Look, just accept it—if you don't know what's going on in Game of Thrones at this point, there's no way you're going to figure it out before this weekend. Sure, it may sound fun to go drink goblets of wine at your buddy's finale party, but don't think you're going to skate through the thing with just your cunning ability to figure it out on the fly. The show is so monumentally stuffed with plots and characters and individual histories for each of the seven stupid kingdoms that trying to wrap your head around it all will melt your brain faster than Bran did Hodor's. Don't get the reference? Exactly. Stop! Don't even try.
But worry not, out-of-touch Game of Thrones latecomer! There's still a way to feel included when Sunday night rolls around. First of all, do not even attempt to look at the Game of Thrones Wiki—it will just overwhelm you and fill you with dread. Seriously, don't.
Instead, we here at VICE have exhaustively combed through all eight seasons of the show and an entire bookshelf of books, meticulously cataloguing everything that has led up to the final episode and distilling the remaining relevant details into one easily digestible package.
Game of Thrones is expansive and confusing, but at this point, just about all the tangled narrative threads have either been wrapped up or completely discarded in season eight's mad dash to the ending. Once you throw away all that extemporaneous garbage about prophecies and inter-kingdom squabbles and the Lord of Light, the actual necessary stuff you need to know for the finale is pretty manageable.
Are you ready? Let's get started!
Westeros, the Name of the Island Where Everyone Lives or Whatever
Let's start at the beginning. Game of Thrones is basically set in the Middle Ages, except in this world there's magic stuff, too. That means that dragons are real and witches can bring people back from the dead. And there are zombies! Actually, don't worry about the zombies. They're all gone now. The magic is pretty much gone, too.
Everyone lives on Westeros in castles and fiefdoms. (OK, there's another island called Essos, but don't sweat it. Every living character that matters is in Westeros now, so it seems extremely unlikely that anything important will happen over in Essos.)
With us so far? Great. Basically, everybody just wants to be king or queen of Westeros and get a chance to sit on...
The Iron Throne, the Thing Everyone's Been Fighting Over
You know the name of the show? This is that throne. It's made out of all the swords surrendered to this dude name Aegon the Conqueror after he conquered Westeros and united the Seven Kingdoms and—sorry, this is all the stuff that is completely unimportant. All you need to know is that it's ugly, cold, and presumably uncomfortable, though it makes for a pretty good Instagram spot.
Throughout the series, all sorts of people have fought and died for the chance to sit on the Iron Throne and rule the Seven Kingdoms, but seeing as how they're all dead, they don't matter.
Here are the only ones who do:
Daenerys, the New Mad Queen
They call her the Mother of Dragons because—surprise!—she has dragons. Well, she only has one now. But one is still a lot of dragons. Daenerys's dad was once the king, but then he lost it and became the Mad King and got assassinated.
Daenerys has been trying to take the Iron Throne over the course of the series and has talked a big game about bringing about a fairer and more just era of rule once she does, but it doesn't seem like things will ever actually go that way. She went on a rampage last episode, burning a ton of innocent townspeople alive after they surrendered to her, and basically proved that she's the new Mad Queen.
Tl;dr—Mother of Dragon
s is the bad guy now.
Jon Snow, the One Who Had Sex with His Aunt and Is Now Probably Going to Kill Her
Jon Snow is like Jesus, except not, except sort of. He is the dour, curly-haired guy probably brooding somewhere on screen. He died once, but then came back to life. He's also a bastard who secretly has royal blood and is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, because his dad is Rhaegar Targaryen, the last Prince of Dragonstone, and—don't ask. Just remember that everyone loves Jon and wants him to be the king but he's not down because, you know, reluctant hero tropes.
He fell in love with Daenerys, but then it turned out she was his aunt. That's not actually a huge deal, since families bang each other pretty often in this show, but it is a big deal that she snapped and killed a bunch of people last episode and is evil now or something. Now, Jon will presumably have to kill her.
Jon Snow's life sucks, honestly.
Tyrion Lannister, the Guy Most Likely to Die
Tyrion has consistently been the greatest character on Game of Thrones. But he has pissed off Daenerys one too many times and Daenerys has gotten into this bad habit of killing literally everyone with dragon fire. Tyrion probably won't survive the finale. He will die. It will be sad. Prepare yourself.
Sansa and Arya Stark, the Only Smart Characters Left
Sansa and Arya are Jon's sisters (kind of, because of that whole secret parent thing) and they're the only smart people left in the show. Sansa would be the best ruler out of everybody, but since this is Game of Thrones and we can't have good things, that probably won't happen. But who knows!
Arya is a master assassin who can disguise herself as other people by going all Hannibal Lecter and wearing their faces. She was the one who killed those zombies but, as we already mentioned, the zombies don't matter anymore. Moving on.
Oh, and Bran, the Massively Under-Utilised Superhuman
Remember how we said magic exists in the Game of Thrones universe but the show has mostly forgotten about it? Bran is the perfect example. The series devoted years to sending him on a quest to become some kind of extra-dimensional being who can see all of time at once, but this season he's mostly just been hanging around a castle and acting as bait for the head zombie—whoops, sorry... again, they don't matter. Forget about the zombies.
Will Bran actually do anything in the finale? Will he finally put his superpowers to actual, productive use? These are the kinds of things people who watch Game of Thrones care about. You don't really have to. What you should care about is...
The Valonqar Prophecy, the Most Important Thing Ever
Just kidding! This dumb thing doesn't matter. For the last few years, everyone pored over the intricacies of this prophecy during insufferably nerdy conversations, but then the last episode came along and it turned out that the showrunners didn't care about it after all. Sure, you can make a case for it kinda-sorta-but-not really coming true, but just... no.
Instead, this is just a good phrase to keep in your back pocket in case your friends are complaining about how the last season biffed it. Someone whining about how Game of Thrones totally forgot about [RANDOM DETAIL]? Just pipe in with, "What about the Valonqar prophecy? They really screwed that up," and no one will guess that you don't even know what Valyrian steel is.
If All of This Is Still Too Confusing, Just Look for Mistakes and Cameos
If you don't want to bother learning all this stuff, that's fine. You can just spend the season finale searching the background for production errors, because there are bound to be a few. Keep an eye peeled for a celebrity cameo, too, since Mac from It's Always Sunny popped up a few episodes back. Between that and the goblet of wine, it should be enough to hold your attention through the finale's bloated, 80-minute runtime. Got it? Great.
Congratulations! You can now become an active participant in the cultural zeitgeist. None of this will matter in two weeks when Game of Thrones is off the air and everyone has moved on, but whatever. Maybe then you can actually watch the show in peace without your friends constantly theorising and sucking all the fun out of it. Enjoy.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.