Each season of Game of Thrones causes the momentum of the political conflict between the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros to shift wildly. Like season 4 before it, season 5 continues to keep us on our toes. Once-powerful characters find themselves ousted from power if they're lucky - or in far more dire straits if they aren't - and the actions of a few often have far-reaching (if not always immediately obvious) consequences. While important deaths seem less numerous this season, that doesn't mean bad shit isn't happening to each of our numerous cast of characters. Read on to catch up on season 5, and prepare yourself for Game of Throne's imminent return, as season 6 arrives on April 24 (or a day later in the UK).
The continent of Westeros seems like it's gone through as many kings in as many years these days, and now Cersei's youngest son, Tommen, assumes the throne and marries Lady Margaery Tyrell.
Cersei's losing her grip on her by-proxy rule through her children, and so she revives the Faith Militant, a once-dormant arm of the military which arrests people for committing sinful acts. They get a bit… overzealous, shutting down Petyr Baelish's brothels; arresting Margaery's brother, Loras, for homosexuality; arresting Margaery for lying about Loras' indiscretions; and even arresting Cersei, for her own incestuous relationships.
Cersei admits to the count of adultery with her cousin, Lancel, but denies sleeping with her brother, Jaime, or that she was responsible for the death of the late King Robert Baratheon. She is granted freedom until her trial, but only on the condition that she walk naked through the streets of King's Landing.
She also learns that the reanimated corpse of Gregor 'The Mountain' Clegane is a new member of the Kingsguard. Fun!
While all of this is going on in King's Landing, Jaime Lannister heads to Dorne to rescue his daughter Myrcella from the Martells, who believe that the Lannisters are responsible for the death of Oberyn back in season 4. Jaime meets with Doran Martell, and Doran lets them go on the condition that his son, Trystane, replace Oberyn on the Small Council. They head back to King's Landing, but Myrcella dies during the voyage, a result of the poison secretly planted on her by a kiss from Ellaria Sand, Oberyn's lover.
Meanwhile, over in Essos, Tyrion is kidnapped by Jorah Mormont, who intends to present him to Daenerys in order to regain her favor. Daenerys is dealing with her own crap, as a group known as the Sons of the Harpy rebel against her rule, killing many of her Unsullied warriors.
In order to quell the rebellion and bring peace to her kingdom, she reopens the fighting pits, where people fight and kill each other for amusement (sure, that makes sense). Jorah and Tyrion appear before Daenerys, who enlists Tyrion's aid and banishes Jorah - again. Jorah ends up in the fighting pits and saves Daenerys from the Sons of the Harpy...
...who then reveal themselves in the crowd…
...and pour into the pit. All seems lost, until her missing dragon finally shows up and barbeques some fools…
...and she rides away on his back…
...and lands smack in the middle of some Dothraki warriors. Womp womp.
Jorah and Daario go looking for her, while Tyrion and the rest of her council stay behind to rule the kingdom in her stead.
Time to check in on Arya. She makes her way to Braavos, and trains with Jaqen H'ghar and the Faceless Men, a group of assassins who are able to change their faces at will. Her training requires her to track and kill a target known as the Thin Man, but during her stake-out, she learns that Meryn Trant, the man who killed her fencing instructor back in season 1, is in town. She finds and kills him…
...but the Faceless Men are not pleased. She is instantly struck blind as punishment for killing someone other than her intended target.
At the Wall, Jon Snow and Stannis Baratheon try to convince Mance Rayder, the leader of the Wildlings, to join their forces. Rayder refuses, Stannis burns him alive, and Jon mercy kills him.
Stannis offers Jon a chance to join his service in exchange for a legitimate name, title, and command of Winterfell once they overtake it. Jon refuses, and later is, surprisingly enough, elected as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.
Meanwhile, Stannis' own plans aren't doing so hot. His attacks against Bolton's forces at Winterfell are failing, and at Melisandre's request, Stannis sacrifices his own daughter to appease the gods. As a result, his wife hangs herself and half of his forces desert him, while the other half are vastly overpowered by Bolton's own army. Stannis survives, but only long enough for Brienne to take him out, finally getting revenge for Renly's death.
While all of this is going on with Stannis, Petyr Baelish makes an arrangement with Roose Bolton to wed Sansa Stark to Roose's newly-legitimized son, Ramsay. Ramsay then rapes Sansa after they are wed, ordering Reek (the broken Theon Greyjoy) to watch. Afterward, Sansa begs Reek for help. She eventually gets through to him, and the two escape from Winterfell, leaping from the castle ramparts, as Bolton's army returns.
Back to Jon Snow. As Lord Commander, Jon Snow makes the difficult decision to strike a bargain with the Wildlings to allow them to live south of the Wall in exchange for an alliance against the White Walkers. During the negotiations, a harrowing fight with Walkers breaks out, and Jon manages to kill one.
He and the Wildlings escape, but witnesses the Night's King reviving the dead and turning them into wights.
Jon returns to the Wall with the remaining Wildlings. The many members of the Night's Watch aren't too keen on this, and consider his actions treasonous. They lure him into the open and stab him repeatedly, leaving him for dead.
Oh, and as for Bran, who made it to the Heart Tree at the end of season 4? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
And that's a wrap on season 5! Now you're all caught up and ready for season 6, and since there isn't even a sixth book yet, it's anyone's guess as to who's going to come out on top. My money's on Hot Pie.