Game of Thrones season 2 recap: Everything that matters for season 8

Game of Thrones season 2 / Photo Credit: HBO
Game of Thrones season 2 / Photo Credit: HBO /

A recap of the second season of Game of Thrones focused on the moments and revelations that will tie in to Thrones’ final season, set to begin on Apr. 14. 2019.

Warning: The following post is full of Game of Thrones spoilers. There’s still time to watch the full series, if you haven’t already. If you have, read on. 

In the second week of a seven-week series, we recap the key points of Game of Thrones‘ second season. If the first season served to provide a bit of shock and awe, this second season included the building blocks to several key relationships that are still around (and extremely important) in season 8.

ICYMI: Here is the season 1 recap.

After the stunning finish to Game of Thrones‘ first season, viewership skyrocketed for season 2. As did the number of claims to the Iron Throne in Westeros. After Robert Baratheon’s death, King Joffrey, a horrible little bastard born of incest, took his place. Everyone in Westeros with the slightest claim to the throne immediately started gathering banners.

By season’s end, the waters were muddier than ever and the war was in full swing. Castles had been stormed, taken and retaken. Armies fought, kings died and the dragons learned to cook. There was also a lot of magic. The Thrones world expanded a great amount and we at home were able to draw a better mental picture of the fantasy land we had become obsessed with. If there was one thing that we all took from season 2, it’s that we wanted King Joffrey dead.

Keep in mind: The following points should serve as reminders as to what happened in the season, but focused in relation to Season 8. Some key points will be glanced over in favor of what will come to be important this season.

What happened in Game of Thrones season 2

The second season of Game of Thrones kicked off the real fight between Tyrion and Cersei Lannister. Cersei has always had it out for Tyrion because her mother died giving birth to him. His smart-ass remarks only add fuel to the fire. Tyrion, appointed hand of the king during his father Tywin’s absence, knows that Joffrey is not only Jaime’s son, but that he’s also a real P.O.S. Tyrion and Cersei butt heads through the entire season over how the king should act, but deep down, it’s more about the two of them getting along about as well as oil and water. Each party tries to one up the other until Tyrion, who bravely leads his men to battle against Stannis Baratheon’s oncoming army, is almost killed by Ser Mandon Moore. Moore is a member of the Kingsguard and loyal to Cersei. Tyrion’s squire (and future expert love maker) Podrick kills Moore and saves Tyrion from certain death.

While Tyrion’s animosity towards his sister grows, his walls start to come down with Varys. Tyrion is rightfully weary of Varys at first but once he sees that they both want the same thing, he works with him behind the scenes and Varys helps Tyrion hide the love of his life, Shae — a prostitute-turned-handmaiden, who gets a position helping Sansa Stark. Shae’s story really picks up in seasons 3 and 4, so let’s put a cap on this for now.

North of King’s Landing, Robb Stark and his army of Northmen have won three consecutive battles and taken Jaime Lannister prisoner. All is well in Robb’s camp. Against better advice, he sends his best friend Theon Greyjoy home to broker an alliance with the Iron Islands. Theon, thinking only about himself (as he does), turns on Robb and takes Winterfell in an attempt to impress his father Balon and sister Yara. He takes, then loses, Winterfell and sets the wheels in motion for his horrible, tortured future with Ramsay Bolton. Not a great season for Theon.

Further North, Jon Snow and some key members of the Night’s Watch take a trip north of the wall. There’s an army of wildlings that is said to be in the tens of thousands and growing by the day, led by a former crow, Mance Rayder. When Snow and the other rangers capture Ygritte, a smart-mouthed but charming wildling, Jon is tasked with killing her as the others carry on their mission. He can’t do it, she escapes, is recaptured and eventually escapes again, leading Snow into a trap. Once captured, Snow learns that all but one of the group of rangers he was with were killed trying to find him. Qhorin Halfhand, also captured, forces Snow to kill him in order to gain the trust of the wildlings. Before dying, he tells Snow to make sure the deaths of his men were not meaningless.

Through all of season 2, based on Westerosi law, Stannis Baratheon might have been the rightful heir to the Throne. His army grew but he lost a key battle at the end of the season when he stormed King’s Landing only to be outsmarted by Tyrion Lannister, then out-manned by Tywin Lannister, who returned in the nick of time to save the day for the Lannisters.

Perhaps the most important character development through the second season of Game of Thrones belongs to that of Arya Stark. A girl begins season 2 in hiding as a boy, and ends with a shiny new coin from the leader of the faceless men, Jaqen H’Ghar. His full story can be reviewed here. In short, Stark saves H’Gar and the two other prisoners he’s being held with, so he grants her three free murders to offset the lives she saved. For her first two, she chooses the man in charge of torture at Harrenhal and Ser Amory Lorch, who had become suspicious of her while she was working as Tywin’s Lannister’s cupmaiden. In a genius play by Stark, she then choose H’Gar as her third kill after he choose not to help her escape Harrenhal. She says she will un-name him if he helps her and her friends, which he does. This move also earns her his respect and his future teachings in Braavos. Well played, Arya!

What’s relevant to season 8

Arya and Jaqen H’Ghar: You really can’t put a price on the ability to transform yourself into anyone you want. Through her relationship with H’Gar, which truly blossomed in Game of Thrones‘ second season, Stark went from feisty highborn to one of the most powerful assassins in all of Westeros. There’s no ceiling to what she can accomplish in season 8. Oh, and we recently learned that she finally gets to see a dragon (a dream of hers in the early going).

Tyrion and Varys: The friendship between these two has blossomed from season 2 onward. In later seasons, Varys goes on to help Tyrion escape King’s Landing when he’s in trouble and the two of them end up working together as advisers to Dany. In season 8, they’ll continue this role, solely focused on the bigger picture. Unfortunately for them, Cersei is still playing politics in a world that no longer has a need for them.

Tyrion and Cersei: They hated each other in season 2 and probably hate each other even more in season 8. The last we saw of Cersei, she was falsely stating she would help Tyrion, Jon, Dany et al., take on the oncoming army of the dead at Winterfell. It may seem shortsighted not to add some men to the battle here, but through the seasons, Cersei has impressively always found a way to end up in control of the Throne. For seven seasons, she has been atop the game of thrones, it’s almost a shame knowing that after everything she’s gone through, she’s likely about to lose it. Not that much of a shame though, because she’s a ruthless, awful person.

The two are directly involved in King’s Landing’s supply of wildfire, a green substance that burns hot enough to melt just about anything it comes in contact with. Tyrion uses wildfire to set Blackwater Bay ablaze, taking out half of Stannis’ ships in the battle of Blackwater. The wildfire could be paramount in Cersei’s defense of King’s Landing in Season 8.

Theon’s mess: Season 2 was a rough go for Theon Greyjoy. Once a trusted member of Robb’s inner circle, he ends up betraying Robb and everyone who raised him, killing multiple people he had sworn to protect, losing Winterfell, which he took to gain respect and getting to second base with his sister while riding a horse (why didn’t she stop him from putting his hands where he did?). This leads to Robb and Roose Bolton strategizing to have Roose’s bastard son Ramsay take back Winterfell. As we know now, Ramsay wasn’t very well liked.

In regards to where we stand going into Season 8, Greyjoy is only alive because of his mistakes. Sure, he’s endured shame, torture, dishonor, the loss of his manhood (literally), and more, but he’s alive. If he had stayed by Robb’s side, he would have been killed at the Red Wedding and would have never gotten the chance to redeem himself by saving Sansa from Ramsay and working with the current band of misfits in The Great War. While some say what he’s done can never be redeemed, he has helped the Starks, especially Sansa, since royally screwing them over multiple times.

Melisandre: After Melisandre convinces Stannis that she can provide him with a son, the two have relations and she goes on to birth a strange, murderous shadow child (much to the horror of Ser Davos Seaworth, who was stuck watching the birthing of this thing). The shadow would go on to murder Stannis’ brother-turned-foe Renly, one of the kings who had amassed an army and was set on winning the game of thrones. While scary and hard to love, shadow babies have proven to be far more resourceful in their first year of life than regular babies. That being said, they live very short lives. This shadow is long gone now, but Melisandre holds a key role in Jon Snow’s group at Winterfell and will undoubtedly revive at least one more important person in Season 8. Thank the Gods she has this power, because her choice of Stannis as Azor Ahai is soooo far off.

Daenerys, Mother of Dragons: Dany’s second Game of Thrones season is strange and a little stagnant. After wandering the Red Waste (desert) for weeks, she’s welcomed to Quarth, the richest city in The Known World. There, two important things happen: She teaches her dragons “Dracarys” which means burn everything, and she gets the funding for a new ship (by pillaging all the gold and the jewels from the corrupt asshole that was running the place). Jorah, her faithful servant/guy who is obsessed with her confirms that he would do anything for her, including die, if he must.

Dany also has an important vision in the House of the Undying. While searching for her briefly stolen dragons, she opens a door to find herself in a burned down King’s Landing. She walks towards the Iron Throne as snow falls through the burnt roof. It’s widely theorized that this was a direct look into the future  and a scene we will see after her dragons ravage the city and winter reaches the capital.

It’s worth noting that Dany is completely immune to fire. Does this include wildfire? Is the vision her walking through a King’s Landing that has been burned by her dragons, or could she possibly have survived a massive Cersei blast and remain alone in a torched kingdom?

Jon and Ygritte: The sexual tension between these two is instant — mostly because Ygritte has no filter. She tries to seduce Snow into letting her go and when the two are forced to rest for the night, she pokes fun at him for “drawing a knife on her” during the night (it’s a sexual innuendo). Sadly, Ygritte is long gone by season 8, but she delivers her iconic line for the first time in season 2: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

Related Story. Game of Thrones season 1 recap. light

Other Season 2 takeaways

  • Brienne of Tarth is tasked with transporting Jaime Lannister. At the end of season 2, they still hate each other. Obviously this changes and their reunion in season 8 will be nice to see.
  • Sam meets Gilly at Craster‘s house.
  • When Lord Baelish tries to strong-arm Cersei early in the season by revealing that he knows about her and Jaime’s relationship, he hits her with a classic line: “Knowledge is power.” Cersei responds by having her guards grab him and put a knife to his throat. “Power is power,” she replies in quite possibly her coolest line in seven seasons.

Game of Thrones returns to HBO on Apr. 14th, 2019.