Updated: 19th April 2018

Seven things we learned from the new Game of Thrones photos

The first pictures from the penultimate season of HBOs blockbuster series suggest yet more evil machinations, power struggles and bad weather

George RR Martin may still be biding his time over the Winds of Winter, the next instalment of his epic A Song of Ice and Fire saga. But acolytes of the Seven Kingdoms who simply cant wait another five years for the novel to hit bookshops can spoil the entire saga for themselves as soon as July when the penultimate season of Game of Thrones debuts on TV. Who will triumph in the final battle between Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen? How big are the dragons this time around, and when will the White Walkers stop messing around behind the wall and make with their invasion of the lands of men already? A series of new publicity snaps have hit the web, so heres what they taught us to expect from the new season.

Daenerys has landed, but where?

Daenerys: the last surviving Targaryen (or is she?). Photograph: HBO

Last seen setting sail for Kings Landing after half a lifetime spent gallivanting around Essos, it looks like the last surviving Targaryen (or is she?) has finally made it home to claim her crown. She, Tyrion, Varys, Missandei and Grey Worm are all garbed for the wintry Westeros weather and the Queens army of Unsullied appear to have made it across the Narrow Sea in one piece. This is frankly a good thing, since there are only 13 episodes left for Daenerys to show Cersei Lannister whos boss and usher in a new golden age for the Seven Kingdoms. But where are her dragons? And how will her future subjects react to the sight of a trio of fire-breathing, merciless winged demons filling the skies, especially since each must now be the size of the Great Sept of Baelor?

Jamie is sticking with his sister

Cersei on the Iron Throne but for how long? Photograph: HBO

Her unquenchable lust for power has finally brought Cersei Lannister to the Iron Throne, but for how long and at what price? A great tranche of her enemies Margaery Tyrell, the High Sparrow and uncle Kevin Lannister among them may have died horrible deaths in the emerald flames of the Great Septs destruction by wildfire, but poor King Tommen then leapt to his death rather than confront the hideousness of it all. The first part of Maggy the Frogs prophecy, that all Cerseis three children will die before their mother, has therefore come true. And it seems only a matter of time before the rest of that poisonous prediction also manifests: for those who need a reminder, Cersei is due to lose her crown to a younger, more beautiful queen and get the life choked out of her by a Valonqar (High Valyrian for little brother). But at least she still has Jamie by her side, ever loyal and presumably keen to continue with the odd bout of icky sibling intercourse.

Its a hard life for Bran and Meera without Hodor

Meera Reed: pulling her weight (and then some). Photograph: HBO

With the giant simpleton having sacrificed himself to the wights, the awful secret of the moment Hodor lost his mind finally revealed, Brandon Stark is on his own with only the doughty Meera Reed for company. The new image suggests carting a fully grown young man around on an improvised sled is taking its strain, so lets hope Bran manages to warg his way to a new means of perambulation sooner rather than later. Perhaps a giant, since theyre now north of the wall?

Lyanna Mormont has more rabble-rousing to do

Lyanna Mormont: the tenacious and stouthearted preteen. Photograph: HBO

Bella Ramseys squeaky-voiced but tenacious and stouthearted preteen noblewoman (noblegirl?) was one of the highlights of season six, as she helped convince the assembled lords of the north to declare freaky resurrected hero-of-the-hour Jon Snow their unexpected new king. Clearly Mormont has more work to do in the new season, and woe betide anyone who tries to stand in her way.

Littlefinger is still scheming

What will Littlefingers next devious move be? Photograph: HBO

Why is Petyr Baelish still in Game of Thrones? Sure, Aiden Gillens poisonous performance as the machiavellian nobleman has been one of the shows highlights, but Littlefinger seemed to have dwindled to irrelevancy after Sansa escaped his clutches following the restoration of the Starks as Lords of Winterfell last time out. We know Baelish wants to rule the Seven Kingdoms with his erstwhile ward as his queen, and has been planting seeds of doubt in her mind over the apparent succession of Snow to a throne that should rightly be hers (given the world believes Bran to be dead). What will his next devious chess move be? And will the newly clued-up eldest Stark sibling go along with his scheming?

The Hound has marched north

Still winter, FYI. Photograph: HBO

The last we saw of Rory McCanns Sandor Clegane he had grumpily joined the Brotherhood Without Banners and was about to head up north to fight the coming White Walker invasion. Yes, thats the White Walker invasion thats been glacially brewing for the past six seasons, presumably waiting for temperatures to drop just far enough south of the wall to ensure the best possible microclimate for hideous blue-eyed wights to march through Westeros and claim the halls of man for themselves. In the latest shot, the Hound can be seen clasping his greatcoat close to his chest as snow and hail envelopes his party. One cant help thinking that given his hatred of heat and false chivalry, the untamed and icy north is probably the best place for Clegane to find himself ending up.

Tormund Giantsbane fancies himself some Brienne of Tarth

Is a preposterous fantasy romance brewing? Photograph: HBO

Is Tormunds constant flirting with Brienne setting up the most preposterous fantasy romance since Kili the Dwarf got it on with Tauriel the Elf in Peter Jacksons Hobbit trilogy? Certainly, this new shot suggests the maid of Tarth is still right in the wildlings amorous crosshairs. Will she eventually relent and take him on a night out to a fancy restaurant in Moles Town? Or is this one doomed to end in blood and recrimination? Briennes distrust of pretty much the entire male gender has been a running theme in Game of Thrones and who can blame her? but she has shown flashes of passion for Renly Baratheon and Jamie Lannister in the past. Perhaps an earthier, less flighty romantic partner is just what she needs.

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