The world of HBO's Game of Thrones is confusing. Once you've read our recap of the most recent episode, you still might have some nagging questions. Who was that one guy again? And why did he have to kill that other guy? Googling to figure out the answer from the books is fraught with spoilers from later in the series. What's a Thrones watcher to do? Allow us to be your guide. Every week, we'll be here with backstory on the latest episode, providing context without getting ahead of the story.
For this week's season premiere, there's a lot to tackle, from a vengeance-obsessed bisexual prince to creepy cannibal wildling people with lines on their faces. Who are these guys running the Night's Watch who don't like Jon Snow? And what was the point of giving all that attention to Tywin's fancy new sword?
Prince and the Revolution
Yes, Prince Oberyn Martell, the "Red Viper," is super cool. He is part of the Martell family, which controls the most southern of the seven kingdoms. Oberyn's basic purpose, as he explains to Tyrion, is to get revenge for his slain sister.
Here's the deal: Back when the Targaryens ruled in King's Landing, Oberyn's sister Elia Martell married Prince Rhaegar, who was the first son of the Mad King Aerys and next in line to the throne. The couple had two young children and raised them in King's Landing. The trouble for the Martells started when Rhaegar ditched Elia to kidnap and run off with Lyanna Stark, Ned Stark's sister. Robert Baratheon also loved Lyanna, so he and his allies started a huge civil war to get her back, "Robert's Rebellion." As the war progressed and the Targaryens started losing, Tywin Lannister jumped into the fray, and his forces sacked King's Landing, killing and raping and generally doing terrible war things, ultimately placing Robert on the Iron Throne and establishing the political climate as it existed when Game of Thrones began.