The wait is nearly over; Game of Thrones is set to return soon for its sixth season, and it couldn’t come fast enough. For the first time in the show’s long history, fans of the Song of Ice and Fire book series will be in the dark, and we have very little source material to prepare us for what’s next. Having a tough time remembering where things stand? Let’s look back and get a crash course on Game of Thrones.
Since there is SO very much to cover when it comes to Game of Thrones, we’ll stick to refreshing you all on the major storylines and characters and hope that most of you know the basics of the Houses of Westeros and the lands we’re talking about.
Warning: Spoilers are coming.
The War of the Five Kings, set off by Robert‘s death in Season 1 and Ned Stark‘s unjust execution, is still raging. The five include Joffrey; Stannis Baratheon and Renly Baratheon; Robb Stark; and Balon Greyjoy. Robb Stark is dead, thanks to the Red Wedding. Now Joffrey’s dead following the Purple Wedding, and his uncle Tyrion Lannister is on the run after murdering patriarch Tywin. Margaery moved on to Joffrey’s sweet-natured but weak brother Tommen, who next ascended to the Iron Throne.
Soon the Sparrow’s army of ultra-devout followers arrests Cersei on charges of incest. Both queens are imprisoned in the Sept, with Tommen unable to help, calling his power into question. The season ended with Cersei being forced to walk naked through the streets with a Sparrow’s nun walking behind, ringing her “Shame!” Bell.
Sansa has made a harrowing journey, first accused of conspiring to kill Joffrey and then whisked away by Littlefinger to the Eyrie. But the scheming Baelish has other plans for Sansa; he strikes a deal with Roose Bolton to marry her off to his son, the frighteningly sadistic Ramsay, as the Boltons have been granted the North in reward for their elimination of Robb Stark. She soon sees the darkest side of Ramsay’s nature and plots to escape.
Imprisoned with her is Theon Greyjoy, who was captured at Winterfell by Ramsay. Theon had betrayed Robb by choosing to fight instead for his father, taking Winterfell for the Greyjoys when Robb went off to war. Ramsay soon uses his young lord as a torture toy, removing skin and other important body parts, and renaming Theon as “Reek.” At the end of last season, Sansa and Theon are seen jumping from the ramparts of Winterfell into the snow below. We know Brienne of Tarth is nearby but it’s unclear if she sees the two jump.
Arya Stark is still plotting revenge, reciting her growing list of names of those who did her and her family wrong. Early on, she meets the mysterious Jaqen H’ghar, an assassin who can change his face. He gives her a coin and a saying, “Valar Morghulis” or “All men must die,” which will earn her passage on a boat to Braavos.
In Braavos, Arya enters the House of Black and White, where the Faceless Men train. She’s put through trials of humility, where she must resolve to become “No One” instead of being the avenging warrior she wants to be. While on a mission for the Men, she’s put in the path of a man from her List. Instead of being disciplined, she gets sidetracked and kills him. By “killing someone who was not hers to kill,” the Faceless Men punish her by with blindness. She’s last seen wailing in fear.
Beyond the Wall
Bran Stark and his party — now whittled down to the two Reed children, Jojen and Meera and Hodor — head to the wall to meet up with Jon Snow. On the way, Jojen teaches Bran how to use his “second sight’ and helps him understand the ability to warg, all of which is drawing Bran to seek out the Three-Eyed Raven from his visions who is apparently beyond the wall. The wildling Osha has split off with Rickon to take him to the holdfast of Greatjon Umber.
At Nightfort, Samwell Tarly gave them “dragonglass” to kill White Walkers. Then they went on to the weirwood tree Bran has seen in a dream, where they’re attacked by wights and Jojen is killed. A Child of the Forest helps them to enter a cave where an old man, who turns out to be the Three-Eyed Raven, lies attached to the trees roots. Bran asks the Raven if he’ll help him walk again. He answers that Bran will never walk again, but he will fly.
The Red Viper Oberyn Martell‘s body is returned to Dorne, and Oberyn’s lover, Ellaria Sand, along with his daughters, the Sand Snakes, beg Prince Doran to exact revenge by using Myrcella Baratheon, Cersei’s daughter who’s betrothed to Trystane Martell. Doran refuses, and keeps Myrcella near him for safety.
Jaime Lannister sails to Dorne with Bronn, knowing that Myrcella’s life is likely in danger. They try to secretly kidnap her but are discovered by the Sand Snakes. Doran imprisons all of them but soon agrees to allow Myrcella return to King’s Landing along with his son Trystane, where they’ll be married. On the dock, Ellaria kisses Myrcella farewell, but her lips are coated with poison. Myrcella and Jaime have a touching moment on the boat, where they both acknowledge he is her real father, but she collapses and dies in Jaime’s arms.
The Free Cities
With her fully-grown dragons now chained up in a vault (aside from escaped Drogon), Daenerys spends much of Season 5 fighting off a rebellion by the former slavers Sons of the Harpy in Meereen. When the Harpy kills the loyal Ser Barristan Selmy, Dany decides to wed herself to Hizdahr zo Loraq and reopen the fighting pits to make peace.
At the opening of the pits, the first pit champion reveals himself as exiled Jorah Mormont who presents her with the gift of Tyrion. Tyrion soon wins Dany over, promising to be her advisor and help her regain the throne. But on the next trip to the pits, the Sons try to assassinate Dany. In sweeps Drogon to the rescue, and Dany flies off on his back. Last we see her, Dany is left in the wilderness and falls into the hands of an enormous khalasar.
And finally at The Wall, we have Jon Snow and Stannis. Stannis executed Mance Rayder when he refused to bend the knee. Jon also works to assert his power, winning the vote to become the next Lord Commander. But soon there’s unrest.
Stannis has a plan to invade Winterfell and take back the North. Jon Snow agrees to help recruit the Wildlings beyond The Wall. With Tormund, Jon heads to Wildling fort Hardhome where he convinces many to come fight with him, but as they prepare to leave, they’re attacked by an army of Wights. Jon barely escapes, and turns back to see the Night’s King chillingly raising the Hardhome dead as new wight soldiers.
Stannis marches on Winterfell and is slowed by bad weather. Winter is coming, after all. Suffering a sneak attack by Ramsay, Stannis turns to Melisandre who convinces him to sacrifice royal blood to appease the God of Light. He allows his beloved daughter Shireen to be burned. But the gruesome act was for nothing; his meager army is beaten down by Bolton’s force, and he meets Brienne on the battlefield who summarily executes him for Renly’s death.
Back from Hardhome, Jon confers with Davos and Melisandre about Stannis’ defeat and contemplates his next move. But he’s betrayed by his enemies on the Night’s Watch, and is stabbed repeatedly in the courtyard at Castle Black, left for dead.
See who’s new to Season 6 and tune in on April 24 on HBO.