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Game of Thrones season 7: everything we know so far

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By Sadie Gennis,

Winter is officially coming, but not until July.

After a Westerosi summer-long wait, HBO revealed that Game of Thrones would return for its eagerly anticipated seventh season on Sunday, July 16. The extended hiatus between Seasons 6 and 7 is to accommodate production, which needed to both film in wintry conditions and have time to build the elaborate set pieces for the show's penultimate season.

But the premiere date is only the beginning of what has begun to be released about Game of Thrones' anticipated return. Check out everything else we know below.

Season 7 is going to be short. Game of Thrones' upcoming season will be made up of seven episodes, a sharp decline for the typical 10-episode season.

But Season 8 is going to be shorter. Game of Thrones' eighth and final season will only consist of six episodes.

Ed Sheeran will cameo. As a surprise to Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones' producers organized a small appearance by Ed Sheeran in Season 7. New York Mets pitcher Noah "Thor" Snydergaard also will make a brief cameo as an extra in Season 7.

Season 7 has an official teaser. There's no new footage, but it's a pretty great video nonetheless.

Conor McGregor will NOT appear. Despite reports to the contrary -- fueled in great part by UFC president Dana White confirming his appearance -- MMA fighter Conor McGregor will not be in Game of Thrones this season. "So I don't know where that came from. But I've never been in contact with nobody from Game of Thrones and now I'm starring in Game of f---ing Thrones!" McGregor said. "Don't believe everything you hear." The same goes for the now debunked rumors that Angela Lansbury was going to appear in Season 7.

A lot of characters will finally come together. When asked to sum up Season 7 in one word, Isaac Hemspstead-Wright said "connections." Obviously, Hempstead-Wright wouldn't confirm whether this means that Bran will finally bump into Arya or the already-reunited Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington), but this being the penultimate season of Thrones we can't help but wonder if it's finally time for the much awaited, full-blown Stark reunion. Bran does have some pretty important info to give to his elder brother Jon, after all...

Game of Thrones fans are not happy about the Season 7 premiere date reveal

Beyond the Starks, it was reported that many of the show's main players gathered together to film scenes in Seville, which doubles as the Dragonpit in King's Landing. Actors spotted in the area during production include Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime), Iain Glen (Jorah), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys), Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Conleth Hill (Varys), Alfie Allen (Theon), Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei) and Liam Cunningham (Davos). Although, who's to know who actually shared the screen together at this point.

We already have our first look at the Starks. In HBO's "Coming in 2017" teaser, the video includes brief glimpses at Sansa, Arya and Jon Snow in the upcoming episodes.

Nymeria might be back: After it was revealed that Maisie Williams was filming in Calgary, Canada -- the same location they shoot wolves in front of a green screen before digitally turning them into direwolves -- people began to put the pieces together, concluding that Arya will be reuniting with her long-lost direwolf Nymeria. After Nymeria attacked Joffrey in Season 1, Arya ordered her direwolf to run away and she hasn't been seen since. Sadly, all of Nymeria's direwolf siblings other than Ghost have perished, so we'd be thrilled to see her back.

Freddie Stroma will not return. After making an all-too-brief appearance as Sam Tarly's (John Bradley) brother Dickon in Season 6, Freddie Stroma revealed he would not be returning to Game of Thrones. Sadly, Game of Thrones conflicted with Stroma's new ABC series Time After Time. Instead, Dickon Tarly will likely be recast, with Watchers on the Wall reporting that Black Sails' Tom Hopper has taken over the role.

Jim Broadbent will play an archmaester. Veteran actor Broadbent is above keeping secrets. At least that may explain why he revealed that he'll be playing an archmaester in five of the seven episodes this season. Most likely, Broadbent's character will be based in The Citadel, which is where Sam finally arrived at the end of Season 6 to study to become a maester.

An iconic Game of Thrones filming location has fallen into the sea

There will be a lot of Greyjoy action. As predicted, Cersei (Lena Headey) will be teaming up with Euron (Pilou Asbaek) to take on their common foes, including Euron's niece and nephew Yara (Gemma Whelan) and Theon. And seeing as we last saw the Greyjoy siblings sailing towards Westeros with Daenerys' fleet, it should come as no surprise that reports say the pair will be involved in a great sea battle that will end when their uncle captures one of the siblings. Whether Euron will follow through on killing his niece or nephew, we don't know, but reports do indicate that Euron will take out one of the Sand Snakes this season. Who knows if anyone will care about that though?

Walder Frey might make a surprise return. After Arya slit Walder Frey's throat, most fans assumed that would be the end for David Bradley on Game of Thrones. However, it was noted that Bradley's resumé at his talent agency says the actor will appear in Season 7. Will Arya wear his face? Will there be a flashback? Would Thoros of Myr resurrect Frey for some reason? Or is this all a big misunderstanding? We'll have to wait and find out.

Season 7 is where fire and ice will meet. Based on this badass poster, Season 7 will be all about the battle between fire and ice -- a reference to the title of George R. R. Martin's series of novels on which the show is based, A Song of Ice and Fire, and the return of dragons and White Walkers to Westeros. And with Daenerys and her dragons heading to Westeros, it's entirely possible we'll see her journeying into the wintry North or even beyond the Wall to face off with the White Walkers this season.

We already know who the directors are. Alan Taylor, Jeremy Podeswa and Mark Mylod will all return to direct episodes, along with Game of Thrones newbie Matt Shakman. More notable, however, is the fact that Miguel Sapochnik will not be directing any episodes this season. (He previously directed "Hardhome," "The Battle of the Bastards" and "The Winds of Winter.")

Jaime might not kill Cersei after all. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau said this popular fan theory is "probably too obvious." But the thing is, everybody on Game of Thrones also said that Jon Snow would stay dead.

Lyanna Mormont will steal the show again. Lyanna (Bella Ramsey) may have only spoken in two scenes during Game of Thrones' sixth season, but the young ruler made quite the impression. Fortunately, we'll be treated to more of Lyanna's signature wit in Season 7 since Ramsey was spotted in full Mormont get-up on the set late last year.

Gendry might return! The unacknowledged bastard son of the late king Robert Baratheon was last seen in the Season 3 finale, but based on recent sightings of Joe Dempsie in Belfast, it appears as though he may have already filmed Gendry's anticipated return.

Game of Thrones' seventh season premieres Sunday, July 16 on HBO.

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