This is for the benefit of a friend who wants to marathon season 2 with us without having seen the first season. Hopefully it should give her all relevant information so she won't be totally in the dark.
- The show is primarily set on the continent of Westeros which is roughly the size of
South America. A
small portion of it also takes place on a large eastern continent across the
- It is a medieval fantasy world though magic and mythical creatures such as dragons have all but disappeared from the world at the start of the series. A few pockets of magic still exist however, and as the series progresses it slowly returns with greater force.
- Society essentially has a feudal structure with a king at the top, greater lords beneath him, lesser lords beneath them followed by landed knights with peasants at the bottom.
Before the Series Begins:
- For about 300 years Westeros is ruled by a line of kings known as the Targaryen Dynasty.
- The last Targaryen king, known as Mad King Arys, became crazy and violent causing several powerful lords to rise up in rebellion against him. Chief amoung them were: Robert Baratheon, Ned Stark, Jon Arryn, and at the very end of the war Tywin Lannister.
- The rebels eventually win and kill all the Targaryens except for baby Dany and her brother who escape into exile on the eastern continent.
- Robert Baratheon becomes the new king and marries Tywin’s daughter, Cersei, to solidify his rule. Jon Arryn becomes his chief advisor, and Ned Stark returns to his home, Winterfell.
- The series begins 17 years after these events.
On the Wall:
- In the far north of Westeros there is a massive ice wall that spans the width of the continent at a narrow point. This wall was built thousands of years ago to keep out whatever threats may try to come across to attack the kingdom.
- It is manned by an organization known as The Night’s Watch. Once they were proud and strong, but have since fallen into disrepair with an ever-shrinking number of recruits and crumbling castles.
- For most of their history they were tasked with keeping out the Wildlings (aka Eskimo Barbarians), but their original purpose was to keep out the White Walkers; a deadly race of ice necromancers who raise the dead and bring a terrible cold with them wherever they go.
- The White Walkers disappeared from the world so long ago that most believe they are only a legend, but at the start of the series it becomes apparent that they have returned.
- Ned Stark’s bastard son, Jon Snow, decides to join the Night’s Watch as he has little other prospects in life and believes it will be a respectable and adventurous vocation.
- Once there he makes some friends and a few enemies and eventually becomes the squire to the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
- They learn that the Eskimo barbarians are amassing an army and that the White Walkers have almost certainly returned.
- The Lord Commander decides to lead out a large squadron to find out what the Eskimo barbarians are up to and to learn more about the White Walkers.
Across the Sea in the East:
- Dany’s brother greatly desires to reclaim the throne of Westeros, but lacks an army.
- To remedy this he decides to marry Dany to a powerful Mongolian Warlord in exchange for his military support.
- At the wedding Dany receives three dragon eggs which are looked upon as little more than valuable jewels as nobody has been able to hatch a dragon egg for hundreds of years. Dany, however feels a mysterious connection to them which builds over time.
- Although things are awkward at first, Dany and the Warlord eventually come to love one another and Dany becomes increasingly assertive of her power much to her brother’s chagrin.
- Her brother dies epically.
- After some routine raping and pillaging, the Warlord takes a flesh wound which he tries to shrug off. Dany is worried and decides it will be a good idea to have a Witch Doctor from the village they just raped and pillaged to tend to his wound.
- The Warlord dies and his army quickly disperses leaving Dany mostly alone.
- She builds a funeral pyre for her husband, ties the Witch Doctor to it, and walks into the flames with her dragon eggs.
- In the morning the dragon eggs have hatched and Dany is unscathed.
In Winterfell and The Capital:
- At the start of the series, Jon Arryn, the King’s Chief Advisor, dies under mysterious circumstances. Needing a new Chief Advisor, Robert Baratheon travels to north to Winterfell to ask his old friend, Ned Stark, to take the job.
- He comes with a large retinue which includes his wife (Cersei), his eldest son (Joffrey Baratheon), one of his bodyguards who is also the twin brother of the queen (Jaime Lannister), and their dwarf brother (Tyrion Lannister).
- Plans are made to have Joffrey marry Ned’s eldest daughter, Sansa, when they come of age.
- Ned Stark’s 10-year old son, Bran Stark likes to climb the battlements of Winterfell. One day while climbing an abandoned tower he hears a strange noise. When he looks inside he sees Jamie Lannister having sex with his twin sister, Queen Cersei. Jaime sees Bran and pushes him out the window to protect their incestuous affair.
- Bran goes into a coma. While he’s still unconscious, Ned Stark leaves Winterfell for the capital and his new job with his daughters, Sansa and Arya. His wife, Catelyn stays in Winterfell to care for Bran while his eldest son, Robb, takes charge of day to day affairs.
- While still in a coma, an assassination attempt is made on Bran’s life by an assailant using a unique dagger. The assassin is killed by Bran’s pet direwolf (btw all the Stark children including Jon Snow have pet direwolves).
- Catelyn suspects the Lannisters, and decides to take the dagger south to the capital to show to Ned so they can plan their next move.
- When Bran eventually regains consciousness he cannot remember anything that happened before he fell and he is paralyzed from the waist down.
- Upon arriving in the capital, Ned immediately sets about trying to uncover why Jon Arryn died
- He learns that shortly before his death, Jon Arryn had taken to visiting King Robert’s many bastard children, but Ned can’t figure out why.
- Catelyn shows up with the dagger and they are told by her old friend and current finance minister, Littlefinger, that it belongs to Tyrion Lannister.
- Catelyn travels back to Winterfell and on her way north she happens to meet Tyrion in an inn.
- Catelyn takes Tyrion prisoner which pisses off his father, Tywin Lannister, who amasses his army in response.
- Ned eventually figures out that Jon Arryn had discovered that King Robert’s children aren’t actually his, but Jaime’s. Ned assumes that Queen Cersei learned of this and had Jon Arryn killed before he could reveal her secret.
- Ned sends a letter to King Robert’s younger brother, Stannis, informing him of the truth and that he is now the rightful heir to the throne.
- King Robert's youngest brother, Renly, also knows the truth but wants the throne for himself. He discreetly heads south to gather support for his bid to the crown.
- Knowing that King Robert will kill Cersei and her children when he finds out, Ned speaks to Cersei and advises her to flee the capital and go into exile before he tells Robert the truth.
- Instead Cersei has Robert killed before he learns of the truth, buys off the city guard, has Ned thrown in prison, sets up Joffrey as king, and establishes herself as regent.
- All the men Ned brought down with him are killed, Sansa Stark is kept under guard in the castle, and Arya Stark manages to escape and disguises herself as a street urchin.
- This pisses off Robb Stark who amasses his army and marches south to confront the Lannisters.
- Tyrion, meanwhile, uses his wits to escape Catelyn’s clutches and meets up with his father.
- The Lannister and Stark forces fight a few battles with Robb Stark winning pretty decisively and taking Jaime Lannister captive which gives him a bargaining chip for his father, Ned Stark.
- Unfortunately, King Joffrey is an idiot and executes Ned Stark.
- Arya escapes the capital by pretending to be a recruit for The Night’s Watch.
- Disgusted with King Joffrey, Robb Stark’s army declares Robb “King of the North” and decide to separate from the kingdom.
Here's a flowchart I made detailing mostly all of the major characters from the first season and how they relate to one another.