On April 14, HBO’s blockbuster series Game of Thrones will bow for an eighth and final season that is expected to seal the fate of the fictional continent of Westeros and its seat of power, the Iron Throne.

Since it first came out in April 2011, David Benioff and DB Weiss’s period fantasy drama has amassed a legion of fans across the globe, emerging as a money-spinner for its channel, an awards-season staple and a worldwide cultural phenomenon. It has also made global stars of its cast, including Kit Harington, Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner and Emilia Clarke. The show has received a record 47 Emmy awards, including three Outstanding Drama Series wins.

Game of Thrones is based on George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. The series has popularised Martin’s sprawling fantastical realm, bringing terms like “bannermen”, “Dothraki” and “sigil” into common parlance and giving new meaning to words like “houses” and “the wall” or the phrase “winter is coming”.

The Game of Thrones universe broadly consists of the continents of Essos and Westeros. At the centre of all the action is the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, the seat of power whose many claimants have been locked in battle for centuries. The main stakeholders are the kingdom’s Great Houses – the Starks, Baratheons, Lannisters, Targaryen and more – but there are also hundreds of smaller houses whose support can change the fate of the main players.

Given its rapid twists and turns, the wait for the concluding season of Game of Thrones has been arduous for fans. With over two months to go for the final season, here’s a list of articles that help unpack the intricate world of Game of Thrones for beginners and outline predictions, hopes and expectations from the last season for those up-to-date with the show.

Game of Thrones Season 8 teaser.

For veterans

  1. Given the show’s staggering per-season body count, only a few main characters are left standing as Season 8 premieres. This series by The Hollywood Reporter chronicles their journeys and also lays out predictions for where they will end up. Two insalments are out so far, the first on the “Bastard of Winterfell” Jon Snow and the second on “Khaleesi” Daenerys Targaryen. (Prediction for Jon Snow: He “must learn that he’s the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna”. Also, “He won’t survive.”)
  2. CNet is diligently tracking all promotional material, interviews and buzz in this article on what fans can expect from the upcoming season. What’s next for Jon Snow and Daenerys? How many fan favourites will make it to the end? No one knows for certain, but there’s a trail of clues to be followed.
  3. Esquire, meanwhile, has a list of fan theories for the show and another list of predictions based on the Season 8 teaser, while Mashable writer Sam Hayson has looked into the crystal ball himself. A sample by Hayson: Daenerys discovers that she is pregnant with Jon Snow’s child.
  4. How well do these predictions and fan theories measure up to the real thing? These article by Ankita Chawla in Scroll.in and The Telegraph examine the forecasts that hit the nail on the head in previous seasons and the ones that were too good to be true.
  5. For its stunning locations, Game of Thrones has several countries (apart from its set designers and cinematographers) to thank, including Croatia, Northern Ireland, Iceland, Spain and Morocco. Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in a tourism boom for these countries. Fortune has a list of the numerous Game of Thrones tours. On a more sombre note, these articles in Quartz and The New York Times trace how the influx of tourists and resultant overcrowding has unsettled residents of Croatia’s Dubrovnik. Meanwhile, Vox reports that the San Juan de Gaztelugatxe church in the Basque region of Spain, where Daenerys set up base in season seven, is seeing thousands of visitors daily and local authorites fear the ancient structure will not be able to withstand the pressure.
  6. Has Game of Thrones changed television forever? This article in The Guardian describes the show as a “cultural behemoth”, one which “casts a shadow over the television landscape at least as large as that of one of its fire-breathing dragons”. Never before has so much time, energy and money gone into a series and Game of Thrones could mark the beginning of “the blockbuster-isation of TV”, the article establishes.
  7. For all the praise, the graphic sex, violence and sexual violence of Game of Thrones has constantly opened the show to criticism. Is it a realistic representation of the times? Is it gore for the sake of it? Critics are divided, but this article in The Atlantic argues that “Benioff and Weiss have gone out of their way, time and time again, to ramp up the sexual violence well beyond their source material” and lists several examples. Mridula Chari in Scroll.in, meanwhile, discovers that the version of Game of Thrones censored for Indian television, minus the extraneous sex scenes and severed heads, is not so bad after all. (“After the nth digression into a scene of sex or egregious violence just to prove that this pseudo-medieval world…is in fact in some way real, I begin to yawn.”)
  8. Meanwhile, these articles in Vanity Fair and Vice note that after five seasons in the shadows and lots of controversy, Game of Thrones finally started propelling its female characters to power.
  9. For Game of Thrones fans mourning over the imminent end of the series, there’s a ray of hope in the form of the upcoming HBO prequel series led by Naomi Watts. This articles in Forbes rounds up all that has been reported on the spin-off, including cast and production details, while Harpers Bazaar additionally lists four more potential spin-offs that had been teased at various points.
Game of Thrones Season 8 Easter Eggs.

For newbies, those who lost interest mid-way, or are still confused

The two-and-a-half months to come are just about enough for non-viewers to catch up with Game of Thrones. The perks of joining the bandwagon late include not having to wait for several winters between seasons. But the show’s universe is complex and its list of characters staggering. These visual and textual guides could help break things down.

  1. For those who want to watch the show or have but are wondering what in the world a “Stark” or “Lannister” or why so many people are at war, here’s an introduction to Game of Thrones jargon by Daily Beast. Telegraph also has a useful guide to the Houses to make sense of the various rivalries and alliances, while this Vox article tells you all you need to know before you start watching the show.
  2. Two new continents plus lots of fictional cities make the world of Game of Thrones hard to navigate. Digital Spy has mapped out the cities in the show, along with some bare-bones information of what role they play in the plot.
  3. The mythological world in which Game of Thrones is set is equally rich. This piece by Slate dips into George RR Martin’s books to explain the various gods in Game of Thrones, understanding which offers better insight into the various characters.
  4. If 67 episodes seem like too many to squeeze into the coming weeks, or if the two-year gap between seasons has sent all memory of the show to the other side of the Wall, the Independent has a synopsis of the series so far.
Battle of the Bastards.