Watching Game of Thrones can be like playing seven chess games all at once. Sometimes it’s hard to remember all the moves the players have made, or even how the game is played. And they’ll be more important than ever, given that season six starts up just mere moments after where season five left off. Here is a quick primer on what to recall from seasons past, which should help you jump back in for episode one and beyond.
The mutiny: The men of the Night’s Watch sure love their mutinies. First they had the mutiny at Craster’s Keep, which killed off their Lord Commander, Jeor Mormont (Jorah’s dad). And then, at the end of season five, they had another one, killing the next Lord Commander, Jon Snow. We saw a group of men (and a certain boy) commit the murder — Alliser Thorne, Othell Yarwick, Bowen Marsh, and Olly each take a turn at stabbing Snow and saying, “For the Watch.” Not invited to the party? Eddison Tollett, a.k.a. Dolorous Edd, and a couple Castle Black guests, Davos, and Melisandre, who didn’t exactly come clean to Davos about what happened to his favorite princess, Shireen, when she arrived.
The prophecy: Season five started off with the first Game of Thrones flashback, to when a young Cersei heard from a woods witch that she would not marry the prince (Rhaegar), but instead marry the king (Robert), and have three children. “Gold will be their crowns, gold, their shrouds.” Meaning, the children would die before Cersei. Joffrey’s already dead, and Cersei’s about to get the news of her second dead child, Myrcella. Cersei’s never really been much of a true believer in either religion or magic before, but a prophecy seeming to come true could change that. How will that affect how she treats Tommen?
The religious orders: We’ve met three acolytes of the Lord of Light so far, each of whom practiced in their own way: Melisandre, who was successful in her mission to convert Stannis (and even more so, his fanatic wife); Thoros of Myr, who was a little less successful in his mission to convert Robert; and a nameless priestess, who caught Tyrion’s attention while preaching to slaves in Volantis. Both Melisandre and Thoros, the two we spent the most time with, had gone rogue — Melisandre’s preaching wasn’t in sync with the Red Temple’s, and Thoros was treating Beric Dondarrion as his personal resurrection puppet. The Volantis priestess, however, knows the party line: “From the fire she was reborn to remake the world! The Dragon Queen!” Daenerys may have more allies than she realizes.
Meanwhile, Cersei escaped the Faith Militant’s clutches with her Walk of Shame, but that was just her penance; she’s still expected to go on trial for the crimes she’s denied. She’s confessed to incest and adultery with her cousin Lancel, but denied incest and adultery with Jaime, as well as treason and regicide. She’s got a champion in the resurrected Mountain, Ser Robert Strong, should she opt for trial by combat. But what about the Faith’s other prisoners, Margaery and Loras Tyrell? What will it take to free them? Or should we say whom?
The Small Council: During Cersei’s imprisonment, Grand Maester Pycelle summoned Kevan Lannister to King’s Landing to sit as Hand of the King and preside over the Small Council. Qyburn seemingly retains his position as Master of Whisperers, and Mace Tyrell remains as Master of Ships and Master of Coin. Tyrell was last seen during his meeting with the Iron Bank to try to renegotiate terms, given that the bank had called in one tenth of the crown’s debt and the crown could only pay half that. Wars are expensive, and if the Lannisters don’t always pay their debts, their enemies might suddenly find new funding.
The Seventh Kingdom: Okay, so hardly anyone liked the Dornish subplot. But there was a reason Tyrion first brokered the marriage alliance between the Lannisters and the Martells (via the betrothal of Myrcella and Trystane) — to bring Dorne into the fold. Dorne had long operated independently, and the Martells had carried a grudge against the Lannisters ever since the death of Elia Martell. (She had the misfortune of marrying Rhaegar Targaryen, bearing his children, and then being raped and murdered, along with their children, by the Mountain during the Sack of King’s Landing at the end of Robert’s Rebellion. The Martells believe the order came from Tywin Lannister.) So when Prince Doran’s gout — which often left him unable to walk — prevented him from attending Joffrey’s wedding, his younger brother, Oberyn, came in his stead, using the royal wedding invite as an excuse to get justice. Yes, he kind of killed the Mountain (via manticore poison on his spear), but the Mountain also killed him. The Mountain refused to point the finger at Tywin, and he was ultimately resurrected. Not content with this outcome, Oberyn’s paramour, Ellaria Sand, and his daughters (the Sand Snakes) want to avenge him, and butt heads with Prince Doran before taking matters into their own hands and killing Myrcella. Doran wants diplomacy, not war — but how long can a peaceful prince fend off those calling for blood?
Bizarre love triangles: To recap, Cersei Lannister thought she might marry Rhaegar Targaryen. Rhaegar instead married Elia Martell. Robert Baratheon was to marry Lyanna Stark. But Rhaegar left Elia for Lyanna — some say he kidnapped her, some say not, but either way, it started a sequence of events that led to a war known as Robert’s Rebellion. Lyanna was hidden away in Dorne, and later died when Ned arrived to rescue her. Robert killed Rhaegar on the battlefield. To help wipe out Targaryens, the Mountain killed Elia and her children, but Rhaeger’s brother, Viserys, and his yet-unborn sister, Daenerys, escaped. Robert married Cersei, but never stopped loving Lyanna. There’s been a lot of fallout from this — tens of thousands have died — and it’s about time we find out why. Perhaps Bran Stark and his Three-Eyed Raven friend can shed some light?
The White Walkers: All the games the high lords play and all the civil wars in Westeros ultimately mean nothing, because the army of the dead is on its way. Samwell Tarly discovered that dragonglass can kill a White Walker, while Jon Snow discovered Valyrian steel can. But this is not widespread knowledge, and most of the dragonglass supply from the Fist of the First Men was left at Hardhome. As it is, as Jon said, they would need “a mountain” of it. Luckily, there is one such “mountain” — the abandoned home of the late Stannis Baratheon, Dragonstone. Meanwhile, Sam is on his way to the Citadel, which has the greatest library in Westeros. There he might be able to learn more, spread the word, and perhaps even set up a cozy home for Gilly and the baby. As Jon said, “I’m glad the end of the world is working out for someone.”