A lot of people seem to like HBO’s Game of Thrones. Strangely, a rather large portion of those people seem to also be completely baffled as to what’s going on at any given time. This usually afflicts those who are only starting the show, but it doesn’t entirely go away for most people, since they just keep ladling on new characters that you totally get the feeling you… should know? Maybe?
I wouldn’t necessarily say that showrunners Benioff and Weiss do a bad job at telling the story, it’s just that there’s simply so much of it that it becomes difficult to relay it all without lazy, sweeping fantasy voice overs. So guess what?
I’M GONNA GIVE YOU THOSE FANTASY VOICE OVERS RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW
For centuries, Westeros was ruled by Dragon Kings/Queens. They had come from the East on their dragons and basically were like lol you fucking Westeros peasants we are the kings now. How many kingdoms you got? SEVEN? lololol let’s make that one (but confusingly still call it the seven kingdoms)!
Besides riding dragons, the dragon kings also fucked their siblings. It made them super weird(er). Eventually, the dragons died out, and incest became their only gimmick. Being a regular guy in Westeros under the Targaryens (that is the name of the Dragon Kings) was a real crapshoot! You could either have a Dragon Hitler ruling you, or a Dragon Mother Theresa. SHIT’S CRAY
Okay so here is a thing you need to know about Westeros. Being a “ward” is a thing. It was a thing in our Medieval times too! It basically meant that if a kid became a ward he/she was gonna get adopted without his parents being dead.
Instead, it meant that his biological parents really wanted to make nice with his newly adoptive parents. Maybe bio-parents did some bad shit, and the more powerful adoptive parents wanted to make sure they didn’t pull it again – or maybe it was even HAY U MAH DAWG HAVE ONE OF MY KIDS TO RAISE I GOT LIKE SIX OTHERS DUN WORRY
If you start the show at episode 1 of season 1, two of our main guys lived their youths as wards. Eddard “Ned” Stark (this guy):
And Robert I Baratheon (this guy):
“WHAAAAAA????? But these seem to be pretty big dawgs with a lotta JUICE?? I mean these are guys I recognize from the show and that one guy even from movies!” I might hear you say.
Here is the tale how they went from “hostage” kids (aka wards) to the BIG HBO DAWGS we meet them as.
Ned and Bob were raised by Jon Arryn. Pretty much a nice old but powerful guy so if you got a kid in with him, you had a rich and powerful friend! Here is a picture of Jon Arryn from the show.
Yup, you see him EXACTLY ONCE – as a googly-eyed corpse on a slab in the pilot. Ned, Bob and Jon (who says fantasy names have to be hard!) kinda lived out their lives in Jon’s castle as well as they could under the reign of Aerys II Targaryen,
a particularly crazy Dragon King. Here is Jon’s castle aka the Eyrie btw! There’s a few scenes in it in season 1!
You may recognize it as the place where they lock up our favorite midget for a while!
King Aerys’ HAND (sorta like a Westerosi prime minister) was Tywin Lannister, like the richest guy in all the land. This is him!
Tywin’s son Jaime Lannister was in Aerys’ Kingsguard aka his SUPAR ELITE bodyguards. On the show, they’re the knights around the king that’s in all white like pimps. Tywin was pissed about that cuz the Kingsguard can’t take wife or land and his other two children were a WOMAN and a MIDGET! Here’s Jaime:
That’s that Prince Charming from SHREK looking motherfucker! Tywin would also have loved it if crown prince Rhaegar Targaryen
married his daughter Cersei.
But King Aerys was like LOL my son is a PRINCE son why the fuck would I marry him to your broke ass daughter???? WE DRAGONS
So Tywin was like come on!!! His only siblings are babies and the oldest one is a boy so how you gonna get heirs dude??? It’s gonna take like a million years!
King Aerys was still all fuck you but ultimately still made Rhaegar marry a non-sibling – but NOT Cersei! Some Southern princess called Elia Martell of Dorne whom he made two babies with.
Tywin, being the stone-cold pro that he is, didn’t say shit but ON THE INSIDE he was like ooohhh you platinum haired motherfucker I’m gonna get you back for this. And he would!
One day, Aerys held a tourney cuz they didn’t have HBO back then. Rhaegar hit it off with Ned’s hot sis Lyanna, and they eloped. Here’s a picture of Lyanna from the show:
That’s right, a statue on her fucking TOMB in Ned’s ancestral crib, Winterfell! On the show, Ned and Bob take a stroll down to the tombs to greet Lyanna’s grave and kinda talk about all this stuff – but since it’s so early on in the season, you barely even know who Ned and Bob are, never mind who this dead lady is!
Ned’s dad and his older brother went to court to complain, but Aerys was all LOLOLOL fuck you guys for acting like my son can’t do wtf he likes! and basically torched Ned’s dad and older brother alive as he giggled.
Bob, who was TOTES into Lyanna, convinced Ned (now Lord of Winterfell by default!) and foster daddy Jon Arryn to not take shit anymore, this was the last straw and those incestuous fucking ex-dragon riders have GOT to GIT GOT
Oh btw Ned also inherited his older brother’s wife, as happened in THOSE DAYS, one Catelyn Tully.
They got along well though and immediately made like a bunch of babies, as the pilot will attest. Once the Baratheon-Stark-Arryn armies started to really gain some ground, clever ass Tywin thought to hitch his daughter to the (probably) new King, Robert. Lyanna had died under mysterious circumstances while she was with Rhaegar, so Bob thought he might as well marry Cersei why not. The deal was made public once Robert smashed Rhaegar’s face in during a battle on Catelyn’s home turf. Catelyn’s daddy, Hoster Tully, thought he might as well hitch his remaining daughter Lyssa to the last unmarried guy in that rising triumvirate: Jon Arryn. The age difference wasn’t really thought about, and you could say that it resulted in LESS THAN OPTIMAL family circumstances. Here’s a picture of Cat’s sis Lyssa from the show (oh you’ll remember) including her creepy ass son Robin:
I try to keep this blog (visually) safe for work but anyone who’s seen the show knows what’s going on under that cloak!
Bob sent Ned to Storm’s End, the Baratheon family castle, pretty much the last bit of leverage the Targaryens held over Bob, to liberate it from their siege. Inside were his younger brothers Stannis
and Renly (a big gay hence the beautiful Photoshop filter).
Ned and his boys got smuggled in via a smuggler named Davos, claiming to be just sailing by carrying onions.
Ned and his men broke the siege, and Stannis made Davos a knight, now SER Davos Seaworth THE ONION KNIGHT. But also he cut off Davos’ fingers on one hand for being a smuggler! One good deed doesn’t wash out the bad! Nobody really likes Stannis. Except Davos, weirdly, who became super loyal after that and even carries his fingers around in a pouch around his neck. Seems like a weird derail, but Davos is a guy we’re gonna be following around!
So Bob and the boys march to the capital, King’s Landing. King Aerys knows he’s pretty much done for and on top of that, Kingsguard Jaime suddenly stabs the old man in the back! Goodbye last Dragon King! Hello KINGSLAYER Jamie Lannister!
An old Kingsguard knight spirits off Aerys’ remaining two babblies to another continent in the chaos. The babbies are named Viserys
and Daenerys (or Dany).
Tywin who is happy to get some payback on those dragon motherfuckers, lets one of his henchlords and his minions loose on the city – the 7 foot tall horse-decapitatin’ Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane. He kills Rhaegar’s widow Elia and her two babies EXTRA hard. And she wasn’t even a Targaryen!
It takes Ned and Bob’s arrival to calm shit down. Bob becomes King Bob, Ned’s seen enough war and just wants to go back home to manage his wintery business, and oldie Jon Arryn becomes Bob’s Hand.
Stannis gets sent to Dragonstone; a shitty, creepy, damp castle off the East coast of Westeros and historically the Targaryen ancestral home. Bob dresses it up as OMG that is SO BADASS and GLORIOUS that you get to own these motherfuckers’ old home, but everyone (including Stannis) knows that Bob just wants his strict no-fun having ass out of the way. The fact that it’s a castle as creepy, remote and unfun as Stannis = gravy! Renly gets a seat on the council.
Lord Tully (Catelyn and Lyssa’s dad) also has a suggestion for Bob’s new council – his young ward who’s always been super good with numbers and money and stuff, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish.
Petyr has a lot of frustrations to work out, seeing as how his lifelong (unrequited) crush Cat is married off to some honorable northman (and even his consolation prize Lyssa – requited but not actually wanted – is gone)!
Another bannerman-suggested guy King Bob employs is Mountain’s brother Sandor “the Hound” Clegane.
This scarred dude doesn’t like his baby-killin’ big bro, nor does he seem to really even like the guy he’s protecting – crown prince Joffrey that piece of shit. Joff often calls him DOG on the show but not in a friendly hip hop way. The Hound is NOT a knight – and he pretty much hates them because he always lived in the shadow of his asshole brother who is a knight but definitely not chivalrous.
Ned comes back to Cat finally, but he’s brought a little bundle of sorrow. A babbly he names Jon!
Awww come on Ned! The kids used to look up to you, what happened?
A few years pass in relative stability. Queen Cersei has three suspiciously blonde kids. But oh no! Trouble!
There’s an island group called the Iron Islands, just west off the coast of Westeros. They’re ruled over by House Greyjoy and are basically just a viking pirate cove. The Iron Islands boss, Balon Greyjoy, decides that without Targaryens, he can be king again like it was before the dragons I guess and just starts fucking up Stark-owned coastal towns.
But I guess he’s really dumb cuz Ned Stark is good buddies with King Bob! His sons all get slaughtered, and he’s forced to give up his youngest boy as a ward to Ned. This is Theon Greyjoy:
A guy who was REALLY GOOD at killing Greyjoys was one of Ned’s boys Jorah Mormont (right, obvs).
Jorah had just recently become Lord of his castle cuz his dad Jeor stepped down (awwww) and went to the Wall to live his last days out in honor. This is Jorah’s daddy – omg Jon Snow’s boss!
But that sweet pirate loot didn’t last forever, and Jorah’s high maintenance wife had expensive tastes. So Jorah sold some poachers into slavery – which Ned found out and exiled him. His wife left him, and he became a bit of a desert mercenary until King Bob’s spymaster Varys
basically sent him a letter going AY would you keep an eye out on those two weird albino dragon kids that might come and bite us in the ass later? Pay ya for it! Kthx!
Then one day Jon Arryn dies under mysterious circumstances, and Bob comes North hoping to rope Ned into being his new hand. He’s surrounded by Lannisters or people paid by Lannisters and he knows he can trust Ned! And that’s basically where the show starts.
I haven’t introduced the Stark kids, or King Bob’s kids, or the concept of the Wall since I think those things are pointed out well enough on the show. The Wall gets enough explanation, and the Stark kids are young enough so as to be “context-free”. They haven’t been married off yet, or gotten up to shit that every character knows about but the viewer doesn’t.
Again, a lot of this stuff is actually SAID on the show, but it’s usually spoken between two characters who pretty much assume most of the above as fact – and therefore aren’t very explanatory in their dealings about it. And with so many characters, viewers are already happy to know just WHO IS TALKING!
Hopefully, this was enlightening for both people new to the show and those who’ve been watching it since last year. Maybe I’ll do updated versions as the show runs and confuses. Until then!
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