The fourth season of Game of Thrones begins on April 6th, basically covering the events of the last half of George R. R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords. It’s been a while since we last saw Westeros, though, and one can’t be blamed if memories of a certain wedding have since blotted out all other details about the show.
Here’s a handy guide to where all the key Game of Thrones characters are by the end of season 3.
Bran Stark, Jojen and Meera Reed, Hodor, Osha
By the end of season 3, Bran Stark and company reached The Wall and have been shown by Samwell Tarly how to pass through it. Bran shared a touching goodbye with his younger brother Rickon, whom he sent south with Osha and Shaggydog to seek refuge with the Umbers, loyal bannermen to the Starks. Bran’s warg powers have become more prevalent, thanks in part to some coaching from Jojen Reed. At the end of the season Bran jumped inside the mind of his direwolf Summer to help his brother Jon Snow fend off Wildlings, as well as inside the mind of Hodor, to prevent Hodor from being too loud and giving away their hiding place. In response, Hodor was all, “Hodorrrrrr” which is Hodor for “That was the creepiest thing ever, kid, please don’t do that again.”
Samwell Tarly, Jon Snow, Ygritte
Samwell Tarly spent most of his time on screen cowering or making self-deprecating jokes, but showed some true bravery by the end of season 3, rescuing Gilly and her newborn son from both the riot at Craster’s Keep and a stray White Walker. He and Gilly (along with the newly named baby Sam—how cute is that?) reached Castle Black, where they warned Maester Aemon about the army of White Walkers seen north of the Wall. Jon Snow also returned to the Night’s Watch, though he was somewhat worse for wear after fleeing the group of Wildlings who have made it south of the Wall. Ygritte, not one to take betrayal and abandonment lightly, managed to bury three arrows in Jon as he fled on horseback, and he barely made it to Castle Black alive.
Stannis, Melisandre, Davos, Gendry
Melisandre returned to Dragonstone, where she continued to be totally creepy in her devotion to Stannis Baratheon and her god, the Lord of Light. She’d become a little obsessed with the magical powers of “king’s blood,” and so had big sacrificial plans in mind for Gendry, the illegitimate son of the late King Robert. Having been reinstated as Hand of the King, Davos tried to sway Stannis against the use of Melisandre’s blood magic. But when it became clear that Stannis was desperate enough to try anything, Davos freed Gendry and set him out to sea in a rowboat. Davos then presented Stannis with a message from the Night’s Watch explaining the threat of the White Walkers, and even Melisandre agreeded that the war brewing in the North was more important than battle for the Iron Throne.
Catelyn, Robb, and Talisa Stark
Walder Frey hosted the wedding of the century, joining his daughter Roslin to Edmure Tully. The ceremony was lovely and they all lived happily ever after LA LA LA WE CAN’T HEAR YOU. Oh okay, fine. Turns out ol’ Walder was still a bit peeved about Robb Stark’s secret marriage to Talisa, so after making a side deal with the Lannisters, Frey betrayed the entire Stark family and slaughtered them during the wedding feast. Talisa and her unborn son were stabbed to death, Robb was punctured by multiple arrows, then stabbed by Roose Bolton, and Catelyn got her throat cut, but not before she grief-murdered Walder’s young wife. If that wasn’t bad enough, Walder’s men also killed Robb’s direwolf Grey Wind and sewed his head onto Robb’s corpse. Great, now we’re crying all over again.
Arya Stark, The Hound
Arya Stark was traveling with Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, who planned to deliver her back to her mother—for a modest fee, of course. They arrived at The Twins just in time for the chaotic aftermath of the Red Wedding, which is maybe the saddest thing ever. Arya later stabbed a man to death in the woods for claiming to have sewn Grey Wind’s head onto Robb’s body, marking the first time she killed a man on purpose. We’d be lying if we said this plotline wasn’t at least a little awesome (we want Arya and the Hound to hang out together FOREVER), but it’s also rather distressing to see Arya go from “adventuring tomboy” to “robotic, dead-eyed murderer.”
The Boltons and The Greyjoys
After siding with the Lannisters and Walder Frey, sneaky turncoat Roose Bolton was named Warden of the North. In his absence, Roose’s bastard son Ramsay has the run of the place and he’s spent most of his time inventively torturing the world’s scruffiest punching bag, Theon Greyjoy. After being castrated, Theon begged his captor for death, but Ramsay just laughed before rechristening him “Reek.” Theon’s father Balon Greyjoy received a ransom note demanding that the Iron Islands’ troops leave the North, along with a box containing Theon’s “favorite toy.” (HIS PENIS.) Balon basically gave his son up for dead and refused to either halt the attack or send help. Theon’s sister Yara—somehow surprised that Balon is not about to win any father-of-the-year awards—has formed plans to mount a rescue on her own.
Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish may be the only person in Westeros who’s actually come out ahead by the end of season 3. After being elevated to Lord of Harrenhal, Littlefinger convinced the Small Council that it would be in the Crown’s best interest if he offered a marriage proposal to Lysa Arryn (Catelyn’s sister), thus bringing her into an alliance with the Lannisters. He originally planned to smuggle Sansa Stark out of the city, but when he learned of her secret engagement to Loras Tyrell (which would have put her out of his creeper reach), he sold her out to the Lannisters. Littlefinger hasn’t been seen since his departure from King’s Landing, but you can bet he’s waiting somewhere in the wings.
As Hand of the King, Tywin Lannister overshadowed his progeny and essentially ruled the kingdom himself last season; he constantly scowled at Joffrey (once literally sending the king to bed), arranged politically advantageous marriages for both Tyrion and Cersei (against their wishes, of course), and quietly set the Red Wedding in motion. Newlyweds Tyrion and Sansa were just starting to get along when news of her family’s deaths arrived in King’s Landing. Awkward. Tyrion’s relationship with his family was strained further by his position as Master of Coin, as he struggled to fund the upcoming royal wedding. With her twin absent, Cersei had to console herself with all the wine she could get her hands on. Not that we blame her, of course. She openly opposed her father regarding her engagment to Loras Tyrell (not that her arguments have done much good so far), and even admitted to Tyrion that Joffrey is a monster, which is still a bit of an understatement. King Joffrey’s psychopathic tendencies reached a fever pitch in season 3 when he crossbow-ed poor Ros to death and later gleefully planned to serve Robb’s head to Sansa at his wedding feast. Ugh, this kid.
Olenna Tyrell spent her time on screen being a total badass, throwing shade left and right. She sparred with Tywin, but ultimately agreed to wed Loras to Cersei in order to keep him out of the Kingsguard and to secure Margaery’s engagement to Joffrey. Margaery, meanwhile, expertly flattered Joffrey (an impressive skill when you consider he once pointed a crossbow in her general direction), trolled Cersei, and ingratiated herself to the populace; clearly she’s learned how to game the system from her awesome grandma. Seriously, the ladies of House Tyrell are amazing.
Varys had better watch his back, because during season 3 he had a hard time masking his facial expressions whenever Joffrey threw a temper tantrum. To be fair, he was probably just distracted after Littlefinger foiled so many of his plans, most notably his move to wed Sansa to Loras Tyrell. He tried to lay the groundwork for a new scheme by offering Shae money to hightail it out of King’s Landing; he explained that she’s a distraction for Tyrion, whom Varys sees as the only person capable of saving the kingdom. But Shae refused to leave, both because she loves Tyrion and because she wishes to protect Sansa.
Jaime Lannister, Brienne
Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth had the worst luck in season 3, starting with Brienne’s near-rape and the loss of Jaime’s sword hand—both perpetrated by House Bolton’s professional slimeball, Locke. Before heading off to the Red Wedding, Roose Bolton released Jaime as a show of good faith to the Lannisters, but Jaime returned to Harrenhal to rescue Brienne from Locke’s bear-baiting pit. The pair arrived back in King’s Landing as anonymous travelers, and Jaime was reunited with Cersei at the very end of the season.
Daenerys, Daario, Barristan Selmy, Jorah Mormont, Grey Worm, the dragons
Daenerys Stormborn Targaryen conquered her way up the Ghiscari coast in season 3, starting out with nothing but three young dragons and ending with an army of freed Astaporian Unsullied, led by Grey Worm, and the entire freed slave population of the city of Yunkai praising her as their mhysa, or “Mother.” Ser Barristan Selmy revealed himself to Daenerys in Astapor, seeking her out after being unceremoniously booted from Joffrey's Kingsguard way back in season 1, and offered her his services and fealty as military advisor. Upon reaching Yunkai and declaring her intention to free its slaves, Dany is met by mercenary company the Second Sons, including their heavily flirtatious and opportunistic lieutenant Daario Nahaaris. In order to test their loyalty, Daenerys ordered Daario, Jorah, and Grey Worm to sneak into Yunkai and open its gates, which they pull off successfully. In the course of events Daario beheaded the Second Sons’ leader and declares the mercenary group now loyal to Daenerys. Meanwhile, Jorah Mormont’s unrequited feelings for Daenerys continued to simmer.
When season 4 begins, Daenerys sets her sights on the next slaver metropolis up the coast: Meereen. Her dragons continue to grow, but they’re now showing greater ferocity, even towards Daenerys herself. And they are becoming far too large to keep chained or caged....
That’s everyone! (We think.) The premiere episode of season 4 itself does a good job of continuing the various story threads from this point on, and it very cleanly introduces the Dornish and their objectives. We’ll see you on April 6th, when A Storm of Swords begins its intense conclusion!