Previously on Game of Thrones…

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A lot has happened in Game of Thrones since we very first saw Ned Stark behead that Night’s Watch deserter. In the fifty intervening hours we’ve seen families torn apart, king replace assassinated king and a white-haired dragon queen walk and walk and walk. And then walk some more. In preparation for the season six premiere this Sunday, we’ve put together a handy guide to get you up to speed on everything that’s gone on in the world of the Seven Kingdoms. Needless to say, there will be spoilers. You have been warned…

Game of Thrones Season One

Happiness doesn’t last long for the Starks. When the King’s Hand is killed in mysterious circumstances, monarch Robert Baratheon journeys to Winterfell to enlist Ned Stark to replace him. The loyal warden agrees, accompanying him back to King’s Landing to take his place on the advisory committee. Arya and Sansa accompany their father to his new home, while wife Catelyn and sons Robb, Bran and Rickon remain in their stronghold to maintain order. Ned’s illegitimate son Jon Snow (who, we will quickly discover, knows nothing) heads north to the Wall in order to join the Night’s Watch and help them against the encroaching army of frozen undead White Walkers.

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Anyway, it doesn’t take long for Ned to get a whiff of something fishy regarding the fate of his predecessor, as well as uncovering some dark secrets about the reigning Lannister family (namely, a sibling relationship that would not make mum and dad happy). Various forces in King’s Landing warn Ned to not get in too deep, but his fierce moral integrity means that he has to see it through. It doesn’t help, of course, that King Robert is suddenly killed in a hunting ‘accident’, leading to a frantic scramble for the throne that leaves sadistic eldest son Joffrey wearing the crown and poor Ned behind bars.

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From there, things go from bad to worse. In the first of a series of unfortunate events for her character, Sansa is forced to give Joffrey her hand in marriage. In the second, she has to look on as her beloved father is beheaded for ‘treason’. In the third, she is abandoned in King’s Landing by her sister Arya, who proceeds to go on the run. Word of Ned’s death reaches the North, where an enraged Robb wages war on the capital. Jon is still at the Wall, sulking about something or other.

Meanwhile, all the way over in Essos, the exiled son of the infamous ‘mad’ king marries his sister into the Dothraki tribe in an ill thought-out power play. Far from strengthening his position, though, the move ends up backfiring: his sister is empowered by her husband, going on to become the great liberator we know as Daenerys. Before long she’s leading her people to Westeros, liberating colonies as she goes and strengthening her military nous. Oh, and the mysterious eggs that she’s been carrying her whole life happen to hatch…

Game of Thrones Season Two

With petulant little strop Joffrey on the throne, Westeros is a ravaged warzone. In the North, Robb’s army is going from strength to strength, with the young lad proving himself to be quite the tactician on the battlefield. He sends his half-brother Theon to his native Iron Islands to get the support of his family, but the insecure and power-hungry little scamp instead betrays the Starks and haphazardly captures Winterfell for himself. After wreaking a little havoc, he then pretends to kill Robb’s younger brothers in order to show the extent of his treachery.

Robb Stark Game of Thrones

While this is going on, the Starks gain the support of several other Houses, most notably House Frey. Their allegiance is based on Robb’s promise to marry Walder Frey’s eldest daughter. As easy as this sounds in theory, though, it proves to be much harder in practise: the young Stark immediately begins lusting after a young nurse named Talisa, eventually marrying her and causing the insulted Freys to withdraw their support. Oh well. It’s probably safe to assume that this situation is resolved and there will be absolutely no ramifications down the line…

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Catelyn, meanwhile, ventures south in order to seek the support of Robert’s younger brother Renly Baratheon. She arrives just in time to see him murdered by a spectre of black magic that was summoned by Robert’s other brother, Stannis. (Stannis, you see, feels that he is entitled to the throne, and has enlisted the help of semi-witch Melisandre to take out his opponents.) With Renly’s loyal aide Brienne in tow, Catelyn flees the scene of the crime and captures a wounded Jamie Lannister, hoping to use him as leverage to free her daughters from King’s Landing. Phew. Keeping up?

Elsewhere, Arya is captured and imprisoned in notorious Harrenhal. It is there that she meets the mysterious Jaqen H’ghar: an assassin who helps her escape and gives her a taste of the outlaw life. North of the Wall, Jon and a fellow ranger are captured by Wildlings, with the perpetually clueless Snow forced to kill his companion in order to gain the trust of his captors. Down in King’s Landing, all hell breaks loose as Stannis’ men launch a naval attack on the Lannisters, only to be defeated by cunning tactician Tyrion (a fan-favourite and the only one of the golden haired brood that we’re allowed to like). Oh, and there’s also some rubbish involving Daenerys getting her dragons stolen, but it really isn’t that important.

Game of Thrones Season Three

Tyrion Lannister Game of Thrones

Attempting to consolidate their power in the capital, the Lannisters forge an allegiance with the wealthy House Tyrell. Several marriage plans are made to join the two houses, with Sansa again forced to wed against her will. Only this time, benevolent Tyrion is her suitor. Sansa also starts to gain clandestine support from greasy brothel owner Petyr Baelish, who harbours a totally obvious crush on her mother.

With Catelyn having returned to her son on the battlefield, it’s left to Brienne to escort Jamie back to King’s Landing. Being Game of Thrones, though, it doesn’t go swimmingly: they’re captured by the sadistic Boltons, Jamie loses an arm and Brienne is forced to fight a bear. You know, the usual. Suffice it to say, the unlikely duo manage to escape and are brought irreversibly closer by the experience. Poor little Theon fares less well at the hands of the Boltons, getting himself caught in a separate incident and spending the rest of the season being mercilessly tortured by the mean little weasel Ramsay. It’s all very unpleasant.

Youngest Stark sons Bran and Rickon – far from being dead – are on the run from a razed Winterfell (which, at this point, is run by… the Boltons?), heading north of the Wall to find the answers to Bran’s mysterious visions. Illegitimate Stark Jon Snow, meanwhile, continues to get in with the Wildlings by falling for Ygritte and helping them climb over the Wall so that they can launch an unexpected attack. Back in the Night’s Watch, Jon’s loyal friend Sam bumps into one of the White Walkers (remember those?) and manages to defeat it by swinging at it with a dagger that happens to be made of dragonglass. ‘Of course!’ we cry. Maybe things won’t turn out so bad this season…

Red Wedding Game of Thrones

In camp Robb, an altercation breaks out amongst his ranks and swathes of his troops desert him. Never one to be disheartened, Robb decides that the only way he can make up for his lost men is to reconcile with House Frey and grovel until they forgive him. With his mother, wife and army in tow, Robb heads for the Freys’ castle. Luckily for the Starks, patriarch Walder Frey isn’t a petty man: the northern crusaders are welcomed into his dinner hall and treated to an epic banquet. Unluckily for the Starks, this is all a ruse and Walder is actually a very petty man who is seeking bloody retribution for being betrayed. In one fell swoop, Robb, Catelin, Talisa and the entire army are massacred, along with any hopes and dreams that may have been lingering on within us.

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Over in Essos, Daenerys continues to make considerable gains. She eventually acquires an army named the Unsullied: fiercely loyal warriors with seemingly no independent thought beyond the will to obey their master. Stannis, meanwhile, stops licking his wounds for a second when he hears that the White Walkers are coming and it’s going to be very, very bad for everyone.

Game of Thrones Season Four

Joffrey Lannister Game of Thrones

As part of a power play, King Joffrey is pledged to marry Margaery Tyrell. Their wedding day arrives and, unsurprisingly, Joffrey behaves like a nasty little brat who isn’t getting enough attention. To the relief of everyone who has ever owned a television, though, he hastily meets his demise via poisoned wedding cake. Distraught mother Cersei immediately blames Tyrion, leading to his imprisonment. Luckily, Prince Oberyn Martell happens to be visiting from nearby Dorne. Harbouring a poorly-hidden vendetta against the Lannisters, he agrees to fight on Tyrion’s behalf in a trial by combat. But because this is Game of Thrones, extremely likeable Oberyn is brutally murdered by his Lannister-backed opponent and Tyrion is sentenced to death. Newly compassionate Jamie, taking pity on his brother, decides to free him. An emancipated Tyrion then does all of Westeros a favour by accidentally bumping into his dad and shooting him with an arrow.

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Sansa, meanwhile, finally catches a break when an opportunistic Petyr Baelish uses the whole Joffrey fuss to sneak her out of King’s Landing. He takes her to The Vale so that she can stay with her auntie, but said auntie turns out to be a basket case. To cut a long and very dull story short, she ends up falling out of a window and Petyr and Sansa decide to leave for Winterfell. Arya, emotionally cold after the news of the Freys’ actions, arrives at the Vale just in time to have missed them, pushing her even further along her road towards cold-blooded ruthlessness. She decides to head to Braavos to receive training in the ways of the assassin, just like her idol Jaqen H’ghar. ‘Valar morghulis’ indeed.

Elswehere, Bran and co. make it to their destination north of the wall, meeting a three-eyed raven who tells the young Stark that he will one day fly (don’t ask). The Wildlings finally launch their attack on the Night’s Watch, with heavy casualties on both sides. Ygritte is among the deceased, giving poor Jon Snow even more to sulk about. Before the whole thing descends into total chaos, though, Stannis’ army comes marching in to save the day. Finally, Daenerys manages to capture the city of Meereen by instigating a slave uprising. She goes on to crucify the former slave owners to make a point, alienating herself from the city’s higher classes. To make matters worse, she finds out that her trusty aide Jorah is a former spy and her favourite dragon starts killing people.

Game of Thrones Season Five

Khaleesi Game of Thrones

In Meereen, Daenerys only bumps up against more resistance. Independent movement Sons of the Harpy show their rejection of their new leader by murdering citizens as well as members of the Unsullied. To make partial amends, she agrees to re-open the fighting pits – a practise she’s morally against but one that the people of Meereen hold dear to them. An outlawed Tyrion, meanwhile, is captured by fellow outlaw Jorah, who takes him to his former mistress to regain her favour. The three come together during a session at the fighting pits, only for the Sons of the Harpy to suddenly launch an all-out attack. A big fight ensues and all begins to look hopeless, until Drogon the murderous dragon swoops in, rescuing Daenerys and flying her to safety. Tyrion stays on to help rule Meereen.

At the Night’s Watch, Stannis burns the Wildling leader alive to send a message to his followers. Leaving Jon in charge of the men at the Wall, he leaves to march on Winterfell and reclaim the land that is now occupied by the wretched Boltons. Trouble is, the snow is falling harder and ever and his men are very, very tired. At his wit’s end, he takes semi-witch Melisandre’s advice to burn his daughter alive in the hope that he gains some support from the Lord of Light. This isn’t to the taste of some of his men, who quite understandably find it a bit too much and decide to take their leave. Those that remain are easily defeated by the Boltons. Brienne, who happens to be knocking around, bumps into a wounded Stannis and finally gets revenge for former master Renly (remember him?).

Sansa Stark Game of Thrones

While this is unfolding, Petyr and Sansa (who’s surely suffered all she can by now, right?) arrive at Winterfell. As part of some tactical play that, honestly, doesn’t really make much sense, Petyr marries Sansa to Ramsay Bolton so that she might one day… inherit Winterfell? Or something. Either way, there’s a clumsy and unnecessary scene where Ramsay has his not-entirely-consensual way with Sansa, which, apparently, is enough to shake Theon free from his funk. Finally rebelling against his long-time captor, he breaks Sansa out and they run away together.

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King’s Landing sees its fair share of uprisings, too. Joffrey’s younger brother Tommen inherits the throne, as well as Margaery Tyrell, leading to a city run by a weak-willed child who can’t be controlled by his mother. Embittered, Cersei turns to religious extremist group the Faith Militant in order to ward off the encroaching grip of the Tyrell family. This backfires, though, and she is tried for various counts of incest. Naturally, this being Game of Thrones and all, her punishment sees her stripped naked and forced to walk through the city whilst being ridiculed and spat upon by her disillusioned subjects.

And then we get back to the Night’s Watch. Newly-appointed Lord Commander Jon Snow announces that his priority as leader is fighting off the White Walkers. To do this, he says, his men must unite with the Wildlings. Given that much of last season saw the two parties killing each other at any chance they could, this goes down like a lead balloon. Undeterred, Jon accompanies the Wildlings back to their camp at Hardhome to persuade them to relocate. He succeeds, but not before the whole enclosure comes under attack from swarms of White Walkers. It’s incredibly scary and serves as an excellent reminder that, as much as the political manoeuvrings in Westeros may seem important, nothing comes close to frozen zombies in terms of sheer threat.

You know nothing, Jon Snow Game of Thrones

Unfortunately, the rest of the men at the Wall don’t see it this way and decide to ambush Jon upon his return. The last shot of the season sees Snow, wearing multiple stab wounds, staring up at the sky… dead? We’ll find out on Sunday.

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