Five seasons. 50 episodes. 44 main cast members. Two continents. Seven kingdoms. It's a bit of an understatement to say that there are a lot of things to keep track of on HBO's Game Of Thrones . And now that showrunners David Benioff & D.B. Weiss are going off the beaten path of author George R.R. Martin's source material, it can be tough for even the most diehard GoT fan to keep track of everything. And that's why God (or the Seven) (or R'hllor) (or the Great Other) (or the Many-Faced God) (or whoever) invented recaps. With the highly-anticipated Season 6 premiere just around the corner, it's time to get fired up like Shireen at the stake with this Game Of Thrones Season 5 recap!
The tragic fate of the youngest Baratheon was just one of the many deaths and misfortunes that plagued the GoT characters last year. Even while the show racked up a record-breaking number of Emmys — including its first-ever Outstanding Drama Series trophy after five consecutive nominations — it also had undoubtedly its most controversial season yet, driving many viewers to the brink of quitting the show for good. Why would you want to put yourself through all of that misery again? Well, because you want to be as prepared as humanly possible for the awesomeness that's going to be the Season 6 premiere, of course!
Since there are too many characters to recap every single storyline individually, let's break this down by geographical region; seven regions for the seven gods. Let's begin.
1. In King's Landing…
The main plot in the nation's capital involved the rise of the Faith Militant, a fervently religious sect (which includes her own cousin Lancel) led by the High Sparrow, whom Cersei instated in place of the High Septon. This was all part of a plan to gain leverage over the Tyrells, since she felt she was losing control of her son Tommen to his wife Margaery. The Faith Militant immediately cracked down on all vices — including homosexuality — leading to Loras' imprisonment… and Margaery's, when she perjured herself in her brother's defense.
But Cersei's plan backfired when she was also arrested by the High Sparrow for her own previous adulterous relationship with Lancel. She was only allowed to leave her cell in the Sept of Baelor when she agreed to partake in a walk of penance, which involved walking naked through the streets while haughty Septa Mordane rang a bell and chanted "Shame, shame, shame!" But Cersei's not off the hook yet; she's basically out on parole, but she still has to stand trial to determine her guilt or innocence.
2. In Meereen…
In Season 5, Daenerys found her reign of Meereen besieged by the Sons of the Harpy, a guerrilla faction of former Masters who happily murder citizens and soldiers alike — including noble Ser Barristan Selmy. Robbed of her most loyal advisor, Dany was shocked to find herself face to face with Tyrion Lannister. (For his part, Tyrion had been kidnapped on the road to Meereen by the banished Jorah Mormont, and then both of them were kidnapped by slavers who took them to the fighting pits.)
Tyrion filled Barristan's place in Dany's counsel, but when the queen was attacked by the Harpies at the fighting pits, she was only rescued by the sudden appearance of Drogon, who roasted the insurgents and carried Dany off into the Dothraki Sea, where she was soon surrounded by a hostile khalasar. Jorah and Daario went off in search of their missing queen while Tyrion stayed behind to rule Meereen.
3. In Braavos…
Meanwhile, also across the Narrow Sea, Arya arrived in the free city of Braavos thanks to the coin given to her by Jaqen H'ghar. She became an apprentice at the House of Black and White, the temple of the Faceless Men. There she trained as an assassin until she was finally given her first mission: to kill a swindling merchant. But when Ser Meryn Trant of the Kingsguard arrived in Braavos, Arya took it upon herself to savagely murder the abusive knight — and was subsequently blinded by her mentor as punishment for her disobedience.
4. In Dorne…
When Cersei received a not-so-veiled threat from Dorne regarding the wellbeing of Myrcella, she dispatched her brother/lover Jaime to rescue their daughter and bring her home to King's Landing. All the while, Oberyn's paramour/widow Ellaria Sand and her daughters the Sand Snakes plotted Myrcella's murder as vengeance for Oberyn's death at the hand of the Mountain. Doran, the prince of Dorne, allowed Jaime to leave with Myrcella — providing he also take his son Trystane and give him a seat on the Small Council — but just as the ship pulled away from harbor, the young princess succumbed to a poison farewell kiss given to her by Ellaria.
5. In The North…
After arriving at the Wall, Stannis Baratheon arrived with Ser Davos, Melisandra, wife Selyse, and daughter Shireen in tow. After executing Mance Rayder for treason, he offered to legitimize Jon as a Stark and install him as Lord of Winterfell if he and the Night's Watch helped his army defeat the Boltons; duty-bound, Jon declined the offer. So the Baratheon army marched alone and soon found themselves trapped in a relentless blizzard. With his men succumbing to the cold, Melisandre talked Stannis into sacrificing his own daughter to the Lord of Light, and he had Shireen burned at the stake.
As Melisandre promised, the blizzard did end and the snows did thaw; but Selyse hanged herself and the majority of Stannis' soldiers deserted him in the middle of the night, aghast at his cruelty. So Stannis led what was left of his army in a suicide march against the Boltons, where they were promptly defeated. Brienne of Tarth found an injured Stannis in the woods and slew him as vengeance for her beloved Renly's death.
6. At Winterfell…
While all of this was going on just north of them, Sansa was suffering inside the walls of her family home. Her marriage to Tyrion brushed aside (since it had never been consummated), she was betrothed by Littlefinger to Ramsay Bolton instead, as part of an alliance between the Vale and the Boltons against the Lannisters. Unfortunately, as we all know, Ramsay is a hardcore sadist, and he proceeded to rape her on their wedding night while Theon/Reek watched. When Theon admitted to Sansa that he hadn't actually killed her brothers, Bran and Rickon, she talked him into helping her escape. Theon killed Ramsay's lover Myranda and he and Sansa leapt off the battlements into the snow below.
7. At The Wall…
After declining Stannis' offer, Jon Snow made a pact with the wildlings — now led by Tormund Giantsbane — against their common foe, the White Walkers. Jon is smart so Jon knows that every dead wildling they leave north of the Wall just becomes another wight in the White Walkers' army. Unfortunately, the rest of his Night's Watch brothers aren't so smart, and they start to distrust their newly-elected Lord Commander for his alliance with their former enemies.
When Jon led a rescue party to Hardhome, where many wildlings were gathered, the entire settlement was attacked by the White Walkers and a huge horde of the undead. After barely escaping with his life, Jon dispatched Samwell Tarly to Oldtown to study to become a maester, old Maester Aemon having finally died of old age. But all of Jon's grand plans to defend the Seven Kingdoms against the impending invasion were cut short when a mutinous mob (including Alliser Thorne and Olly) ambushed him, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him for dead.
*Phew!* All caught up? Good, because we haven't even touched on the characters who didn't appear in Season 5 who still might be important to the plot: like Bran, studying with the Three-Eyed Raven beyond the Wall; Balon Greyjoy, stewing on Pyke after his failed takeover of the North; and Brynden Tully, missing ever since the bloody events of the Red Wedding. Given all of these disparate plot threads — and the dramatic cliffhangers they all ended on — Season 6 of Game Of Thrones is sure to be its most action-packed yet.
Images: HBO (2), Macall B. Polay, Nick Wall, Helen Sloan (4)/HBO; Giphy