Have you studied up on your Westerosi history of late?
There are Targaryens, Starks, Lannisters and Greyjoys to remember, and battles, white walkers, dragons to name. There have been weddings red and purple, dozens of deaths and more betrayals than you can count.
Remembering exactly what happened over seven long and dense seasons of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is hard, but trying to do it before April 14’s Season 8 premiere is nearly as overwhelming as facing an army of the frozen undead.
To make things easier, and prevent you from mounting a last-ditch rewatch of the first seven seasons that requires calling in “sick” from work, we’ve condensed (OK, abridged) the entire series into a few semi-short paragraphs. Seven blessings to you on your journey.
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Where we started
Westeros has been ruled by Robert Baratheon and his queen, Cersei Lannister for 17 years, after he rebelled and overthrew the Targaryen dynasty. The last surviving Targaryens, Dany and Viserys, are in exile. After Robert’s Hand of the King (aka chief of staff) dies, he makes his BFF Ned Stark take the job.
Ned has been chilling in the north with his wife Catelyn and their kids – Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran and Rickon – plus Ned’s “bastard son” Jon Snow.
Catelyn’s sister thinks the Lannister family murdered the old Hand (we’re unsure of that, but Cersei’s twin brother/secret lover Jaime definitely pushed Bran out a window). Ned has to go south to the capital of King’s Landing anyway, bringing his daughter Sansa, who is engaged to Robert’s “son” Prince Joffrey, and Arya.
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Ned makes a mess of his job as Hand right away. He’s too honorable and honest to be a politician, and the big players in King’s Landing run roughshod over him, especially Littlefinger, the Master of Coin (aka secretary of the treasury). Littlefinger helps Ned figure out that Prince Joffrey is the product of an incestuous relationship between Cersei and Jaime, and tells Ned and Catelyn that Tyrion Lannister (Cersei and Jaime’s dwarf younger brother) attacked Bran.
Catelyn captures Tyrion and starts a war between the families. Robb leads the Stark army and scores a major victory over the Lannisters, and captures Jaime. It’s to no avail, though, because Ned is executed after he tries to install Robert’s brother Stannis on the throne when Robert dies, because he’s next in the line of succession. Arya escapes King’s Landing, but Sansa is a hostage.
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In the North, Jon Snow leaves his family behind to join the Night’s Watch, a brotherhood that guards the “Wall” that protects Westeros from the north, populated by “wildlings,” and, as Jon learns, wights (frozen zombies) and White Walkers (sentient frozen zombies). He gets a cool sword, befriends the smart but cowardly Samwell Tarly, and heads north of the Wall.
Across the Narrow Sea in Essos, Daenerys Targaryen marries Dothraki Khal Drogo and embraces him and his nomadic, horse-loving people. Drogo kills her vile brother Viserys because he’s annoying but eventually is murdered himself by a witch who also kills Dany’s unborn child. Dany, who has no chill, burns the witch alive, walks into the flames and hatches three dragon eggs, becoming the Mother of Dragons.
Welcome to the War of the Five Kings. Joffrey rules in King’s Landing, torturing Sansa, while Tyrion takes over the Hand of the King gig, saving the Lannisters from ruin (not that anyone would give him credit).
Robert’s brothers Renly and Stannis rise up against Joffrey, although Stannis quickly dispenses with Renly via his handy red priestess Melisandre, who worships the Lord of Light and births a shadow baby that kills him. Stannis nearly takes King’s Landing in the epic Battle of the Blackwater, but Tyrion fends him off with help from his dad Tywin and Littlefinger, who recruited Renly’s former allies the Tyrells to their cause.
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Robb has been declared King in the North and is winning battles until his foster brother Theon turns against him, capturing the Stark castle of Winterfell. Theon does it for his father Balon Greyjoy, lord of the Iron Islands, who also declares himself a king, since everybody’s doing it. Theon eventually loses the castle to Robb’s (very temporary) ally Roose Bolton’s son Ramsay, and is captured. Bran and Rickon escape.
Robb makes the incredibly dumb mistake of marrying a random field nurse, even though he pledged to Lord Walder Frey that he’d marry one of Frey’s daughters. Catelyn is equally dumb, and releases Jaime, charging Brienne of Tarth to take him on a road trip back to King’s Landing in exchange for Sansa and Arya.
Arya is captured by the Lannisters, but they think she’s a peasant and take her to work at the castle of Harrenhal. There she befriends Yoda-speaking Jaqen H’ghar, an assassin who can change his face, and he eventually helps her escape. Beyond the Wall, Jon meets a hot wildling, Ygritte, and goes undercover in the wildling army. In the Essos city of Qarth, Dany’s storyline is completely pointless, but by the end of the season she has a little money, a few followers and a ship.
Jon meets Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall, and falls in love with Ygritte, but eventually has to betray her to get back to the Night’s Watch. He nearly runs into Bran, who is following a weird magical destiny north of the Wall. Arya is captured by the Brotherhood without Banners, who are like the Avengers only drunker, and then by less-than-ethical fighter the Hound, who gets her oh so close to her family, before it all goes wrong.
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Speaking of it all going wrong, Robb walks into the trap we all affectionately know as the Red Wedding, when Walder Frey and Roose Bolton kill him, his wife, Catelyn, and most of the Stark army. Oops.
Tywin takes power in King’s Landing, and memorably sends his regards to the Starks. He forces Tyrion to marry Sansa after Joffrey becomes engaged to Margaery Tyrell. On the way back to King’s Landing, Brienne and Jaime are captured and he loses a hand, but he eventually makes it to Cersei. The real reward was the lessons he learned along the way.
In Essos, Dany remembers she’s not boring, frees a bunch of slaves, conquers cities and lets her dragons loose.
Weddings continue to be dangerous, as Littlefinger and Margaery’s granny poison Joffrey at his own, aka the Purple Wedding. Tyrion takes the blame for the murder, and at his trial his former lover Shae turns on him. He tries and fails to win a trial by combat that features head-crushing (RIP Oberyn Martell and also the Dornish plot). Jaime helps him escape execution, but not before Tyrion kills Shae and Tywin (who happens to be sitting on a toilet).
Littlefinger manages to smuggle Sansa out of King’s Landing during Joffrey’s wedding, and brings her to his wife (and her weird aunt) Lysa at the Eyrie. He murders Lysa and Sansa lies for him, starting a partnership that, uh, does not go well. Her sister Arya hangs out with the Hound until Brienne finds her and has an epic fight with him, but Arya rejects them both and sails for Braavos to find Jaqen’s assassin order, the Faceless Men.
In the north, Bran reaches the weird cave of the even weirder Three-Eyed Raven, and then we don’t hear from him again until Season 6. Jon and the Night’s Watch defend the Wall from Mance’s army, with the help of Stannis. In Meereen, one of the cities she conquered, Dany tries her hand at ruling but is not very good at it, to be honest. Plus her dragons have developed a taste for human flesh, which is terrible PR.
Jon is elected Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, sees the Army of the Dead at Hardhome, but is then assassinated by his men because they’re bratty.
Cersei tries to take power in King’s Landing while her younger son, Tommen, rules. She elevates a religious fanatic known as the High Sparrow to the position of High Septon (sort of like the Pope) and gives him a militia. She tries to use him to take out her enemies (the Tyrells), but it backfires and she is arrested for her sins. The High Sparrow makes her walk naked through the streets of the city while a septa (a nun) shouts “shame, shame, shame.”
Dany is still struggling to rule Meereen, and a terrorist group is killing her army and followers. Tyrion, depressed and drunk after killing his father and Shae, makes his way to Dany (with a few side adventures) and starts to advise her. She rides off on one of her dragons during an attack, leaving Tyrion to rule Meereen, or at least try.
Littlefinger, meanwhile, marries Sansa to Ramsay, who is now ruling with his father in Winterfell, and, because Ramsay’s a vicious psychopath, he rapes and abuses her. Stannis marches on Winterfell but loses his support after burning his daughter alive at Melisandre’s behest. While Ramsay is off defeating Stannis’s army, Sansa and Theon escape. Brienne, who once loved and served Renly, executes Stannis.
In Braavos, Arya starts training to be a Faceless Man, and it’s all very dull.
Season 6 kicks off with the biggest non-twist ever, when Jon Snow is resurrected by Melisandre, like we all knew he would be because of the countless fan theories and foreshadowing. He’s feeling sad and emo until Sansa shows up, recently rescued by Brienne and dying to take back Winterfell from her evil husband. Jon beats Ramsay in battle (where Rickon, who was somehow still a thing, dies), but only after Sansa asks Littlefinger for help, and the Northern lords declare Jon King in the North.
Bran is back and now has weird vision powers. He learns that Jon is actually the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, making him Dany’s nephew, another twist we all saw coming. Meanwhile, Arya realizes how annoying the Faceless Men were all along and ditches them to come back to Westeros and take revenge on Walder Frey.
Cersei exacts her revenge by blowing up the High Sparrow, Margaery and a few hundred other enemies. Tommen commits suicide, and Cersei, the last powerful figure left standing, crowns herself Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
Dany, meanwhile, finally leaves Essos, after regaining control of her dragons, walking through some more fire, grabbing a Dothraki army and defeating the Meereen terrorists and former slavers for good. She sails for Westeros with Tyrion, the last standing Tyrell, the last standing Dornish (Oberyn’s lover and daughters) and Theon and his sister Yara, who decided to support her after their uncle Euron took the Iron Islands from them.
Dany gets to Westeros and goes for restraint in her military strategy, only to lose two battles to Cersei and Euron, who have teamed up. (“Thrones” also handily dispatches the last of the Tyrell and Dornish characters in those battles.) Cersei and Jaime are confident until Dany brings a dragon onto the battlefield, lighting things up.
Jon is consumed with the forthcoming war with the White Walkers, and heads to Dragonstone to get Walker-killing weapons (dragonglass) and maybe support from Dany. What he gets from Dany is the dragonglass and some flirty eyes. She’ll only help him fight the Walkers if he can convince Cersei to pause the Southern war, and so Jon has the bright idea to go capture a wight from beyond the Wall and bring it to Cersei. He heads off on a bro trip to do so, but is trapped by the Army of the Dead, and Dany has to come save him. The Walkers kill one of her dragons in the process, but it’s OK because Jon and Dany are in love now, and he supports her claim as queen.
Most of our major characters meet up at a summit at King’s Landing and show Cersei, Jaime and Euron the wight they captured, and Cersei, obviously, lies and says she’ll help fight the dead. Jaime abandons his sister (who says she’s pregnant with his kid, but like, come on), seemingly to go north.
Speaking of incest, Jon and Dany get it on in their ship on the way to Winterfell (ew). And speaking of Winterfell, Arya, Sansa and Bran have been hanging out there, as Arya and Sansa fake-fight before executing Littlefinger for all his schemes and crimes. Bran and Sam figure out that Jon isn’t a bastard after all, since Rhaegar and Lyanna secretly married, and he’s technically the rightful heir to Westeros, with a better claim than Dany.
Oh and the White Walkers turned that dead dragon into an undead ice dragon, and used his blue fire to take down the Wall. Casual.
All the pieces are on the board for Season 8. Time for the game to end.