The Game of Thrones season six premiere airs on Sunday, and fans are riveted. The mysteries are even bigger this year than ever before, and there are very good reasons for that. Mathematicians have even developed an algorithm to predict who lives and who dies.
This season will be the first that takes place entirely after the events portrayed in the book series on which the show is based, A Song of Ice and Fire. This means that book readers, who have known what happens before the events air on the show, are completely in the dark for this season. Furthermore, the show has departed from the books in some serious ways already (see Stannis Baratheon), and is likely to do so even more.
Winter is coming, and before it arrives, here is your official guide to what has happened so far, and what to expect on Sunday.
Warning: here there be spoilers, for Game of Thrones seasons 1-5.
Beyond the Wall
A great horrific slaughter was the last we saw of the true North, beyond the great wall of ice that separates the Seven Kingdoms from the Lands of Always Winter. The White Walkers came down upon a wildling village, slaughtering hundreds while the noble Jon Snow tried to fight them back, and barely escaped with his life. Since the show first introduced the wildlings in season 3, they have been fleeing south to survive the attacks of these bloodthirsty Others.
Once White Walkers kill their enemies, they can awaken them as wights, zombie-soldiers who drastically increase their ranks. The truly terrifying part of Hardhome (season 5, episode 9) wasn’t the death of hundreds, though that was scary enough. The worst part was when each of those slaughtered men, women, and children rose up, with dead eyes, to obey the whims of the White Walkers.
Meanwhile, Bran Stark is training with the “Three Eyed Raven,” who is really Lord Brynden Rivers (who was Hand of the King and Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch). Bran is learning how to use his abilities to tap into the network of Weirwood trees, which are associated with the “old gods” of the North. Bran is able to “warg” into the bodies of animals (and one man, the halfwit Hodor), and will likely see multiple flashbacks through the Weirwood network. Expect things to get very fantasy.
Next Page: The Wall and Jon Snow (seriously, there are spoilers here).
Yeah, that happened. Jon Snow, who became Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and led the wildlings south of the Wall, was betrayed by his brothers, and killed in cold blood. A main character whose parentage remains a compelling mystery, and whose heroism was truly inspiring, has been untimely silenced. Game of Thrones, like George R.R. Martin, seems to kill each character who comes close to being a hero: Ned Stark and Robb Stark (even Tyrion Lannister comes awfully close to dying).
There is reason, however, to expect Jon Snow to return from the dead. In season 3, the red priest Thoros of Myr resurrects Lord Beric Dondarrion, many times. That very season, the show has the red priestess Melisandre of Asshai visit Thoros and learn how he brings people back from the dead. At the end of season 5, Melisandre travels to Castle Black, the very location where Snow passes. This, along with the unsolved mystery of Snow’s parentage (some think he is the true heir to the throne), strongly suggests his story is far from over.
Next Page: The North, Sansa, Theon, and Stannis Baratheon
At the end of season 5, Sansa Stark, Lannister, Snow, or should I say Bolton, was last seen escaping the clutches of her wicked husband Ramsay with Theon Greyjoy.
Ramsay’s army had just defeated the forces of Stannis Baratheon, the true heir to the last king of Westeros. Earlier in the season, Stannis had burned his own daughter alive — an act many readers of the book series found utterly out of character for the noble man of honor. After this wretched act, much of Stannis’ army fled, so he lost the battle handily. Then Brienne of Tarth cut him down, as vengeance for him causing the death of his brother and rival king, Renly.
There are rumors that the North will rise up in rebellion against the Boltons. This makes sense, because it is widely known that the Boltons and the Freys murdered the King in the North, Robb Stark. Worse, they murdered him when he was a guest at a wedding. This is considered worse than any other possible crime, and the tortures of Ramsay Bolton throughout the past three seasons have led fans to hate him almost more than the boy king Joffrey. Nothing is for certain, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him get some comeuppance this season.
Next Page: Arya in Braavos
Arya Stark, or rather no one, is training to be a master assassin in the House of Black and White. In the last episode of season 5, however, Arya went off on her own and took revenge by killing the wicked knight Ser Meryn Trant. For this, she has been blinded — she will begin the next season as a blind assassin, far from home. Fans expect her to go back to Westeros, and start killing the remaining people on her hit list.
Next Page: The Vale and Littlefinger
Lord Petyr Baelish, “Littlefinger,” once a commoner of little account, is now Lord of the Vale, one of the great regions of Westeros. Baelish married Lisa Tully, Arryn, Baelish, thus becoming regent for her son, Robin. Lisa, driven to jealousy by her husband’s desire for Sansa, almost killed the poor girl, but Baelish himself killed his wife and took control of her lands. He then sent Sansa north to marry the fiend Ramsay Bolton. Now, he is a free radical, trusted by neither the Lannisters in the south nor by the Boltons in the north. Both seek to use him, but he will likely use them.
Next Page: The Capital and Cersei Lannister
The powerful Lannister family, after winning the “War of the Five Kings,” has largely fallen apart. The spoiled boy king Joffrey Baratheon was poisoned on his wedding day, and the true power behind him, the patriarch Tywin Lannister, was killed at the end of season 4 by his own son. Cersei, the dowager queen mother, foolishly empowered the Faith by giving them the right to organize an army. That army turned on her, forcing her to march naked through the streets of the capital.
The Tyrell family is jockeying for power, but has found itself also under threat by the Faith Militant. Queen Margaery, who married the new king Tommen, has been imprisoned by the Faith, and faces trial, just like Cersei. Expect more intrigue and struggle in the capital this season.
Next Page: As Far As South Goes
The Martells of Dorne have long sought revenge against the Lannisters. Before the events of Game of Thrones, Elia Martell, the sister of Prince Doran Martell, was killed brutally, along with her children, by the Lannisters’ chief enforcer, Gregor Clegane, “The Mountain.” Oberyn Martell faced Clegane in Season 4, but died in the attempt.
Oberyn’s bastard daughters poisoned the princess Myrcella Baratheon, who died in the arms of her father, Jamie Lannister, in the last episode of season 5. Expect more treachery and plotting from the Martells, as Doran’s son Trystane is going to King’s Landing.
Next Page: Mereen, Tyrion, Dany, and the Dothraki
Mereen and Beyond
In the final episodes of Season 5, the plucky hero Tyrion Lannister reaches the city of Mereen, where Daenerys Targaryen rules. Accompanied by Varys, “The Spider,” Tyrion advises Dany on how to rule, in some of the greatest scenes of the last season. But when Dany conquered the city, she outlawed slavery — which drove the economy not just in that city but in the whole region. This change fostered a movement against her, known as the Sons of the Harpy. These cut-throats murder many in the city, and nearly kill Dany herself.
At the last moment, Dany’s largest dragon, Drogon, saves the young queen, and she flies off on his back. He takes her to the land of the Dothraki, the people of Dany’s first husband Khal Drogo. Daenerys Targaryen finds herself among these people, and Tyrion has to rule Mereen in her absence. Meanwhile, two of Dany’s lieutenants, the mercenary Daario Naharis and the disgraced knight Ser Jorah Mormont, go off to find the queen.
Now, you’re caught up.