Game of Thrones Season 7

HBO

The chill may be thawing across the country, but make no mistake, winter is still coming.

HBO finally announced the premiere date for the highly-anticipated (and already delayed) seventh season of Game of Thrones during a special live broadcast on the show's Facebook page, where they forced us all to watch—no joke—a giant block of ice melt, revealing that the first new episode will air on Sunday, July 16. For those keeping score at home, that means we have exactly 129 days before we return to Westeros. 

As we begin our countdown to that glorious summer day, let's take a look at everything we know about the new season of the notoriously secretive—and firmly ahead of its source material—series. It may not be a lot, but it's certainly enough to get your theorizing engines started.

Game of Thrones, Episode, Church Explosion

HBO

Previously, on Game of Thrones
When we last left Westeros, things had truly reached a jaw-dropping peak. Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) had reached the Citadel, just as the white ravens had been released to announce to the arrival as winter. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) had been named King in the North, just as Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) learned beyond the wall that Jon was a Stark after all, the son of Ned's sister Lyanna. Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), along with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), the new Hand of the Queen, set sail for Westeros along with her dragons and a massive armada that represented her new alliances with the Ironborn, Dorne and Highgarden. Oh, and Cersei (Lena Headey) blew the Great Sept to high hell, killing everyone inside, including Margaery (Natalie Dormer), prompting King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) to commit suicide. Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) returned to King's Landing just in time to see Cersei be crowned Queen of the Seven Kingdoms—much to his horror.

The Beginning of the End
Not only did co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss push their show's return into summer by delaying production into the winter months to better represent the arrival of winter in Westeros, the shortened season (down three episodes from the standard 10 in each of the preceding six seasons) will also serve as the series' penultimate season. During HBO's summer press tour in July of last year, network president Casey Bloys confirmed that Game of Thrones would end with season eight. "They have a very specific plan about the number of seasons they want to do," Bloys said. "If I could get them to do more I would take 10 more seasons. But we take their lead on what they [need] to make the best version of their show."

Jim Broadbent

JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images

New Faces
Oscar-winning veteran actor Jim Broadbent has joined the cast for season seven in a significant way, though the exact identity of his character is been kept strictly under wraps. However, in a recent interview with the website Screen Crush, Broadbent let slip a few details about the role. "I'm a maester, an archmaester," he told the outlet. "I'm an old professor character." The actor also revealed that he'd be in five of the season's seven episodes. "I did sort of one major scene in each episode," he said, adding that he shared his scenes with Sam. So, look out for him at the Citadel.

In odder casting news, a New York Post profile on NY Mets pitcher Noah "Thor" Snydergaard revealed that the athlete had shot a cameo for season seven. "Syndergaard worked as an extra in an episode of the upcoming season of Game of Thrones, the popular HBO series he loves, because it fit his schedule," the article stated. "He flew to Spain last November to take part in the filming." Snydergaard appeared to confirm the news on Twitter, joking (?) that he is "suiting up with Team Wilding this year for the Westeros Baseball Classic."

Game of Thrones Season 6 Finale

HBO

Bad News for Bran
Bran lost his protector Hordor (Kristian Nairn) last season, in one of GoT's most tragic moments ever (We still tear up when someone asks us to hold the door!), as well as his mentor the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow) and in a recent interview with EW, Hempstead-Wright admitted that things aren't looking great for the kid. "Bran is in the same position he's in, which is kind of like, 'What am I gonna do? What's gonna happen?' Is he gonna tell Jon? Is he gonna find anyone? Is he even going to make it past the Wall? He's only with Meera now, and he's out in the middle of nowhere, so it's not looking great," he told the magazine, adding, "Bran has certainly understood that this is out of his control now. He's a piece on the chessboard that has to make a move, and he hasn't got any moves."

A New Oathkeeper Owner?
In an "In Production" teaser recently released by the network, we get the quickest of glimpses at the iconic hilt of Oathkeeper, Jamie's sword that he gave to Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), an offering he insisted was for keeps last season. Only, the hand holding the sword if definitely not that of Christie, covered in freckles as it is. Could this mean trouble for one of our favorite kickass ladies? Or are we making a mountain out of a molehill?

A Finale Freak Out
Expect big things to go down as season seven winds down, according to Arya herself, Maisie Williams. The fan-favorite actress couldn't contain herself after she finished reading the script for the season finale, tweeting, "Just finished reading season 7. S—t gets REAL…I'd start preparing yourselves now…Scratch that, nothing will prepare you for this."

She concluded: "holy BALLS."

We're not ready.

Games of Thrones returns on Sunday, July 16 on HBO.

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