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War, sex, dragons return with Thrones' 7th season

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Our long, long wait is over, Game of Thrones fans. Winter is finally here.

One of the best dramas on television returns at 8 p.m. today on HBO with the first of the seven episodes of a shortened penultimate Season 7. The season's final episode airs Aug. 27.

Six episodes will wrap up the series in late 2018 or early 2019. Some, maybe all, of them will be extended length. Expect increased production values and larger set pieces as the series goes out in a blaze of glory.

It has been almost a year since we last saw our heroes in the episode "The Winds of Winter" (one of the series' best) and because the action should be coming quickly, it would be prudent to remind ourselves of where we stand.

Here's a brief synopsis from around the map.

King's Landing: It seems like forever since a naked Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) had her hair chopped off and was paraded through town in a walk of shame (Season 5, Episode 10). She has been busy plotting her revenge ever since. Boy, does she get it.

Cersei blows up the Great Sept with all her enemies inside, including the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) and Queen Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). Margaery's death pushes Cersei's love-struck son, King Tommen Baratheon (Dean-Charles Chapman), over the edge. Quite literally.

Upon Tommen's suicide, Cersei claims the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms for herself. Her twin brother and father of her children, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), arrives just in time to witness Cersei being crowned.

The Twins: At the castle of House Frey, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) crosses off three more names on her hit list when she uses her Faceless Man mojo to disguise herself to assassinate evil Walder Frey (David Bradley), presumed mastermind of the massacre of the Red Wedding, and his sons, Black Walder and Lothar (Tim Plester, Daniel Tuite).

Beyond the Wall: Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) uses his psychic time-traveling "greensight" to learn that Jon Snow is not the bastard son of Bran's father, Ned Stark, but rather the son of Ned's younger sister, Lady Lyanna Stark, and Rhaegar Targaryen, the older brother to Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen.

That means Jon is Bran's cousin and Daenerys' nephew.

Winterfell: Jon (Kit Harington) is proclaimed King in the North. He then banishes the red priestess Melisandre (Carice van Houten) for sacrificing so many innocents.

Jon meets with Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) to decide who'll lead the recently united forces of the North against the White Walkers. As Jon says: "The true enemy won't wait out the storm. He brings the storm."

Meanwhile, the wily and duplicitous Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish (Aidan Gillen) corners Sansa and confesses his ultimate goal is the Iron Throne with Sansa at his side. Sansa rebuffs him, much to the delight of viewers everywhere.

Oldtown: Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray) arrive at Oldtown just as thousands of white ravens are released to proclaim the arrival of winter.

Essos: Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) begins crossing the Narrow Sea to Westeros to claim her destiny. With her is Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), the recently appointed Hand of the Queen. They are traveling with a massive armada consisting of her entire army and allies.

Also along for the adventure are Daenerys' three terrifying, fire-breathing dragons, Viserion, Rhaegal and the one she rides, Drogon. Drogon is now the size of a 747 with a flame 30 feet in diameter.

SEASON 7

What can we expect this season? We're in uncharted territory. The story line has long since outpaced the original material found in George R.R. Martin's novels in A Song of Ice and Fire.

Perhaps the most anticipated event will be the long-awaited meeting between Jon ("ice") and Daenerys ("fire"). There also will be an epic battle between the Lannister forces and Daenerys' horde.

We can expect the Night King and his White Walkers to breach the wall with their zombie army and descend upon Westeros. It should also be quite a moment when Jon discovers his true parentage.

Another Hallmark moment will be when sisters Sansa and Arya are reunited. Boy, do they have tales to tell each other.

And there should be some serious drama between Jaime and Cersei. She's quite mad now. All their children (Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen) are dead and her enemies are closing in.

Finally, there may be the long-anticipated showdown between The Hound and the Mountain. That would be Sandor Clegane (6-foot-6-inch Scottish actor Rory McCann) and his reanimated older brother, Ser Gregor Clegane (6-foot-9-inch Icelander Hafbor Julius Bjornsson). We can only hope.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email:

mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Style on 07/16/2017

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