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(HBO)

Last season on Game Of Thrones, Jon & Dany took a memorable boat ride, Sansa & Arya took care of Littlefinger (RIP Whisperfinger), Samwell & Bran put together the details of Jon Snow’s true parentage, Cersei & Jaime broke up, almost everyone set sail for Winterfell, and the Night King bagged himself a zombie dragon and destroyed The Wall. GOT is all about how people jockey for power, so click through for our pre-season eight Game of Thrones Power Rankings. The new—and final— season debuts this Sunday, April 14th.

But before we get into anything… WARNING: There will be spoilers for the first seven seasons, and possibly some minor, vague spoiler-ish hints at season eight.

First things first: it’s been over 630 days since the season seven finale “The Dragon And The Wolf” and you couldn’t be blamed if you’re having a hard time telling your Hot Pies from your Harrenhals. If you just want to know exactly where we left off with everyone at the end of season seven, check out this video.

And here’s a longer recap of all seven seasons:

And here is a succinct recap that’s just over two minutes for those who don’t need the whole shebang:

Or you could just watch the only recap that matters: dogs reacting to GOT.

1. Endings Are Coming: It will have been 2,919 days from the premiere of GOT in April 2011 to the premiere of the final season this Sunday. We’ve seen the dragons grow from cute little shoulder friends to flesh-craving fire bombers. We’ve seen the Night King go from resurrecting dead humans to act out his Thriller cosplay fantasies to magically conjuring up giant chains in order to resurrect dead dragons. There are only six episodes left, amounting to about seven hours and twenty minutes more of nuanced incest fantasia to enjoy. But how will it end?

Or maybe the better question is: what would a satisfying ending of GOT even look like? Do we want every single subplot to be acknowledged and resolved? Do the feudal structures of Westeros go back to the way they were pre-season one, or does this war against the undead unite the living and inspire a more Democratic system? Will the lords and highborn be stripped of their castles and power? Will socialism come to the Seven Kingdoms???

The show has always split the difference between huge, buzzy moments of pure spectacle that no other TV show could rival (killing off lead character Ned Stark, the battle at Hardhome, Cersei blowing up King’s Landing, the Red Wedding, everything having to do with the dragons) and intimate, one-on-one conversations between surprisingly complicated characters (I still feel the show is at its most affecting when it gets two or three well-drawn people in a room, and let’s them bounce off of one another).

It seems to me there’s no way for GOT to possibly put together a finale like that of Six Feet Under, a universally-beloved, emotionally-draining conclusion that instantly sated the need for any more of that show (after all, there is at least one GOT spinoff coming soon). Nor can I imagine it going the route of Dexter, and creating a finale fans hate so much no one ever wants to see that show again. I can imagine it being closer to something like Breaking Bad, a show which most people felt stuck the landing but perhaps was a bit too tidy—or perhaps even more apt, Battlestar Galactica, a show which threw a lot of big mythological balls in the air but always was at its best in the gritty moments in-between. For their part, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss have expressed a great appreciation for the finale of The Sopranos, though I can’t imagine GOT getting quite that ambiguous and purely artistic with so many disparate threads to wrap-up.

No one from the cast or crew is saying much specific about the final season in order to avoid spoilers, but Benioff and Weiss are very aware of the lofty expectations from fans. They told EW:

We want people to love it. It matters a lot to us. We’ve spent 11 years doing this. We also know no matter what we do, even if it’s the optimal version, that a certain number of people will hate the best of all possible versions. There is no version where everybody says, “I have to admit, I agree with every other person on the planet that this is the perfect way to do this” — that’s an impossible reality that doesn’t exist. You hope you’re doing the best job you can, that this version works better than any other version, but you know somebody is not going to like it. I’ve been that person with other things, where people are loving something and I’m going, “Yeah, that’s okay. I was hoping for more.”

They also gave some hints about the central Jon-Dany relationship: “Jon and Dany are obviously together-together now. We didn’t have much time, or any time, to explore that relationship as a real relationship in the seventh season. It came to fruition at the end. It was a lot of fun to write them meeting each other, and now there’s a new kind of relationship between them. And here they’re together from the beginning.”

There’s also a number of big battle episodes to come, including The Battle Of Winterfell (which I would bet is episode three, based on the runtime and how almost all the main characters are positioned at Winterfell to start the new season). They talked a little about the build-up to it:

The show began with the threat in the North. From the beginning, there were all of these squabbles that were going on between people that seemed important happening against the backdrop of much larger and more momentous events that only a few people who lived on the fringes of the political world knew about. This always was the overarching structure of the series: The very slow burn of the rise of the [Army of the Dead in the] Far North and the [rise of Daenerys and her dragons in the] Far East. If you live in the capital, everything that matters to you is happening right in front of you while the things happening in the flyover parts of the world don’t really matter. So the things driving the story are from the edges of the earth, and it seems fitting that these things from the East and the North should come together to decide the fate of everybody in the middle, who didn’t even know about them until recently.

There isn’t too much more to go on, though Kit Harington did tell Variety that he “cried at the table read of the final season, noting that ‘the end of Jon’s journey, whatever that may be … I was satisfied with how his story ended.'” And Peter Dinklage told EW he correctly guessed the fate of Tyrion: “We’re so used to the standard formula of bad guys dying and good guys living…What David and Dan have done with all this is beautiful, painful, and lovely. It takes the show somewhere that’s dangerous and contemporary with what’s going on in the world.”

2. The Long-Awaited Reveal Of The Final “Holy Shit” Moment To Complete The “Holy Shit” Trinity: Back in 2016, Benioff and Weiss told EW that in 2014, author George R.R. Martin sat them down on his knee and sketched out a rough plan of how he intended to end the books. Considering the fact that Martin hasn’t published a new book in the series in almost a decade (A Dance with Dragons came out one month after the end of the first season of GOT!), sometimes tells me those plans have probably shifted greatly.

But of particular interest, Benioff and Weiss said those conversations included “three holy shit moments.” The first of those was Stannis Barathon sacrificing his daughter Shireen (which happened at the end of the fifth season), the second was Hodor’s tragic origin story (which happened in the middle of the sixth season), and the third “is from the very end…”

So that is quite the teaser. The Stannis decision was a truly horrifying point of no return for that character, and the Hodor reveal stands as one of the greatest moments of the entire show, and we can only imagine what could follow. Will Bran warg into the Night King (but no one notices)? Will Gilly turn out to be Jaqen H’ghar? Dear God, will Ed Sheeran become king???

3. The Feel Good Best Friends Reunion Special: It doesn’t seem too controversial to say that GOT peaked in seasons three and four, and the pacing of the show, and some of the storytelling leaps, have gotten increasingly rocky in more recent years. By season seven, complicated monologues and shadowy palace intrigue have mostly had to give way to the black-and-white battle between the living and the undead—or to a more cynical viewer, the superheroes with plot armor vs the motivation-free extras from The Walking Dead. After spreading out across multiple kingdoms and exponentially adding characters throughout the first half of the series, it was inevitable that the plot had to contract more and more as we neared the endgame. And there’s not been as much time for subtly, or even chemistry, as a result, to the detriment of the some of the show’s best characters (like Tyrion and Ser Davos).

But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been other storytelling pleasures that have emerged—the show is NOT afraid to really go for it with big, jaw-dropping, tweet reaction-worthy moments. It’s there in the go-for-broke bravado of the Loot Train Attack (that episode was so badass, it even made up for the fact that this epic dragon vs Lannister battle had a hilariously generic name), some of the batshit wild soap opera twists (if you were to tell me GOT was secretly pro-incest propagandist all along, I would believe you), and best of all, the continuing confluences of characters new and old.

Nothing gets us more excited than seeing characters we’ve been following for years start to crash into one another in unexpected combinations and with surprising outcomes. How will Tormund react when he meets Bran (and as Bran is wont to do, he proceeds to tell him he’s a three-eyed raven)? Will Ser Bronn and Ser Jorah hate each other immediately? I really want to see Cersei meet Samwell!

And even better might be all the reunions yet to come. Jon and Arya haven’t seen each other since the second episode of the show! Arya also has a great amount of history with The Hound and Gendry (and don’t forget Hot Pie! Sweet sweet Hot Pie). Oh yeah, and remember when The Hound was saving Sansa from rioters in King’s Landing, and he told her one day she’d appreciate the things he did for her? Remember when Melisandre said she and Arya would meet again all ominously? Remember when Sansa and Tyrion were married? Samwell hasn’t seen Jon in a long time. And Bran hasn’t seen Jaime in an even longer time…

4. I’ve Seen Content You People Wouldn’t Believe…All This Content Will Be Lost In Time Like Tears In Rain: Is Game Of Thrones the last communal Peak TV viewing experience of the post-Netflix age? In other words: is it the last big TV show everyone will watch at the same time once a week? That’s a view that’s become increasingly popular among major TV critics such as Matt Zoller Seitz, Alison Herman and Alan Sepinwall, who along with hundreds of critics and bloggers have all been writing numerous farewell odes to the show in recent weeks. “Game of Thrones may be the last show we all watch together the way we used to, on such a tremendous scale,” Seitz writes. “Even if you don’t watch it, you may feel as if you do.”

There’s no doubt that GOT dominates the cultural conversation—crushes it like Zombie Mountain crushing a can of Diet Pepsi in his hand—when it is on. The Outline wrote a fascinating piece about the insatiable demand of GOT online content, the unceasing thirst for more GOT recaps, speculative posts, explainers, parodies, lists, thinkpieces, solemn tributes and pet reaction videos.

At this point, the epic fantasy series based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and adapted by D. B. Weiss and David Benioff turns up more Google hits than “Shakespeare” and “The Bible”; its most recent season, its seventh, was reportedly pirated over a billion times. Less discussed, perhaps, is how relentlessly the show gets covered. A casual search of the New York Times site, as of Tuesday, turns up 2,459 Game of Thrones-tagged entries. Entertainment Weekly has written about the show no fewer than 1,838 times. New York magazine’s Vulture blog has but a mere 797 pieces on the show.

Is that such a bad thing though? There is not much of a monoculture anymore, and there is seemingly no TV show close to being an heir to GOT. Maybe it’s because it’s just six more weeks. Maybe it’s because this show has cast a strange, compelling emotional hold over so many at once. Maybe it’s because it brings out some of the strangest, funniest writing on the Internet. Maybe it’s because it’s just really fun to write about. Either way, I just want to enjoy this last zombie dragon blast of content. It’s just like Littlefinger once said: “Read every article, everywhere, always, in your mind. Every article is your enemy, every one is your friend, every possible series of power rankings is happening all at once.”

So go ahead and read about the 10 best GOT moments so far! Read all the other various recap posts! Read a list ranking of all 67 episodes! The Ringer has been publishing about 10 GOT articles a day for the last month, and they’re all great! Make plans to take the Studio Tour in Northern Ireland! Check out these 50+ film essay videos on scene analysis, character studies, symbolism and predictions! Read about Kit Harington’s favorite scenes! Read about 19 other castmembers’ favorite scenes while you’re at it!

Just whatever you do, don’t watch those Jimmy Fallon GOT sketches. He gets great guests, but they’re really bad.

5. THE NIGHT IS DARK AND FULL OF HILARIOUS MEMES: Because the real friends were the memes and parodies and endless series of brilliant, funny, and creative videos that people made along the way. And the Lord of Light knows that GOT is nothing if not the ultimate meme generator—it’s the only show that has thrived in tandem with the maturation of the medium during the ’10s.

There have been so many, too many great ones to stuff into this already ridiculously long post. And there will be more. Sometimes it feels like overkill. But we only have a month and a half left to cram our eyeballs with Lady Stoneheart conspiracy theories. Here are but a few memes to tide you over.

And a couple all-time classics:

6. Dreaming Up Even More Titles For Daenerys Stormborn Of The House Targaryen, The First Of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals And The First Men, Khaleesi Of The Great Grass Sea, Breaker Of Chains, Mother Of Dragons, Sleeper Of Daario, Inadvertent Incinerator Of Little Children, The Meereen Machine, Into The Distance Starer, High Lord Of Title-Heavy Introductions, Queen Of Nothing, Arriver At Opportune Times, Master Of Smooth Breakups, Definer Of Perpetuity, Asker Of People To Bend The Knee, Incest Practitioner: Nicknames are the best! Don’t forget about…

  • Darth Sansa’s Increasingly Difficult To Parse Motivations
  • Write-In Campaign To Elect Lord Lyanna Mormont King Of The Seven Kingdoms
  • Tyrion Lannister, World’s Greatest Work Wife
  • Bran, The Worst Teenager In The Known World
  • Zombie Uncle Benjen Ex Machina
  • Jaime “C-” Lannister’s Horrified Reactions To All The People Burning To Death Around Him
  • Tormund Eloquencebane
  • Tormund Romanticomedybane
  • Brienne Of Fucking Tarth
  • World’s Oldest Squire Podrick Payne
  • Melisandre’s Depressed Libido
  • Inspirational Ser Davos Speeches In Which He Threatens To Execute Someone
  • Varys’ Top Secret Teleportation Device
  • Jon Snow Idiot Truthers
  • The Ghost Of Ned Stark’s Manbun
  • Gendry’s Cardio Trainer
  • The Jaime & Bronn Comedy Hour
  • The Night King And His Roving Army Of Extras From The “Thriller” Music Video
  • Samsplaining
  • Psychotic Pirate Joshua Jackson
  • Jon Snow’s Single-Minded Pursuit Of Allies To Fight The Undead Despite His Inability To Provide Tangible And Relevant Details About Them
  • The Golden Mop Of Hair That May Or May Not Currently Reside Inside Cersei
  • Remembering That Theon Greyjoy Is Still A Character On This Show
  • Ser Friendzone/Ser Friendstone/Ser Desperatestone/Damnit Jorah!/Ser IJustReallyStronglyFeelLikeWeShouldBeMoreThanFriends/Ser SayAnything

7. Eight Season Eight Predictions That One Could Charitably Call “Educated Guesses” (Or Less Charitably Call “Wildly Dumb Speculation, Plus One That Is A Joke”):

  • Dany is going to get pregnant with a non-dragon baby thanks to her nephew/lover…but Dany will never sit on the Iron Throne
  • I will tear up when Arya and Jon hug for the first time in seven seasons
  • Arya is going to finish off her kill list by killing Cersei
  • The Hound and The Mountain will fight to the death (CLEAGANEBOWL 2019 BABY)
  • The Night King…is going to lose…but not before killing…a bunch of people? Okay, that’s a bit vague. But I do think Tyrion is going to die one way or the other, and it’s going to be the hardest death to accept
  • Someone is going to be named in honor of Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark
  • Hot Pie will make an appearance before all is said and done
  • Lady Stoneheart will turn up in the post-credits teaser of the finale

8. All Men Must Die: We would be remiss if we did not yet again pay tribute to the many, many fallen characters we’ve lost across the past seven seasons. In season seven alone, we said farewell to the quippy Queen Of Thorns herself Lady Olenna Tyrell, The Artist Formerly Known As Littlefinger (unless…he’s not dead?), Randyll Tarly, Dickon Tarly, a couple Sand Snakes (whose names I don’t care about), Thoros Of Myr, Zombie Benjen (probably), a ton of Freys, and poor cute Viserion.

We’ve bid adieu to a large portion of the Stark Clan (Ned, Catelyn, Robb, Talisa, Rickon), several kings, would-be kings and small-time rulers (Stannis Baratheon, Robert Baratheon, Renly Baratheon, Joffrey Baratheon, Tommen Baratheon, Viserys Targaryen, Tywin Lannister, Mance Rayder), Myrcella Baratheon, Margaery Tyrell, Loras Tyrell, High Sparrow, Lancel Lannister, Kevan Lannister, The Lord Oaf Of Highgarden, Grand Maester Pycelle, Ygritte, Khal Drogo, Roz, Shae, Oberyn Martell, Jojen Reed, Hodor, Lysa Aryn, Jeor Mormont, Janos Slynt, Maester Aemon, Shireen Baratheon, Selyse Baratheon, Hizdahr zo Loraq, Ser Barristan Selmy, Myranda, Ramsay Bolton, Roose Bolton, Meryn Trant, Osha, the Three-Eyed Raven, Wun-Wun, The Blackfish, Walder Frey, Septa Unella (I’m gonna assume she’s died of starvation by now), a lot of people from Mole’s Town, a lot of Free Folk from Hardhome, and a lot more nameless victims.

Oh, don’t forget about Ed Sheeran. Ed Sheeran is definitely 100% dead.

This brings us to a cumulative total of 174,000+ deaths (including the major on-screen ones along with hundreds of thousands of red shirt deaths off-screen, and a surprising amount of horses).

9. Wait, Then Who Is Still Alive Going Into Season Eight Anyway? This is a very reasonable question, since we have long since passed the point where there are more recognizable dead names than there are alive ones. Here is a (semi-complete) list of every major-ish character still kicking it in the Known World:

(deep breath)

Jon Snow, Ghost!, Sansa Stark, Arya Stark, Bran Stark, Samwell, Gilly, Little Sam, Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, Grey Worm, Missendei, Varys, Cersei Lannister, Jaime Lannister, Ser Bronn, Ser Pounce (???), Brienne Of Fucking Tarth, Pod, Tormund, The Hound, Zombie Mountain, Beric Dondarrion, Jorah Mormont, Robyn Arryn (aka Prepubescent Julian Casablancas), Qyburn, Ser Davos, Melisandre, Lyanna Mormont, Theon Greyjoy, Yara Greyjoy, Euron Greyjoy, Gendry, Salladhor Saan, Daario Naharis 2.0, Meera Reed, Edmure Tully (?), The Children Of The Forest (maybe some of them are still kicking?), The Faceless Men (I guess they count?), and of course, the mighty Hot Pie.

10. The Memorial RIP Rickon Watch 2013-2016: Is Rickon Still On This Show? Since its inception (March 2013!), The GOT Power Rankings Powers That Be have dedicated most of its energy toward abiding by the real Night’s Watch oath: “I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to Rickon Stark of the Corn Moon, for this night and all the nights to come.” That all came crashing down during season six’s “The Battle Of The Bastards,” when Ramsay Bolton shot an arrow through Our Hero to rattle Jon Snow (if only he had watched Prometheus and learned to serpentine).

Rickon may have always been the most expendable Stark to anyone outside of the Powers That Be, so it’s wholly unsurprising that he’s dead now (although the manner in which he was killed was particular cruel). We tried to move on with Gendrywatch 2017: Will Gendry Ever Row Back Into This Story?, whose motto was: “King in the Wharf! A chicken in every pot and a rowboat dude in every stream! Long May He Row!”

But then Gendry returned pretty quickly in season seven and developed Olympic-level running skills, and now Robert Baratheon’s bastard may or may not be important to the show’s endgame. So we moved on to Piratewatch 2017: Will Salladhor Saan Save The Day?, which isn’t bad, but it just doesn’t have quite the same joie de rememberhim that Rickon gave us. Will anyone even utter his name during the final season? That’s the stuff that great memes are made of.

So let’s take this final chance to mourn our beloved, utterly useless, and completely forgotten Rickon Stark, one last time.

11. PSA: Let’s clear up some misconceptions about what we do here: the concept of “ownage” has long been a major concern for the GOT Power Rankings Powers That Be. It was written in blood into the very first power rankings, when we took a solemn vow to root out “who is owning this week” (those vows expanded to include, “Turn Rickon Into A National Hero” and “Never Refer To Whisperfinger As His Real Name Until He Sucks On A God Damn Lozenge”). Like pornography or hipsters, ownage is something that’s hard to define, but easy to identify when it’s staring you in the face. Think of Dany unleashing her dragons on the Masters in Slaver’s Bay, or The Mountain crushing The Viper’s skull during Tyrion’s season four trial-by-combat.

So the Power Rankings aren’t about who we like the most (okay, sometimes it is a little about that)—it’s about using a scientifically-derived formula to accurately determine who is the most powerful player of the week. This isn’t emotional, this is about pure hard facts. For example: we don’t necessarily approve of the White Walkers massacring the Free Folk, but that had no bearing on their very-deserved top seeded position for the “Hardhome” episode. We didn’t “approve” of Cersei murdering one-third of King’s Landing with wildfire, but she sure deserved the top spot in “The Winds Of Winter.” And we would never call ourselves pro-incest, but that doesn’t mean that BOATSEX: THE INCESTPOSITION CHRONICLES wasn’t the rightful victor of “The Dragon and The Wolf.” We here at GOT Power Rankings HQ pledge that the integrity of these rankings shall never be compromised, no matter how much chicken you try to bribe us with.

12. Awards Season: To remove the royal we for a moment: there has been a Game Of Thrones-shaped hole in my heart since season seven ended with Tormund and Beric Dondarrion jumping out of the way of the zombie dragon’s ice breath (dragontosis?). I’ve missed (well, “missed”) staying up ’til 4 a.m. on Monday mornings in order to furiously complain about the Sand Snakes, write petitions for the return of Ser Pounce, and pen odes to Lyanna Mormont.

I’m especially excited to bring back all the favorite recurring awards and weekly shoutouts, including:

  • The Viserys Targaryen Memorial Least Powerful Person Of The Week Award
  • The Ser Pounce Memorial Most Powerful Pet Of The Week Award
  • The Hodoriffic Honorary Minor Character Of The Week Award
  • The Memorial Lord Oaf Of Highgarden Oafiest Glimpse Of The Night
  • Hey, Remember That Thing That Happened? Of The Week
  • The Remember Roz Sexposition Quotient
  • Way Beyond The Wall
  • Piratewatch 2019: Will Salladhor Saan Save The Day?
  • The Honorary Olly Award For Person I’m Excited To See Die, Even If It Means I Am Passively Complacent With The Cycle Of Violence & Vengeance

This wonderfully complex, wonderfully silly show has, unexpectedly, meant a lot to me over the last decade, more than I ever could have imagined when I watched the pilot back in 2011 and thought, “Sean Bean is great, but man are the wigs bad!” Thank you all so much for reading along and commenting about Thenns and Wights over the last six years. As a thank you, here is one thing I found while going through old emails: a GOT “poem” I wrote some friends in 2015 while inviting them to a season five finale viewing party.

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And one more thing: to Natalie, my darling, if you’re reading this, which I know you are—after this season is over, maybe we can finally go tandem cycling around Riverside Park together. Someone once told me that New York in the spring is pretty special.

Starting April 15th, check back every Monday morning for the next six weeks for the GOT Power Rankings. Until then, enjoy the only remix of “Old Town Road” that rivals the Billy Ray Cyrus remix.


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