Sweeping dramas, juicy soaps and serialized dramedies are all on the horizon as the summer TV season gets underway — even if the memories of what exactly happened the last time we were in King’s Landing have faded in the intervening months. (There are a handful of returning comedies, too, like “Carmichael Show” and “Difficult People,” but those don’t require any catching up.) To help bring you up to speed, here’s a quick refresher course.
House of Cards (Season 5, Netflix, May 30)
The most important moment in Season 4 was the final one, where Claire joined Frank in a fourthwall-breaking stare, right after they mutually vowed to “create chaos” and to “attack” Americans’ hearts. It’s part of a wag-the-dog plan to distract voters from the damaging news about how Frank manipulated the previous president and about Frank’s involvement with (the ambitious and ultimately murdered) Zoe Barnes all the way back in Seasons 1 and 2. Recall, too, that it’s election season: Frank and Claire are running together, with her as his vice-presidential candidate. “House of Cards” is good at mood and style, but it’s not as good at plot mechanics, or maintaining a sense of momentum. Don’t worry too much about understanding exactly who is mad at whom and why, because the show itself doesn’t worry too much about it. Just remember that everyone maintains a discreet simmering rage.
Game of Thrones (Season 7, HBO, July 16)
“Where did we leave off on ‘Game of Thrones’?” is like asking “How did the Earth come to be what it is?” Fire, violence and motion, mostly, but it’s a long, long story. Briefly, then: Cersei orchestrated an explosion and massacre that wiped out her enemies but also prompted her son’s suicide, and thus has ascended to the Iron Throne; Arya is back in Westeros and killing the people on her to-murder list; Jon Snow and Sansa are back in Winterfell, where Jon is being hailed as King of the North; and Daenerys has set sail for Westeros. It also appears that winter has finally arrived. Also a million other things.
Orange Is The New Black (Season 5, Netflix, June 9)
The most important thing to remember from last season is that a prison guard killed Poussey, by kneeling on her back and eventually suffocating her. Enraged by this latest injustice, as well as the constant abuse and degradation they’re experiencing, the prisoners at Litchfield Penitentiary start to riot, and the season finale ends with Daya holding a gun to the head of the corrections officer Humphrey. (He’s the one who brought the gun to prison in the first place.) “Orange Is the New Black” has grown increasingly diffuse, with characters that barely interact with one another; more of the meat of episodes takes place in the character-development flashbacks, while the goings-on within Litchfield tend to take a back seat.
Younger (Season 4, TV Land, June 28)
Liza’s big secret finally caught up on her on “Younger”: that she’s not in her 20s, but in her 40s. In the closing moments of the season, she finally — finally, finally, finally — told Kelsey about her (not actually convincing) ruse, although that’s probably the least of Liza’s troubles. Her could-be romance with her boss, Charles, seemed like it was about to go somewhere when they shared a kiss — a kiss that Liza’s boyfriend, Josh, caught a glimpse of when he came to surprise Liza with a marriage proposal. Josh later dumps her, but perhaps it’s for the best.
Queen Sugar (Season 2, OWN, June 20)
The oldest sister, Charley (DawnLyen Gardner), persuades her fellow sugar-cane farmers to use her startup mill, which she finances partly with money garnered by blackmailing a basketball player who assaulted several women. The middle sister, Nova (Rutina Wesley), gets back together with her married white-cop boyfriend. But the biggest shake-up comes from the youngest brother, Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe), who discovers his father’s revised will, which leaves the entire farm to him.
SUMMER TV REFRESHER
Far left: Frank and Claire are running on a ticket in the presidential election in “House of Cards.”
Samira Wiley as Poussey met her end last season on “Orange Is the New Black.”
Kofi Siriboe as Ralph Angel, Rutina Wesley as Nova and Dawn-Lyen Gardner as Charley in the OWN drama “Queen Sugar.”