Books / Television / The Internet

Pretty Much Every Single Thing You Need to Know to Start Watching Game of Thrones on Sunday

UPDATED April 10, 2013:  Added a couple of less prominent characters from seasons 1 and 2 who have popped up at the beginning of season 3 (some withheld for fear of being spoiler-y), for reference.  Also fixed a typo and some stubborn broken photos – thanks for your patience!

Here at TTTV, we want to make sure everyone – even those of you who haven’t seen the previous two seasons – can share in the excitement of Game of Thrones.  If you’ve never watched this glorious, gritty, smart, smutty, socio-political fantasy adventure romance drama before and can’t spare twenty solid hours to catch up, that’s okay, we won’t judge you.  Everyone makes mistakes.

Too much has happened in the series to efficiently summarize, but it’s not too late to jump in.  We’ve put together this cheat-sheet designed to give you just enough context to understand, and hopefully even enjoy, the season three premiere.  While the show’s complicated political plotting is a great part of its appeal, we think that character is king, so that’s what we focused on here:  almost every character’s status, goals, and relationships are presented.  If you read this all the way through, which will take a mere six hours instead of twenty, you will be completely prepared for your crazy friend’s viewing party.  You’ll gasp when the nerds gasp.  You’ll laugh at the jokes.  You’ll watch the opening with a sense of excitement rather than intimidation.  And when the hour is over, your cool, experienced friends will stand and slow-clap through their tears, and you’ll know – deep down, you’ll know – that some of those claps are for you.

So, without further ado:  your rough guide to the locations and characters of Game of Thrones as of the end of Season Two!

First of all, here is a huge map (click for full size).  Eventually this will sort of make sense.

Westeros is the Western continent where most, but not all, of the action is happening right now.  The precise details of geography are important (easier map), but you can kind of cheat by just thinking of everything in Westeros as running pretty much North to South and then placing locations relative to each other judging purely by how cold or warm they look.  The show does a great job of giving each location a distinct character and temperature, and it’s very helpful.  This approach won’t help you much with the middle of the continent or the islands, but that’s what the opening sequence is for.  Shhhh, you’ll be fine, I promise.

Who’s in Westeros?  These people!

In King’s Landing:

Joffrey Baratheon:

Relevant living ties:  Cersei (mother), Jaime (uncle/father), Tyrion (uncle), Tywin (grandfather), Myrcella and Tommen (younger siblings), Lancel (cousin once removed), Margaery (his betrothed).
Current power ranking:  Very high.  Joffrey’s father Robert Baratheon, now deceased under suspicious circumstances, successfully rebelled against and Usurped the ancient Targaeryan dynasty.  The Baratheons now have the best claim to the throne in Westeros, which is too bad for Joffrey because as of recently, he is widely suspected to be the product of incest and therefore not a true Baratheon at all.  Nevertheless, despite being an utterly crap king, Joffrey beat back Stannis Baratheon’s assault and remains in power with the grudging help of his disgustingly wealthy grandfather Tywin, his brilliant uncle Tyrion, and a brand-new alliance with the Tyrells, another fabulously rich family, through the convenient betrothal of their daughter Margaery to the King.
Who he hates:  Commoners, some nobles, Robb, sometimes Tyrion, and anyone who doesn’t let him do what he wants.
What he wants:  To be a power-mad dillweed sadist, and to stay king.
Classic line:  “I heard Stannis never smiles.  I’ll give him a red smile” [unsheathes dagger that he’ll never use in battle because he’s a coward and we hate him so much UGH].

Cersei Lannister:

Relevant ties:  Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen (children), Jaime (twin brother/lover), Tyrion (younger brother), Tywin (father), Lancel (cousin/lover).
Current power ranking:  High, with caveats.  As the ruthless Queen Regent, Cersei’s commands carry a lot of weight.  Unfortunately, she’s rapidly losing control of her son and the respect of her father and Tyrion, to the extent that she ever had it.  Tyrion even managed to send Myrcella, her only daughter, to the region of Dorne against her wishes.  In this chaotic period, the more new people there are around the King, the less authority she wields, and she knows it.
Who she hates:  There’s some love-hate (mostly hate) with Tyrion, whose sass and mental acuity make her feel threatened and who she holds responsible for killing their mother in childbirth (among other things), but who also understands her and is capable of being honest with her.  Expect her to fight anyone who tries to take power from her.
What she wants:  To keep her children happy and safe, to get Jaime back, and to keep her power.
Classic line:  Cersei:  “Was it ever possible for us?  Was there ever a time, even a moment?”  Robert:  “No.  Does that make you feel better or worse?”  Cersei:  “It doesn’t make me feel anything.”  (Dear GoT writers, this was an amazing scene.  Thank you.)

Tommen Baratheon:

Cersei, Tommen

Youngest of Cersei and Robert (Jaime)’s children, nice kid.

Tywin Lannister:

Relevant ties:  Cersei, Jaime, and Tyrion (children), Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen (grandchildren).  Also Kevan (brother), who has kinda sorta shown up and may do so again, but you won’t be the only one in the room who’s confused if he does.
Current power ranking:  Mega high.  Joffrey may not enjoy taking commands from his grandfather, but as Hand of the King, Savior of the City, and an actual adult male, Tywin holds a lot of sway.  He’s also the richest man in Westeros and generally super intimidating in every way.
Who he hates:  Tywin believes in protecting the family legacy, but that doesn’t mean he loves his children.  If his kin are threatened by another family, he will defend them for reputation’s sake, but none of them have ever really been good enough to make him proud.  Tyrion, who had the nerve to be born a dwarf and later to like women who sleep with him, is the worst offender.
What he wants:  To protect the Lannister name, and to not be surrounded by idiots, please.
Classic line:  “A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinion of a sheep.”

Tyrion Lannister:

Relevant ties:  Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen (nephews and niece), Jaime and Cersei (older siblings), Tywin (father), Lancel (cousin/informant), Shae (mistress), Bronn (sellsword), Varys (possible accomplice), Pod (squire who saved his life).
Current power ranking:  Medium.  Tyrion’s strategy and bravery just saved King’s Landing from an attack by Stannis, but Tywin got the credit and the Hand-of-the-King-ship.  All Tyrion got was a nasty facial wound (inflicted by a member of the Kingsguard before Pod killed him!  Suspicious!) and this t-shirt.  His closest companions, Shae and Bronn, are very capable…and very well compensated by him for their loyalty.  Then again, he’s still a Lannister, still incredibly smart, and still knows how to play the Game.  Of Thrones.  Game of Thrones.
Who he hates:  People who mistreat prostitutes.  It’s obviously a bit more complicated, but that’ll get you pretty far.  Jaime is the only member of his family who seems to appreciate him at all.
What he wants:  To play the Game of Thrones and ideally not be murdered.  Also it would be great if people would stop threatening his whores.  I don’t date whores!
Classic line:  “You love your children.  It’s your one redeeming quality – that and your cheekbones.”

Bronn the Sellsword:

Relevant ties:  Tyrion (employer)
Current power ranking:  Medium-low.  Tyrion brought Bronn with him when he arrived in King’s Landing, and he elevated him to the head of the City Watch – that is, until Cersei and Tywin relieved Bronn and Tyrion of their respective posts following Stannis’s attack.  Nevertheless, Bronn is smart, ruthless, and not afraid to win fights by any means necessary.  He’s never appeared wowed by the honors given him, but he isn’t mad at them, either, and he seems happy to work for Tyrion as long as the paychecks keep coming.  Someone to keep an eye on.
Who he hates:  Well, the Hound could lighten up a bit, but he’s not around at the moment, so whatever.
What he wants:  Anything he can get.
Classic line:  Lysa Arryn:  “You don’t fight with honor!”  Bronn: “No.”  [Shrugs, points to knight he just killed in a duel]  “He did.”

Shae the Prostitute:

Relevant ties:  Tyrion (sole patron)
Current power ranking:  Low.  Tyrion’s father Tywin is not cool with his son’s love of working ladies, and Cersei would be delighted to find a weak spot to exploit, so Shae is always one wrong word away from a messy demise.  Her cover story as Sansa’s new handmaiden is weeeak.  The question is, which is stronger:  Shae’s survival instincts, or her distaste for laying low?  Her apparent tenderness and (dare we hope??) love for Tyrion puts her in danger, but it also happens to be one of the most interesting relationships in the series.
Who she hates:  Shae sees the world less in terms of love / hate than can control / can’t control.
What she wants:  To stay with her Lion.
Classic line:  Tyrion:  “You can’t fuck your way out of everything.”  Shae:  “I have so far.”

Podrick “Pod” Payne:

Tyrion, Pod

Tyrion’s squire, who risked being called a traitor in order to save his master’s life during the Battle of Blackwater when a member of the Kingsguard attempted murder.

Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish:

Relevant ties:  Raised with Catelyn Stark (then Catelyn Tully), who he’s unrequitedly loved since childhood.  His affection seems to extend to Sansa as well.
Current power ranking:  High.  Littlefinger is the Master of Coin and sits on the King’s Small Council, so he’s a big deal in Westeros, and he has a powerful spy network.  He also just acquired the enormous semi-ruined castle of Harrenhal, which sucks as a place to live but gives him a huge prestige boost, especially given his relatively humble beginnings.  All in all, a virtuoso player of the Game (not the Michael Douglas one).
Who he hates:  Why bother hating people when you could just manipulate them and then cast them aside?
What he wants:  Catelyn, real power, maybe not in that order.
Classic line:  “Not trusting me was the smartest thing you’ve done since coming to King’s Landing.”

Varys the Eunuch:

Relevant ties:  Nope.
Current power ranking:  High.  As Master of Whispers, Varys knows basically everything (he and Littlefinger have a bit of a rivalry) and has a seat on the Small Council.  If you were moving to King’s Landing, Varys is the first person you’d want on your side, or rather, Varys is the first person you’d want to convince that you were useful.
Who he hates:  Who, me?  Hatred’s so messy, don’t you think?
What he wants:  Part of Varys’s power stems from his mysterious, eunuch-y existence:  no one has any clue what he wants, on any level.  All we’ve seen so far is what appeared to be a genuine expression of gratitude to Tyrion for saving King’s Landing, which you can read into as you see fit.
Classic line:  Tyrion:  “I wish we could converse as two honest, intelligent men.”  Varys:  “I wish we could, too.”  Also the riddle:  

Sansa Stark:

Relevant ties:  Catelyn (mother), Robb, Arya, Bran, and Rickon (siblings), Jon (bastard brother).
Current power ranking:  Very low.  When Joffrey broke their engagement in favor of Margaery, Sansa thought things were finally looking up, but Littlefinger kindly pointed out that she’s still a helpless hostage-plaything whose only purpose is to keep Robb from doing anything rash (well, more rash than starting a secession movement) and to amuse the sadistic king.  However, a number of people – including Littlefinger, Shae, The Hound, Tyrion, and presumably that guy she saved from wine-drowning on Joffrey’s nameday – seem to like her or at least prefer that she stay alive and un-raped, as long as it’s not too inconvenient for them.  So she’s got that going for her.  Plus, she’s slowly but surely learning how to navigate her fraught situation.  The Hound offered to take her to Winterfell when he left the city; let’s see how long it takes her to regret turning that offer down.
Who she hates:  Joffrey.  We agree.
What she wants:  To go home, and to see Joffrey’s head on a pike (instead of her poor father’s).
Classic line:  Shae:  “Some of those boys will never come back.”  Sansa:  “Joffrey will.  The worst ones always live.”

Loras Tyrell:

Relevant ties:  Margaery (sister)
Current power ranking:  Medium-high.  Loras is one of the most famous and handsome knights in Westeros, and he played a key role in saving King’s Landing from Stannis.  After his lover, Renly Baratheon, was murdered by a shadow (!!!) during his campaign to unseat Joffrey, Loras had to choose between allying with Stannis (Renly’s probable killer and rival for the Baratheon throne) or Joffrey (Renly’s main opponent and an unfit not-really-Baratheon king).  He chose vengeance, and as a result, now finds himself in the grateful but hostile company of the King’s court, drawing power from his money and his family but otherwise presumably feeling rather awkward.
Who he hates:  Stannis.  Stannis.  Stannis.
What he wants:  To punish Renly’s killer, and to keep his sister safe.
Classic line:  To Renly:  “Where is it written that power is the sole province of the worst?  That thrones are only made for the hated and the feared?  You would be a wonderful king.”

Margaery Tyrell:

Renly, Margaery

Relevant ties:  Loras (brother)
Current power ranking:  Medium-high.  Margaery is a pragmatic girl who knows how to manipulate her way into getting what she wants, and unlike Sansa, she comes into her betrothal with her eyes open and her brother’s sword at her side.  Joffrey may find it much harder to abuse this new lady, especially once she’s Queen.
Who she hates:  How unladylike!  Everyone is special – or useful – in their own way.
What she wants:  The throne.
Classic line:  Littlefinger:  “Do you want to be a queen?”  Margaery:  “No.  I want to be the queen.”

Maester Pycelle:

Relevant ties:  “I always served Lannister,” he claims, although he and Tyrion are on very bad terms.
Current power ranking:  Medium-low.  As the Grand Maester, Pycelle is the primary healer and scientific counselor for the King, but he can easily be stripped of his power at any time (as he was by Tyrion, although Cersei has since reinstated him).  Then again, he also has a lot of poison in his cupboard and has served the crown for decades, accumulating tons of intimate knowledge of the Kings and their courts.  He’s trickier than he appears, which is lucky for him because he appears to be a doddering, boring old coot.
Who he hates:  Tyrion, for shaving his beard and locking him in a dungeon.  Get over it, bro.
What he wants:  To maintain his position, I guess?  He’s a bit inscrutable, actually.  Who knows.
Classic line:  Pycelle isn’t really the bon mot type.

Ros the Prostitute:

Relevant ties:  Littlefinger (employer)
Current power ranking:  Very low.  Cersei scared the bejesus out of Tyrion recently when she informed him that she had captured and beaten his whore, and would kill her if anything happened to Joffrey.  Luckily for Shae and unluckily for Ros, Cersei had the wrong woman – a mistake which Tyrion did not correct, so he owes Ros big time now.  Everyone’s favorite enterprising northern lady has since been released, and we saw Varys inform her that some men take better care of their employees than others.  Ros isn’t in the books, so I for one am on the edge of my seat to see where her story goes…
Who she hates:  Littlefinger and Cersei have both wronged her significantly.
What she wants:  To avoid being savagely beaten quite so often, thanks.
Classic line:  Theon:  “I don’t want to pay for it.”  Ros:  “Then get yourself a wife.”

Somewhere in the Middle (various locations between the Twins and King’s Landing):

Robb Stark:

Robb, Talisa

Relevant ties:  Catelyn (mother), Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon (younger siblings), Jon (half-brother), Talisa (wifey), Grey Wind (direwolf).
Current power ranking:  Medium-high but falling.  Robb surprised everyone by effectively rallying the North and leading an independence movement in protest of Joffrey’s capture (and subsequent execution) of his father, Eddard Stark, but recent missteps – including breaking an oath to a pissy and powerful man (Walder Frey, of the Twins) by marrying a foreigner (Talisa) instead of a Frey daughter, and his mother’s sneaky release of his key captive (Jaime) – have sowed dissent in his ranks.  Dealing with the revelation that Theon took Winterfell while he marched towards King’s Landing, the young would-be-”King in the North” now finds himself with cranky supporters, torn between North and South.  My mom calls this “a hard road to hoe.”
Who he hates:  Theon, Joffrey.
What he wants:  To be a good, fair, honorable leader.  In Game of Thrones, this is a TERRIBLE GOAL.
Classic line:  Jaime:  “What’s wrong?  Don’t like being called ‘boy’?  Insulted?”  Robb:  “You insult yourself, Kingslayer.  You’ve been defeated by a boy.  You’re held captive by a boy.  Perhaps you’ll be killed by a boy.”

Talisa:  A provocative foreign noble who fled her home when she realized slavery was bad. Talisa and Robb semi-accidentally got sexy in a tent, and now they’re married because Robb doesn’t know how to say “let’s talk about our options.”  Nothing against Talisa, she seems like a great girl, but dang this is a bad move by Robb.

Catelyn Stark:

Relevant ties:  Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, Rickon (children), Lysa (sister), any other Tullys who may show up.
Current power ranking:  Low.  Robb is very upset that his mother went behind his back and freed Jaime in an attempt to get her daughters back.  It was a foolish trade for many, many reasons, but it’s particularly bad because now Robb looks weak for allowing his mother to betray him and go against the interests of his bannermen.  Catelyn isn’t a dumb lady by any means, but her fear for her children’s safety has caused some trouble and taken her from “proud mother of conquering King in the North” to “dammit woman, go to your tent.”
Who she hates:  The Lannisters, the Greyjoys, and anyone else who threatens her family.
What she wants:  To see her children return home safely and live long lives, period.
Classic line:  “We have to get the girls back, and then we will kill them all.”

Roose Bolton:


A Lord from the North, one of the Stark family’s primary bannermen, sometimes acts as advisor to Robb.  As of season two, Bolton has been a solid ally for Robb, sending his Bastard son from their home at the ominously-named Dreadfort to reclaim Winterfell from Theon.

Rickard Karstark:


Another Northern Lord, Karstark has lost at least two sons while fighting for Robb, and he holds Jaime Lannister responsible.  Since Catelyn set Jaime free in exchange for her daughters, he’s having a hard time maintaining his respect for Robb’s authority and his enthusiasm for their war.

Brienne of Tarth:

Relevant ties:  Catelyn (recently sworn to serve), Jaime (prisoner)
Current power ranking:  Low.  As a lady-knight, Brienne invites a lot of attention – much of it violent – and that doesn’t help her as she tries to transport Jaime, her prickly and dangerous captive, to King’s Landing (hoping to exchange him for Catelyn’s daughters).  Her unconditional love for Renly, who died in her arms as she failed to protect him from dark magic, has now transmuted into absolute loyalty to Catelyn.  Bummer for Brienne, because Catelyn makes tough requests and isn’t all that popular right now.  Then again, our girl Brienne is a good fighter.  Like really good.  And very tall.  If she can continue to withstand the barrage of emotional abuse coming from Jaime and every other man she meets, and if she doesn’t let her understandable defensiveness cloud her judgment, she may actually come out on top.
Who she hates:  Stannis, because the shadow-demon that killed Renly looked like him, and more generally, people who lack honor.
What she wants:  To deliver Jaime to King’s Landing and to avenge Renly.
Classic line:  “All my life men like you’ve sneered at me, and all my life I’ve been knocking men like you into the dust.”

Jaime Lannister:

Relevant ties:  Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen (nephews/children), Cersei (twin sister/lover), Tyrion (younger brother), Tywin (father), Lancel (cousin), Brienne (captor)
Current power ranking:  Medium-low.  Jaime is a member of the Kingsguard and is one of the most famous knights in Westeros, partially in a sexy top-five-warriors way and partially in a notorious I-killed-the-crazy-Targaryen-king-I-was-supposed-to-be-guarding way.  Recently released from extended captivity in Robb Stark’s cells by Catelyn, Jaime is significantly worse for the wear, although his beard has never looked better.  Being dragged across the continent by Brienne the lady-knight isn’t exactly a strong position, either, but if he can just link up with a Lannister ally (or anyone who could use a sizable reward), he’ll be golden, if you know what I mean.  (If you haven’t watched this show, you don’t know what I mean, but just try to remember that Lannisters and gold are things that are linked in everyone’s minds and then you’ll get all the jokes.  If you’ve read the books, the reference I just made is MUCH better and yes, I will accept your high-five for my reference.  Thank you.  No, readers, that’s not really a spoiler.)
Who he hates:  Jaime isn’t hateful so much as dismissive.  He thinks of himself as a soldier, not a politician.  He wouldn’t mind getting to duel his captor, though, since she’s a woman so obviously he would win.
What he wants:  To be near Cersei, to see people get some freakin’ perspective about the whole Kingslayer thing, and to not be tied to a giant woman in armor all the time.
Classic line:  Everything Jaime says is awesome, so let’s just go with “There are no men like me.  Only me.”

Arya Stark:

Relevant ties:  Robb, Sansa, Bran, Rickon (siblings), Jon (beloved half-brother), Catelyn (mother), Gendry and Hot Pie (friends), Jaquen H’Ghaar (enigmatic assassin mentor figure).
Current power ranking:  Very low.  No one knows where Arya is or if she’s even alive, her friends are often uninterested in her plans, she’s wandering a war-torn continent full of desperate men and rapists, and it barely even matters whether she reveals her noble identity or not because she’s likely to be killed or captured either way.  One the other hand, she’s crafty and brave and awesome, she knows a secret code to go to Braavos and learn crazy assassin arts whenever she wants, and I say again, she’s awesome.  We shall see.
Who she hates:  Joffrey.  Cersei.  Tywin Lannister.  The Hound.  Illyn Payne.  The Mountain.  Polliver.
What she wants:  To exact revenge, and to go home.
Classic line:  “Anyone can be killed.”  (Another PERFECT scene)


One of the late King Robert Baratheon’s bastard children, although it’s unclear whether Gendry knows that.  Blacksmith, friend of Arya, interested in laying low and having a decent, apolitical life.

Hot Pie:

Another companion of Arya’s.  She helped free him from Harrenhal, where they and Gendry were prisoners-turned-employees, and neither he nor Gendry is sure he’s grateful for that.

Jaqen H’Ghar:  

The last time we saw Jaqen, he changed his face (what!) and said he would disappear, so you probably don’t need to know about him.  Still, he may be mentioned.  Mystical assassin from Braavos who killed a bunch of people for Arya in return for her saving his life.

Lysa Arryn and Robin Arryn:

Catelyn’s nutty sister and her weak, sickly, spoiled son live in an impregnable castle on top of a mountain and pretty much stay out of everything if at all possible.

Stannis Baratheon:

Relevant ties:  Davos (trusted advisor, possibly deceased), Melisandre (priestess and advisor)
Current power ranking:  Low.  Stannis outnumbered Joffrey on land and by sea at the epic battle for King’s Landing, but when Tyrion destroyed his fleet in a single sparkly fireball and Tywin Lannister showed up with the Tyrells on horseback, the last major Baratheon was defeated and had to flee back to his home island of Dragonstone.  He almost killed Melisandre out of frustration, as she had told him he would be king and it didn’t work out, but she assured him that the war would last years and he would eventually succeed.  Without the resources to launch another large-scale attack, Stannis will have to figure out a new plan, but it certainly doesn’t look like he’s giving up any time soon.  Pretty sure that’s how soul-consuming obsession works.
Who he hates:  Joffrey, and anyone who doesn’t adhere to his absolute and unbending views on justice.  We also saw some self-loathing in last season’s finale, when he admitted to ignobly murdering his brother for nothing.
What he wants:  To be King, because that’s how the succession works, dammit!  Stannis has also noticed that Melisandre is way hotter than whoever his wife is, although he isn’t at all comfortable with those feelings.  Or any feelings.  No feelings allowed!  Fight them down!  Repress!
Classic line:  “Joffrey, Renly, Robb Stark – they’re all thieves.  They will bend the knee, or I will destroy them.”

Melisandre of Asshai:

Relevant ties:  Stannis (King), R’hllor/Lord of Light (God)
Current power ranking:  Medium-low.  Melisandre appears to have bet on the wrong horse:  she seemed quite confident that Stannis was the Chosen One who would be King and defeat the White/Cold/Darkness/Etc forces coming for the realm, but then Stannis got stomped at the Blackwater.  Still, she does have real powers – she survived poison and gave birth to a shadow that murdered a specific target, which is a handy trick – and we’ve seen that there definitely is something Cold and Dark coming for Westeros.  Could she still be right?
Who she hates:  Unbelievers are not to be hated, they are to be educated.  Or, set on fire.
What she wants:  To see Stannis fully become R’hllor/The Lord of Light’s chosen one.
Classic line:  “The night is dark, and full of terrors,” clearly.

The North:

Theon Greyjoy:

Relevant ties:  Balon (father), Yara (sister), Dagmer (advisor), Robb (ex-best-friend).
Current power ranking:  Very, very low.  To say Theon shot himself in the foot last season really doesn’t cover it.  By independently capturing Winterfell, the ancestral seat of House Stark (where he was raised as a ward/hostage for most of his life after an unsuccessful rebellion by his father), Theon simultaneously earned the enmity of Robb, previously his closest friend, and the scorn of his family the Greyjoys, who didn’t see the point of trying to hold a castle so far inland.  Yara made an attempt to talk him out of it, but he seems pretty dead to the family at this point.  We last saw poor, misguided Theon knocked out by Dagmer and dragged off with a sack over his head.  Not promising.
Who he hates:  At this point, mostly himself.
What he wants:  To not be a captive with a scary bag over his face, to make someone proud for once, and to have even one ally left in the entire world.
Classic line:  “That’s ‘Prince’ Theon.”  Check out this amazing scene for a perfect encapsulation of Greyjoy family dynamics:  

Yara Greyjoy:

Relevant ties:  Balon (father), Theon (brother).
Current power ranking:  Medium-low.  Yara commands the respect of her crew and seems well-known in the Iron Islands, and she has successfully captured Deepwood Motte (a castle in the North).  Unlike Theon, then, so far she hasn’t tried to bite off more than she can chew.  Still, now that she’s invaded the North but clearly doesn’t want the whole thing, we have to wonder what her next move could be.
Who she hates:  Let’s let Balon and Theon do the hating, they seem to have it covered.
What she wants:  To satisfy the ancestral demands of her reaving-culture family by being as tough, smart, and assertive as any of her male relatives.  Done and done.
Classic line:  Theon:  “I’m to fight fishermen?”  Yara:  “Be careful of their nets.”

Balon Greyjoy:

Self-proclaimed King of the Iron Islands, currently attacking the North.  Like all Iron Islanders, has entitlement issues re: whether it’s cool to steal and pillage and rape.  Not a nice dad.

Dagmer Cleftjaw:  

Classic Iron Islander:  brutal, aggressive, and a terrible advisor to Theon, who he cheerfully abandoned in his time of need.

Bran, Rickon, Hodor, Osha:

Hodor, Bran, Rickon, Osha

Bran Stark:

Relevant ties:  Robb, Sansa, Arya, Rickon (siblings), Jon (half-brother), Catelyn (mother), Osha and Hodor (companions), Summer (direwolf).
Current power ranking:  Low.  Bran and Rickon managed to escape Winterfell before Theon could hurt them, and because Theon dealt with that by killing two peasant boys and pretending they were the Starks, Bran and Rickon can at least hope that no one is looking for them as they flee.  Because Bran can’t walk and Rickon is a child, this isn’t a very strong party, but Bran is intelligent and has been displaying some noteworthy powers, including the ability to see through Summer’s eyes when he dreams.  A three-eyed crow appears in his dreams, which seems important.  Bran is currently headed North to the Wall in hopes of sheltering with Jon.
Who he hates:  Bran is an old soul.  He responds to horror with sadness more than hate.
What he wants:  To figure out this crow situation, to stay alive, and to not be so crippled all the time.
Classic line:  “My dreams are different.  Mine are real.”

Rickon, Hodor, Osha:  Rickon is the youngest Stark, and hasn’t talked much so far.  Don’t worry about it.  Hodor is a somewhat dim but wonderful man loyal to the Starks, who uses his great size and strength to help Bran get around.  Only says “Hodor.”  Osha the Wildling was captured by Robb and Theon when she tried to steal from Bran before all these wars started, Osha has now become one of the boy’s closest friends, guiding him through the darker aspects of life and the North.

The Wall:

Practically a character, marks the northern boundary of Westeros.  Built of ice and magic ages ago to keep out…something.  Now primarily serves as a barrier against the Wildlings, who disdain serving arbitrary rulers and drop in to steal things from time to time.

Beyond the Wall (Waaaaay North):

Jon Snow:

Relevant ties:  Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon (half-siblings), Sam (bffl), Ghost (direwolf).
Current power ranking:  Questionable.  Jon messed up and got himself and several Night’s Watch brothers captured by Wildlings, then killed Qorin Halfhand, one of the most famous of his “brothers,” to make his infiltration of the Wildlings more believable.  It was totally Qorin’s idea, but now Jon’s torn between his mission and his shame, and he doesn’t even know if Mance will buy his story, or if he’ll be allowed back in the Watch if this works.  We last saw him being escorted to the King Beyond the Wall’s enormous camp in the mountains.  At least Jon still has a badass white direwolf following him around, though.  It’s the little things.
Who he hates:  Himself.
What he wants:  To protect the realm, and to do honor to himself and his brotherhood.
Classic line:  This is cheating, but his Night’s Watch vow is important:  “Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realm of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”

Samwell Tarly:

Relevant ties:  Jon, Pyp, and Grenn (only friends), Gilly (crush).
Current power ranking:  Very low.  Sam is smart and an avid student of history – he was able to recognize the marks of the ancient First Men when he recently found a hidden cache of Dragonglass (obsidian), for example – but he’s fairly useless with anything physical, including weapons, which won’t get you far in the Night’s Watch.  He also has an optimistic streak that seems out of place this far North and leads him to do things like trying to save Wildling women when that’s clearly neither possible nor appropriate (Gilly).  We left Sam separated from his friends, cowering behind a boulder as White Walkers and dead bodies stalked past.
Who he hates:  Instead of hating people, let’s try avoiding them and cheerfully explaining that we’re cowards!  That’ll work great.
What he wants:  To make the best of bad situations, as long as that doesn’t mean learning to do anything physical, and to read all the books.  All of them.
Classic line:  “So…you didn’t know where to put it?”  (Watch the show!  You’ll get it!)

Ygritte the Wildling:

Ygritte’s a tough, sassy girl with a lot of strong opinions about the Night’s Watch (“Crows”), but unlike her fellow Wildlings, she wouldn’t like to see Jon killed.  She would, however, like to see him naked.

Pyp, Grenn, Dolorous Edd, and Rast:


edd grenn sam

Edd, Grenn, Sam


Pyp, Grenn, and to some extent Edd are Sam and Jon’s homies in the Night’s Watch.  Grenn and Edd were last seen running to defend their Brothers from a horde of reanimated corpses and White Walkers.  Rast is mostly important because he’s one member of the Night’s Watch who represents the dark side of the crew:  most of the Watch is composed of convicts who were sent there as punishment, and not all of them have embraced their mission the way Jon has.  Rast, for example, is an unreformed rapist.  So.  Not the best.

Lord Commander Mormont:

Head of the Night’s Watch, presumably related to Jorah but that’s not really important right now except as it affects his relationship with surrogate-son Jon.  Gruff, serious, solid.

Craster and Gilly:



Craster is a gross old Wildling who marries his daughters and sacrifices his sons to the White Walkers (aka the Others).  The Night’s Watch allows him to be horrible and incestuous in exchange for the meager food and shelter Craster offers when they’re in the area.  Gilly, one of his currently pregnant daughters, asked that Sam and Jon save her because she was afraid her baby would be a boy, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be.  Poor Gilly.

Mance Rayder:

Mance hasn’t been on the show yet, but he’s been discussed several times so here’s just a heads-up:  used to be a member of the Night’s Watch, now chosen by the Wildlings as King Beyond the Wall, Jon’s being taken to meet him and possibly his fate in the process.

These people are AWOL:

Sandor Clegane, aka The Hound:


Relevant family:  Gregor Clegane aka The Mountain aka giant psycho rapist murderer knight (older brother).
Current power ranking:  Low.  The Hound used to be Joffrey’s unquestioning servant and a member of the highly respected Kingsguard, but after fleeing from battle (in which an entire river was set aflame with magical napalm) due to a major fire phobia, Sandor is on his own.  We actually have no idea where he is, and shouldn’t expect to see him right away.  In any case, he’s a massive and powerful warrior with a rough pragmatism to him.  If there’s anyone who can survive being on their own, it’s him.  Also, we love him.
Who he hates:  His brother and other bullies.  Not a fan of Tyrion, either, especially after that fire business.
What he wants:  To kill his brother, if the occasion were appropriate.  He’s also got some heavy emotions about Sansa that a therapist could spend a lot of time untangling, that is, if Sandor didn’t cut him in half for asking.
Classic line:  Tyrion:  “Well done, Clegane.”  Sandor:  “I didn’t do it for you.”  Also every line in “Blackwater.”

Davos Seaworth:

Relevant ties:  Stannis (benefactor and admired ruler)
Current power ranking:  Very low.  Davos is extremely loyal to Stannis, who isn’t doing well.  Everyone’s favorite smuggler-turned-noble was last seen flying through the air as his and everyone else’s ship exploded in a ball of green flame at the battle of the Blackwater, and is probably dead, along with his son.  Please don’t be dead, Davos!  We promise to be good if you’ll come back!
Who he hates:  Davos finds Melisandre extremely unnerving and creepy, especially since he watched her birth a shadow-creature in a cave right before Renly died.  That sort of thing really makes an impression.
Classic line:  “You want me to have a god?  Fine.  King Stannis is my god.  He raised me up and blessed me with his trust.  He gave you a future I could never have imagined.  You know how to read, you’ll be a knight someday.  You think a fire god commanded all of that?  It was Stannis, only Stannis.”

Salladhor Saan:

salladhor davos

Salladhor is a fun, sassy pirate who agreed to fight on Stannis’s side for the promise of plunder (and possibly sex with Cersei, if she were into that).  To be honest, it seemed a little like maybe his longtime friendship with ex-smuggler Davos probably played a bigger part in his commitment than the prospective riches did…which makes it all the more tragic that Stannis’s fleet was wiped out so quickly.  Hopefully Salladhor had the pirate instinct to hang back, even if Davos didn’t.

Barristan Selmy:


Selmy is one of the most famous warriors in Westeros, a knight who was a loyal Kingsguard to Mad King Aerys despite his insanity problem, then to Robert despite his usurping problem, and eventually to Joffrey for a millisecond before Joffrey forced him into retirement to make room for the Hound.  Kingsguard give up all lands and titles when they take the white cloaks, and normally serve for life, so no one knows where Selmy is or what he’ll do now that he’s got all this free time.


No, no, don’t freak out, you’re almost done.  Essos (click for the larger version) is the lesser-seen Eastern Continent, home to Dothraki horse-lord hordes, great deserts and grasslands, and the most exotic trade cities in the world.  In some respects, Essos is more advanced than Westeros – there’s a profusion of ancient learning, magic, and merchant wealth – but the continent is also home to the slave trade, and everything icky that goes along with that.

Daenerys Targaryen:

Relevant ties:  Jorah (devoted protector), three dragons (children).
Current power ranking:  Medium.  On the one hand, Daenerys climbed onto the flaming funeral pyre of her beloved Dothraki husband with three petrified dragon eggs and woke up in the morning unharmed and with the first living dragons in hundreds of years on her shoulders, which everyone agreed was pretty impressive.  She’s also the last of the great Targaryen dynasty, which ruled Westeros for thousands of years before the big Usurper rebellion (which happened around the time of Dany’s birth, and which she luckily wasn’t in town for).  On the other hand, her subjects at the moment are a few elderly and/or female Dothraki, her dragons are still babies, lots of people in Westeros don’t know or don’t care that she’s alive, and apart from whatever she just stole from her duplicitous host Xaro in the wealthy city of Qarth, she’s penniless.  Only time will tell whether she can make this work.
Who she hates:  People who betray her, and people who try to take her dragons (like the Warlocks, who she just set on fire).  She’s learning to balance her pride with some pragmaticism about her current situation, which helps shorten this list.
What she wants:  To take what is hers (Westeros) with fire and blood, to be treated like an adult, and to not be assassinated or enslaved.  Normal teenager stuff.
Classic line:  “He was no true dragon.  Fire cannot kill a dragon.”

Jorah Mormont:

Why is it so hard to find a picture of Jorah that captures how rad he is?

Relevant ties:  Daenerys (beloved Queen/Khaleesi, unrequited love), Lord Commander Mormont (father?)
Current power ranking:  Low.  Jorah was exiled from Westeros for selling slaves to pay for his ex-wife’s jewelry habit, and while he is a solid fighter and a basically smart man, he does have some baggage.  Jorah is nothing without Daenerys, which is awkward because a) she doesn’t really know what she’s doing these days and b) we’ve seen Jorah informing on her through Westeros spies in hopes of gaining a pardon and/or favor back at home.  He did avert an assassination attempt that he played a role in setting up; happily, that looked like the end of it.
Who he hates:  Anyone who touches Daenerys.
What he wants:  To go home with his Queen, and to, you know, “go home” with his Queen.
Classic line:  “You have a good claim: a title, a birthright. But you have something more than that: you may cover it up and deny it, but you have a gentle heart. You would be not only respected and feared, you would be loved. Someone who can rule andshould rule. Centuries come and go without a person like that coming into the world. There are times that I look at you, and I still can’t believe you’re real.”


Maybe the last of Daenerys’s closest Dothraki companions.

Xaro Xhoan Doxos:

Daenerys just locked Xaro and one of her handmaidens, Doreah, in a vault for betraying her.  Probably dead now.  Lesson:  do not tell Daenerys that you are fabulously wealthy and want to help her if what you really mean is you’re only kind of wealthy and you want to sell her dragons to some Warlocks.

Yay!  We’re done!

Notes on the guide:

I have read the books (have I mentioned that yet?  I’ve read them.  I’ve read the books.  I don’t know if I made that clear.  I know things, from the books that I’ve read.), so I’ve tried to make sure most of the key information for season three and onward was included without being too obvious or spoiler-y.  If you feel I’ve erred one way or the other, please yell at me!

Yes, I’ve said too much or too little about certain characters .  Should Ros have such a long section?  Probably not, but I like her, and if she’s in a scene I want you to understand it.  Should Jon Snow’s section mention the Starks more?  Definitely, but right now he’s got different fish to fry.  You get the idea.

Yes, there is a great deal of plot and backstory left out.  Yes, those are extremely important.  There are 1,556 pages on the Game of Thrones wiki as of this writing, people.

3 thoughts on “Pretty Much Every Single Thing You Need to Know to Start Watching Game of Thrones on Sunday

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