Game of Thrones returns... here's your preview

Season seven of Game of Thrones is upon us. And because OSN knows that people in this region would just download the new episodes off the Internet, rather than wait for it to be released here later, they’ve done the smart thing and are releasing new episodes at the same time as they go out in the U.S.

That means at 5am UAE time on Monday, July 17 (that’s tomorrow at the time of writing) you can start watching on OSN On Demand and OSN Play. So, you can get an episode in before work.

Or of you want to wait until you get home after a day of shouting “no spoilers!” at people in the office, it will also air weekly on OSN First HD at 11pm UAE time every Monday evening.

Season seven, with its extended length episodes, promises a “great war” as fearless Cersei now sits upon the Iron Throne. Here’s what some of the cast has to say about the upcoming season. 

Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark)

Q: Where do we find Bran as we begin this season?
IHW: In the first episode we find Bran in a bit of a predicament. He’s lost Hodor who was basically his legs for the past six seasons. We’ve lost his direwolf, who has got a very deep connection with Bran and is practically a part of him as well as also being quite a valuable protection asset. Coldhands has also left him [Benjen Stark], who came and saved the day last time. So it’s now just him and Meera at the foot of the Wall.

Q: Is he even Bran anymore?
IHW: Not really. On top of all that he has now got this huge responsibility upon his shoulders of being the Three-eyed Raven. He’s no longer Bran Stark. He remembers what it was like to be Bran Stark, but then he remembers everything that’s ever happened in the universe ever. He’s got all this knowledge about Jon Snow and all the knowledge about the origin of the White Walkers - which may come in handy for defeating them. It all means that Bran is a really, really valuable asset for Westeros right now. He needs to make sure this information gets to the right people in time. As such, at the start of season seven Bran is on a mission to get to the right place and save the day.

Q: Crucially he is one of the few who knows what the enemy in the Great War is…
IHW: Yes, in fact Bran more than anyone, because he is now basically the arch enemy of the Night’s King. They are sworn enemies from the first day of time, the Three-eyed Raven and the Night’s King. So Bran knows better than anyone I think the terror and fear they should all be feeling with this threat looming over them.

Q: What’s it been like playing a character who began as a boy but is now barely human?
IHW: It was tricky to work out how exactly we would play him. It was clear that he needed to have this kind of emotionless, soulless, slightly mysterious aura to him, but we didn’t want it to be really dull and monotone. So it was trying to capture the fact that there was this massively interesting spark within him of basically knowing everything ever. At the same time the practical effects on the human mind that it would have were huge. Basically, David and Dan said read the ‘Watchmen’ comics: it’s like Dr Manhattan. When I was playing him instead of just focussing on the scene, I’d be listening to what the other characters were saying but at the same time trying to rush through millions of things that had happened in past scenes and thinking of a moment in an episode in season two - because that’s exactly what’s going through Bran’s head. He’s got this whirlwind of information spinning around the whole time - ‘Oh that happened, that happened, that happened’. It’s like he’s not really in any fixed time.

Aidan Gillen (Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish)

Q: Where do we find Littlefinger as we begin this season?
AG: When we first catch up with Littlefinger it’s almost like a direct push from when we last saw him in Season Six. Then, he was standing against the wall in the Great Hall in Winterfell, in the shadows. For his first scene in Season Seven, he is in the same room so I thought I would stand in exactly the same place, at exactly the same angle - that could be interesting. We left him wondering what he’s up to and we take up asking what he’s up to now? Obviously he’s working some of his magic on the power structure at Winterfell. It is now under the command of Jon.

You saw through Season 6 and maybe even from the end of Season 5 that Littlefinger been trying to sow some seeds of doubt with Sansa. Doubts about her brother’s validity as a leader, in fact doubts about his validity as a brother at all. How much of a brother is he really, you know, biologically? How much credit did you, Sansa, really get for saving him down at the Battle of the Bastards? Don’t you deserve a little more? That’s Littlefinger’s thing - he’ll push people. He’ll nudge people in a certain direction but then they don’t always take it. And Sansa doesn’t always take the bait because she’s getting clever.

Q: Why does he do it? Is it for power, for fun?
AG: For the fun would be a correct answer. It’s not just about the result; it’s about the thrill of manipulating on that scale. The danger of it: even though his plans are extremely well thought through they could go wrong easily at any point and that would be end of story. But if you don’t take major risks you’re not going to get major results. For him it is about the fun of it, the game of it - and you want to be seen having fun. That makes the character even more interesting to look at. If it’s just all devious and nasty, people will lose interest I think. So I’ve always tried to have a bit of fun with it and show a bit of a playful side.

Q: Do fans boo and hiss when they meet you?
AG: I don’t get booed and hissed that much. I was greeted very cordially by a group of something like 12 students off a train in Manchester the other day. They were like, ‘Littlefinger!’ It was as if they’d met their favourite uncle just stepping off the train with sweets. I think some people are confused. They say to me, ‘Hey you know, your character confuses me because… I like you.’ And that’s what you want in a villainous role I guess. It’s important to show that this is somebody who can get away with things, precisely because people do find him trustworthy in some way or attractive. Without that it just wouldn’t work. And his plans are so well laid, they go so far back you know - there’s a certain glee watching them unfold. 

Liam Cunningham (Ser Davos Seaworth)

Q: Where do we pick up with Ser Davos at the start of season seven?
LC: We left him at the end of season six with Melisandre banished and Jon Snow his new boss almost by accident. Now, with Melisandre’s banishment, I think Jon realises that there’s value in this guy. What’s interesting is, even though Jon is King in the North, he hasn’t made Davos a Hand or anything like that. Their relationship’s not official.

Q: How has Davos changed?
LC: I suppose one thing with this season is whereas Stannis was a dour leader, Jon is an honest, young kind of guy, which means there’s a little more room for humour this year. But at the same time things are getting serious! Obviously, with this being the penultimate season, it’s ramping up. The situation with the Night’s King and his cronies is coming to a head, Westeros is possibly going to be destroyed, possibly going to be ethnically cleansed.

Q: How did filming season seven compare to previous seasons?
LC: One thing I would say about this year is we spent the same amount of time shooting seven [episodes] as we normally do ten. It’s more cinematic as a result. We’re shooting on locations and on huge sets that have to be built. The ambition is enormous; the vista is going to be tremendous. To the extent that if you look at the Battle of the Bastards last year, that was 24, 25 days shooting for a 20-minute sequence. This year we’ve used that kind of cinematic aspect throughout. It felt more like we were making movies than TV.

Rory McCann (Sandor Clegane, ‘The Hound’)

Q: Set up the beginning of season seven for your character…
RM: At the end of the previous season he was left with a choice from the Brotherhood Without Banners: “Do you want to do the right thing? Do you want to find peace within yourself? Join us and fight the fight against evil.” And he chose to go with the Brotherhood Without Banners. At the start of this season we are going on a big road trip with them.

Q: So what’s this season been like for you?
RM: My character’s always been on these road trips which has meant that my work is usually quiet without many other people around. What I’m trying to say is that this season I’ve managed to socialise for the first time and to get to know some of the other people. I didn’t really get to know people until this season. We had a good time, playing music, trying to keep warm. Honestly, I feel like that’s the first time I’ve actually properly socialised or relaxed - normally I hide.