Nate Dern is a Game Of Thrones fan who lives in Brooklyn with his cat Renly Baratheon. This is a pre-cap; check back Mondays after episodes for recaps.
Obviously, THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW.
While the wait for the next book installment of George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire goes on, the wait for the sixth season of HBO’s Game Of Thrones epic television series is over, proving once and for all that TV is better than books.
Okay, now that we’ve established that reading sucks, please read on for 13 things to remember before you watch.
1) Game Of Thrones season 6 starts on Sunday April 24th, 2016.
Send a raven to your parents and make sure they haven’t changed their HBO Go password, and mark your calendars for 4.24.2016. I’m more excited than Hodor at a Hodor Hodor.
Remembering when the dang thing starts is a gimme, I admit. Now let’s get into the good stuff.
2) Jon Snow is dead. But does that mean he is gone?
As if you’d forgotten, Jon Snow is dead. He is definitely dead. You don’t like it, I don’t like it, Ygritte doesn’t like it (side note: big ups to Kit Harington and Rose Leslie making their IRL romance red-carpet official), but we have to accept it and move on and just hope that smug-faced Olly meets the same purple-wedding-type fate that killed Joffrey.
On the other hand, maybe we don’t have to accept it! Dead doesn’t mean gone. We’ve already been shown that in the GoT universe, characters can be brought back from the dead. Remember ol’ Beric Dondarrion? He tousled with The Hound and done got poked one too many times with the pointy end, as Arya would say, and he ended up dead (Season 3, Episode 5).
But he didn’t stay dead. Moments later Thoros, using the powers of R'hllor, the Lord of Light, resurrects Beric. Which leads us to the point we’re making here: remember who else is tight with the Lord Of Light? That’s right, the Red Lady herself, Melisandre.
3) Melisandre is NOT dead. She is in Castle Black looking to start some stuff.
Things were looking as dire as a wolf for Stannis The Stern (more on that below…) so Melisandre was all, “See ya!” and galloped back as fast as she could to join her #1 Crow back at Castle Black. When she arrives somber af, Jon Snow and Davos “Onion On My Breath, Finger Necklace On My Neck” Seaworth realize what her arrival means: Stannis and Shireen are dead (more on that below…spoiler alert: they dead).
So, Lady Melisandre, a practitioner of the Lord Of Light’s magical powers, is shown arriving at the very place where Jon Snow is about to be betrayed and murdered by his own brothers. Are her powers infinite? No. If so, the sacrifice of Shireen would have had a different outcome.
But as the books make even more clear than the TV show even Lady Melisandre herself recognizes that while the fires never lie to her, sometimes it is possible for even her to misread what they’re trying to tell her.
And as Georgie Boy said in an interview:
— George R.R. Martin in an interview (http://www.westeros.org/Citadel/SSM/Month/2012/07/)
Melisandre has gone to Stannis entirely on her own, and has her own agenda.
I for one hope her agenda includes bringing Jon Snow back to life. Maybe he’ll be a Cold Hands type vigilante beyond the Wall?
4) Stannis is dead by sword-execution and Shireen is dead by fire-sacrifice.
Things didn’t go well for Stannis and his family last season. Despite having possibly the best claim to the throne by right (being the younger brother of the late King Robert Baratheon) Stannis has suffered from a “likability” problem. Sure, you were a firm ruler and you had the credentials, Stannis, but did you have to be so severe all the damn time? Maybe he should have danced on Ellen?
Sadly for him, Stannis does have to be severe all the time. It’s just how the Lord Of Light made him. When marching to Winterfell from Castle Black, as the snows were piling up and the sellsword Stormcrows were running away and the night raids led by Ramsey Bolton were all taking their toll, Stannis did the most severe thing he’s done yet.
He burnt his daughter Shireen at the stake as a sacrifice!
Damn. In one of the most haunting scenes yet from a series that has been full of haunting scenes, we watch as Stannis stands by the cries of pain from his burning daughter and the cries of anguish from his regretful wife. Was it worth it Stannis? Was it worth it?
No, it wasn’t. the battle goes more sour than a Dornish red wine, and Stannis finds himself wounded, his troops demolished, and his view occupied by a rather angry Brienne of Tarth. Brienne, who continues to increase her “Killing Major Characters” total, confirms that Stannis killed Renly with black vagina magic, and then sentences him to death.
Stannis utters his final words, “Go on, do your duty,“ and Brienne is more than happy to comply.
Since we were first introduced to her character, she’s basically been on a quest to avenge Renly (with a minor interlude babysitting the Kingslayer).
What will Brienne do with herself now?
5) Cersei is dead … dead tired, that is, from walking naked through the streets!
For a second did we have you like, “Wait, Cersei died???” Just trying to keep things light when discussing a show that has so much death … with a joke about death. Moving on:
So, when we last saw Cersei, she was at a low point.
This public shaming is the punishment bestowed upon Cersei from that pesky High Sparrow for her to atone for her sins. After a stretch of prison life that didn’t sit too well with Cersei, she finally breaks and tells the High Sparrow she will confess, telling him most of what he wants to hear, but still lying about her sexual / romantic / gross / complicated / at-times-rapey / incestuous relationship with brother Jaime.
More than protecting her own reputation, though, Cersei must maintian this lie above all others in order to protect her children’s legitimacy as heirs to the kingdom. If King Tommen’s birth-daddy was proven not to be former King Robert Baratheon, then King Tommen would no longer be King. He’d just be Tommen. And nobody wants that.
When she finally makes it to the Red Keep, it isn’t Jaime who comforts her, but her weird Island Of Dr. Moreau mad scientist lackey, Qyburn, and his newest corpse creation…
6) The Mountain is NOT dead and has been turned into some sort of Frankenstein Soldier Monster.
Hmm, do those dead eyes in ghostly blue skin look familiar?
Qyburn has been cosplaying as Dr. Frankenstein, using the body of the brute Gregor Clegane to create the “newest member of the King’s Guard” for Cersei.
This isn’t Lord Of Light resurrection magic, this is the Weird Science of alchemy and wildfire.
We’re told that this monster has taken a vow of silence until he kills all the enemies of King Tommen. Hashtag yikes. I’m still bummed from when The Mountain defeated The Red Viper in trial-by-combat and, quite frankly, I prefer this fan-made happy ending remix.
Fun fact interlude: Hodor’s real name isn’t Hodor. It’s Walder.
Old Nan reveals this to Bran in the books. His real name is Walder, but for some reason the only word he could say was Hodor, so everybody just started calling him that instead.
Okay…I guess this isn’t something that you had to know before you could enjoy Season Six, but it’s a fun tidbit, innit?
7) Daenerys Targaryen is NOT dead, but she is captured.
Let’s fly over to Meereen, shall we? Over here, Khaleesi’s life has been Flipped Turned Upside Down after a pit fight went bad and she had to escape on the back of big boy dragon Drogon.
In the process, Drogon gets stuck with a few spears and is injured. As he rests on the top of a mountain, Daenerys ventures out for food, but instead finds a whole heard of Dothraki, her former #squad. Sadly, Khal Drogo has long since made his way to the horse party in the sky, so as the scene ends we’re left wondering if this is a Good Khalasar or a Bad Khalasar.
We’re also left wondering what is up with that ring that Dany drops on the ground before the riders arrive. Presumably, it’s a Bread Crumbs situation and she is hoping Daario will be able to use this as a clue to track her down.
8) Tyrion is NOT dead. He is holding down the fort in Meereen in Dany’s absence. Also, he is the most important GoT character.
Before we mention what Tyrion Lannister is up to as season six kicks off, first a quick sidebar about how important Tyrion is: he is the most important character. Not just my favorite character, not just the most likable or well-spoken or most entertaining character. He is all those things. But more than all of that, he is the most important character.
Some might balk at this, saying that the most important character is actually Daenerys Targaryen, with theories abounding that she will eventually conquer the Seven Kingdoms and sit the Iron Throne, or that the most important character must be a Stark, the show’s moral compass, and so therefore possibly Jon Snow.
But in a show that is ultimately all about the Machiavellian machinations of acquiring and retaining power (the GAME of THRONES, if you will), it should come as no surprise that a Lannister is the center of the show. And don’t take our word for it, this was mathematically proven by some computer scientists who used network studies of text analysis to show that Tyrion Lannister is the most connected, and therefore the most influential, character of the series.
As such, as you theorize about what the future holds for the GoT universe, you’d be wise to take stock of what Tyrion is up to. Speaking of which, what is Tyrion up to?
He is interim ruler in Dany’s absence (he went from prisoner to slave to leader of Meeren very fast), along with council from Missandei and a wounded Grey Worm. Daario and Jorah are being the Dany loving cowboys that they are and have ventured out into the wild to try to track Drogon and rescue Dany (as if the Mother Of Dragons needs rescuing! Hah! … Although at this point it is sort of looking that way).
Rather than put a GOT GIF of Tyrion here, I’m going to embed a video of Peter Dinklage’s appearance on Saturday Night Live:
9) Sansa and Reek/Theon are NOT dead, although they might be very cold.
Our season 5 Winterfell storyline ends sadly, with the evil bastard Ramsey Bolton still in charge and sociopathic as ever. Ramsey returns from defeating Stannis’s army and is most likely looking to do something depraved to celebrate.
Cut to Sansa. Sansa uses the confusion of the Bolton-Baratheon battle to escape from her quarters (one of the few times she has actively done something to improve her increasingly terrible situation lately; Sansa, the damsel in distress routine doesn’t suit you; you’re a STARK, act like one!). Her escape is cut short like a finger in a Ramsey torture session when she is confronted by Reek (aka the Ironborn formerly known as Theon Greyjoy) and Myranda (aka Ramsey’s side bitch).
But wait! For the first time in a long time, we see that there might still be some Theon left in the shrivled creature of Reek, when he heroically … throws Myranda to her death with a cheap shot she didn’t see coming. Okay, not the most heroic of heroic moves, but he did it for Sansa. And we are rooting for Sansa, her being a Stark and all. Right?
Is Theon fully back? Or will his inner-Reek triumph and lead him to sabotage their escape attempt and return Sansa to Ramsey’s clutches? I’m guessing we’ll see some internal struggles, but that Theon is back in a complete albeit damaged version of himself.
10) Myrcella Baratheon is dead and Ellaria Sand WANTS TO WATCH THE WORLD BURN.
Yep, the Dorn storyline is still happening!
We last left on a possible happy note - Jaime Lannister returning with his estranged daughter Myrcella, finally being honest with her that he is her father - and all seems to be well.
But then in true Game Of Thrones fashion, we see that she’s been poisoned by a goodbye-kiss from Ellaria Sand, who is still mad about Oberyn “the Red Viper” Martell’s horrific death (so am I, Ellaria!) and still mad that Prince Doran isn’t a more war-hawkish leader.
What viewers might forget is that as Jaime sails back to King’s Landing with yet-another murdered Lannister child (as if Cersei didn’t already have a hard enough week!), also on the ship is Trystane Martell, a child of FDR impersonator Prince Doran.
Most likely what’s going on here is some sort of play by Ellaria to get the Lannisters to react to the death of Myrcella, possibly killing or imprisoning Trystane, which might finally drive Prince Doran to declare war on the Lannisters, which is what Ellaria wants.
11) Arya is NOT dead but she is blind.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from how HBO has marketed season 6, it is that the Hall Of Faces from the House Of Black And White is going to be important:
This is great news, because the Arya Stark storyline is consistently compelling.
We last saw Arya getting punished for assassinating someone out of anger. As you might remember (or haven’t been able to forget because the gory image was seared into your memory forever) Arya brutally murders Ser Meryn Trant after he does some seriously messed up stuff to young girls in a brothel.
As a viewer, chances are you were rooting for his brutal demise, which Arya provided:
However, as Jaqen H’ghar scolds her, a Faceless Man does not kill for revenge. But because Arya took it upon herself to choose life, Jaqen (or, to be more precise, the Faceless Man we knew as Jaqen) drinks a poison that causes him to die (“only life can pay for life”) and that leaves Arya blind.
In the ASOIAF book series, Arya also goes blind, but only as a training exercise, not as a punishment. Will her eyesight be returned quickly? Or will show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss choose to draw out Arya’s blindness for, you know, dramatic effect? I’d be very surprised if Arya’s blindness isn’t cure by the end of the season six premiere.
12) Tommen and Margaery are NOT dead, but they are doing it (it = sex) like they will be soon.
Cersei is a playmaker. She’s moving and shaking behind the scenes, pulling the strings on the many puppets she has, listening to the whispers of her spies, and basically getting everyone to do her will. Her weakness is her devotion to her children, and that devotion leads to emotion that blinds her. As season five went on, we watched as Margaery proved to be a worth adversary to Cersei’s mind games, which revolved around securing lil’ Tommen’s affection.
So, who does Tommen love more: his wife the queen or his mom the queen-regent? Basically, it’s indicated that Tommen and Margaery have officially consummated the marriage bed (with SEX!), which is all it took to secure adolescent Tommen’s devotion.
For the moment, Margaery (and by extension, the Tyrells) have the upper hand in the ongoing Lanniser-Tyrell power battle. It feels like this is a case of waiting for the other shoe to drop, though, in this case the other shoe being the wrath of Cersei Lannister. When it drops, some Tyrells are gonna get crushed.
13) Remember Bran? Bran is NOT dead! He is just living in a tree or something!
We haven’t heard from Bran Stark since season 4! Holy cow. Everybody thinks that Bran is dead and that there are no more Stark boys. In the end of season five, though, Sansa finally gets Theon/Reek to admit that he lied and did not actually kill Bran or his brother Rickon way back in season one after all, so Sansa at least knows the truth about her younger brothers.
Bran, still crippled, has been on a quest to find the Three-Eyed Raven, which he seems to do when they reach a cave beneath a weirwood tree, with the assistance of a Child Of The Forest, one of the ancient beings who inhabited Westeros in the old days when magic was still strong in the world. Jojen died in the effort, but Meera and Hodor live on by Bran’s side (we presume).
The actor who plays Bran, Isaac Hempstead, has confirmed that Bran will be back this season. Fans of the show who enjoy strange visions, talking trees, and Hodor, get excited for one helluva a ride!
Bonus #14! There are still more characters we haven’t mentioned!
Turns out, this show has a lot of characters. Here’s a few more to remember:
Petyr Baelish is one of the most ambitious characters in a show about ambition. He exemplifies the Horatio Alger story of a minor lord amassing power through wheelings and dealings. After leaving Sansa in Winterfell to return to King’s Landing, Petyr is back channeling (to use a word I learned from another show about power brokering, House Of Cards) with both the Lannisters and the Tyrells. Cersei has promised to make him Warden Of The North in exchange for giving the High Sparrow damaging information about Margaery. When he threw Lysa Arryn (lady who breastfed her too-old-to-be-breastfed boy and sister of Lady Catelyn Stark) down the moon door, he maneuvered to become Lord Of The Vail, and theoretically he’s training an army to go recapture Winterfell from the Boltons. At least that’s what he says. But as Littlefinger shows more than any other character, words are wind.
He then goes and makes a deal with big momma matriarch Olenna Tyrell and gives her info about Lancel (Cersei’s former cousin-lover turned Faith Militant), in exchange for her keeping quiet about Littlefinger’s more-than-little role in former-king and forever-brat Joffrey’s death.
In short, Littlefinger was woven a very complicated web of lies on which to build House Baelish. Will we see it all crash around him in season six?
How well do we know the Master Of Whisperers? Lord Varys / the Eunuch / the Spider has played for more sides than an icosahedron on his time on the King’s Small Council, but at the end of last season he finally showed his true allegiance when he helped Tyrion escape from King’s Landing. But his true allegiance isn’t to Tyrion, it’s to Daenerys Targaryen, who Varys thinks is the best person to bring peace and prosperity to the Seven Kingdoms. As season six begins, Tyrion and Varys are now in Meereen, ready to offer their service to Dany (once she escapes from those Dothraki, that is).
Jorah Mormont contracted greyscale (the disease that turns you into a stone zombie) and is as crazy-obsessed with Khaleesi as ever. After being banished, he brought Tyrion back to Dany’s court in an attempt to win her forgiveness. Greyscale and an unhealthy devotion to a queen he can’t have? More than any other character this season, Jorah is a ticking-time bomb disaster waiting to explode.
And of course … the White Walkers walk on
Oh yeah, we almost forgot to mention THE SINGLE BIGGEST THREAT TO LIFE IN WESTEROS! That’s right, as all of the petty squabbling for power is happening between various proud families, the growing undead army of the White Walkers slowly pushes south.
Remember that King White Walker (the Night’s King) who looked at Jon Snow with what almost seemed like a glint of recognition? What will come of that? Will Jon Snow resurrected not by Melisandre, but instead meet the cruel fate of being reanimated as a Wight and thus be compelled to join the enemy that in life he swore an oath to fight against?
Whatever you think about what will happen with the Night’s King and Jon Snow, we can all agree that the threat of the White Walkers and the recitation of “Winter Is Coming” are clearly meant as allegories for the inevitable threat of climate change in our own world, and that while we all get occupied rooting for different politicians the actual threat to our very existence remains unaddressed. WE MUST UNITE THE CLANS AND LOWER CARBON EMISSIONS! Not convinced but interested by this interpretation? Check out Vox’s take on the theory.
Okay, that should be sufficient memory jogging for you to satisfactorily enjoy the start of Game Of Thrones season six when it begins this Sunday April 24th 2016. Valar Morghulis.