‘Game of Thrones’: Everything You Need to Know to Catch Up

Spoilers ahead for every season of Game of Thrones!

Of all the shows on television, there are few that generate as much buzz as Game of Thrones. It hits on all the major points for audiences: Political intrigue, dragons, sword fights, epic-scale battles, dragons, redemption, and oh did we mention, mother freaking dragons. You’d be hard-pressed to find another series that covers as much ground as this one, featuring a complex web of intrigue that spans dozens of characters. All that being so, Game of Thrones is nothing if not overwhelming at times.

It can get exhausting keeping track of who wants to kill whose family for whatever reason, and for people who haven’t read the books, there’s very little in terms of background or context. The fictional land of Westeros has a history that dates back thousands of years, and show-watchers have found themselves forced to put together the pieces while simultaneously trying to wade through what amounts to some incredibly dense story structure. And that’s where we come in. Here you’ll find a guide to every season, replete with all the major deaths, events, and what made each important to both the Game of Thrones universe and the rest of television.

Ned Stark, Game of Thrones - HBO

Ned Stark about to be beheaded on Game of Thrones. | Source: HBO

Season 1: The First and Last Time the Starks are OK

Major Deaths: Ned Stark (beheaded), Robert Baratheon (skewered by a boar), Viserys Targaryen (molten gold poured over his head), Khal Drogo (infected wound and also a weird witch curse?)

Every TV series needs a character (or a group of characters) that act as a moral center of the show. For Game of Thrones, that’s the Stark family. They’re the first people we really get to know, led by A-lister Sean Bean. Keeping in mind that this was a time before we really knew what this show was about, largely the expectation was that the series was essentially the story of the Starks. All that was pretty much erased though, thanks to a series of horrible events that forever spread the family to the four corners of Westeros. So where’d they all end up at the conclusion of Season 1?

Stark Family, Game of Thrones - HBO

The Starks. | Source: HBO

Ned Stark: Beheaded while his two daughters looked on.

Catelyn Stark: On the warpath with her son Robb following Ned’s death at Kings Landing.

Robb Stark: On the aforementioned warpath looking to avenge his father’s death. He finishes the season with an army of Northerners behind him ready to fight.

Sansa Stark: Engaged to the sociopathic nutjob king, Joffrey Baratheon, spending much of her time getting physically and emotionally beaten down.

Arya Stark: Orphaned and on the run, on her way to Wall to find her bastard brother.

Jon Snow: Hanging out at the Wall, having sworn his life to the Night’s Watch.

Bran Stark: Paralyzed from the waist down after being pushed out of a tower by Jaime Lannister.

Rickon Stark: With Bran? Rickon generally keeps to the background and is largely the forgotten Stark as the youngest in the family.

Most of the major events of Season 1 center around the scattering of the Starks, although things wrap up with Daenerys Targaryen putting herself on a funeral pyre with three unhatched eggs, only to survive with three baby dragons crawling around her naked body. Other major events included the death of King Robert Baratheon, the crowning of the boy we grew to passionately hate Joffrey Baratheon as his successor, and Ned Stark’s discovery that all three of Robert’s children were in fact born of incest between Jaime and Cersei Lannister.