The final season of Game of Thrones is getting closer and closer, like it’s the ceaseless march of thousands of ice zombies coming to kill most of Westeros. Trying to catch up before it all comes to an end from 15 April? We're here to help with our handy-dandy season-by-season recap!
Previously on season two, Dany lost and found her Dragons while navigating the deadly politics of Qarth, Theon betrayed the Stark family, Robb fell in love, and the Night’s Watch found their escapades beyond the Wall about to be really cut short by a surprise White Walker army attack. None of those sound like they could possibly have any comeuppances in season three, right? Right?
Well, you can watch our 90-second recap video above to find out yourself (or refresh your memory, if it’s a bit hazy). But if you want something more in-depth, check out our blow-by-blow recap below, broken down by where in Westeros it’s all happening.
- The Lannisters find themselves at an advantage in the War of the Five Kings. Their army’s numbers, combined with the recent alliance with the Tyrells, means they can afford to wait things out as Robb Stark’s army dwindles. However, the kingdom is still very much in debt to the Iron Bank of Braavos—as Tyrion Lannister, the new Master of Coin, discovers.
- Tywin Lannister, the new Hand of the King, quickly seizes control and establishes himself as the puppet master behind King Joffrey’s reign. At the same time, future queen Margaery Tyrell works at endearing herself to the people of King’s Landing—and her husband-to-be. Cersei Lannister finds herself losing control of her son, and the Seven Kingdoms altogether.
- Tyrion’s luck also seems to be running out. First, he learns that Tywin plans to disinherit him. Then, he discovers King Joffrey was the one who tried to have him killed during the Battle of Blackwater Bay, as punishment for standing up to him. Tyrion’s allies are dwindling, and he needs to figure out a way he can survive.
- At first, Sansa yearns to escape King’s Landing, and Petyr Baelish promises to help her— but upon learning that Margaery wants Sansa to marry her brother, Loras, she decides to stay. This is the first time we see a spark of Sansa’s cleverness, as she lies to Baelish so she can stay behind.
- Unfortunately, Sansa’s fairy tale ending dies quickly. Knowing full well that the Tyrells are scheming to take control of the North (since Robb’s death would make Sansa the heir), Tywin arranges a marriage between Sansa and Tyrion. Joffrey praises the match, but secretly promises to continue torturing Sansa for as long as he likes. Tywin also orders Cersei to marry Loras, which she refuses to do.
- Then, there’s one more thing Tywin had a “hand” in. It’s what’s well known as The Red Wedding (more on that below).
The War of the Five Kings
- Stannis Baratheon is nursing his wounds after the defeat at the Battle of Blackwater Bay and Melisandre turns to human sacrifice to appease the Lord of Light, not-so-coincidentally sacrificing anyone who questions her. Davos Seaworth calls her out, so Stannis throws him in the dungeon. There, he’s visited by Stannis’ daughter, Shireen, one of the only known survivors of a disease called greyscale.
- Eventually, Melisandre comes to Stannis with a plan. To win the war, he’ll need the ultimate sacrifice: King’s blood. She apprehends Gendry, Robert Baratheon’s only surviving bastard, and plans to sacrifice him. But first, Melisandre uses leeches to draw some of his blood and casts a spell, with Stannis calling for the deaths of his enemies. “The usurper Robb Stark, the usurper Balon Greyjoy, the usurper Joffrey Baratheon.”
- Davos Seaworth refuses to let Stannis kill Gendry, so he helps the young man escape...on the famous rowboat heading nowhere. Don’t worry, we see him again. Eventually.
- Iron Islands ruler Balon Greyjoy has disavowed his son Theon, who spends the entire season being tortured by Ramsay Snow, following his embarrassing defeat at Winterfell. I won’t go into details about how Theon is tortured, suffice to say he loses a key part of his body, as well as his very identity, taking on the name Reek. Eventually, Yara Greyjoy breaks with her father and vows to rescue Theon.
- Then, there’s Robb Stark, the King in the North. Let’s be honest: He’s not doing super well. Not only is he losing the war, but he’s also lost some of his support—thanks to Catelyn Stark helping Jaime Lannister escape, and his own impromptu decision to marry Talisa instead of one of Walder Frey’s daughters. Unfortunately, Robb still needs Frey’s support, as his lands are the gateway to seizing Casterly Rock, the homestead of the Lannisters. Robb convinces Edmure Tully to marry into the Frey family instead, and everyone gets together for a big feast. You know what happens next...
- The Red Wedding! The Freys have made a deal with the Lannisters, and at Edmure’s Wedding Feast, Walder traps the invited Starks and promptly butchers almost everyone there. Robb’s dead, Talisa’s dead, Catelyn’s dead (after taking out a Frey herself), the direwolf Grey Wind gets its head lopped off. It’s bad news all around, really.
Elsewhere in Westeros
- Arya Stark doesn’t spend long on the road before again becoming a captive, this time to the Brotherhood Without Banners. These were soldiers who Ned Stark had tasked with stopping The Mountain’s reign of terror through the Riverlands, but now act as a group of vigilantes protecting the common folk from the Lannisters. The Brotherhood plans to ransom Arya back to her family—but first, they have to deal with another prisoner. The Hound.
- Arya tells the Brotherhood The Hound killed one of her friends, and this results in a trial by combat between The Hound and the Brotherhood’s leader, Beric. The Hound succeeds in killing Beric, only for him to come back to life—for the sixth time—thanks to supposedly being blessed by the Lord of Light. The Hound leaves, but not before taking Arya captive (again), intending to ransom her off himself.
- Brienne of Tarth is on a mission to return Jaime Lannister to King’s Landing, in exchange for Catelyn’s daughters (one of whom is not actually in King’s Landing anymore). The pair are apprehended by Roose Bolton’s men, and are subject to humiliation and torture. Skilled swordsman Jaime even has his hand chopped off. A fellow prisoner, a disgraced former maester named Qyburn, manages to stave off infection so Jaime wouldn’t lose his whole arm.
- By the end of the season, Jaime has returned home to King’s Landing...and his sister, Cersei. But the ordeal has changed him, in more ways than one, leading to him saving Brienne’s life and promising he’ll do what he can to get Catelyn’s daughters returned home.
- Jon Snow has cemented himself as an undercover agent among the wildlings, trying to learn their plans to take them back to Castle Black. He gets to know Mance Rayder, the man leading the wildling army, and even begins to fall in love with Ygritte, the woman he’d captured in the first place. He ends up joining an advance party, scaling the Wall to secretly figure out Castle Black’s defences. But it doesn’t take long for Jon’s true allegiances to surface, and he ends up abandoning the team—with Ygritte shooting him in the back for betraying them.
- A group of angry Night’s Watch brothers defects and takes over Craster’s Keep, killing both Craster and Lord Commander Mormont. Samwell manages to escape the carnage, fulfilling his promise to rescue Gilly and her baby. However, it’s not long before they find themselves staring down a white walker, who’s after Gilly’s newborn son, and Samwell manages to kill him. Thanks, dragonglass!
- Brandon Stark continues his journey toward The Wall. That’s about it.
- Daenerys continues to gain power and influence in Essos. Following her siege of Qarth, she heads to the city of Astapor and the home of the Unsullied, a fierce army composed solely of hardened slaves. But before that can happen, she’s saved from an assassination attempt (presumably orchestrated by the warlock Pree) by Ser Barristan Selmy, the Lord Commander of Robert Baratheon’s Kingsguard who’d been dismissed by King Joffrey. Ser Barristan pledges his loyalty and joins Daenerys’ counsel.
- Daenerys offers to purchase the entire 8,000-soldier army in exchange for one of her three dragons, and asks that the slaveowner’s translator Missandei be transferred to her service as a gesture of goodwill. However, Daenerys had no intention of giving up one of her children, and Drogo promptly roasts the slaveowner. Missandei is freed but chooses to stay with Daenerys.
- The Unsullied are then ordered to sack Astapor, bringing the city under Daenerys’ control. She then frees all of the slaves, including the soldiers, and offers them a place in her new kingdom. The Unsullied also choose to stay and fight for her, with a soldier named Grey Worm volunteering as captain for her new army.
- Finally, the Mother of Dragons heads to Yunkai, another slave city, and orders the slave masters to surrender—which, of course, they refuse to do. Daenerys manages to get the help of a mercenary named Daario—one of the leaders of the Second Sons—and together with Jorah and Grey Worm, the men manage to infiltrate Yunkai and kill all of the slavers, conquering the city for Daenerys. She is greeted as a liberator and is given the name “Mhysa,” or mother.