A “Game Of Thrones” Recap For Sensitive Beginners

Never seen the popular TV show? No problem. Here’s what you’ve missed, without all the violence and cruelty.

The final season of Game of Thrones, the insanely popular TV show, is upon us. That means, for the next few months, everyone will be talking about this heavy metal soap opera. Who killed whom? Who tortured whom? Who killed and tortured whom?

Not everyone watches it, however. For many sensitive souls, the world is violent and cruel enough without having to watch a weekly series about violence and cruelty. And, yet, it is human nature to want to be a part of the conversation.

This is why I am writing this recap of Game of Thrones for those of you who have never seen the series but want to be able to participate, even superficially, in the conversations surrounding this momentous cultural event.

(This recap would also be of use to unfrozen super-soldiers trying to fit back into modern society or literature professors who ‘don’t have a TV.’)

I will lay out the last 7 seasons of plot points in the gentlest way possible. This means you’ll be able to appreciate, with emotional distance, all the internet “hot takes” without having had to endure all 67 nail-biting hours of the sword-and-zombies epic.

This recap will also be written in shockingly simplistic broad strokes, since I assume tender-hearted newcomers to the series prefer to fill their heads with other things, like new herbal teas, and scone recipes, and classic episodes of Murder, She Wrote.

A word of caution, however, when interacting with fans, or stans, of Game of Thrones, who are an excitable bunch. “Stan” is a popular slang word that means “obsessive lunatic” inspired by Stannis Baratheon, a Game of Thrones character who was an obsessive lunatic about the Iron Throne!

You may be surprised to discover there are people who know the entire lineage of the Targaryen dynasty, stretching back hundreds of years to Aegon the Conqueror, the first lord of the Seven Kingdoms. They can be very rude, especially when it comes to the specifics of their make-believe obsession. If you encounter such a person, I urge compassion. They know more fake history than real history. Encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture fantasy worlds is a common symptom of the madness of modern life.

I will note that there is also non-offensive stuff in Game of Thrones, like whispering in castle stairwells, and men with beards drinking wine from goblets. But, mostly, it’s gratuitous, anxiety-inducing murder and sex.

I mean, if I wanted to watch a world burning I’d turn on cable news. Ha, ha. I won’t do that, though. That sounds terrifying. So I think I’ve established that this recap is meant to allow sensitive souls to navigate superficial discussions about a fairy tale political drama that allows us to avoid discussions about our own real-life fairy tale political drama.

Digital media is currently built on two mighty pillars: Donald Trump and Game of Thrones, and when the latter ends, expect lots of screaming. Personally, I plan on living in the sewers like the Phantom of the Opera.

It’s not easy to explain HBO’s Emmy-winning drama but I’ll try: It’s like, what if Lord of the Rings had more jugular spurt? Or what if Le Morte d’Arthur was also a soft-core porno? Richard the Threesome? Like, imagine Stalin’s Politburo and then imagine a Rennaissance Faire. That’s the vibe.

I hope that helps?

You probably need a little more backstory, especially for those of you who are completely unfamiliar. I’ll make this really short and simple: The kingdom of Westeros needs therapy. It is an enchanted land of anger issues, narcissism, and, oddly, excellent teeth. Everyone wants to sit on the uncomfortable Iron Throne. The show is about the mean things people do to sit on the uncomfortable Iron Throne.

Westeros, like America, would really benefit from an AA meeting.

The dozens of characters can be divided into two simple types: bad people and slightly less bad people. I’ll do my best to only write about the less bad people.

The dialogue in Game of Thrones doesn’t dilly-dally. Generally speaking, it gets the job done. Here’s an example:

DOOMED CHARACTER ONE: When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.

DOOMED CHARACTER TWO: Ser, this is a bawdy tavern.

A random decapitation would then follow. I, mean, there are despairing monologues and the reading of hopeless news sprinkled in here and there. But you get the gist.

Everything isn’t 100% terrible Westeros, though. For instance, everyone in the cold north seems to have a cozy coat. There are old books to read, and turkey legs to eat and pretty horses. It isn’t all cruelty and horror, just mostly.

Previously on Game of Thrones: the not so bad people endured hardships. Meanwhile, the bad people did some unspeakable things. Pain was dispensed. Scrolls were scrolled and unscrolled. Ravens squawked. The plot was advanced! Hey, here’s some incest. Look out — dragons!

And now a break, for some palace intrigue.

“Winter is coming” is something multiple characters have said over the last seven seasons. Normally, to those of us who are tender souls, “winter is coming” means hot cocoa and snuggly blankets. But in Game of Thrones, it means “the world is coming to an end.”

Also, there is a wall and a marauding caravan of the undead, which is a major storyline that Game of Thrones shares with Fox News.

I should mention I’m not going to use character names for these recaps for two reasons. Reason one: there are so many characters! If you’re reading this recap chances are you just want enough information to help you fake interest in the zeitgeist. The other reason you don’t need to know character names is because most of the characters will meet random and unnecessarily gruesome ends, anyway.

Here’s what you need to know: there’s a dragon mom and a sad hunk and an evil queen and a sexy little person and a pair of sisters who have gotten quite good at murder because practicing murder is how one passes the time in Westeros. There’s also a man with a golden hand and a warrior blonde and a couple of men with noble, hawk-like eyes.

You could cast an entire repertory theater season of nothing but productions of Titus Andronicus with the actors from Game of Thrones. Many of them are classically trained and don’t seem to mind performing in a pop melodrama for nihilist adolescents.

That’s a very basic recap and it should be enough so that you can nod along to references made by friends and family. If you’re asked what you thought of the episode, just say “It was amazing. So good!” If pressed respond “it is just so much better than the books, which I have read and love!” If you’re feeling emboldened, you could start a wee chat around the ol’ watercooler by asking “Can you believe what happened last night” and then wait for the other person to enthusiastically fill in the blank. Congratulations, you’re talking Game of Thrones!

If someone says “I am so sad/angry that _______ was butchered/flayed/burned” you can respond with a mournful shrug because, remember, when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.

In the unlikely chance, someone continues to doubt you watch Game of Thrones just look them squarely in the eyes and whisper “Winter is coming.” They will think you said something really cool and heavy metal when, in fact, you just said: “cocoa and blankies, yay!”

Written by

Editor, Humungus. I won two James Beard Awards once for an essay about Taco Bell. Let’s be friends.

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