We’re getting closer and closer to the end, once and for all: Game of Thrones’ final season is just weeks away. Still playing catch-up before it all goes down? We’re here to help with our ongoing season-by-season breakdown of what you need to remember before the beginning of the end.
Season four left us off in an interesting place. Daenerys’ ascension to rule in Mereen has come at the cost of chaining up her dragons, Arya made the decision to set sail for Braavos (and assassin training), and Lannister family drama continued to grip King’s Landing, leading to Tyrion’s explosive, patricide-driven exit from the capital.
The stage is set for some unlikely partnerships ahead — and to learn more about them, you can either check out our 90-second video recap above or read our full play-by-play of season five below.
- We open the season with a flashback to young Cersei Lannister, who’s gone to visit a witch and get her fortune told. She learns that she will marry a king and birth three children with golden hair, but that all of them will die before she does. Also, Cersei learns she is doomed to be replaced by a younger, more beautiful queen, and will lose everything.
- Following the death of King Joffrey and Tywin, Cersei has positioned herself at the centre of the King’s Counsel — declaring Qyburn the new Master of Whisperers and stating there will be no Hand of the King until King Tommen is old enough to pick one. Which means, essentially, the position goes to her.
However, Queen Margaery is starting to show her cards, asserting her influence over her new husband Tommen and flaunting it in Cersei’s face. Naturally this terrifies Cersei, who seeks to keep the Tyrells in their place.
This includes sending Mace Tyrell to Braavos to ask the Iron Bank for more time to repay their debt — instead of getting more money from the Tyrells — as the bank has come to collect. She doesn’t want the Tyrells to own King’s Landing, and Westeros, more than they already do.
Cersei also decides to seek out the help of a new religious order called the Sparrows, led by a pious man who holds the title of High Sparrow. She helps get him declared as the new High Septon, and grants the Sparrows permission to re-establish the Faith Militant, an army whose purpose is to weed out moral corruption.
Their first target: Queen Margaery’s brother Loras, arresting him for preferring men. And later on Queen Margaery herself, for the crime of keeping it a secret.
Unfortunately, Cersei gets more than she bargained for. The Faith Militant eventually comes for her over accusations of incest, murder and insert any awful thing she’s ever done here. She confesses to having a relationship with her cousin, but denies everything else.
As penance, she chooses to walk naked through the streets of King’s Landing. This moment changes Cersei forever. They may have cut her hair, but not her pride.
- After her ordeal, Qyburn introduces Cersei to her new bodyguard: The reanimated corpse of Ser Gregor Clegane.
The Vale, the North and Dorne
- Hey, remember Dorne? Well, it still exists. Jaime Lannister is sent there after he and Cersei get a threatening message regarding the safety of their daughter, Myrcella. But she’s happy and healthy, totally in love with her future husband, Prince Trystane.
The one responsible for the message was Ellaria Sand, who’s still furious over the death of her lover, Oberyn Martell. She wanted to go to war with the Lannisters, but Prince Doran Martell ultimately refused.
So she and her team of warriors, the Sand Snakes, devised a plot to kill Jaime. But they immediately fail (because the Dorne storyline was stupid). Ellaria did manage to get her revenge in the end by poisoning Myrcella, causing her to die in her father’s arms.
Sansa and Petyr Baelish take Robin Arryn on a tour of the Vale. While on their journey, Petyr informs Sansa that it’s in her best interest to marry Ramsay Bolton. This would bring her back to Winterfell and put her in a place of power should Stannis Baratheon retake the Stark homestead.
Of course, Littlefinger has been saying something else entirely to Cersei, so it’s clear he’s playing both sides.
- Ramsay learns that Roose Bolton’s new wife is pregnant, and he fears for the future of his claim. Roose dismisses the idea, and adds that Ramsay himself should marry so he can produce an heir of his own.
Sansa ends up marrying Ramsay, with Theon/Reek walking her down the aisle. The marriage proves horrible, as expected considering Ramsay is a monster, and Sansa yearns to escape. She tries to get the help of a loyal servant, who told her Brienne of Tarth was waiting nearby to come and rescue her, but Reek ends up spilling the beans to Ramsay.
In the end, Sansa and Reek choose to escape during the Battle at Winterfell, feeling it’s better to risk their lives in the wilderness than live one more day under Ramsay’s thumb.
Stannis Baratheon, following his successful capture of the wildling army, demands they submit to his rule in exchange for their safety. Mance Rader refuses and is burned at the stake, with Jon Snow putting an arrow through his heart at the last minute to spare him pain.
Stannis decides to march on Winterfell, against the advice of Davos Seaworth, saying it’s time to confront the Boltons.
- This does not go well. A major snowstorm ensues, and Stannis’ army loses a good portion of its rations, men and horses. Eventually, Stannis and Davos realise that they don’t have enough supplies to make it to Winterfell, and Davos is sent back to Castle Black to ask for more.
- In the meantime, following a raid by the Boltons that destroyed almost everything they had left, Melisandre tells Stannis that the only path to victory is by sacrificing someone with king’s blood. Since Gendry had escaped, the only one left is Stannis’ daughter, Shireen. And yes, she is burned at the stake.
- This decision proves to be his downfall, as Stannis wakes up the next day to learn that most of his army has abandoned him, and his wife has committed suicide. Nonetheless, he still faces off against the Boltons and loses, with Brienne of Tarth delivering the final blow as revenge for the death of Renly Baratheon. With Stannis dead, and the War of the Five Kings is nearly ended.
Braavos and Essos
After arriving in Braavos, Arya heads to the House of Black and White, the home of the Many-Faced God and the headquarters of the Faceless Men.
At first she’s rebuffed, but eventually, Jaqen H’ghar brings her inside to study their deadly craft, telling her that she must become “no one”. Arya is told that she completely has to give up her former life to become one of them, but finds she cannot bring herself to throw away Needle. So, she hides it behind a rock for safekeeping.
- At first, Arya’s training seems to be going well — despite being tortured by the Waif, another Faceless Man acolyte. However, things change when she sees the arrival of Ser Meryn Trant, the man who supposedly murdered her “dancing instructor” and is on her kill list. She breaks her training by using a disguise to murder Trant, and the Faceless Man takes her eyesight as punishment.
Daenerys is still in Meereen, figuring out how to lead and finding it’s a big challenge — especially now that they’re facing attacks by a group called the Sons of the Harpy, who are angry at the changes Daenerys has made to their way of life. Ser Barristan Selmy, sadly, is one of the victims of the Sons of the Harpy’s wrath.
Dany tries to placate the people by promising to marry Hizdahr, one of Meereen’s nobles, and agreeing to reopen the fighting pits under the condition that it only use free men.
Varys and Tyrion are on a road trip to find Daenerys, stopping in Pentos and Volantis on the way to Meereen. While in Volantis, Tyrion is kidnapped by Jorah Mormont, who means to present Tyrion to Daenerys as a gift to get back into her good graces.
Their journey is… tough, to say the least. While making their way by boat through old Valyria, the pair are attacked by the Stone Men and Jorah contracts greyscale. Then, they’re kidnapped by slavers. Tyrion manages to convince them that Jorah is a fighter who should be taken to the newly reopened fighting pits in Meereen and that Tyrion is his partner.
Jorah and Tyrion end up at the fighting arena as Daenerys looks on. Jorah manages to defeat all of his opponents, without killing them, before confronting Daenerys and offering Tyrion as a trophy. Tyrion manages to win her trust and Daenerys invites him to stay, but Jorah is once again exiled.
But he returns to fight in the tournament — and just in time, as he manages to subdue an assassin before the crowd erupts in a sea of masks. The Sons of the Harpy have staged a massive attack. Daenerys is saved last minute by her missing dragon Drogon, who flies in and takes her to a far-off location. She’s discovered by the Dothraki horde, who take her prisoner.
The Wall and Beyond
- Bran is over there. Off-camera somewhere. He’ll be back next season.
- Jon Snow is voted in as the next Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, something that upsets some of the brothers, especially Ser Alliser Thorne, as they still don’t trust him. Samwell Tarly and Gilly feel the ramifications of this, as Thorne and the others make it clear that they don’t want Jon, or any of his allies, among their ranks.
Jon makes some decisions that continue to sow mistrust within the Night’s Watch. First, he orders the execution of Night’s Watch brother Janos Slynt after he refused to follow orders.
Then, he proposed an alliance with the wildlings, promising them land south of the Wall in exchange for aid should the white walkers invade. Tormund Giantsbane is sent north to fetch the remaining wildlings, who’ve been camped out at Hardhome, and Jon joins him as a gesture of goodwill.
- While at Hardhome, the wildlings are attacked. The white walkers invade and slaughter many of them, with Jon managing to kill one of their “officers” with his Valyrian steel sword, Longclaw. The wildlings are forced to retreat, much fewer in number than before, as the Night King makes his battle debut and magically raises the dead wildlings to fight at his side.
- Jon returns, and the wildlings are allowed safe passage south of the Wall. Samwell announces that he plans to become a maester, and is granted permission to leave, along with Gilly and her baby.
Then, in the dead of night, something happens. A young boy named Ollie, one of the newest members of the Night’s Watch (and an ally of Thorne), tells Jon that his uncle Benjen Stark has finally returned from Beyond the Wall.
Only he hasn’t. Instead, Jon is confronted by some of his fellow brothers, who each take turns stabbing him “For the Watch”. Jon Snow is now dead.