Picture for a moment the following hypothetical. It’s June. The sun is finally starting to come out, you’re spending your off-time at the beach, and all of your friends won’t shut the hell up about Game of Thrones. You’ve never watched it before. But god dammit they have. By the time the season finale rolls around every year, you’re left standing on the sidelines while your friends babble on about things you neither know nor care to understand. Thankfully, we’re here to help on all fronts.
Catching up on a show six years after the fact can be a daunting task. So instead, we’re going to run you through Game of Thrones, beat-by-beat, and season-by-season. Having already covered the first season of the series, we’re now on to the next one. Here’s everything you need to know about Season 2.
The Starks in rebellion
When we last left the Starks in Season 1, they were busy getting scattered to the four corners of the known world following the death of their patriarch, Ned. And while things still aren’t going great in Season 2, this is probably the last time you’ll see anything even remotely happy from Game of Thrones‘s saddest family. Where we are now: The North is now in open rebellion, led by Ned’s son Robb. Throughout the season, the Northern armies even win three key battles against the Lannister forces.
That leaves the Starks in a precarious position all around. King Robert’s death has led to something of a mad rush for the Iron Throne. The King’s two brothers, Renly and Stannis, both are vying for the crown, while Robb and his Northerners fight for their own independence. Matters aren’t helped when the Greyjoys decide that this is a great time to start another rebellion of their own, turning down Robb’s offer to join forces. So where are our various Starks by the time it’s all said and done?
Robb: Recently entered into a romantic relationship with a Volantene healer named Talisa, and is fresh off of a series of military victories. The wrinkle here is that Robb promised his hand to one of Walder Frey’s daughters, in exchange for using the Frey’s castle to cross a river for strategic position in battle.
Catelyn: Spent a lot of time trying to court the support of Renly Baratheon, before watching Renly get killed by a smoke monster birthed from a witch under the employ of Stannis. She then returns to Robb’s camp, and releases Jaime Lannister (a prisoner of war at the time), in exchange for her daughters who she believes to be in King’s Landing.
Sansa: Engaged to Joffrey, despite him being the one responsible for killing her father. Spends most of the season getting abused in all sorts of horrible ways by her psychopath fiancé. In the end gets out of the marriage when Joffrey finds a more beneficial, strategic wife to marry in Margaery Tyrell.
Arya: On her way to the Wall to join her half-brother Jon, she gets abducted by Lannister forces, and put to work for Tywin Lannister as a servant at Harrenhal. Escapes the castle with the help of a mysterious man named J’aqen H’ghar, as part of repayment for a life debt owed to the young Stark girl.
Bran: Captured by Theon Greyjoy after Winterfell is taken. Escapes with his brother Rickon right before Bolton men take back Winterfell and set it on aflame.
Jon: After ranging north of the Wall with the Night’s Watch, is taken captive by Wildling forces. Fell Nights Watchman Qhorin Halfhand makes Jon kill him, in order to win the trust of the Wildlings and ingratiate Jon with their leader, Mance Rayder. Also takes on a Wildling lover named Ygritte.
Rickon: With Bran, still barely a part of the story past his occasional presence on-screen.
Tyrion is still the one you’re constantly rooting for
Season 1 may have been our introduction to the Stark family, but it’s in Season 2 when we really get to know their rivals, the Lannisters. The patriarch of Westeros’s richest family, Tywin, has shown up on the scene, and installed Tyrion as Hand of the King while he deals with Robb’s rebellion. Here we wee Tyrion at his absolute peak, maneuvering and scheming in a way that truly establishes him as a Game of Thrones favorite.
His lengthy list of accomplishments in Season 2:
- Exiles Janos Slynt, the head of the Gold Cloaks who betrayed Ned Stark, and promotes his resident mercenary, Bronn.
- Roots out Cersei’s spy in the Small Council by telling three different members of three different marriage proposals for his niece, Myrcella.
- Slaps Joffrey right in his stupid face, which is always intensely satisfying.
- Almost single-handedly beats back Stannis’s siege of King’s Landing, first by blowing up the attacking fleet of ships with wildfire, and next by cleverly flanking Stannis’s army by utilizing a secret passage. Leads the final charge after Joffrey wusses out and deserts the battlefield.
Unfortunately, Tyrion’s “reward” for his efforts is getting replaced by his father as Hand. All this comes after Cersei almost has him killed in battle, so suffice it to say his family doesn’t hold a whole lot of love for him. It’ll be a while before we see him rise to his Season 2-level heights, so enjoy this happy version of Tyrion while you can.
Daenerys takes a horrible vacation in Qarth
While Westeros is in complete chaos, things aren’t going much better for Daenerys Targaryen. Khal Drogo is dead, and she’s leading what’s left of her Dothraki supporters through the desert in search of shelter. They finally arrive at the gates of Qarth, where they’re taken in by the charming merchant, Xaro Xhoan Daxos. Xaro’s intentions are far from pure though, and it’s not long before things start to unravel for all involved.
Dany arrives at her quarters to discover that her three small dragons have been stolen, while most of her servants have been slain. After some digging, she discovers that Xaro and a sorcerer named Pyat Pree are the ones responsible, after the duo seizes control of Qarth. For Pree’s part in the coup, he has the three dragons chained up in the House of the Undying. Dany goes to retrieve them, has the world’s worst acid trip where she sees a grim vision of the future, and then has her dragons set Pree on fire.
She then discovers Xaro’s role in kidnapping her dragons, and to punish him, locks him in his vault to starve. Overall it’s a story thread that begins to show Dany’s abilities as a ruthless pragmatist, who’s willing to burn her enemies to the ground in order to achieve her ends.
And that covers us for the highlights of Season 2! Stay tuned for more, as we continue to break down all of Game of Thrones.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest