Hello, everyone! Welcome back to Happy Time with Game of Thrones - just kidding, fun is dead and probably buried wherever they put Ned Stark's headless corpse. If you've been following along in our Season 1 guide, you've learned that the world of HBO's hit show is a real bastard, and it's not afraid to kill off your favorite characters right when you start to fall in love with them. Don't worry - season 2 is just as bad. Follow along and fill the aching gap between now and the start of season 7 in almost a year's time.
Joffrey, with the weight of the Lannister family behind him, begins his rule over the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. And he continues to be eminently punchable.
Luckily, Tyrion Lannister - who has been sent by his father, Tywin, to act as Hand of the King - obliges for our sake.
The brothers of recently deceased King Robert Baratheon, Stannis and Renly, aren't too happy about this (having the throne stolen, I mean - I'm sure they're stoked Joffrey's getting his punk-ass beaten down), as they both feel as though they've been snubbed. Stannis sends out a strongly-worded letter to all of the other kingdoms about Joffrey's, ahem, unique heritage, and begins to make his play for the throne.
Robb Stark's forces win a few victories against the Lannisters, but he needs help if he wants to win the war. So he sends Theon Greyjoy - a young man who was taken as a ward by the Starks as a child, who grew to be close friends with Robb - and his mother, Catelyn, to parley with Theon's father, Balon Greyjoy, and Renly Baratheon, respectively.
It works out about as well as you'd expect. Theon and Balon conspire to double-cross Robb in the North. Theon takes Winterfell...
...but loses it when his men betray him, shipping him off to House Bolton in exchange for clemency. Bran Stark escapes from Winterfell, along with his friends, Hodor and a Wildling servant named Osha, and his brother, Rickon.
They make for the Wall.
Meanwhile, Catelyn seems to make good inroads with Renly…
...until some black magic summoned by Stannis and his lady friend, Melisandre, takes him out. Catelyn flees, along with the totally rad Brienne of Tarth, who suddenly finds herself unemployed as a kingsguard.
Back in Essos, Daenerys begins to gather an army to reclaim the Iron Throne. She and her entourage make their way to the city of Qarth. The people are reluctant to help, save from one man: Xaro Xhoan Daxos, who vouches for her group with a blood oath.
She finds nothing but trouble in the city. No one other than Xaro is willing to help, and Xaro will only do it if Daenerys marries him. She refuses, and later returns to her chambers to find that her dragons have been stolen.
Look, dragons haven't been seen in this world in ages. Maybe don't tell people you have three of them?
But they did, Dany! Rather easily, too!
Anyway. She learns that Xaro's been behind it all, and locks him in a vault for the rest of his life.
Time to shoot on back over to Westeros. Arya finds herself in Harrenhal, along with Gendry, the last of Robert Baratheon's bastard sons, and an orphan named Hot Pie. The three are put to work, with Arya made to serve as Tywin's cupbearer.
He has no freakin' clue she's a Stark.
She eventually escapes thanks to the help of a mysterious man named Jaqen H'ghar, who kills several guards to allow her, Gendry, and Hot Pie to slip out undetected.
They see him one last time, and he hands Arya a coin and the phrase "Valar morghulis", which she can use should she ever need his services again. As he leaves, Arya discovers that he's changed his face completely.
Up north, Jon Snow goes on a ranging past the Wall, and stumbles upon a group of Wildlings. His group kills them all save one, a woman named Ygritte, and Jon offers to execute her - and wimps out, allowing her to escape. He recaptures her, but ends up lost in the snowy mountaintops.
He really doesn't! She leads him right to the Wildling camp, and they take Snow prisoner.
Meanwhile, Catelyn makes her way back to Robb's camp, and has Brienne take Jaime Lannister - who's been tied up in a cage this whole time - up to King's Landing to ransom Arya and Sansa's life for his.
They have kind of a Clint Eastwood/Eli Wallach thing going on here.
Stannis Baratheon finally makes his move against King's Landing. Unfortunately for him, Tyrion's cunning use of wildfire cuts through much of his offensive.
Tyrion sticks around to fight, but is attacked by one of the Kingsguard (likely under the orders of his sister, Cersei). Tyrion's squire saves him at the last moment, and as he falls unconscious, Tywin and his army arrives, driving off the remaining Baratheon soldiers.
Joffrey names Tywin Hand of the King, replacing Tyrion, and dumps Sansa for Lady Margaery Tyrell, newly widowed after the death of Renly.
Seriously, what a diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiick.
Robb falls in love with Talisa Maegyr, a nurse who had been tending to both Stark and Lannister soldiers during their conflict. Catelyn warns Robb that he has promised himself to one of Lord Frey's daughters. Robb says screw it, and marries her anyway.
I'm sure this well-thought-out decision won't come back to bite anyone in the ass in the future.
Back up north, Jon Snow meets a fellow ranger, who convinces Jon to kill him in order to gain the Wildling's trust and infiltrate their ranks.
And while Jon's doing his thing, his Night's Watch friends are looking for him, and find a little more than they bargained for.
And that's it for season 2! Will Joffrey continue to get punched in the mouth? Will Jon Snow ever learn? Will winter actually come to Westeros? Find out in our season 3 recap!