Unlike other prestige dramas, which tend to contain story arcs within seasons and half seasons, Game of Thrones is so complicated that the story continues to just build and build. At this point we’ve got over 50 characters on two continents, all pursuing their own ambitions.
To prepare you for the show’s season six kick-off this Sunday, we’ve decided to take a look back at the goings-on from season five (which you can stream on HBO Now) and how events from those episodes will guide what we see in the new season, because actions have consequences, the North remembers, and Lannisters always pay their debts.
(Spoilers ahead, so if you aren’t caught up, it might be best to look away.)
Maggy The Frog’s Prophecy
The first scene from season five sets Cersei Lannister up to travel a rocky road for the remaining seasons of Game of Thrones. In one of the show’s few flashbacks, we see a young Cersei demand to learn her future from Maggy the Frog, a witch who lives near Casterly Rock. Maggy tells her four things about her future: That she would be queen. That she would be cast down by another, younger and more beautiful queen who would take all she held dear. That she will have three children… while Robert would have 20. And that her children would wear gold crowns, and gold burial shrouds.
Season five opened with Cersei still dealing with the loss of Joffrey, and now Myrcella is dead, as well. If you want to understand the paranoia and fear that is going to be driving her through season six, look no further than Maggy the Frog’s prophecy.
Jorah Contracts Greyscale
Jorah Mormont would probably have been willing to throw his life away to help his Khaleesi even before he contracted the dreaded greyscale disease that slowly turns people to stone while trying to deliver Tyrion to Daenerys while sailing through Valyria in “Kill the Boy.” Expect an even more fatalistic Jorah than we’ve seen in the past in season six, especially because he’s traveling with the man Daenerys didn’t spurn, Daario Naharis.
Will being on a mission to save his love make Jorah a more pleasant traveling companion than Tyrion endured in season five? Or are we about to see a heartbroken Jorah conflicted by his feelings, angry about his impending death, and jealous of Daario to the point where a betrayal may be imminent?
The Sand Snakes Poison Myrcella
I know, no one is especially excited at the prospect of more misadventures involving the Sand Snakes. But the Lannisters always pay their debts, and Ellaria Sand racked up a pretty impressive debt by killing one of the kingdom’s royal children in “Mother’s Mercy.” Justice for Myrcella may end up coming at the hands of the Dornish. Doran Martell has a reputation for being cautious and therefore often inactive. But when someone in your royal family murders the king of Westeros’ sister, the cautious thing to do is execute that family member.
One thing is for sure: We haven’t seen the last of the Dornish, and it goes to reason that they’re about to play a larger role in how things shake out north of their secluded kingdom.
The Discovery That Valyrian Steel Can Kill White Walkers
The White Walkers easily decimated the living during the Battle of Hardhome in “Hardhome,” but it wasn’t a total shutout for the undead. Jon Snow managed to score one for the living by destroying a White Walker with his Valyrian steel blade. Up until that moment, the White Walkers seemed pretty invincible. But when the sword given to Jon by Lord Commander Mormont stops the Others’ weapon, we saw a moment of shock in the creature’s face. A second blow from Longclaw shattered the White Walker into thousands of shards, and all of a sudden the living had another way (alongside dragonglass) to kill the creatures controlling this undead army.
Tyrion Jumping Into The Slave Pits To Fight The Harpies
Tyrion starts the season a broken drunk, becomes a prisoner and then a slave, and finally ends up the effective ruler of Meereen. It’s enough reversals of fortune to give a person whiplash, and it all comes down to Tyrion’s decision to jump into the pit with Daenerys and fight with her and her loyal supporters against the Harpies in “The Gift.”
Up until that point, all Tyrion had given anyone was words. Even as an advisor to the queen, he was an outsider, and Daenerys was still regularly contemplating having him executed whenever he offered her counsel she didn’t like or brought up other Lannisters like Jaime that he still professed loyalty to. But when the Harpies attacked, he threw his lot in with her, saving Missandei and entering the pit with little hesitation to fight.
That’s going to change a lot of things for him. While his grasp on power may be weak while Dany is away and Daario chases him, there’s no question as to his allegiance and goals. We’ll get to see Tyrion as part of Team Targaryen. Alongside Varys, he should prove a worthy adversary to anyone trying to usurp power while Daenerys is gone.
Cersei Lannister’s Walk Through King’s Landing
It didn’t take long for the new High Septon in King’s Landing to start throwing his weight around, arresting Loras Tyrell for unholy fornication and then Queen Margaery for lying about said fornication. King Tommen and Olenna Tyrell weren’t able to free them, and when Cersei Lannister met with the High Septon, he had her thrown into a cell, as well.
Somehow, he thought shaving her head and sending her back to the Red Keep naked was a good idea, and now he’s probably going to spend season six dealing with a pissed off Lannister who has the reanimated corpse of Ser Gregor Clegane by her side. Lady Tyrell learned the limits of politics in her meetings with the Sparrows, and now Cersei is going to test the bounds of violence to get her way.
The Night’s Watch Kill A Traitor
The last time the Night’s Watch killed their Lord Commander, Jon Snow led a team of black brothers to hunt them down and kill them all. It’s likely the group of men who killed Jon Snow were mostly true of heart and actually believed Snow’s decisions were going to destroy the Watch. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that this isn’t going to save them from a similar fate.
For all the enemies Jon Snow made on the Wall, he’s still got a lot of friends. Not only did he have enough to get elected Lord Commander, he’s also got a shellshocked Melisandre, the very loyal Davos Seaworth, and of course that Wildling army now led by Tormund Giantsbane that’s already been let through the gates. Strife is going to play a major part in season six once people discover what happened to Jon Snow. It could destroy what’s left of the Night’s Watch entirely.
BONUS: Bran Meets The Three-Eyed Raven
Though technically a part of season four, we can’t understate the importance of Bran finally reaching the Three-Eyed Raven north of the wall and beginning his training. When you’re fighting a magical army of undead warriors, a bit of magic on your own side goes a long way. And it looks like the Three-Eyed Raven is going to be giving Bran (and through Bran, us) an education not just in how magic works in the world of Game of Thrones, but the history of the lands that has gotten us to this point.
Bran’s ability to harness this knowledge could make or break the fight for humanity on the show, which seems a lot more important in the big picture than who ends up holding the Iron Throne or the North or Meereen or wherever.
Game of Thrones season six debuts this Sunday April 24 at 9 p.m. on HBO.