We've now officially entered the final countdown for the long-awaited seventh season of Game of Thrones which has already managed to be heavily dissected on many levels despite the absence of any early reviews which would either heighten or temper our expectations.
Since the show is comprised of so many characters (150 as of season 5), locations, broken and renewed alliances, and fantastical elements, it's often hard for even the most passionate Game of Thrones fans to keep up with what is happening in George R. R. Martin's world.
That isn't to say that it's muddled. Rather, everyone needs a refresher as we await finding out the season 7 fates of fan favorites like Jon Snow, Arya, Daenerys and Tyrion.
Whereas early fans of Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire (which the series is based upon) had to rely on nothing but their memories to keep things in order — since Google wouldn't emerge until 1998 — the search engine has actually proved vital in providing added clarity.
We analyzed the most popular Game of Thrones questions on Google and answered them for you.
Which actress originally played Daenarys?
It would seem almost impossible to imagine any other actress donning the iconic blonde locks of Daenarys Targaryen other than British actress, Emilia Clarke, who has managed to craft a character as memorable as any in recent memory.
However, Clarke's addition to the cast was part of major reshoots of the original pilot which creators, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, have gone on record as stating was a total mess on a number of levels.
In turn, 90 percent of the pilot was reshot. The original Daenarys — Tamzin Merchant (Pride & Prejudice, The Tudors, Salem) -- was let go in favor of Emilia Clarke.
“I had never heard of the books,” Clarke admitted to The Times of George R. R. Martin’s series. “And so I spent 48 frantic hours Wikipedia-ing ... This is going to sound odd or bizarre. But just from those few lines I felt I understood the character. She’s a young girl trying to do good and to realize her own capabilities.”
What is the budget?
As the show has gotten more and more ambitious, the budget has reflected that shift as well. During season 2, the average budget per episode was $6 million USD. For season 6, that went all the way up to $10 million USD — making the entire season's production budget $100 million USD.
How much does the cast make?
While comedies like The Big Bang Theory and Friends have long remained the gold standard for per-episode salaries for actors/actresses working in television, the main entities in Game of Thrones are scheduled to surpass that mark this upcoming season.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, main stars Emilia Clarke (Daenerys), Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lanister) are set to earn $1.1 million USD each per episode thanks to earning percentages of the syndication payments that come from the record-breaking show being shown in more than 170 countries.
What are the names of all the houses?
There are nine Great Houses in Westeros: House Lannister, House Tyrell, House Arryn, House Targaryen, House Martell, House Baratheon, House Stark, House Greyjoy and House Tully.
As of Game of Thrones season 6, Daenerys is the only surviving Targaryen and Gendry is the last Baratheon. Both House Stark and House Tully have been almost completely decimated.
How do you kill a White Walker?
As truly the greatest threat to Westeros, the White Walkers could prove to be such a formidable foe that sworn enemies like the Starks and Lannisters may ultimately need to band together to defeat them.
As the Battle of Hardhomee from the 5th season taught us, taking out a White Walker is no small feat.
But we must first make a distinction. A true White Walker was born into that world as such – while Wights are humans killed by White Walkers and serve as their slaves.
White Walkers can only be killed using deposits of dragonglass which can be found on the island of Dragonstone or the port city of Asshai or with Valyrian steel. The latter was utilized by Sam in season 3 in order to protect Gilly and her baby.
Who has a Valyrian sword?
Dragonglass seems more like a last resort than an actual tool to eliminate the White Walker threat. Thus, the best means of surviving "Winter" lay in the hands of the characters who own Valyrian swords.
There are seven known swords in Westeros. Jon Snow has Longclaw, Brienne of Tarth has Oathkeeper, and Samwell Tarly has Heartsbane. The remaining swords, Lady Forlorn, Red Rain, Widow's Wail and Brightroar are not being utilized at this time.
Who has the largest army?
To this point, most of the maneuvering has been as a means of securing the biggest army. Since it's been such a bloody six seasons, estimates can only be made.
The general consensus is that Daenarys controls the most men; 58,000 Dothraki, 8,000 Unsullied, 100 Greyjoy warships and three dragons.
Why do they name bastards "Snow?"
From the very outset of the series, we understand that Jon Snow will never be truly embraced by the outside world because of his muddled lineage. Thus, while his siblings carry the Stark name, he bears the surname "Snow."
The Snow name is reserved to bastards solely in the North. However, other men and women who carry a similar burden have surnames which also reflect earthly inspirations. For example, Ser Robert Flowers from Reach, Joy Hill from the Westerlands, Walder Rivers from the Riverlands, Nymeria Sand from Dorne, Mya Stone from Vale, Ser Rolland Storm from the Stormlands, and Aurane Waters from the Crownlands.
Who are Jon Snow's parents?
For most of the series, the viewer is led to believe that Jon Snow is Ned Stark's illegitimate son. However, the season 6 finale reveals the actual truth about both of Jon's parents; he was the son of Lyana Stark (Ned's sister) and Rhaegar Targaryen (Daenerys’s brother).
So if you go all the way back to season 1, it all starts to make sense when Ned tells Jon, "You are a Stark. You might not have my name, but you have my blood."
Why was Varys cut?
As one of the greatest master manipulators in the series — often referring to his "little birds" with whom he garners information from — Varys' ascent certainly had an auspicious beginning as he grew up a slave boy from Myr who was then made a eunuch by a sorcerer in the city who hoped to contact a greater being.
In the fourth episode of season 3, he tells Tyrion the tale of the night he was cut, explaining, "I still dream of that night. Not of the sorcerer, not of his blade — I dream of the voice from the flames. Was it a god, a demon, a conjurer’s trick? I don't know. But the sorcerer called and a voice answered and ever since that day I have hated magic and all those who practice it."
Who is really the rightful heir to the Iron Throne?
For as much posturing and death that has occurred over the course of the six seasons, the rightful heir to the Throne is Gendry — the blacksmith and bastard son of Robert Baratheon who traveled with Arya in the HBO show's early seasons.
The last we saw of him — way back in season 3 — he was sent away by Ser Davos on a rowboat back to King's Landing.
In subsequent seasons, both heirs to the Baratheon empire — Tommen and Marcella — both died. Thus, Gendry finds himself forgotten about, but with a major claim to make should the show creators decide to explore that avenue of storytelling.
How many people have died?
If you're to believe Game of Thrones fan, Leon Andrew Razon, who compiled an epic, 21-minute supercut of carnage and death, 150,966 poor souls have met their end on the show.
Where are all the black people on Game of Thrones?
One charge against the show is that there is a lack of diversity and representation for actors of color. The only characters that aren't of seemingly white or European descent are Grey Worm, Missandei, Salladhor Saan, Xaro Xhoan Daxos and Areo Hotah.
Actor David Oyelowo - who played Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma — stated, "there should be space for bigger characters. Because you’re not just saying, ‘O.K. this is purely a white world, and here are very story-driven reasons why that’s the case. Even if for whatever reason, it’s a world in which people of color in those stories are subservient, or they are more in a helper role, that doesn’t mean they can’t have prominent story lines. All you have to do is shift the focus to focus on those characters.”
When George R. R. Martin was asked something similar on his blog by a fan, he responded, "Westeros around 300 AC is nowhere near as diverse as 21st century America, of course . . . but with that being said, I do have some ‘characters of color’ who will have somewhat larger roles in Winds of Winter. Admittedly, these are secondary and tertiary characters, though not without importance. Of course, I am talking about the books here, and you are talking about the show, which is a thing apart. I do think HBO and David and Dan are doing what they can to promote diversity as well, as witness the casting of Areo Hotah [an analogue to Dany’s companion Grey Worm], which you mention. Of course, Hotah IS a guard... but he is also a viewpoint character in the novels, a brave and loyal warrior."
What's a popular 'Game of Thrones' theory for season 7?
Fan speculation and outlandish theories have often proven that the viewer is two steps ahead of show's creators. In one notable instance, people seemed to put the pieces together about Jon's parents. Yet, show creators still manage to maintain and throw in wild reveals much to the delight of the audience ("hold the door!").
So what have people been contemplating as they awaited the debut of season 7?
There is a belief among many that Tyrion Lannister has powers to control Daenerys' dragons after an interaction under the city of Mareen when they seemed to understand his intentions. As TIME noted, "For some, this moment gives credence to the popular fan theory that Tyrion could be one of the prophesied figures known as the three heads of the dragon, i.e., he will eventually be one of the three people who rides Daenerys’ three dragons."