This is my attempt to summarize the first seven seasons of “Game of Thrones,” a show with three dragons and five million humans, all of whom have pedigrees and plotlines that make the genealogies of Genesis look like “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” What a terrible idea! Let’s begin.
As the very nature of this post dictates, it contains a multitude of spoilers. Otherwise, it would be very short.
Here are the things that happened in Season 1
The story kicks off at Winterfell, where Ned Stark is teaching his kids how to honorably behead people who break the law. Ironically, he kills a soldier who ran away from a White Walker. (Ned might have saved everyone a whole lot of time if he had just listened to the dude.) He also gets his kids some cute direwolf puppies, most of which will end up dying like everything else on this show. Jon Snow, Ned’s bastard son, is also around. He becomes important later.
King Robert Baratheon, who spends his time pounding wine and hunting down south in King’s Landing, asks a reluctant Ned to be the Hand of the King after the former one (Jon Arryn) dies. Ned suspects Arryn was murdered. Meanwhile, King Robert’s wife, Cersei Lannister, is boning her twin brother Jaime Lannister in a tower at Winterfell. They’re spotted by Bran Stark, Ned’s son, who has climbed up the side of the castle for fun (this is pre-Nintendo Switch). Jaime pushes Bran from the window, presumably intending to kill him to protect his affair with his sister.
Over on the continent Essos, the exiled Prince Viserys Targaryen and his sister, Daenerys, the remaining two members of the Targaryen dynasty (which ruled Westeros for nearly 300 years until Robert took the throne), are hanging out. Because this is Season 1 and no one has told the showrunners to tone down the excessive, gratuitous and deeply misogynistic nudity yet, Viserys is literally examining Daenerys’s naked body in preparation to marry her off to Aquaman — err, Khal Drogo — in exchange for his army. (This is a real fun episode to watch with your mother. Please learn from my mistakes.)
Okay, catch your breath and maybe grab a Gatorade — that’s only the first episode. The rest of the season goes roughly like this: Daenerys gets pregnant and King Robert wants to assassinate her, but Ned says no. Ned also figures out that all of King Robert’s kids are actually Cersei and Jamie’s. King Robert dies while hunting, and one of those kids, Joffrey, (sort of) becomes king. King Joffrey appoints rich guy Tywin Lannister, who is actually his grandfather, as his Hand. Then Joffrey has Ned executed for treason, and everyone gasps and gets really sad and yells, “What is this show?!”
Khal Drogo later kills Viserys for being a jerk. Drogo also dies, and Daenerys has a miscarriage (long story). But some dragon eggs she got for her wedding hatch and produce the first dragons the world has seen in more than a century. They think Daenerys is their mama, the way your new kitten thinks you’re just a giant mama cat.
The loose ends: Bran is paralyzed from his fall and can’t remember who hurt him. Jon Snow goes to the Wall to join the Night’s Watch (accompanied by Tyrion Lannister, Jaime and Cersei’s brother). King Joffrey threatens Arya Stark, one of Ned’s daughters, and makes plans to wed the other Stark daughter, Sansa. The North secedes from the Seven Kingdoms with Robb Stark, Ned’s oldest son, as their king. Robb’s friend, Theon Greyjoy, a ward of the Stark family, is also in the mix. Arya escapes King’s Landing, disguised as a boy, since basically everyone wants to kill her.
Here are the things that happened in Season 2
This is where things get messier than the 2020 election. Stannis Baratheon, one of Robert’s younger brothers, declares that he should sit on the Iron Throne. (That’s what people calls the king’s chair, which everyone wants even though it’s made of swords and honestly looks like a pretty bad sit. Let’s call it the Bad Chair.) His first step toward this goal is telling the world that King Joffrey is the product of incest. He squabbles with his brother Renly, who is married to Margaery Tyrell and also wants to sit in the Bad Chair. Stannis also hangs with a crusty old seaman named Davos, who looks like if Ron Swanson spent six months eating nothing but barnacles and saltwater. They team up with Melisandre, a Red Priestess who worships the Lord of Light. (Stannis even has sex with her to get a son, but she births a smoke demon who kills Renly instead. Whoops!)
Meanwhile, King Joffrey demands that all of Robert’s (many) bastard children be killed — which they are, save for a teenage blacksmith named Gendry, who escapes with Arya. The two are later attacked by Lannister soldiers and taken prisoner. Arya tricks their captors into thinking some dead guy is the real Gendry, allowing the real real Gendry to be spared. Tywin Lannister (again: rich guy, Hand of the King, also Granddad of the King) later happens by and chooses Arya and Gendry as his servants (without knowing who they are). What a small world!
All this time, Robb is marching south to King’s Landing with an army. Much like DJ Khaled, all he does is win, win, win (no matter what, what, what). King Joffrey, who sucks, begins to abuse Sansa.
So, both Robb and Stannis are headed to King’s Landing to claim the Bad Chair. Stannis arrives first, attacking King’s Landing with his fleet. He fails for reasons having to do with magical green napalm and King Joffrey’s grandfather showing up at the last second with a bunch of guys with better, shinier armor.
Theon Greyjoy goes to his dad’s island kingdom to try to get more soldiers for Robb’s war. But his dad doesn’t accept him, so Theon decides to go back and briefly take over Winterfell, a.k.a. Robb Stark’s empty house, to prove he’s a real Greyjoy. He pretends to kill Bran and Rickon Stark, Robb’s little brothers, to prove he means business. Theon is an idiot.
The loose ends: Two rom-coms begin. Sam meets Gilly, a wildling from north of the Wall who is pregnant with the baby of her father, who has a penchant for sacrificing his sons to White Walkers and probably will not win Father of the Year. Jon Snow meets a very flirty wildling named Ygritte. Jaime, who was captured by House Stark in the first season, and his jailer, an extremely tall and earnest female soldier named Brienne, go off on some adventures in what would be an amazing spinoff. Robb marries some girl he meets on the war path. King Joffrey marries Renly Baratheon’s widow, Margaery. During all this, Daenerys is busy running around Essos and freeing slaves. Sadly, her dragons get kidnapped in a tremendously dumb subplot.
Here are the things that happened in Season 3
The principal players are now scattered. Pirate Ron Swanson tries to kill the Fire Lady. It doesn’t pan out, and he gets put in jail. But then Stannis’s scaly daughter Shireen teaches him how to read, so at least he’ working on himself. Brienne and Jaime fight. Then Jaime gets his hand cut off, later, by someone else, and has to wear it around his neck for a while.
But, really, Season 3 is about romance.
After surviving a White Walker attack, Jon Snow pledges loyalty to the wildlings, a tribe of free people who wear lots of fur. He’s in love and breaks his vows to the Night’s Watch by having sex with Ygritte. (Don’t worry, she later betrays and shoots him.) Sam, Jon’s buddy from the Night’s Watch, also falls for a wildling, Gilly, who gives birth to her own father’s son. Sam impresses her by stabbing a White Walker with dragonglass. And Tywin Lannister forces his son Tyrion to marry Sansa Stark to prevent her from being married to Loras Tyrell. Sansa’s still pretty traumatized from her last Lannister marriage, and Tyrion respectfully keeps things chaste. Who says chivalry is dead?
Then there’s the Red Wedding between Roslin Frey and Edmure Tully, at which (at Tywin’s urging) the Freys and the Boltons show pretty poor wedding etiquette and murder, like, everyone! That includes Robb Stark, Robb Stark’s wife, Robb Stark’s mom, Robb Stark’s important army people, and Robb Stark’s dog. Then they chopped off the dog’s head and put it on Robb Stark’s body. Then they all danced and sang along to “Shout” by the Isley Brothers (or so I assume, although this was not a scene in the show).
The loose ends: Bran learns that he’s a warg, meaning he can enter the minds of animals, and (along with Hodor and some wildlings) ventures beyond the Wall to find the Three-Eyed Raven. Melisandre (the Fire Lady) seduces Gendry (real real Gendry) and uses three leeches to extract blood from him. Stannis then throws the blood into a fire because it’s supposed to help him beat his enemies — this is according to the Fire Lady, who has a lot of great ideas. Davos (Pirate Ron Swanson) helps Gendry escape. Ramsay Snow, Roose Bolton’s bastard son, captures and tortures Theon Greyjoy for the rest of the season and then some. Daenerys plays a fun trick in which she pretends to buy a slave army in exchange for one of her dragons, then has the dragon kill its new masters. She then frees the slave army (which follows her anyway) and keeps the dragon.
Here are the things that happened in Season 4
Ugh, this is the season in which we learn about Dorne.
Tywin reforges Ice, a Valyrian steel sword, into two smaller weapons: Oathkeeper, for a now left-handed (technically only-handed) Jaime, and Widow’s Wail for King Joffrey. Before he can use Widow’s Wail, King Joffrey is poisoned and dies at his wedding to Margaery Tyrell. (Note to engaged couples in Westeros: Be vigilant with those guest lists!) Cersei blames Tyrion, who is arrested.
Meanwhile, Oberyn Martell comes from Dorne (ugh) to King’s Landing, seeking revenge against the Lannisters for the rape and murder of his sister Elia. Tywin soon names him a judge in Tyrion’s trial. Jaime, who believes the man to be innocent, is Tyrion’s single witness.
The trial plays out as a battle-by-proxy with Gregor Clegane (called the Mountain, because he’s gigantic) fighting for the state and, oddly, Oberyn (called the Red Viper, because he tips his spear with poison) for Tyrion. It looks like Oberyn is going to win, but the Mountain pulls it out, loudly admitting to the rape and murder of Elia while burrowing his thumbs into Oberyn’s eyes and into his brain. Tywin sentences Tyrion to death. And y’all think the NFL is violent.
Oh yeah, and the Mountain is poisoned by Oberyn’s blade and later becomes Cersei’s pet zombie. Speaking of that wino, Cersei and Jaime have their first falling out when Cersei, convinced that Tyrion killed her son, orders Jaime to kill Sansa (who is technically Tyrion’s wife). Instead, Jaime gives Oathkeeper to Brienne and asks her to watch over Sansa. He keeps Widow’s Wail for himself.
Jaime releases Tyrion, too. Tyrion then kills their father, Tywin, while he’s on the iron throne. And by iron, I mean ironic. And by throne, I mean toilet.
Meanwhile, in an elaborate ploy, a perpetually scheming member of the political class named Littlefinger smuggles Sansa out of King’s Landing. Littlefinger admits to her that he arranged the poisoning of King Joffrey. He brings her to the Vale, where we learn that Littlefinger and Lysa Arryn killed Jon Arryn (the former Hand of the King) way back at the beginning of the series, and they framed the Lannisters for it. (Did I mention this show is plot heavy?) Lysa wants to marry Littlefinger, but he has eyes for Sansa. He kisses her; Lysa sees. Lysa tries to kill Sansa; Littlefinger kills Lysa instead. Stay tuned for scenes from next week’s episode of “The Bachelor.”
Olenna Tyrell, matriarch of the underdeveloped Tyrell clan, tells her granddaughter Margaery that she (Olenna) also played a part in King Joffrey’s fatal poisoning. She advises Margaery to seduce Joffrey’s younger brother, Tommen, who is next in line for the Bad Chair and a little less of a jerk.
Up north, Jon gets booted from the Night’s Watch for having sex with Ygritte. He leads a successful expedition north of the Wall to save Bran Stark anyway. Later the wildlings attack Castle Black. Ygritte has got Jon Snow in her sights, but as she prepares to (probably) kill him, she gets shot with an arrow and dies in Jon’s arms. Aww. Arya heads to Braavos (sic) to learn how to be an unstoppable death machine.
The loose ends: Melisandre’s tactics grow more severe: She burns several of Stannis’s soldiers alive as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light, to the horror of Davos and Stannis’s daughter, Shireen. An ocean away, Daenerys captures an Essos city called Meereen and frees the slaves there. She decides to put a pin in her plan to take over Westeros, instead sticking around Slaver’s Bay, where she becomes queen. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, as Daenerys learns when citizens come to her with varying concerns such as “your dragons killed my goats” and “your dragons killed my daughter.” Over in Westeros, Ramsay Snow gets Theon Greyjoy’s people to surrender Moat Cailin, a strategically important base. As a reward, Roose Bolton makes his bastard son an official member of the family. Also, Ramsay renames Theon “Reek” and cuts off his penis.
Here are the things that happened in Season 5
In many ways, Season 5 is one of the more frustrating examples of watching the show’s puzzle pieces (read: characters) travel very gradually around the enormous world to meet one another. Also, Dorne (ugh).
Tyrion and Varys head to Meereen to meet Daenerys. Brienne sees Sansa and Littlefinger in a tavern and decides to secretly follow them. Stannis tries, and fails, to recruit wildlings to his army.
This season also contains the show’s most exhausting sequences. First, there’s Arya, who begins training to become a Faceless Man (i.e., a shape-shifting assassin) at the House of Black and White — a sequence that stretches on for far too long and doesn’t seem to have much of a point in the end aside from teaching her how to kill.
Then there’s the Dorne (ugh) plotlines, the less mentioned the better. Basically Jaime and his friend Bronn go down there to find Myrcella, who is promised to Doran Martell’s son. They meet Ellaria Sand and her one-dimensional daughters, the Sand Snakes. There’s a lot of back and forth and betrayal and such, finally ending when the Snakes kill Myrcella. Then, there’s Daenerys and her battle against the Sons of Harpy in Meereen — all of which leads to her marrying a dude named Hizdahr zo Loraq, who is killed by the Sons of Harpy. You don’t need to remember any of this.
The more important plotline is that of the Sparrows, an ascetic religious group in King’s Landing. Long story short, Cersei used to sleep with her cousin Lancel because her taste in men comes down to “dudes in my family.” Lancel is now a holy roller, which is awkward for les cousins dangereux. Meanwhile, the Sparrows imprison Margaery’s brother Loras for being gay. She wants King Tommen to pardon him, but the boy-king won’t do it. Margaery then testifies that Loras isn’t gay, and she is locked up for lying. Finally, the High Sparrow (the religious group’s top guy) learns of the Lancel/Cersei fling and arrests Cersei, making her walk through the streets of King’s Landing naked while a stern lady says “shame” and rings a hand bell.
The loose ends: Jon Snow becomes commander of the Night’s Watch. Tyrion joins Daenerys’s council. At Littlefinger’s urging, Sansa marries Ramsay Bolton, who rapes her. Jon and the wildlings battle an army of wights (skeleton-like zombies) at Hardhome (an outpost north of the Wall), and Jon kills a White Walker with a Valyrian-steel sword. On Melisandre’s urging, Stannis sacrifices his daughter, Shireen, by burning her alive at the stake. He promptly loses a battle with the Boltons and dies. Oh yeah, and Jon gets stabbed to death by his own men, prompting legions of fans to wonder: Is Jon Snow really dead?! (Nobody wonders about Stannis, or thinks about him ever again.)
Here are the things that happened in Season 6
Despite her record of moral whoopsies, Melisandre does pretty quickly resurrect Jon Snow, who then quits the Night’s Watch. He teams up with his half sister, Sansa, and goes about uniting North in anticipation of an existential war with the army of the dead.
Bran Stark, crippled from his fall in Season 1 Episode 1, has compensated for his injury by learning how to time-travel under the tutelage of a mysterious old seer known as the Three-Eyed Raven. Bran takes a mind trip and figures out that Jon Snow is the child of secretly married couple Rhaegar Targaryen (son of the Mad King and brother to Daenerys) and Lyanna Stark (Ned’s sister). But then, on another mind trip, Bran is touched by the Night King (head of the White Walkers), which forges some sort of bond between them. The Night King and tons of wights attack Bran in a magic cave, killing the Three-Eyed Raven. That means Bran is now the Three-Eyed Raven.
Queen Margaery and her new squeeze, King Tommen, have a change of heart and decide to make an alliance with the religious Sparrows. King Tommen orders Jaime Lannister (his secret dad, in case you forgot) to take an army to reconquer an area called Riverrun. Cersei uses the kingdom’s strategic green napalm reserves to blow up basically everyone who prays. That includes the High Sparrow and Queen Margaery. King Tommen, sad that his mom killed his wife, commits suicide.
In the east, Daenerys is taken prisoner by the Khals, her former in-laws, but she escapes by burning down a temple with everyone inside. The remaining Dothraki decide to follow her. She and Tyrion also team up with Theon and his sister, Yara, because why not at this point? Done with Essos, Daenerys sets sail for Westeros to see about a chair.
The loose ends: We learn that when Melisandre removes her necklace, she’s actually really old. Out in Braavos, Arya still doing her whole Faceless Man training, but she breaks a bunch of rules and gets kicked out of the order. But! She’s already learned how to be an unstoppable killing machine, so it’s a pretty sweet deal. Sam brings Gilly and the baby to the Citadel (basically Westeros University), where he will train to be a Maester. First, though, he steals a Valyrian-steel sword from his parents’ house. Ramsay Bolton and Jon Snow face off in the Battle of the Bastards. Jon lives, but his half brother Rickon dies. The Boltons are defeated when Sansa shows up out of nowhere with Littlefinger and the Knights of the Vale. In the show’s most heartwarming scene, Sansa feeds Ramsay Bolton to a bunch of dogs.
Here are the things that happened in Season 7
Anyone still with me? Look, y’all, we’re in the home stretch. We can do this!
Daenerys arrives to Dragonstone with her army and dragons in tow. Melisandre shows up too, telling Daenerys that she should invite Jon Snow over for a meet-and-greet. It’s good timing, because down at the Citadel, Sam learns that there’s a ton of dragonglass at Dragonstone and tells Jon via messenger raven. So Jon heads over to Dragonstone, leaving Sansa in charge of Winterfell while Littlefinger skulks around.
Eventually, Daenerys and Jon decide to team up. They do more than that, actually, later having sex. (She’s his aunt, but they don’t know that.)
Bran “Three-Eyed Raven” Stark and Arya “Unstoppable Death Machine” Stark reunite with Sansa “Wears Cool Clothes Now” Stark at Winterfell. Littlefinger tries to pit them all against each other, so they kill him. Sam shows up and informs Bran that his half brother Jon is actually a full-on Stark (and a Targaryen to boot!), with a legit claim to the Bad Chair. At last, the Stark kids are living their best lives.
Meanwhile, Jon Stark-Targaryen wants to convince Cersei that the wight/zombie army is real. So, in the stupidest plan ever conceived, he travels with a wrecking crew of ancillary characters (Hi, Gendry!) to capture a wight as proof. It goes terribly, of course. A whole army descends on them. Somehow Gendry runs faster than Usain Bolt to find a raven, which then flies faster than a Concorde to Daenerys, who gets there with her dragons in time to save everyone. (Hermione Granger and her Time-Turner would like to have a word with these people.) Sadly, the Night King throws a spear at one of Daenerys’s dragons, which crashes and sinks to the bottom of a lake. Later, the Night King turns it into a zombie ice dragon, which is apparently a thing that can happen.
Back in the south, Jon et al. show Cersei the wight, and she’s like, whatever. Which really sucks, because they basically traded a dragon for it. The Night King uses the zombie ice dragon to break the Wall — which, and I might have forgotten to mention this, was the main thing separating the zombie world from the human world. Ruh-Roh!
The loose ends: Jaime kills Olenna Tyrell, but not before she admits to killing his secret son, the late King Joffrey. Arya uses her death-machine to kill everyone at House Frey, site of the Red Wedding. Theon Greyjoy’s obnoxious uncle Euron proposes to Cersei. And y’all, she said yes!!! After the war is done, of course.
Anyway, that’s where things stand.
And now, this: