‘Game of Thrones’: Everything You Need to Know to Watch Season 4
Did last season’s Red Wedding leave you so traumatized that you’ve forgotten everything else that happened in the third season of “Game of Thrones”? No worries, little Dothraki. Our quick refresher will have you up to speed in no time… just in time, in fact, for Sunday’s season premiere.
Oh, but if you’re not caught up on everything “Thrones”-y: Major spoilers ahead, so don’t say you weren’t warned (a courtesy that was not afforded the attendees of the Red Wedding, by the way).
The Red Wedding
Fans of the George R. R. Martin books already knew this was coming, but for those who have yet to read the source material, the Red Wedding was one of the biggest primetime shockers of the year. And it didn’t even happen in the season finale.
In Season 3’s penultimate ep, “The Rains of Castamere,” Lord Walder Frey was ticked off that Robb Stark backed out of out of a promise to marry his daughter, and threw in with Roose Bolton and Tywin Lannister to seek his revenge. During the wedding celebration for Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey (the woman Robb rejected), Robb, his mother Catelyn, his wife Talisa, and his unborn child were brutally murdered. And still, Walder and company weren’t done; they also killed Robb’s wolf, Grey Wind, and sewed its head to Robb’s decapitated body — a sight witnessed by his little sister, Arya.
Arya Stark and The Hound
Arya’s beloved father, Ned Stark, was beheaded; her brother’s headless body was sewn to his wolf; and her mother’s throat was slashed during the Red Wedding. She’s also separated from the rest of her family — sister Sansa, brother Bran, and half-brother Jon Snow — and she’s got a long list of enemies who she blames for her dead and scattered family.
More frighteningly for everyone on her list, the spirited Stark also has some serious sword-fighting skills, and a very protective and capable traveling companion in frenemy The Hound. Their journey continues in Season 4, when Arya experiences an unexpected reunion.
He broke his Night’s Watch vows when he got all up in Ygritte the Wildling’s business in that cave, but he had to flee after the Wildlings tried to make him kill an innocent man, and his refusal blew his cover. But his infiltration with the Wildlings wasn’t a total bust; he has important scoop for his Night’s Watch brethren, if he can only convince them that the Wildlings’ march on the Wall is imminent (and that he shouldn’t be killed for breaking his vows).
Bran and Sansa Stark
The rest of the Starks don’t even know little brother Bran is still alive, but in Season 4, he continues his journey beyond the Wall, alongside Hodor and the Reed siblings.
As for his big sister Sansa, she’s still stuck in King’s Landing, where her forced marriage to Tyrion remains unconsummated. She and her husband continue to bond, particularly over their shared hatred of Joffrey, but an event early in Season 4 will shake up their already tenuous positions within the Lannister clan.
Tyrion — in love with his wife’s handmaiden, Shae — was no happier about his father’s decision to force him to marry Sansa than she was, but he tried to be kind and considerate of her and her inexperience, and to protect her from ongoing sinister threats by Joffrey.
As for the rest of his family affairs, papa Tywin refused Tyrion’s request for Casterly Rock in Season 3, instead appointing him the new master of coin to replace Littlefinger. The aforementioned shake-up in Season 4 sends Tyrion in a tailspin, and fractures even further his relationship with his father and sister Cersei.
“Everyone is mine to torment” is the quote that pretty much sums up King Joffrey, whose list of cruelties towards the vulnerable is as long as his list of qualifications to be a leader of people is short.
Joffrey is set to marry Margaery, as she and her grandmother Lady Olenna see the union as strengthening the Tyrells’ power. But given that Joffrey initially wanted to serve Robb Stark’s head to Sansa during his wedding feast, it’s a safe bet that a Joffrey-led celebration will be filled with touches both humiliating and horrifying to those around him.
Tywin’s favorite offspring lost his hand when Locke chopped it off in Season 3, and after a journey that saw him bond with Catelyn Stark’s sworn sword Brienne (and, even sans one hand, help save Brienne from the bear pit Locke stuck her in to amuse himself), Jaime returned home to King’s Landing.
But now that he can no longer fight the way he once did, and his sister/lover Cersei seems uninterested in continuing their creepy affair, what will Jaime Lannister’s purpose be in Season 4? And how will he try to maintain his position within the Kingsguard?
Unexcited about her son’s impending nuptials and his bride, whose popularity with the people eclipses her own, Cersei is also being uncharacteristically frosty with twin/lover Jaime. She’s angry his absence meant she was alone in dealing with the machinations of those around her in King’s Landing, like her father, who arranged her own impending nuptials to Loras Tyrell. There’s much drama and heartbreak ahead for Cersei in Season 4, but a marriage to Loras? We’re not betting on that one.
Cersei and Tyrion resent being used in their father’s quest for more power, and even Joffrey called out his grandfather for cowardice during Robert Baratheon’s rebellion. Tywin has had a hand, from afar, in many of the most vicious “Game of Thrones” attacks, though his most cruel act was his Season 3 revelation to Tyrion that he had considered killing his son after his birth.
Now that son Jaime is back in King’s Landing, Tywin would seem to have his best ally nearby, but how will he react to Jaime’s missing hand and its effect on his ability to fight? And how long will Tywin continue to get away with pulling so many strings, yet never personally reaping the consequences?
Brienne of Tarth
The woman fought off a bear! She’s fierce, but her friendship with Jaime seems destined to cause her some trouble, especially with the jealous Cersei aware of her twin’s bond with Brienne.
She’s got the Unsullied army behind her and three ever-growing dragons, and that helped her free the slaves of Yunkai before Season 3 ended. This season, she’s headed off to free another slave city, Meereen, and while mercenary/political advisor/bodyguard Daario Naharis (who was recast with actor Michiel Huisman) has caught her eye, she may have more pressing matters to deal with — like having to sever ties with a key ally.
He was imprisoned, castrated, and tortured to the point of complete and total submission to the psycho Ramsay, who nicknamed Theon “Reek.” Theon’s father Balon refused to rescue his son, saying he was no longer of any use now that he was left unable to produce any Greyjoy heirs, but sister Yara is leading a ship of men to rescue him. Will there be anything left of him to rescue, though, as Ramsay continues his twisted games?
Stannis Baratheon and Melisandre
His loss at the Battle of the Blackwater left him dejected, and believing fully in Melisandre’s blood magic, he also ordered the death of friend Davos after Davos freed Gendry (Robert Baratheon’s son) from Stannis’s imprisonment, though Melisandre eventually nixed that.
In Season 4, Melisandre is still stirring the pot that is Stannis’s fuzzy brain, but Jon Snow and the crisis at the Wall may provide Stannis with an opportunity to redeem himself.
He got Gilly and her son to Castle Black, and sent the ravens to warn that the White Walkers have returned. In Season 4, Sam’s feelings for Gilly and the baby grow, but his vows as a member of the Night’s Watch, as well as surrounding threats to Gilly, lead him to make some questionable decisions where she is concerned.
“Game of Thrones” Season 4 premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.
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