'Game of Thrones' Recap: Throwing the Babies Out With the Bathwater

HBO's fantasy hit returns for Season 2 with dragons, wolves, war and a boiling tension between the series' growing number of players.
Paul Schiraldi

Winter is still making its way to Westeros in the premiere of Game of Thrones' second season. And while the war sparked by King Robert Baratheon's death and Ned Stark's beheading is in full swing, viewers reentry into the world of the HBO series saved much of the action for the rather shocking end.

Sure, there were dragons and dire wolves -- but there was also a small-scale genocide of the late Robert's apparently numerous bastard children.

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To best catch up with the events that led to the massacre, here's what happened, house by house:

The Night's Watch
Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) and the rest of the Night's Watch head further past the Wall where they set up camp with a rather inhospitable host. Craster (Robert Pugh) keeps his daughters as wives and, for some reason, has managed to not join the other wildling disappearances. During an awkward meeting, Jon questions Craster's definition of the "real" north. The perceived insolence prompts a talking-to from Commander Mormont (James Cosmo) and a raised eyebrow the Northerner who warns Snow to not so much as look at one of his women.

House Targaryen
Dragons aren't good for much when you're wandering around the desert without a drop to drink or a clue what to do with them. Daenerys' (Emilia Clarke) huge power play during the Season 1 finale left her with an advantage she's clearly a long way from being able to use. She's stuck in the Red Waste with a dwindling number of followers, but she's still very good at rousing speeches. She sends her last three horsemen, including the doting Rakharo (Elyes Gabel), off in different directions to look for salvation.

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House Baratheon
All of Westeros got the memo about King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) not technically being a Baratheon, and that means the major forces in that family are Renly (Gethin Anthony) and Stannis (Stephen Dillane) -- both of whom are making a claim for the throne. Renly remains off camera with his self-given title of "King" and 100,000 soldiers. Stannis' troops seem less formidable, but he does have a sorceress. Melisandre (Carice van Houten) makes her big entrance at a good, old-fashioned idol burning and then manages to gulp down a poisoned glass of wine without suffering the same bloody demise as her conspiring drinking buddy. That has to count for something.

House Stark
The Starks remain a house divided, if only by space. While Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) has wolf dreams and oversees the bureaucracy at Winterfell, Robb (Richard Madden) continues to wear his father's shoes as leader of the Northern army. He's notched three victories against the Lannisters. His mother (Michelle Fairley) questions his proposed treaty and attempts to get his sisters Arya (Maisie Williams) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) back from their enemies, but he reassures her and sends her off to make an alliance with Renly. Arya, posing as a boy on the way to the Wall, gets nearly no screen time, but she's better off than Sansa who's still stuck playing an reluctant game of house with Joffrey.

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House Greyjoy
Not much on the Greyjoy front, but expect more now that Theon (Alfie Allen) is leaving his adopted home with the Starks to seek out his long lost Lord father to find more allies for Robb.

House Lannister
Tyrion's (Peter Dinklage) return to King's Landing is only a welcome one for the viewers as he fulfills his father's request to be the temporary hand of the king. Cersei (Lena Headey) doesn't handle the news well, causing her to unspool just enough to threaten to kill Baelish (Aidan Gillen) and slap Joffrey across the face not 10 feet away from his own throne. He was just curious about how many children his father had with other women.

And that readily available list brings us to the outbreak of infanticide. Though it's not yet clear who made the order, Cersei or Joffrey, someone demanded all of Robert's illegitimate children be dispatched -- and that includes stabbed babies, drowned adolescents and grown men getting swords through their middles. Robert got around.

One son that managed to slip away from all the carnage, however, is Gendry (Joe Dempsie). The unknowing heir to the throne is on the back of a donkey cart with Arya, heading up the King's Road towards the Wall.