Missed the first season, but want to dive in now? Here's what you need to know.
Eddard, known as Ned, is the patriarch of the Stark family and an old friend of the current king, Robert Baratheon. In the country of Westeros, there is a post called the Hand of the King, and whoever holds it serves as the most trusted adviser to the king and is allowed to give verdicts in the king's stead. The Hand of the King is second only to the king in power. After the last Hand dies, the king asks his friend Ned to take the post. Ned is reluctant, not wanting to leave his family, but finally agrees when his wife's sister sends a message saying she believes there was foul play in the death of the previous Hand, and Ned believes that the king may be in danger because of that. Eddard discovers that the queen, Cersei, and her twin brother, Jaime, are having an incestuous affair and that the children Cersei bore that were believed to be the king's are in fact Jaime's. He confronts Cersei with the knowledge, and she imprisons him for treason. Cersei says that he will be let go to join the Night's Watch, a fighting force that guards the border, but Cersei's son Joffrey, who has come to the throne after his father's death, condemns him to death unexpectedly, and Ned is beheaded.