Game of Thrones: A helpful reminder of what you need to know before Season Six

With a sprawling world and ever-changing cast of characters, here's our wrap up of how Season Five ended

Game of Thrones

Kit Harrington as Jon Snow, whose fate on 'Game of Thrones' has become one of the show's biggest talking points [HBO]

Westeros and the wicked backstabbing it takes to claim the Game of Thrones will return to our TV screens tonight, bringing with it questions about just how much female nudity is needed in HBO dramas, one-liner zingers, and a basic understanding of High Valyrian verbs of modality. But in a show with even more characters than The Wire, getting back into the sword swing of things can be tricky. So here’s our catch up of what miserable conditions the remaining Starks, Lannisters, and Targaryens founds themselves in at the end of Season 5 ahead of tonight’s Season 6 debut.

Oh, and spoiler warning, obviously. Consider yourselves Caitlin Stark hearing the Rains of Castamere while weighing up the beef or salmon choice at the Red Wedding.

House Stark

Game of Thrones’ fifth season wasn’t particularly nice to any of the families, though the few remaining Starks really took the brunt of George RR Martin’s literary fury.

Having fled King’s Landing, Sansa Stark found herself wed to the show’s most loathed character, Ramsay Bolton, a sadistic and unhinged murderer who subjected the older Stark daughter to repeated sexual assaults in one of the show’s most controversy-generating arcs. As the seasons came to a close, Sansa and Theon Greyjoy had pushed Ramsay’s number one gal Myranda off a Winterfell tower, then making a jump and run from Ramsay. But the bastard son needs to get his wife back, as his father’s new wife Walda is pregnant with a potential heir with a better claim to the Bolton name.

Across the narrow sea in Braavos, things aren’t looking much better for Arya Stark, whose Jobbridge dead body washing in the House of Black & White saw her going on a murderous killing spree against Ser Meryn Trant for killing her first fencing master. In retribution for taking a life she was not supposed to, Jaqen H’ghar mystically blinded her.

And last but not least, there’s the big mystery surrounding the fate of Jon Snow. The bastard son of Ned Stark and Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch had managed to temporarily save the North from an invasion of icy zombies, but in doing so created a number of enemies with his brothers – who responded by repeatedly stabbing him and leaving him bleeding out all over the snow. Is he dead? If the fanboys are to be believed, expect a deus ex Melisandre, as the witchy woman in red is in the barracks where his body is currently lying. But don’t expect any of that to be resolved with any sort of conclusion till at least episode three.

House Targaryen

It was all going so well for the mother of dragons. Going from town to town, freeing slaves, speaking multiple languages, becoming the Princess Peach to Super Daario. And then the former slave owners in Meereen got a bit pissy and stabby, and the show left Dany fleeing a shockingly violent uprising on the back of her dragon Drogon. Having brought her to some grassy spot, the injured dragon was getting some much-needed rest when Daenerys found herself surrounded by an old foe – the Dothraki horde. Now in the possession of these horse lords, Ser Jorah and Daario will have some serious work to do catching up, with Ser Jorah racing against his infectious greyscale at the same time.

House Lannister

With Daenerys awol, it’s up to everyone’s favourite Tyrion to keep Meereen from completely falling apart, and if the trailer is to be believed, we can expect him to crack wise and issue the show’s best lines to Missandei and Varys. While Drogon breathed a fiery fury onto a number of the stab-loving Sons of the Harpy, Tyrion will have to do some string pulling to save the city from completing imploding.

Fresh from her ultimate walk of shame, Cersei has become arguably the most pitiable character in the show. Her golden locks cut off, her secrets laid bare by the extremist Sparrows, her confessions finally got her out of her cell and back in the Lannister castle. But we can expect the show’s quiet manipulator not to take it lying down, with a new bob and a new zeal of vengeance expect for the Queen Regent.

Jaime, her brother and lover, was last seen leaving Dorne on his way back to King’s Landing, where he had been sent by Cersei to rescue their daughter Myrcella – only to discover that she was rather happily in love with Prince Trystane. But all happiness on Game of Thrones is short lived, and Myrcella ended up being poisoned to death by Ellaria as punishment for the loss of Oberyn Martell at the hands of the Hound. Expect Ellaria and her Sand Snakes, the bastard daughters of Oberyn, to shake things up in Dorne in Season 6.

Everyone Else

After the pretty gut-wrenching death of Shireen, the daughter of Stannis Baratheon who Melisandre convinced Stannis to burn to death as a good luck charm, Ser Davos finds himself with the Night’s Watch, aware of the death of his reading teacher and firm favourite. But he doesn’t know yet what role Melisandre played in it, so we can expect sparks to fly there.

Having finally made good on her promise to avenge Renly, another one of Melisandre’s victims, Brienne of Tarth is back on the trail of Sansa Stark, having promised to protect the heiress to the Stark title – with everyone else in the show believing Bran and Rickon to have perished. The other Stark boys were absent from Season 5, but with Bran having spent the last season learning how to use his own mystical powers, expect him to play an important role in the forthcoming walking dead wars.

On that front, Sam and Gilly have left the Night’s Watch and made it to Oldtown, where Sam is cracking open the books in an attempt to find a way to take on the White Walkers.

Either way, clear your Monday nights for the next nine weeks, with Game of Thrones starting at 9pm on Sky Atlantic tonight. Or maybe you were one of the people who got up at 2am to watch it at the same time as it broadcast on US TV...

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