There’s a lot going on in The Seven Kingdoms. It is known. When Game of Thrones Season 2 starts on April 1 on HBO, it’s going to include a ton of new characters and even more intricate plotlines. You’re going to need to hit the ground running.
Since Maester Luwin is busy playing surrogate parent to the Stark kids and Septa Mordane's head is currently on a spike, it falls to us to conduct your lessons today. So here's a primer on where we left off after Season 1.
King Joffrey Baratheon currently sits on the Iron Throne in the capital city, and no one is too excited about it since the kid is a total tool — and a secretly illegitimate one at that. His mom, Cersei Lannister Baratheon, knows full well that Joffrey and his siblings are the product of her own incestuous sexy times with her twin brother, Jamie. But the main good guy who knew that, Ned Stark, was just beheaded by Joffrey — launching a massive war. Not even Cersei wanted that to happen.
Joffrey is still betrothed to Ned's daughter, Sansa Stark, even though Sansa hates Joffrey for killing her dad. Ned was Hand of the King but now that his head is on a spike, Joffrey's grandfather, Tywin Lannister, has been named the new Hand. However, Tywin is busy fighting Ned's eldest son, Robb Stark and Tywin’s favorite son, Jaime Lannister, is being held captive by the Starks. So Dad has sent his not-terribly-loved other son, the imp Tyrion Lannister, to be the Hand in his stead, with the hope that Tyrion can keep Joffrey and Cersei in line. (Good luck with that!) Tywin told Tyrion not to bring his "whore" to King's Landing, but Tyrion is fond of sexy Shae so she's coming with him. Bad idea?
BARATHEON VS. BARATHEON
Even though King Joffrey is a Baratheon by name, the late King Robert's brothers want the throne for themselves. Stannis Baratheon, whom we'll meet this season, is the stuffy middle brother and Robert's direct blood heir since he knows that Joffrey and his younger siblings Tommen and Myrcella are all illegitimate. Stannis is going to make his play for the throne on Season 2.
Renly Baratheon, the youngest brother, thinks he should be king because he's popular and has the backing of his lover Ser Loras Tyrell’s rich family. By the end of the Season 1 finale, Renly has already declared himself "king" with his own army ready to fight for the crown.
STARKS VS. LANNISTERS
During the season finale, Robb Stark and his mother, Catelyn are grieving from the news that Joffrey had Ned beheaded. Catelyn feels better after punching Jaime Lannister, whom Robb has taken prisoner, but they can’t do much more until they free Sansa and Arya — since they believe the Lannisters have both Stark sisters captive. After the girls are free, the Starks plan to "kill them all,” meaning the Lannisters.
Robb is currently at war with Tywin Lannister, who just dispatched Lannister riders to set the Riverlands on fire while he and the others regroup at the castle Harrenhal. Robb’s fellow northmen gathered at the end of Season 1 to discuss whether they should send their forces to back "King Renly" or Stannis or what. They settled on spitting on all the existing kings and declaring Robb "King in the North." So now we have three "kings" — Joffrey, Renly, and Robb — with Stannis set to declare himself in Season 2. Oh and don't forget Queen Dany, who we'll get to in a minute.
ARYA ON THE LAM
Lucky for Arya Stark, Night's Watch recruiter Yoren saw her in the King's Landing crowd during Ned Stark's beheading and quickly chopped off her hair, disguised her as a boy named “Arry,” and had her join his group of troublemakers set to go to The Wall. OK, so maybe it's not so lucky to be surrounded by thieves and rapists, but she's also in the company of cool former blacksmith Gendry, whom we know is one of the late King Robert's bastards, even if he doesn't know it himself. Arya may be in dire straits but at least she’s not Joffrey’s prisoner, like Sansa. And she has her sword, Needle, which she definitely knows how to use.
For people who care so much about family, the Starks were really quick to leave their youngest kids behind. While the rest of the family is scattered across Winterfell, poor crippled Bran and his little brother Rickon are basically on their own at the Stark homestead of Winterfell. At least they have Maester Luwin, Osha the wildling woman, the occasionally naked Hodor, and their direwolves to keep him company. And remember: Bran and Rickon knew Ned was dead even before the news came 'cause they saw him in their dreams. Sure.
Ned's bastard son, Jon Snow, is mad as hell about King Joffrey killing his father, but he's a sworn brother of the Night's Watch now and, like Osha said, there's so much brewing north of The Wall everyone should really be sending their swords north instead of fighting each other down south. Jon's friends, including his loyal BFF Samwell Tarly, stop Jon from deserting and, at the end of the Season 1 finale, Jon and company ride north of The Wall to find out what happened to Jon's missing uncle, First Ranger Benjen Stark.
ACROSS THE NARROW SEA
Disregarding Maester Aemon Targaryen at The Wall — who could've been king but chose the Night's Watch instead — you could argue that the *true* heir to the Seven Kingdoms is Daenerys Stormborn “Moon of My Life” Targaryen. She's the daughter of the late Mad King, who Robert usurped, and the sister of the late Viserys Targaryen. The siblings were all that was left of the family after Robert Baratheon's rebellion, where Jaime Lannister earned his nickname “Kingslayer” for killing the Targaryen papa.
At the end of Season 1, Dany's beloved husband, Khal Drogo, and their unborn baby died. Dany created a funeral pyre for her “Sun and Stars” hubby, and added her three dragon eggs, plus the still living sorceress who tricked her into killing her baby to try and save Drogo. Dany jumped into the fire, but first she faced her people and said that if they will follow her it will be as free people, not slaves. The fire didn't burn her since she has the true blood of the dragon, but it hatched her dragon eggs. Season 1 ends with the khalasar bowing to Dany and her new baby dragons. Where is she going to go next? Is she going to try to cross the Narrow Sea to throw her hat into the Iron Throne ring? The second book in George R. R. Martin's series is named A Clash of Kings, but never rule out the queen!
Game of Thrones Season 2 premieres on Sunday, April 1 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.