Warning: slight to significant to severe spoilers ahead
HBO is an island in a sea of bad television and the Game of Thrones series that was released last fall is a perfect example of why. Based on the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, Game of Thrones is a Lord of the Rings-esque television show — but better.
Something about this series has captured public attention. Whether it’s lead Sean Bean’s tragically handsome face, or the magnificent cast of minor characters, or the amazing fantastical world, Game of Thrones has captured our attention.
Season two — based off of the second novel in the series, A Clash of Kings — promises to be just as full of ambition, blood-lust, sex, murder and intrigue as the first. To fully enjoy what promises to be an excellent second season, some details must be considered. It has been a long and cold winter since the season finale last June. Some of the storylines may have faded into the dark and dreary December days. The characters, their motives, their sins, and their desires, may have become confused and convoluted. The old themes of season one may not be as sharp as they need to be before you re-enter the fray in Westeros and beyond.
For those of you who haven’t watched season one, my advice is this: watch it. The hype surrounding Game of Thrones may be high enough to tempt you to just start on season two, and skip season one. Because, really, how much can happen in 10 episodes? Well, a lot can happen.
Please treat this as a disclaimer: watching season two without season one under your belt is a terrible idea. However, this article should provide you with the necessary background information to pick up season two where season one left off. This is a literary picking-up-and-dusting-off of the material covered in season one, with a summary of what will be new, what will be exciting and what we can look forward to in season two.
Season one in a nutshell
It all starts with the Starks and it all ends with the Lannisters. Ned Stark is the protagonist of the first book, Lord paramount of the North and, soon enough, Hand of the King. A quiet, tough, honest man; Ned Stark is the ideal hero for the first season.
In a world full of corruption, incest, deceit and an insatiable lust for power, Ned stands tall and alone against wave after wave of depravity. Due to his unbending goodness, Ned is six inches shorter — headless — at the end of season one. Good guys don’t live long in Westeros. When you play a game of thrones, you live or you die. Ned died.
What we are left with is a cast of minor characters about to come into their own. This is what season two is all about.
The five kings
On the roster this spring are the five new kings.
Joffrey Baratheon is the heir apparent to the Iron Throne. He is thought to be the son of Cercei Lannister, the queen, and king Robert Baratheon who died at the end of the season one. Joffrey is really the son of Cersei and her twin brother Jamie Lannister.
Rob Stark is the eldest son of Ned Stark. Rob was crowned King in the North at the end of the first season, and is travelling south to force the Lannisters to atone for the murder of his father.
Stannis Baratheon is the brother of Robert Baratheon, the former king. Before Ned was beheaded, he sent word to Stannis telling him of the true nature of Joffrey’s birth. Since Cercei never had any of Robert’s children, by right, the throne should pass to Stannis, Robert’s oldest brother.
Renley Baratheon is the younger brother of Robert. Stannis is a cold man. He is hard and uncompromising. Not an evil man, but not a kind man either. To be frank, nobody really likes Stannis. Renley, Stannis’s younger brother, is a different sort of man. He is handsome, young, and he is someone that everyone can fall in love with. People want to fight for Renley in a way that they will never want to fight for Stannis.
Balon Greyjoy is a tricky sort of character, with no claim to the throne. Balon rules over the iron islands of Westeros. The men and women of the iron islands are shipmasters who dominate the seas of Westeros. Balon has proclaimed himself king of his own lands, and is poised to take what he can as the other kings struggle against one another.
There were tons of new people to cast for the second season of Game of Thrones. For anyone who has read the second book, the casting of these key players is particularly interesting. Stannis will be a new face this year. Ygritte, love interest to John Snow; Podrick Payne, squire to Tryion Lannister; Davos Seaworth, the beloved onion night; and Melisandre, the red priestess, advisor to Stannis will all be new this season. And finally there is Brienne of Tarth, arguably the only honourable character left in the world after Ned Stark died, debuts this season.
The title of the second book should embody what is in store in season two: it will be a clash of kings, where the powers in the seven kingdoms will collide, all for the chance to sit on the Iron Throne.