Like a snowball rolling downhill, Game of Thrones is picking up more and more speed as it approaches the finish line. The cast has promised a faster pace than ever before in the upcoming season seven, before the full-on avalanche that’s sure to come in the final eighth season.
The increased momentum won’t come at the expense of personal stakes and decisions, of course. Even as Jon Snow (Kit Harington) fights like Seven Hells to battle back the White Walkers, even as we brace ourselves for a royal rumble between at least three different armies, it’s the interpersonal dynamics between characters that will fuel all the wildfires (and otherwise) to come in the season ahead.
Take Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), for instance. When we last saw him in season six, the one-handed knight was staring off at his sister Cersei (Lena Headey), a pained look in his eyes. As Coster-Waldau describes it, in speaking with THR: “His sister just killed a couple of thousand people and then took the throne, and their son committed suicide — and of course the rest of the world wants to kill them. It’s a tricky situation.”
Tricky is an understatement, especially given how Cersei’s actions tie into Jaime’s past. Years before the start of Thrones, Jaime saved King’s Landing from total destruction at the hands of the Mad King, by driving a sword through that lunatic’s back. It was an act of heroism that came at great personal cost, forever cementing his legacy as “the Kingslayer.” Now, Jaime is forced to reckon with the fact that the person he loves the most in the world has actually gone ahead and committed the same crime that forced him to commit regicide. How does he move on from here? Not easily, according to the actor.
“The thing is, he’s been with this woman since birth and they’ve been romantically involved for, like, 25 years. He’s addicted to this relationship,” says Coster-Waldau. “So what will he do?”
Looking past the Lannister twins but staying within their camp, there are some other, quieter relationships bound to have an impact on season seven. Although Jaime and his brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) are currently estranged, what with the former breaking the latter out of prison just so he could go on and murder their father (as one does in Westeros), there’s one man caught between them: Bronn of the Blackwater (Jerome Flynn), who served as one of Tyrion’s closest allies and — dare we say it — friends over the first three seasons and change. Starting around the time of Tyrion’s arrest, Bronn linked up with Jaime, retraining him in the art of sword-fighting and accompanying him on a stealth mission to Dorne and a military campaign in Riverrun.
Season seven stands to test Bronn’s loyalties, such as they exist, with both Lannister brothers existing in Westeros for the first time since season four. Which way will he lean? Will Bronn side with whoever is paying the bills, or does he have a dog in this fight — or a dragon, as it were?
“I think it’s a hard one to tell, actually,” says Flynn. “I think he has a soft spot for Tyrion, beyond even how much he knows. Even if the deal was slightly worse than what Jaime was offering him, he might be persuaded. I think there’s something in Tyrion that he associates with. He’s an underdog. They go back. They appreciate each other. There’s some kind of a bond there.”
Some kind of bond, yes, but Flynn is quick to point out: “Not enough to not walk out on him when the Mountain was in view…” In other words, if the so-called Ser Robert Strong comes in to enforce Bronn’s loyalties to the Lannisters, maybe we won’t see the mercenary’s more sentimental side after all.
Turning toward the Targaryen army, Daenerys Stormborn (Emilia Clarke) is finally set to arrive in Westeros this season, a momentous occasion that will come with an array of emotional baggage. It’s effectively her first time in the Seven Kingdoms, her stormy birth on Dragonstone aside. Likewise, it’s a first appearance in Westeros for Dany’s top advisor Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel). What does she think of the place?
“It’s cold,” Emmanuel says with a laugh. “She thinks it’s a very foreign and scary place… but she’s a tough cookie. She totally believes in Daenerys’ cause and believes in her queen. She’s very committed and very up for it, but it is cold, and that’s reflected in our costumes this year — which were fabulous.”
Others in Dany’s corner are coming back to Westeros just in time to test out some new winter wear, including Tyrion and Varys (Conleth Hill), who spent the past two seasons in Essos. It also presumably marks a return for Jorah Mormont (Iain Glenn), currently suffering from a life-threatening case of greyscale, a contagious disease that’s slowly petrifying his flesh. For his part, Glenn stops short of calling it an outright death sentence, but admits: “With the history of the disease, it doesn’t look good.”
In his final season six appearance, Jorah was being sent out into the world to find a cure for the illness, at Daenerys’ behest. It’s a major turn of events, given that Dany exiled Jorah almost two full seasons earlier due to his collusion with the Robert Baratheon regime. In their tearful season six farewell, Jorah’s beloved Khaleesi absolved him of his sins, giving the Bear Islander the will to go on.
“In a way, the salvation was just having her look him in the eye and say, ‘I need you. I need you to find a cure,'” says Glen. “I think he had almost resigned himself to his own death, because he didn’t feel like he had the same motivation to live, because he didn’t have her love. In a way, whichever way it falls, I think he feels in a funny way more complete and content by the fact that he’s finally won her approval back.”
If Jorah wants more than just emotional salvation, and actually wants to pursue a cure for greyscale, he could do worse than seeking out the Citadel in Oldtown, the premier source of knowledge for all aspects of Westeros and beyond — not to mention the current residence of one Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), who left the Night’s Watch at the end of season five in order to find information on how to destroy the White Walkers… and not a moment too soon, as Sam ditched Castle Black just in time to avoid certain doom at the hands of the men who temporarily killed Jon Snow.
“When he appealed to Jon Snow and asked to be sent to the Citadel because it’s the place where he can do the most good, he really meant that. He wasn’t just trying to slack off. He wasn’t just going to kick his feet up and start throwing cards into a top hat for the rest of his life,” Bradley says. “He wants to go down there because he wants to fight the same battle as Jon Snow, but he knows he can fight the battle best there, not on the battlefield.”
Bradley added that while there’s “a sense of achievement from Sam,” in that he brought Gilly (Hannah Murray) and her child away from such a dangerous situation up north, the man still has a lot of work to do in the season ahead.
“You do get that sense of achievement and the end of a certain quest when he arrives at the Citadel, but you know he’s not going to be comfortable there,” says the actor. “He’s going to want to find whatever piece of information he wants to find out, get out of there, and apply it. So he’s not content. He still has his eyes on the prize.”
Game of Thrones season seven premieres July 16.