by Daley Wilhelm
This article is dark and full of spoilers for season six of Game of Thrones. Unlike G.R.R. Martin’s next book, season seven’s Sunday premier is fast approaching, so here’s a refresher on what horrible things happened to your favorite characters last season and where they seem to be heading in the titillating trailer for season seven.
At the end of season five, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch Jon Snow was betrayed by his own men who thought that Jon himself was a traitor for his allegiance to the Wildlings. He was stabbed “for the Watch” and left to die in the snow. Which he did.
For a whole episode, he’s just a slab of cold flesh on a table until Davos manages to bully the Red Woman Melisandre into necromancing him back to life, much to the shock of everyone, especially his murderers. Jon then oversees their deaths, but decides that his time at the Night’s Watch is done since he fulfilled his oath, living and dying at his post. Before he can leave Castle Black, Sansa arrives, seeing her brother for the first time since he rode out for the Night’s Watch back in season one.
Jon and Sansa, learning that Ramsay Bolton has declared himself Lord of Winterfell and has their youngest brother Rickon hostage, decide they must take back their home. They go about mustering forces from Northern houses still loyal to the Starks but find little help and much contention over Jon’s plan for the Wildings to live among them as they retreat from the oncoming tide of White Walkers.
Jon’s story crescendos in the infamous episode nine, “The Battle of the Bastards” wherein Jon and Ramsay clash in a brutal battle over Winterfell. Ramsay, in true sadistic fashion, begins the battle by killing his hostage Rickon. Despite having fierce Wildlings and even a giant on their side, Jon’s forces are outnumbered and outclassed by the Boltons. The tide turns in their favor when all was looking its darkest as reinforcements from the Vale arrive, lead by Littlefinger.
After the battle, the Northern houses, the Knights of the Vale, and the Wildlings declare Jon as “the King in the North.” A flashback via Bran also suggests that the long-held fan theory that Jon is also the rightful heir to the South is confirmed, revealing that he is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen and thus has the most legitimate claim to the Iron Throne.
Sansa leapt from a rampart twenty feet high at the end of season five and is now on the run with a mangled Theon Greyjoy from her tortuous, rapist husband Ramsay Bolton to whom she was forcibly married in order to secure his claim to the North. They are saved from Ramsay’s pursuing men by Brienne and Podrick, prompting Sansa to accept Brienne’s offer to serve and protect her. Brienne is finally able to deliver Sansa to her family–what little of it she has left.
While campaigning for the cause to take back Winterfell, she meets with Petyr Baelish, who still has a creepy crush on her and whom she blames for her violent marriage to Ramsay Bolton. As an apology, he offers the support of the Vale and reminds her of her mother’s family, the Tullys and how they might be of aid. She refuses Littlefinger’s help, but sends Brienne to Riverrun.
Before the Battle of the Bastards, Sansa realizes how dire the situation is and writes to Littlefinger. After the battle, she saves Ramsay from being beaten to death by Jon, only to tie him up in his kennels and sic his vicious hounds on him.
The end of season five left Arya blind after her betrayal to the House of Black and White. She’s a beggar on the streets of Braavos, intermittently beaten by the Waif. H’ghar recruits her again, leading to more training and more beatings by the Waif until she accepts that she is “no one” and thus given her sight back.
Arya is then given the task to go undercover and assassinate an actress but instead warns her mark and retrieves the sword Jon gave her back in season one, Needle. H’ghar when hearing of this, agrees with the Waif that Arya must die. Arya buys passage to Westeros but is caught and stabbed by the Waif. She only survives because the actress that she saves finds and heals her. However, this leads to the Waif finding Arya and killing the actress.
Arya manages to kill the Waif, bringing her face to the House of Black and White and declaring to H’ghar that she is Arya Stark of Winterfell and that she is going home. And she makes it all the way to the Twins, where she kills Walder Frey’s sons, feeds them to him in a pie, and slits his throat, thus checking off a name on her list.
Bran is beyond the Wall, having finally found the Three-Eyed Raven with the help of his warg friends Jojen Reed, Meera Reed, and Hodor. He provides helpful context through the season, flashing back into the past as he trains to grasp his mysterious powers. He sees Winterfell in his father’s childhood, his father and Howland Reed storm the Tower of Joy where Lyanna Stark was kept, and he sees the creation of the White Walkers. They were created to protect the Children of the Forest from the First Men. Bran gets cocky and goes into a vision unaccompanied, leading the Night King–apparent leader of the White Walkers–to realize where they were.
Their hideout with the Children of the Forest is attacked by wights and White Walkers. Meera and Bran are the only two to escape–his direwolf Summer and Hodor falling to the White Walkers. This is where we learn how Hodor came to be the Hodor we knew.
Benjen Stark–Ned’s brother who had been missing from the Night’s Watch since the show’s inception–saves the two from certain doom. He reveals that Dragonglass, obsidian, can save someone from being turned into a White Walker.
As they head south toward Castle Black, Bran has another walk into the past where he finally gets to the top of the Tower of Joy, where it is revealed that Jon is Lyanna Stark’s son and that she died shortly after giving birth to him. And after making her brother Eddard swear to never reveal where Jon came from: a Stark and a Targaryen.
Season five ended with Dany on Drogon’s back, setting fire to all those who plotted against her and wanted to reinstate slavery in Meeren. Drogon, still a moody teenager of a dragon, took her far away from the city. He flew off, leaving his mother to the mercy of a Dothraki horde that descended on her.
While Jorah and Daario track her, Tyrion tries to deal with the three cities that fall back into slavery. He manages to release Viserion and Rhaegal without being eaten. Dany is taken to Vaes Dothrak, where she is put with the other widowed Khaleesi, meant to stay there forever.
Jorah and Daario find her and want to sneak her away, but she demands to meet with the Khals, asking them to serve her as she strives to take the Iron Throne. They refuse, so she burns the whole building down, emerging unburnt as she did from her husband’s funeral pyre. When the Dothraki witness this, the whole horde kneels to her.
On the way back to Meeren, Jorah reveals that he has greyscale, so Dany orders him to go find a cure and return. Back in the city, she meets with the slave masters from the other cities she conquered and demands their surrender. When they refuse, she climbs onto Drogon and along with the other two dragons burns the whole of the slavers’ fleet.
Meanwhile, Varys who had disappeared onto a ship, turned out to be in Highgarden buttering up the Tyrells to join the Targaryen cause.
After the conflagration in the bay, an alliance is made between the exiled Greyjoy siblings so she sets sail with her armies, dragons, and the Ironborn navy for Westeros with Tyrion as the official Hand of the Queen and Daario left behind to rule Meeren.
Theon, an absolute wreck after Ramsay’s brainwashing and torture, is given leave by Sansa to return to the Iron Islands to try again to bring the Ironborn to the North’s cause. When he gets there, however, his uncle Euron appears and murders his father King Balon.
A Kingsmoot, wherein longship captains choose the new king, is held to choose either Euron, who freely admitted to the murder of the previous king, or Yara the apparent heir and one of the strongest captains. Euron is chosen as he promises to wed and bed the Dragon Queen in Essos in order to gain more power so that the Ironborn might take the Iron Throne. He also promised to kill his remaining family, but Yara and Theon had already fled to Essos with all of the boats.
Eventually they decide to go to Meeren and offer the Dragon Queen Daenerys Targaryen the Ironborn fleet and an alliance in order to get rid of Euron.
Cersei and Jaime are down to one child after the Sand Snakes take over Dorne and assassinate Myrcella. Young Tommen is now King, and Margaery is finally Queen of the Realm. However, the Faith gained power and begins investigating the moral crimes of the royal family, which includes the Queen and her twin brother Loras, who are both placed in prison. The High Sparrow also declares that Cersei must stand trial for her crimes, officially outing her for committing incest.
The Lannisters and the Tyrells devise an alliance in order to defeat the Faith Militant that now seemingly has control of the kingdom, but then Margaery repents for her sins, starts preaching the faith, and convinces Tommen to go along with it all, effectively giving the High Sparrow the reins to the kingdom. Tommen sends Jaime away to Riverrun and Margaery sends her grandmother Olenna away to Highgarden–with a hint that she doesn’t buy into the Faith.
With Cersei’s trial looming, King Tommen abolishes trial by combat, essentially ensuring that his mother lose her trial, which she planned to win with the zombie that is The Mountain at her side.
With no control left, Cersei takes a page for the Daenerys book of strategy and burns down the whole of the Sept of Baelor using Wildfire with the Faith Militant, the High Sparrow, Margaery, and a whole lot of nobles inside.
Tommen upon seeing this and having been depressed and wracked with guilt over the imprisonment of his wife and now, her death, quietly steps out of a very high window, killing himself.
Jaime returns to King’s Landing from his successful raid on Riverrun to find his son dead and Cersei crowned Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
Season seven promises to see all these building forces converge–Daenerys, Cersei, and the Starks all gunning for control over the Seven Kingdoms all while the threat of the rising dead and the coming White Walkers loom. At the end of season six, Sam Tarley made his way down to the Citadel in Old Towne where he could train as a Maester and tell the Maesters there about the White Walkers. White ravens are dispatched throughout the kingdoms and apparently winter has finally arrived.
The Hound, after a brief stint of living peacefully, has embraced violence again and allowed himself to be recruited into the Brotherhood Without Banners, following Ser Beric Dondarrion who has been resurrected from the dead multiple times and who appears in the new trailer wielding a flaming sword. Melisandre was banished for her past crimes despite her belief in Jon being the true “promised prince.”
Prophecies, new wars, and the one that had been raging all along against the coming cold all promise to make Game of Thrones‘ second-to-last season a memorable one.