Game of Thrones has returned again, and it can often feel like everyone in the world is watching it. If you’re one of those who has not started the show yet, and can’t face forty hours worth of television to catch up, The Edge brings you our beginners guide to get you up to speed. I think it goes without saying, but spoilers ahead for the first four series of Game of Thrones.
The seat of power in Game of Thrones is the Iron Throne – the seat of the ruler of Westeros, and the focus of a lot of political machinations. Winning the Iron Throne is the aim of several different warring families – the Lannisters who currently hold the throne, the Starks who want to see a ‘rightful’ ruler on the throne, the Targaryens who were deposed by the Lannisters, as well as other families who have varying alliances. The Iron Throne is based in Kings Landing, which is the centre for a lot of the political action happens – however, that is only half the story. The Wall is another central location, a massive wall built from ice which has come under attack from the Wildlings, a group who are desperate to flee from the mysterious White Walkers, a supernatural group of creatures we know little about. Across the sea is Slaver’s Bay, an area which Daenerys is currently taking control of, through the use of her Unsullied (enuch) army.
At the end of series four however, war is rife across the whole kingdom, after the execution of Ned Stark at the end of series one prompted his son to style himself as ‘King in the North’, with the aim of succession, and Stannis and Renley Baratheon declaring themselves the rightful heirs to the throne, after the mysterious death of their brother Robert. Add in his son Joffrey Baratheon, and there were a lot of contenders for the throne. However, as it stands at the end of series four, all but Stannis are dead, and the supposed King is currently Tommen Baratheon, who is largely controlled by his mother Cersei and wife to be Margery, while the Targaryen heir Daenerys seemed destined never to make the move across the sea to Westeros.
Game of Thrones has a multitude of interesting and important characters, and it would be impossible to sum them all up. However, here are some of the (still alive) key players.
Jon Snow: Ned Stark’s bastard son, Jon Snow joined the Night’s Watch on The Wall at the start of the series, and has now become steward of the Wall. So far his most important storyline saw him infiltrate the enemy Wildling army, and fall in love with a Wildling woman, Ygritte. He returned to warn the Night’s Watch about the impending invasion, and Ygritte was killed in the ensuing battle.
Tyrion Lannister: Brother to Cersei Lannister, and dwarf son of Kingmaker Tywin, Tyrion has spent most of his time in Kings Landing attempting to advise his sister and nephew Joffrey on how to rule the kingdom. However, thanks to the manipulations of Petyr Baelish, at the end of last series Tyrion was put on trial for the murder of his nephew, escaped custody to kill his father, and is currently fleeing Westeros.
Cersei Lannister: wife to former King Robert Barratheon, Cersei is in love with her brother Jamie, and has an incestuous sexual relationship with him which has resulted in three children. After the death of their son Joffrey Cersei is desperately trying to maintain her hold on power through the manipulation of her second son, Tommen, and is intensely wary of Margery. She is desperate to see Tyrion punished for the murder of her son.
Daenerys Targaryen: Known as the Mother of Dragons, Daenerys lives in exile as the heir to the deposed Targaryen line. Determined to retake the Iron Throne, Daenerys has spent much of her time through the series building an army and taking over cities who use slaves, freeing them from their rulers. Also know as the Unburnt for her ability to withstand fire, Daenerys is currently acting as a leader of the cities she has freed.
Arya Stark: Arya started the series as the tomboy daughter of Ned Stark. However, since his death she has been captured by Lannister forces under the guise of a boy, been taken hostage for ransom by The Hound, before his grievous injury means that she can free herself from him. Through the series she has become increasingly hardened, and has a mantra of all the people she thinks deserves to die for her father’s death. At the end of series four she was on a ship away from Westeros and the remainder of her family, bound for Braavos.
Stannis Baratheon: Stannis is brother to now dead king, Robert, and is convinced that he is the rightful ruler of Westerns, after discovering that Joffrey is not Robert’s son. Currently he is based on the Wall at Castle Black with Jon Snow, having joined the battle with the Wildling Army at the end of last series. Stannis is a fervent believer in the Lord of Light, and is besotted with priestess Melisandre who he thinks can help bring him to the throne.
Margery Tyrell: Margery is heir to the Tyrell house, whose loyalty to the Lannister/Barratheon cohort seems based entirely on their current ownership of the throne. Formerly married to Renley Baratheon, then she was briefly married to Joffrey before he was killed at their wedding, she seems set on maintaining her place by the throne through her betrothal to Tommen.
George R R Martin is notorious for killing off characters. The TV series doesn’t deviate from this, so be aware that your favourite may well not be safe from the chopping block.