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The Last Game of Thrones Explainer You Will Ever Need

Alex Acks

Contributing Editor

Alex Acks is a writer, geologist, and sharp-dressed sir. They've written for Six to Start and been published in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Shimmer, Daily Science Fiction, and more. Alex lives in Denver with their two furry little bastards, where they twirl their mustache, watch movies, and bike. Twitter: @katsudonburi Website:

Content Warning: May or may not contain spoilers for Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Your guess is as good as mine. TW for mentions of incest, sexual assault, torture.

I have never never read any of the books from A Song of Ice and Fire (though unlike large swathes of the internet, I know that’s what the book series is actually called because my housemate’s last name is Stark and she’s a fantasy nerd, not a comics nerd) nor watched any of the Game of Thrones TV series. But that’s all right, because I’m an adult human being on the internet, so I still somehow know way more about it than I ever wanted to. And it is with that knowledge that I will now explain Game of Thrones, relying entirely on what I have absorbed via osmosis and without looking anything up.

Game of Thrones is about a bunch of people in at-times extremely questionable wigs murdering each other and having wars because they all want to be in charge of the world’s most uncomfortable throne, which is made out of swords that have been welded together. I know it’s uncomfortable because I have in fact sat in a replica of that throne at two different WorldCons, and my butt was numb within the first 30 seconds. Though nothing demands good posture like your other option being leaning back against a bunch of blades. I’ve also sat in a replica of the throne that was made out of hurling sticks at Dublin WorldCon, and that was about a zillion times more comfortable.

Game of Thrones on HBO promo image
I mean, just look at this thing. No wonder Ned Stark looks so pensive, he’s probably got a dagger sticking into his butt.

Besides fighting over the Iron Throne, everyone in Game of Thrones is really pressed about the weather. Sean Bean has informed us all countless times via meme that winter is coming, and yes, Sean, I get it. I’m also from Colorado. It’s some form of winter for approximately 80% of every year and we don’t spend all of our time stabbing each other about it. Maybe the various kingdoms that are fighting each other just really needed to legalize marijuana and take up snowboarding.

I think there might also be zombies. Maybe. It’s something that I’ve seen mentioned a time or two on Twitter, but for all I’ve heard, the zombies are just chilling (hahaha because Winter Is Coming, get it?) out in the wilderness like shambling set dressing. In Game of Thrones, you are definitely more likely to get murdered at a wedding than eaten by zombies. Basically, if you ever get a save-the-date in Game of Thrones–land, you need to inform your next of kin.

There was the Red Wedding, during which a bunch of people who we’re not supposed to like murdered a bunch of people we are supposed to like, including a pregnant lady, for political reasons and also to scar the audience for life. “The Rains of Castamere” is the official murder song of Game of Thrones because it was played at that wedding, and if you ever happen to hear it out in the real world, you should flee the area immediately. There was also a Purple Wedding, during which a really awful king got poisoned, so it was actually a pretty good time for everyone. I do not know what the band was playing at the Purple Wedding. Maybe “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang.

What makes this almost Highlander-esque plot of People + Stabbing = I Win! captivating is, of course, the characters. How all of these characters relate to each other is…murky, but they’re all into political murder, banging, or both, and that’s good enough to make a soap opera. They are, in the order in which I thought of them:

Ned Stark: Ned Stark is a really good dude with a big sword. He cacks it real early on, because something something Game of Thrones is grimdark and good people don’t get to live. He’s played by Sean Bean, and I’m still uncertain of the causal relationship. Does he die fast because he’s played by Sean Bean, or does Sean Bean play him because he dies fast and as an actor, he’s fundamentally allergic to being present to the entire run of a movie or TV show? Unknown.

Jon Snow: He knows nothing. He also does nothing other than stab the most powerful available lady person to death at the end of the series and bear an eerie resemblance to a friend I’ve had since college, though to the best of my knowledge, Isaac has never worn a dead animal as a fashion statement.

Jon Snow’s Dead Lady Friend: She is the one that brought the world the Good News that Jon Snow doesn’t know anything. Then she died. Everyone was really sad about it on Twitter for about 48 hours.

Captain Phasma: I have no idea what she’s doing in this show other than having some kind of Thing with Incest Guy (see below) who leaves her for his sister. Which I guess is as good of a reason as any for her to go make Finn’s life miserable in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi after which the franchise promptly forgot she existed. Which as far as I can tell is what Game of Thrones did as well? The world just doesn’t appreciate tall women and their glorious biceps.

Khaleesi: She has a name that starts with the letter “D” and I can actually say it, I just have no bloody idea how to spell it, and it’s a pretty sad state of affairs when I find “Khaleesi” to be the easier to remember and correctly spell name. Khaleesi is one of the most important characters in the show. She’s a survivor of sexual assault, at one point she gets set on fire (don’t ask me why) and doesn’t get burnt, and she has dragon eggs that hatch into dragons. She’s also central to a rather problematic narrative about freeing enslaved people. But she was mostly pretty cool until the final season of the show, when the writers decided that she was just going to use her dragons to set everyone on fire because power makes lady people evil or something and thus it’s totally cool that someone — was it Jon Snow? Maybe? — stabs her so she can’t be the ultimate winner.

Dragons: Dragons are basically the world’s coolest weapons of mass destruction and they belong to Khaleesi. After she gets stabbed, a dragon melts the Iron Throne and interior decorators the world over breathe a sigh of relief.

Theon: Honestly, I only know Theon exists as a character because I’ve done panfandom journal RP before. He is without a doubt his own worst enemy at all times, has massive daddy issues, sort of got raised by the Starks but his relationship status with them has since been changed to “It’s Complicated,” and, for reasons I’m not entirely clear on, got tortured by a guy named Ramsay Bolton, who cut off his you-know-what and renamed him “Reek.” Sorry, not a lot of jokes here, because I actually feel kind of bad for Theon, potentially because I don’t know any better.

Ramsay Bolton: The actual worst.

Photo of a mural of the face of Arya Stark in Manchester, UK
You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m a tellin’ you why…
Stabby Stark is coming to town.

Stabby Stark: Yes, I know she has a name, and it’s Arya. She’s got daggers and she stabs the people who have pissed her off, which I think are mostly those who have murdered members of her family, so that seems pretty fair? She has a list. She’s checked it twice. She might as well be Murder Santa.

Sansa Stark: AKA “The Girly One.” I don’t know as much about her as I’d like, because what little I have heard carries a definite whiff of Eau de Fandom Misogyny, which makes sense if she’s femme and, unlike Khaleesi, isn’t murdering people left and right. I think she was supposed to marry Joffrey, and thus it was a relief he got poisoned.

Other Generic Male Starks: Do I know what their names are? No. Do I know what they do? Also no. We’ll call them Ian, Sammy, and Clayton for the sake of things, though I’m honestly not sure if that’s the correct number of random male Starks. We’ll go with it. Anyway, one of them (we’ll say it was Ian for the sake of argument) spied on the doings of Incest Lady and Incest Guy (see further down the list) and got pushed out of a window. He thus became a wheelchair user. He is special and important but apparently not in a way anyone on social media gives even the tiniest fart about.

Peter Dinklage: He’s hanging around in the court, drinking and knowing things, causing trouble, making plans, hoisting his own petard. He’s a lovable sad sack who kind of makes everything worse, all the time. Wait, I think I can remember his name, now — Tyrion? Is that right? He survives to the end through mostly luck and the power of not actually wanting the Iron Throne, which is probably the only good decision he’s ever made in his life.

Joffrey: He was king for a hot minute, he’s extremely blond, has a baby face, and he’s a bad guy. I am not entirely clear on how exactly he was bad, but because this is Game of Thrones, I’m going to assume there was a lot of torture, murder, and probably sexual assault involved. (There are reasons I never watched or read this series, and that’s number one on the list.) He cacks it at the Purple Wedding, which was supposed to be his wedding, and as a present to everyone else in the world he was given a goblet of poison. There was much rejoicing. The only reason I know what he looks like is author Nick Mamatas had him as a Twitter avatar for a long time.

Incest Lady & Incest Guy: I think Incest Lady might actually be named Cersei, but I might also be thinking of my friend Isaac’s cat. Cersei Cat, for the record, is also quite evil but has never engaged in any kind of incest and I want to protect her reputation. Anyway, Incest Lady and Incest Guy are siblings and Joffrey’s parents, which I guess goes to show you what incest gets the whole world. Incest Lady is one of the main contenders for the throne — as is obvious, considering that in the above pictures she’s sitting on it — and also one of the most victimized by the terrible wigs the show is infamous for. She is worthy of respect because she is a Bad Bitch, but she also dies just short of the finish line, not that I could tell you who kills her. Incest Guy has a beard and wears armor. That’s his personality.

Littlefinger: I have no idea who he is or what he does, I only remember this name because it is such a weird, disturbing combination of words, and I really wish he would stop.

A Bunch of Men With Beards No One Cares About: Like this guy. Who the heck is he? I don’t know. Apparently no one’s excited enough about him to make Twitter memes. I have to assume he’s important, because he’s wearing a crown, but he’s certainly not the king of anyone’s heart. And when you come down to it, when I look through the stills for this show, I see a lot of Men With Beards of Varying Lengths and what all of them are doing in the story is a mystery I cannot solve. Maybe there’s a Beard Care Convention going on at the same time as all the political struggles and all these poor guys, who really just came into town because they wanted to get a jar of that really awesome mustache wax they can’t find anywhere else, not even online, are all trying desperately to get to the airport while Khaleesi, furious at a new iteration of her terrible wig, burns the world down around them.

Maybe Game of Thrones was more about hair care than I ever realized until this moment.