With its vast web of interlocking plot lines and characters, it can be hard to keep track of what’s happening in Game of Thrones while you’re watching it, let alone a year later. But now that the show’s sixth season premiere is imminent, it’s time to play catchup with the Seven Kingdoms.

This season marks a major shift for viewers—or at least viewers who have read the books. Fans of the Song of Ice and Fire novels have grown accustomed to their privileged knowledge of the story, and particularly of the tragic plot twists and character deaths that shocked the rest of the audience. But now that the show has finally caught up to the, shall we say, languid pace of George R. R. Martin’s writing, everyone is finally on a level playing field, equally unsure of what’s going to happen next.

If you want to hit the ground running on this most exciting of seasons, we’ve put together a succinct guide to get you up to speed and answer all your burning questions: What was happening in King’s Landing? Where did Daenerys go? Uh, who’s Bran again? All this, and more, in your GoT Not-a-FAQ.

GOT_S6_JaimeCersei.jpegHelen Sloan/HBO

To the South: King’s Landing
Times are tense in the Westerosi capital, as the (literally) militant religious order of the Sparrows effectively declared war against the Lannisters, arresting Cersei and forcing her to walk naked and barefoot to the Red Keep as a creepy, puritanical penance for her sexual misdeeds. (Margaery Tyrell, so far as we know, is still being held by the Sparrows because of Cersei’s allegations of adultery, but given how well she and her grandmother Lady Olenna know how to play the game, let’s not count her out just yet.)

Cersei is inclined to murder people just for looking at her funny—let alone brutalizing and humiliating her—so vengeance is all but certain. One instrument for her wrath may be the massive, silent knight introduced to her as the newest member of the Kingsguard. Could the deathly pallor of this new champion have anything to do with the massive, twitching form that we saw beneath the sheets in Qyburn’s laboratory? And, in turn, with the fate of poisoned Gregor Clegane, aka the Mountain? Perhaps.

Fortunately, Jaime is presumably on his way back to King’s Landing; unfortunately, he’s doing it with the corpse of his daughter Myrcella, who was murdered by a poison kiss from Elliara to avenge the death of her lover, Oberyn (who was killed in skull-crushingly graphic fashion by the Mountain). Myrcella’s fiance, the Dornish prince Trystane Martell, is on the boat as well, and given the way this circle of vengeance keeps turning, things may not go well for him when Cersei learns that her daughter was murdered by a Dornish princess.

GOT_Ramsay.jpgHelen Sloan/HBO

To the North: Winterfell, the Wall, and Beyond
The premiere episode is titled “The Red Woman,” so it’s safe to assume that Melisandre figures prominently. (Though others disagree.) Although the red priestess has demonstrably real supernatural powers, notably the shadowmurderbaby she produced to kill Renly Baratheon back in Season 2, it turns out that her fire visions aren’t quite as infallible as she thought. After convincing Stannis Baratheon to burn his own daughter at the stake to assure victory against the Bolton forces occupying Winterfell, his campaign failed disastrously, and the curtain closed with badass Brienne of Tarth (seemingly) killing Stannis him to avenge her dead supercrush Renly. This effectively ends the Baratheon line—young King Tommen, of course, is Jaime and Cersei’s son and thus not a Baratheon at all—leaving the Iron Throne wide open for a more a legitimate claim. Perhaps… a Targaryen one?

We last saw Melisandre fleeing towards the Wall, where Jon Snow had just been touched up Julius Caesar-style by his Nights Watch brethren for allying with the wildlings. (Never mind that the alliance was the only hope against the undead hordes of Icy Hot statues poised to march South and destroy humankind.) The question on everyone’s mind now, of course, is whether Jon is Really Dead. Like, Forever-Ever Dead. It’s hard to say, but if this is indeed permadeath it can’t hurt to have a priestess with the Lazarus Touch hanging around. (Remember Beric Dondarrion, the guy who came back to life courtesy of a red priest after the Hound killed him in a trial by combat? Just saying.) Before he died, Jon also shipped Sam and Gilly south to Oldtown, where Sam plans to study up on how to defeat the White Walkers.

Meanwhile. Sansa Stark finally escaped Ramsay Bolton’s sadistic clutches by jumping off the side of Winterfell with Theon Greyjoy (aka Reek, the Gimp of Westeros) into what I’m going to assume was an enormous cushion of snow. Ramsay—who has made a hobby out of hunting girls through the woods—will likely be in hot pursuit, not only because his two favorite toys have gone missing, but because they murdered his favorite sex friend on their way out. His position at Winterfell is also mighty precarious without a Stark heir to bolster it, particularly since his father’s wife is newly pregnant, which means a legitimate son may be on the way. Brienne, who pledged to protect Sansa and Arya shortly before their mother’s tragic death, is likely still nearby, and her offer of protection would probably seem a lot more appealing now than it did when Sansa first turned it down.

GoTSnow.jpgHelen Sloan/HBO

And then there’s Bran. Don’t feel bad if you forgot about him; we haven’t seen the young Stark since Season Four, when he disappeared north of the Wall with Hodor “Hodor” Hodor and Meera Reed. We know that Bran has special powers, including prophetic dreams and the ability to “warg,” a.k.a. take over the bodies and minds of both animals and people. His visions ultimately lead him deep into the frozen north to a man called the Three-Eyed Crow, who seemed poised to play a Yoda role in his life. Numerous teasers indicate that an older and more seasoned Bran will be returning to the screen; what new powers could he have now, after a season of supernatural tutelage and possibly mustache growth?

GOT_S6_BranSydow.jpegMacall B. Polay/HBO

To the East: Meereen and Braavos
Long before it was referenced in the television show as a sex position, the Meereenese Knot was a term that George R. R. Martin invented for the narrative tangle he created with Daenerys and the other characters in Essos, who got tangled up like so many Christmas tree lights piled in a box. While there hasn’t been much resolution in the books thus far, the show has given us a glimmer of hope, with Tyrion Lannister and all-knowing Varys showing up to help Daenerys run Meereen and—gods willing—finally get her back to Westeros. But because nothing can ever be easy, last season ended with an assassination plot against Dany by the guerrilla opposition group the Sons of the Harpy.

Although they managed to kill Hizdahr zo Loraq, the nobleman she married in hopes of avoiding exactly this sort of bloodshed, Daenerys escaped when her free-range dragon Drogon appeared and roasted most of her assailants. After climbing on his back and flying away, Dany ended up stranded in the wilderness, Drogon refusing to heed her commands. He’s off hunting when a massive Dothraki khalasar appears and surrounds her. Dany drops a distinctive ring in the grass as a breadcrumb for potential rescuers to follow—a category that will likely include both her sex buddy Daario and Jorah “Have you any salve?” Mormont. Although Dany has banished Jorah not once but twice for snitching to King’s Landing, he’s still ridiculously in love with her and ready to die in her service—and probably even more so now that he has contracted greyscale, the progressive and usually fatal disease (the same one that left Shireen Baratheon’s face disfigured).


Arya Stark is still at murder school in Braavos, though it seems she’s gotten herself in a bit of trouble with her teachers for murdering a little too hard. Or at least murdering for the wrong reasons. Although the party line at the House of Black and White is that death is a gift, it has to be warranted. As satisfying as it was to watch Arya stab the pedophilic sociopath Meryn Trant—the murderer, you may recall, of her Braavosi sword-fighting teacher Syrio Forel—ultimately that was a gift she gave to herself. The House of Black and White sees this unsanctioned killing as an affront to their Many-Faced God of death, and produces a vial of poison, insisting that “only death can pay for life.” But instead of making Arya drink the poison, her many-faced and many-consonanted friend Jaqen H’ghar drinks it instead, though it’s not clear at the end if it was “really” Jaqen who imbibed—or if anyone is really ever anyone at the House of Black and White.


Arya doesn’t totally escape punishment however; the last we see her, her eyes are clouding over with a whiteness that presumably blinds her, either permanently or temporarily. But this physical impediment may not be all bad for our favorite adolescent assassin. After all, when her brother Bran lost the use of his legs—when Jaime pushed him out of the incest tower, lo so many years ago—he discovered powers and perceptions far beyond the abilities he had lost. Could the same be true for Arya?

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Catch Up With Everyone in Game of Thrones Before Season 6