Winter isn't coming—it's here!
The wait is finally over, Game of Thrones fans, as the epic series finally returns to HBO for its second season on Sunday, and we're more excited than Arya was when she received her first sword from Jon Snow. Yes, that excited.
It's been a long time (far too long, in fact!) since Game of Thrones graced our television sets, so we're here to offer you a crash course on Westeros and all the delicious drama going down within each House. Here's everything you need to know about the show's major players and where they left off in season one...
Damn, it's hard out here for a Stark! The most shocking moment of season one was, without a doubt, the beheading of the show's leading man Eddard Stark. You can just call it the beheading that started the War of the Five Kings. All season, Ned, Robert's Hand of the King, was trying to find out the secret that Jon Arryn, the previous Hand of the King, learned before he was murdered. He eventually learned it: Joffrey is not King Robert's son, so he is not a true heir! Oh, snap! Unfortunately, Ned's noble nature got the best of him and Joffrey sentenced Ned to death for treason.
Robb, Ned's eldest son, is now leading Winterfell into war against the Lannisters and has been dubbed king in the North. While he's still green, he's off to a very good start: He outsmarted the Lannisters and captured Jaime. Huzzah! He's not your boy, Lannisters! Supporting Robb in his efforts to protect Winterfell and avenge his father's death is his mother, Catelyn, who vowed to kill all the Lannisters.
As for Ned's "bastard" son, Jon Snow, he joined the Night's Watch but struggled with his loyalties after hearing of Robb going to war. In the end, he kept his vows (honor and all that jazz) and ventured beyond the Wall to face the White Walkers and George R.R. Martin only knows what else (or, you know, people who read the novels).
Arya, the youngest Stark daughter who prefers swords to sewing, managed to escape capture after her father was executed, thanks to a haircut and new name: Arry, a peasant boy who is off to the Wall...along with one of King Robert's bastard sons Gendry! Her older sister Sansa is now Joffrey's future queen/fiancée, forced to pretend to love the man who had her father executed.
A Lannister always pays his debts...and is hated by all the fans! Just kidding! Kind of! The Lannisters are the House in power, thanks to Cersei and twin brother Jaime's incestuous ways, which resulted in the birth of their son Joffrey, who is now sitting on the Iron Throne. He's basically the worst king ever. In the history of kings. period. The twins were ruthless in their methods to protect their scandalous secret (sorry 'bout those legs, Bran!) and abolish any threat to their family's power (sorry 'bout your life, King Robert!).
As for fan favorite Tyrion, he had a rough go of it in season one, with Catelyn believing he tried to murder Bran and almost being killed by her sister, etc., etc. Luckily, Tyrion is smart, rich and much too fun to be killed off this early in the series, so he was made the new Hand of the King by his father at the end of the season. Translation: He has every right to slap Joffrey in season two and we can't wait.
Dragons, dragons, dragons! Did we mention dragons?! Basically, that's almost all you need to know about this House since Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) ended last season on a fiery note: breastfeeding her three baby dragons, which were believed to be extinct. Oh, you want to know a little more about the pre-Dragon Age Dany? Well, she lost a not-so-beloved brother, a beloved husband and son. Yes, it was all very "death by golden crown and evil witch," but it resulted in dragons, which can help Dany secure the Iron Throne.
After Robert's death, his younger brother Renly believed he was the heir to the throne, considering Joffrey is the child of blond incest and all, but he left King's Landing to build up his forces. He isn't the only one of the late-Robert's bros making a claim to the throne: The much-talked-about but yet-to-be seen Stannis will be introduced in season two, and he's willing to do whatever it takes to secure what he believes is rightfully his...and he's got powerful witch Melisandre on his side.