"Game of Thrones," the cultural phenomenon with legions of fans, returns for its eighth and final season on HBO beginning at 9 p.m. Sunday. The fantasy series, based on George R.R. Martin's books and developed by writer-director-producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss, debuted on April 17, 2011. It's been quite a ride.
The most recent episode of "Game of Thrones" aired nearly two years ago, so it's likely you have a lot of questions before the final season. Fans will learn the fates (or will they?) of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), among many others.
The first two episodes of Season 8 are slated to run about an hour, with the final four clocking in at 80 minutes. As for the final episode, Clarke said that the cast and crew filmed several endings to throw off spies and internet speculation.
In the HBO drama's final six episodes, the army of the undead will likely clash with the citizens of Westeros, as a separate battle for power unfolds for the Iron Throne. Here are answers to seven burning questions of where things are headed. (Be warned, if you're planning to binge a bunch of earlier episodes before Sunday, there are SPOILERS ahead.)
1. What's the Iron Throne, and why does everyone want it?
Most of the action in "Game of Thrones" takes place on the main continent of Westeros. The unified realm consisting of most of the continent and its small islands is called the Seven Kingdoms, which were established by Aegon the Conqueror, the first king of the Targaryen dynasty, some 300 years ago.
The whole shebang is ruled over by the king or queen of the Andals and the First Men, which is the fancy title for whoever sits on the Iron Throne.
2. Where are the major characters?
We last saw Yara Greyjoy in King's Landing, where she was delivered to Cersei Lannister's armed guards as a prisoner after Euron Greyjoy, her uncle, ambushed Yara's fleet. Euron, who saw Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen brought to King's Landing, said he was on his way back to the Iron Islands to wait out the undead's land invasion.
Sisters Sansa and Arya Stark finally had a heart-to-heart in Winterfell and stopped feuding. Bran Stark is also back home, flexing his all-seeing powers.
• Daenerys Targaryen
She is heading north to fight the dead. Both she and Jon are under the impression that Cersei will help them fight the coming invasion from north of the Wall.
Jaime Lannister noticed snow falling as he rode north to join the fight against the dead, staying true to his oath and, in doing so, abandoning his sister/lover. Cersei revealed that she had no plan to help in the fight for humanity and is apparently pregnant. Tyrion Lannister is sailing north.
• Jorah Mormont
He unsuccessfully tried to convince Daenerys to fly to Winterfell, since she has many enemies in the North. Instead, she took Jon's advice that arriving on ships as a united front would be good PR to the people of the North. He's likely northbound.
3. How are Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen related?
Jon Snow is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen (son of the Mad King and brother to Daenerys) and Lyanna Stark (Ned Stark's sister). Daenerys is the daughter of the Mad King and brother to Viserys and Rhaegar. Given the theory known as "R+L=J," that makes Daenerys the aunt of Jon Snow. Unfortunately, that news did not reach Jon and Daenerys before they hooked up in the Season 7 finale.
4. What should we know about Bran, and what's the three-eyed raven?
In Season 2, Bran embarked on a long journey, during which he learned he might be a Warg, someone who can control the minds of animals and see through their eyes. He also began dreaming about and seeing a three-eyed raven, who turned out to be a very old man in a cave. The three-eyed raven has many abilities, including seeing things that have happened back in time (and he trained Bran how to use these powers).
5. What's that green fire, and where does it come from?
It's called Wildfire. Made by the Alchemists' Guild, an old group of pyromancers who claim it's magical. It can be applied on any substance, including water. Think of it as uberpowerful lighter fluid used by soldiers.
6. Who is the Night King?
That icy, blue-eyed fellow was the first White Walker, who was created when the Children of the Forest, a nonhuman race who originally inhabited Westeros, stabbed one of the First Men with dragonglass thousands of years ago. He now serves as the leader of the White Walkers and their wights.
7. What's the deal with the dragons?
Aegon the Conqueror, who set up the Iron Throne some 300 years before the current story, was able to do that because he was riding with three basically indestructible dragons, the final three in existence. Or so it was thought.
Fast-forward roughly a century and a half to Season 1, when Daenerys was given three petrified dragon eggs as a gift to celebrate her betrothal to Khal Drogo. She was drawn to the eggs, beginning to believe they could be hatched. But then a witch betrayed her, destroyed the baby in her womb, took away her ability to bear children and turned Khal Drogo into a vegetable (who Daenerys then killed mercifully).
When Daenerys built a funeral pyre for Drogo, she tossed the eggs (and that witch) on top for good measure. After lighting it, she walked into the flames, because, why not?
Everyone thought she died, but instead, the next morning she awoke to three dragon pups hanging onto her. She named them Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion.
Long story short: These are incredibly powerful creatures who bonded with Daenerys and will probably determine the war to come in Season 8.