialogue found on the trailer, ‘there is only one war that matters. The Great War. And it is here’.
This dire warning certainly suggests that after years of looming ominously in the background while the Great Houses of Westeros compete for supremacy, the white walkers are finally about to make their presence felt.
Following on from this was the Long Walk promo trailer that was released at the end of March.
If you weren’t hyped for the new season before this arrived, you surely must be now –
The choice of song is an interesting one. As Dany, Jon and Cersei march to their respective thrones, if feels like the calm before the storm.
This point is amplified further by Cersei’s icy breath and the appearance of that terrifying blue eye. Winter has truly arrived.
4. Your favourites are back
In terms of the cast, all the big hitters who were still active as of the end of season 6 will be returning for season 7.
Kit Harington (Jon), Peter Dinklage (Tyrion), Lena Headey (Cersei), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime), Sophie Turner (Sansa) and Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) are all set to appear.
However, whether they all make it through to the final run of six episodes that will make up season 8, is a very different matter.
This is Game of Thrones after all.
5. Jim Broadbent’s on board
One notable new addition to the cast will be the great Jim Broadbent.
Broadbent said in a recent interview with Screencrush that he shares his scenes with Samwell Tarley before adding, ‘I’m a master, an archmaester. I’m an old professional character.’
This small hint is enough to strongly suggest that he will be playing the extremely knowledgeable Archmaester Marwyn, a character from the books who Sam meets upon his arrival in Oldtown and who we can assume will help guide Sam further on his journey.
6. So’s Ed Sheeran
Another slightly leftfield piece of casting news came with the announcement that pop megastar Ed Sheeran will also feature in the forthcoming season in an undisclosed cameo role.
Now hands up who saw that one coming?
The countdown to July 16 is now truly underway and anticipation will continue to grow.
As the show heads towards its uncertain conclusion, we can surely expect the stakes to get even higher for its characters.
As several seasons’ worth of stories begin to converge, it will no doubt see the ever-expanding cast start to come together as the fight for the Iron Throne plays out.