Day 6

'Game of Thrones' returns: Who will claim the Iron Throne?

The most popular TV show on earth kicks off its last 13 episodes Sunday. Entertainment critic Michelle Dean, Slate Senior Editor Sam Adams and Teri Hart from Rogers' Entertainment City weigh in on who will die first, who will come out on top and whether anyone can defeat the white walkers.

Summer is here — but winter is coming.

Game of Thrones enters its seventh season as the biggest and most popular show in the world. Its episode budgets regularly top 10 million dollars, it airs in 170 countries and it holds the record for most Emmys won by a prime time series with 38.

It's also the most pirated show ever, and perpetually trending online. And now that the houses Targaryen, Stark and Lannister are preparing to pull their swords for the great war, the obsession is sure to grow.

Game of Thrones is one of the most complicated series in television history so there's a lot to parse out ahead of Sunday's premiere. To help us with that, Day 6 guest host Marcia Young convened a panel of journalists who have been covering Game of Thrones since Bran Stark could walk.

Sam Adams is the Senior Editor at Slate, Michelle Dean is an entertainment critic whose work appears in the New Republic and The Guardian, and Teri Hart is reporter with Rogers' Entertainment City.

Here's some of what they had to say:

Who wins the Iron Throne?

Teri: "I'm excited about this pairing of Daenerys and Tyrion and what they are going to accomplish by crossing the sea. I would not be surprised if one of the other Lannister siblings falls at the hands of Tyrion. I think that there are too many Lannisters right now and we've got to bolster up our Starks."
Season seven finds Tyrion Lannister, played by American actor Peter Dinklage, sailing on the Narrow Sea with Daenerys Targaryen. (HBO)

Sam: "I think I would put my money on Jon Snow at this point but given the show's attitude towards monarchy, I think whoever claims the throne, it's going to be something of a hollow victory. In one way or another, I think they're going to rule over a world that's even more damaged and splintered than it is now."
Kit Harington plays Ned Stark's bastard son Jon Snow. The King in the North is trying to stop the advance of the white walkers. (HBO)

Michelle: "I assume that some kind of power sharing agreement is going to be negotiated. I know that's a deeply unsexy answer but it's very hard to imagine the show killing off one of the four or five extremely charismatic characters who are eligible to become the ruler."

What made Game of Thrones the most popular show in the world?

Michelle: "Game of Thrones got lucky in that it premiered at this moment where geek culture was exploding into the mainstream.  When it premiered, people felt a lot more comfortable being invested in this big fantasy show about people wearing furs and wandering around with medallions on their chests in a way that I think they wouldn't have before."

"Game of Thrones hit at the intersection of geek culture emerging and prestige TV happening as an industry aim."

The Wildlings are a group of people who are located beyond The Wall and considered savaged by the rest of Westeros. (HBO)

Sam: "Having really strong characters and character-driven moments early on, but then moving into this plot-bulldozer style where stuff is just happening all the time. We can reliably count on some sort of giant battle happening in the second-to-last episode of every season. Now we're getting to the point in season seven [where] characters are headed for some sort of reunion ... or showdown."

Teri: "The surprise of, 'Oh my god, who is going to die?' has something to do with it. We've had shocking deaths from the Red Wedding to King Joffrey. I still rank the poisoning of Joffrey right up there as one of my favourite moments."

Time to talk legacy

Sam: "I think the show's legacy is going to be showing a new way forward for TV. It showed that you can throw an enormous amount of money at the right subject and still create the kind of appointment television where everyone is glued to their TV at nine o'clock on a Sunday night, waiting to see what happens. And they're going to be stunned at each new plot development."

"That seems like an experience that's really gone out of popular culture. So it [Game of Thrones] is a throwback not just of the Middle Ages but to an earlier era of television. It shows that you are able to capture that audience but you also really have to raise your game in ways that the TV has traditionally not done before."

Cersei Lannister, played by Lena Headey, occupies the Iron Throne as HBO's Game of Thrones enters its seventh and final season. (HBO)

: "I think it's raised our expectations and I think it's bridged the gap between the people who are into fantasy and sci-fi and geek culture. It used to be a very black-and-white line: 'I watch that stuff,' or 'I don't watch that stuff.' 'I read that stuff,' or 'I don't read that stuff.'"

"And to be clear, I was definitely in the 'don't watch that stuff' category before Game of Thrones. And now I don't even snicker at myself when I say 'white walkers.'"

Michelle: "I think it's a good thing that people are more comfortable talking about the pop culture that they like without feeling like it's somehow illegitimate to be into white walkers or dragons. I guess, overall, I just think it's a good thing."

Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emelia Clarke, is the Princess of House Targaryen and is leading an ever-expanding army towards Westeros. (HBO)


What's with all those names?

Teri: "I think it's changed how a lot of people name their children and their dogs. There are a lot of people who've named their dogs Daenerys."

To hear our panel discussion with Michelle Dean, Sam Adams and Teri Hart, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.