With Game of Thrones Season 6 about to break completely new narrative ground for the books or the show, it’s important to keep our names and places straight. Game of Thrones Season 5 was as eventful as they come, but ATE’s Game of Thrones Season 5 refresher has got all the details you need to jump right into season 6.
We’ve broken down the season into regions and character groups to make the recaps as efficient as possible.
It should go without saying by this point but, WHEN YOU SPOIL THE GAME OF THRONES YOU DIE!
Cersei Powerplays in King’s Landing
Joffrey getting poisoned at his own Wedding feast was certainly a blow to the Lannister’s and their royal reputation, but at least in his capacity as a figurehead king, Joffrey was replaceable. The Lannisters still had Tommen to groom for kingship. Tywin Lannister, on the other hand, was irreplaceable. Tyrion took that player off the board as a last “#@$% YOU” before escaping. No other family member or alley commanded such political experience or deferential reverence.
Season 5 showed us just how much Tywin kept the House of Lannister in charge. Without him pulling all the strings, Cersei accrued more turmoil in the kingdom and more treachery than she could control. For a while, it looked as though she could become the new de facto ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. However, Cersei finally reaped what she sowed when her own promoted ally, the High Sparrow successfully arrested her. Locked in a cell and shunned by her power base, she had no choice but to prostrate herself before the High Sparrow and confess to some (nowhere near all) of her offenses throughout the show.
She fessed up to laying with her own cousin Lancel Lannister whist married to Robert Baratheon. She would stand trial for the other charges against her, including orchestrated the death of King Robert. But before that she would suffer a public walk of shame, where the masses that loathed her so much would take the chance to scream in her face and pelt her with everything imaginable.
The only thing that got her through that was the thought of seeing her son King Tommen again. Still a naïve boy, he became too distraught to rule with the imprisonment of his mother and his Queen Margaery Tyrell. The Tyrells were the particular focus of Cersei’s undermining. She was able to get Margaery locked up too for charges of fornication. She’s also awaiting trial.
Last we saw Cersei, she was safely back in the Red Keep with her twisted but devoted Maester Qyburn and his Frankensteined strongman “Robert Strong”. But it’s pretty clear that he’s in fact Gregor Clegane, “The Mountain” reanimated to continue terrorizing and slaughtering Cersei’s enemies where called for.
Jaime and the Martells in Dorne
One of the unexpected consequences of Oberyn Martell dying to the Mountain during Tyrion’s trial by combat was a royally pissed off Dorne. And it so happened that Tyrion (rather ironic when you think about it) happened to broker Cersei’s daughter Myrcella’s hand in marriage to the Martell’s of Dorne back in season 2. Oberyn’s paramour Ellaria Sand and their daughters, “The Sand Snakes”, were primed to use Myrcella in their revenge schemes against the Lannisters.
Jaime volunteered to rescue Myrcella from Dorne and brought Bronn along with him. Turns out, Myrcella was happily engaged to Trystane Martell which meant she was caught between two groups wanting to whisk her away for their own purposes. Intolerable for any teenager. Thankfully, Oberyn’s much more sober brother Doran was able to broker an advantageous arrangement for both the Houses before the Sand Snakes could take their vengeance on Myrcella.
At least, ostensibly. Ellaria’s act of reconciliation belied her sneaking poisoning of Myrcella. The so called “long farewell” didn’t take effect and kill Myrcella until Jaime’s ship was already on its way back to King’s Landing. Whatever happens now between the Lannisters and the Martells in Season 6, you can bet that Cersei discovering Myrcella was murdered and Jaime failed her will only breed more animosity.
The Tumult in the North
Season 5 opened with the newly anointed Wardens of the North, the Boltons, bringing the vast and scorned lands to heel. Roose Bolton, mindful of the fact that he couldn’t even symbolically count on support from Tywin Lannister anymore, arranged to solidify his hold on the North with a marriage for his vicious son Ramsay. And who better to pacify the Stark-loyal hold outs of the North than Ned’s own eldest daughter Sansa?
And what do you know, Lord Petyr Baelish just happened to have Sansa Stark under his tutelage at the Vale. Sansa was, of course, reluctant to marry anyone from the family that betrayed and murdered her mother and brother. Littlefinger, the slime ball, convinced Sansa to take this opportunity to return to her home and begin taking it back for her family.
Sansa couldn’t know just how many complications and obstacles she would face in that endeavor. She had to deal with Ramsay’s rapes and beatings and being a prisoner in her own home. The one unexpected alley she gained was Reek, the servile husk of Theon Greyjoy, once her childhood acquaintance. Eventually, Sansa and Theon took their chance to escape and took a plummeting leap from the battlements of Winterfell.
They had some help with a convenient distraction in the form of Stannis Baratheon. After scattering Mance Rayder’s army of Wildlings, the would-be king and his red priestess Melisandre continued their campaign throughout the North. If they could unseat the Boltons from Winterfell it would be a considerable step towards uniting the Seven Kingdoms against the Lannisters. But Stannis’s tunnel vision obsession with becoming king finally undid him in Season 5. He sacrificed his own daughter Shireen to the Lord of Light for passage through the snow, but lost most of his army on the route to Winterfell. They deserted or were killed in raids led by Ramsay or hanged by Stannis himself or incompetence. Even though Stannis’s assault on Winterfell was enough to draw Roose and Ramsay’s eyes long enough for Sansa and Theon to escape, he and his weary, demoralized forces were thoroughly crushed.
But a Bolton would not seal Stannis’s fate. Brienne of Tarth, still roaming the North for the surviving Stark children in keeping her word to Catelyn Stark, observed the Baratheon-Bolton battle. She came upon the crippled Stannis and confronted him about murdering his brother, a long dead claimant king, Renly Baratheon. After 3 and a half seasons, Brienne finally administered her king’s justice to Stannis and executed him.
With Stannis and his campaign dead, the Boltons’ hold on the North will surely grow. How Sansa’s escape will affect their rule remains to be seen.
Arya Trains with the Faceless Men
You knew Arya had big things in store for her when Season 4 closed with her finally cashing in Jaqen H’Ghar’s coin and sailing for Braavos. Braavos was certainly an exciting world for Arya. But if she thought being friends with a faceless man was perplexing, trying to joining them was a totally inscrutable endeavor.
Eventually, it became clear that Arya would have to completely abandon her identity if she would become a faceless man. Not only her old clothes and possessions, including her beloved sword Needle given to her by Jon, but her old motivations. Kind of a tough choice to make when the whole reason you go join a cult of magical assassins is because you have very personal reasons for wanting to shank some chumps.
And just when Arya was on the right track with her training in obfuscating mundanity, one such chump showed up right in her path. Meryn Trant. Former Kingsguard, escorting Mace Tyrell while he deals with the Iron Bank of Braavos. He had murdered Arya’s dancing master Syrio Farrel back in season 1, not to mention beaten Sansa and been a general douchebag. So Arya took a disguise from the hall of faces and infiltrated one of Meryn Trant’s pedophilic brothel sessions and sacrificed him to the Many Faced God.
While it may have been cathartic as hell for her and for the audience, Jaqen H’Ghar was not happy. She took a face from the hall of faces before she was ready and took a life that she was not ordered to take. After one trippy scare, the faceless men cursed Arya with blindness. How Arya will handle her baggage or continue her training now is anyone’s guess.
Tyrion and Daenerys Unite in Meereen
With the help of Varys, Tyrion escaped King’s Landing and crossed the narrow sea. Not before offing his father with extreme prejudice. Whether or not he had planned on it for some time, Varys immediately pitched meeting and advising Daenerys Targaryen. Tyrion took some time getting over his guilt and depression (at least to getting functional again, not resolved by any means), but he agreed.
Presumably Varys and Tyrion would entreat themselves to Daenerys together, but Jorah Mormont had other plans. Daenerys had discovered Jorah had been spying on her for Robert Baratheon for years and banished him. He thought he would regain her favor by bringing her Tyrion, whose family betrayed and drove out the Targaryens.
Even though Jorah got infected with greyscale by taking a shortcut through the ruins of Old Valyria, he delivered Tyrion to Daenerys. It was tense meeting of two great players. Daenerys denies Jorah from returning to her service but Tyrion ultimately convinces Daenerys to take him on as an adviser.
And not a moment too soon. The ancient slaver city of Meereen has been nothing but trouble for Daenerys. The old slave interests had backed an insurgency called the Sons of the Harpy that were massacring the city’s people and preying upon her Unsullied soldiers. They even murdered Ser Barristan Selmy, one of her most capable swordsmen and loyal allies. Daenerys has compromised by allowing the fighting pits to reopen and marrying the respected Ghiscari noble Hizdahr zo Loraq, but the unrest continued in Meereen.
To top it all off, two of her dragons were imprisoned, having grown too large and powerful to roam unchecked over the city. The third, Drogon, was still unaccounted for.
The colliding agendas came to a head at the Great Games in Daznak’s Pit. Tyrion, Daenerys and Hizdahr attended the games, which Jorah persistently competed in, when the Sons of the Harpy appeared everywhere in the stands. They surrounded Daenerys in the center of the pit, with her loyal swords and soldiers vastly outnumbered. But then Drogon descended, gnashing and burning the Sons of the Harpy to bits. Daenerys took to her dragon child’s back and flew away from the imperiled city, leaving Tyrion to stare after her in awe.
Daenerys supporters quickly reorganized after the battle. Jorah and the pit-fighter Daario Naharis would search the Dothraki Sea for Daenerys on Horseback, while Tyrion governed the city. Varys made a timely reappearance to help Tyrion just as he had helped him in King’s Landing.
Daenerys herself was last seen being captured by a new Dothraki Khalasar. Who knows how they will treat her or what she will do now?
Winter is Coming at the Wall
Stannis Baratheon captured Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall and put him to death. Though a grudging respect had grown between Jon and Mance, at least the Night’s Watch was not in imminent danger of being overrun, by wildlings at any rate. Jon knew that there were still thousands more Free Folk north of the Wall and they would all become wights in the undead horde when Winter came.
With a little pitch by Samwell Tarly, Jon Snow’s leadership and bravery during the battle with Mance convinced enough of his brothers to elect him the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. As the new Lord Commander, he’d set a controversial mission. He’d lead a party to the wildling refuge of Hardhome and escort as many as he could through the Wall and resettle them in the Seven Kingdoms. Many of the Night’s Watch thought this endeavor was not only dangerous but treasonous. But despite the objections, Jon and Tormund Giantsbane met with the Wildling elders at Hardhome and agreed to ferry refugees towards the Seven Kingdoms.
But Winter came too soon. The Night’s King himself led a swarm of undead to attack Hardhome. The endless horde overran the makeshift settlement without a fight and every living soul that fell was converted into a thrall of the Night’s King’s army.
Jon and Tormund returned to the Wall with a few thousand free folk. As they passed into their new home, Samwell Tarly began his own journey to the Citadel to become a Maester for the Night’s Watch. Not long after, Melisandre returned to the Wall, quiet and despondent. She had deserted Stannis after his host shrunk to a hopeless size. Davos Seaworth had gone back to the Wall himself too. Stannis had dismissed him in a hopeless gesture before his campaign collapsed.
Jon Snow’s slights and abuses, whether perceived or not, finally caught up with him in a devious trick. Several Watchmen, led by Alliser Thorne, escorted Jon to the Castle Black Courtyard and took turns stabbing him. “For the Watch,” they intoned, leaving him to bleed to death in the snow under a scrawled banner of “traitor.” What shall the Night’s Watch, Davos, Melisandre and Tormund do now?
That about covers it. It will be a completely new an especially exciting season of Game of Thrones!
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