Game of Thrones, America’s most popular show, is coming back in less than two weeks. As of this very moment, we’ve got about ten days before we’re right back in Westeros; next Sunday, to be even more specific. That means your timelines, daily conversations and more are about to be interrupted by a lot of talk about White Walkers, revenge, a guy named Littlefinger and a constant, violent, treacherous game to see who can rule them all. It’s fantastic. And to warm up your mind on what all is going on before you either a) binge-watch your ass off next week or b) have no clue and just want to jump right in, here’s a primer for you.
Why should I care about Game of Thrones?
Oh, I figured you’d ask that question. GoT is mostly about survival and deception; think any Greek play, Elizabethan drama and so on. Only this one involves dragons, the undead, a guy named The Mountain (who was not in Boogie Nights) and maybe the largest contingent of badass female characters this side of GLOW.
What’s the setup, even if I’m six seasons behind?
Fine. Game of Thrones is based on a series of books by George R.R. Martin. Think Jerry Garcia, if only he were taller and really into mythmaking and seriously messed-up outcomes for his characters. The three major kingdoms exist in the North, the East and King’s Landing, the last of which is basically the capital of all the lands. The Lannisters, the Starks and the Targaryens rule, or used to rule, in all three; the Lannisters are the most treacherous, the Starks have the worst luck and the Targaryens have taken the longest amount of time to get their act together. One of these three clans will rule all of Westeros, the main “country,” if you will. The Starks have suffered the absolute most in the show, losing their patriarch, their matriarch and a host of their family members via a number of gruesome murders, mainly “The Red Wedding.” To keep it short, the Lannister head of state is a woman who was once humiliated via a walk through a public square naked, the Targaryens are led by a woman who can control dragons, and the Starks' ragtag clan is led by a guy who was once legit dead and is only half-blood anyway.
So wait, who are the main characters I should follow? Any I should hate?
I would have said always root for the Starks, but they’ve either all been killed off in horrible fashion or are on an odyssey right now. Only three important Stark offspring are left: Sansa, Bran and Arya. Sansa helped Jon Snow in last year’s Battle of the Bastards to kill her rapist and abuser, so yeah, always root for her. Arya has become a murderous trained assassin who slit the throat of the guy who orchestrated the mass massacre on her family. Oh, well, she kind of killed the guy’s kids first and fed them to him in a pie before slitting his throat — can’t leave that out. And Bran is capable of time-travel(!) and escaped the White Walkers (our undead zombie warrior friends) but lost his guardian, Hodor, in the process. The Starks are practically Westeros's version of the Chicago Cubs pre-2016: Lovable, yet deadly, magical losers. Redemption may soon come for them, though.
There’s also Grey Worm, a faithful soldier who is in love with Missandei, Daenerys Targaryen’s right hand. I mean, root for him mainly because he’s a eunuch in love with a beautiful woman and Game of Thrones has the penchant to kill off characters you love without hesitation. I want Grey Worm to at least consummate his love with Missandei. Oh, that Targaryen woman I mentioned earlier? She rules the East with a trio of dragons, and has spent six seasons building up to this very moment. She also has in her employ Tyrion Lannister, who is still on the run for murdering his father and allegedly poisoning his nephew. Always root for Tyrion, easily one of the best characters on TV.
Also, stick to Jon Snow like glue. He seemingly is the main protagonist in all of this; a guy who literally went from being dead at the hands of his own Night Watch (think a crew of soldiers tasked with defending an area from a horde of beasts) to ruling The North. Only he decided to banish the woman who brought him back to life because she helped a guy burn his own daughter at the stake. The Night Watch got decimated during the Battle of the Bastards last year, but they should be fine under Edd’s command. So yeah, root for at least two of the three clans.
W-Wait...the Battle of the Bastards? Why is that important?
Oh, I do keep bringing that up, don’t I? Look, the Battle of the Bastards was basically Hatfields and McCoys, only on a battlefield in a different realm where magic and swordplay are key. Jon Snow was one of the bastards because nobody knew (until the very end) his true origin as half-Targaryen, half-Stark. The other bastard, Ramsay Bolton, was quite possibly the worst villain ever committed to a screen. Yes, worse than a kid who was also pretty damn evil up until he was poisoned and everyone was happy (the late, not-so-lamented Joffrey). Ramsay not only a) murdered his father to assume the throne; b) raped a main character; and c) killed a bunch of people because he was a sadistic man; but d) got his comeuppance by not only being killed, but fed to his own damn dogs.
Damn, that’s intense.
Yeah, only Negan from The Walking Dead is a more loved/hated villain on television right now. But in terms of flat-out hate? Nobody cares for Stannis. He’s the guy who burned his own daughter at the stake and deserved no sympathy for losing his Lordship...and got none after being dispatched by Brienne of Tarth. Also, you could wager on almost all of the remaining Lannisters, from Jamie to his sister Cersei. Cersei lost her kid who ruled earlier in the show to poisoning, lost her kingdom and then waged green smoke bomb warfare to get her piece of the Seven Kingdoms back. She is evil, but also pretty cunning. Jamie...well, he may be the most uneven Lannister dating all the way back to his incestuous ways in season one. You could hate Little Finger too, only because he’s setting his own damn game up to mess over the Starks (again).
Oh, and let’s get this out of the way now. There’s going to be a guy named Greyjoy. He’s more than likely going to be the big evil of this season. Is he going to be more sinister than Ramsay? Who knows? But people like his niece and nephew, Yara and Theon, so be wary of them possibly dying too. So to recap: Hate Cersei, hate Stannis for all that he stands for and grow to hate Greyjoy.
Everybody has henchmen, though, right?
Oh, come on, you thought these people weren’t going to go full Four Horsemen with their squads? Okay, Cersei has an undead, massive, mid-level giant named “The Mountain” who is pretty much Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and Barry Windham all stacked on top of one another. The Hound is pretty solid, even though Brienne bested him in battle once. Tormund is a giant ginger who has pretty much given Brienne all the eyes and then some, but is also one of the wildings that are loyal to the Starks.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
You wouldn’t test any of them in a real-life fight, but if we were laying odds, The Mountain will take the easiest odds over anybody. Why? He crushed a man’s head with his bare hands in a trial by combat. R.I.P. to the Viper, but as the lesson goes, never monologue in the middle of a battle to the death.
Told you, shit gets real in Westeros.
Okay, let me get this straight. There’s a mythical land where everybody barely trusts everybody else, somebody has crushed a head once, people can get resurrected and there are dragons. Why do I get the feeling you’re about to make this about wrestling?
Because everything is a soap opera. And Game of Thrones is the most violent, occasionally sex-filled soap opera we have.
I think you’ve sold me.
Good. You had better do finger workouts on your remote and keep your kids away for an hour every Sunday until September. Time to cast all your bets on an Imp ruling the kingdom.