It’s finally that time of year again, when we count down to the return of HBO’s massive hit series, Game of Thrones. But with all the comings and goings, alliances and betrayals, intrigue and incest going on in Westeros, sitting down to the Season 5 premiere after a 10 month break might give you that, “I can’t remember certain details from last season” feeling in your stomach.
For those of us who are late night crammers, or just don’t have the time to sit through the HBO marathon to recap, we decided to provide our fellow fans with our own cheat sheet from season 4 to get ready. You can also get hyped for season 5 by checking out Catch The Throne: The Mixtape, Vol. 2.
Here’s everything you need to know about Game Of Thrones Season 4.
Season 4 started off with a harsh reminder of Season 3’s infamous Red Wedding. The bloodbath effectively ended the Stark uprising with the rather brutal death of Robb Stark, his wife, unborn child and his mother, Catelyn Stark, as Tywin Lannister cast the dire wolf sheath of the family sword into the fire.
He also melts down the huge broadsword made famous in the series premiere, (which seems like forever ago), that Ned Stark used to cut off the head of the Night’s Watch deserter caught on his land, into two swords. The two swords become gifts: the first goes to Jaime who returns to King’s Landing, albeit not the man he used to be, thanks to having his hand chopped off in Season 3.
Jaime is anxious to return to his role of King’s Guard, but Tywin has different plans. Tywin tells Jaime to leave the King’s Guard and return to Casterly Rock—the Lannister stronghold— and rule in his place. Jaime is not too fond of the idea, as his travels with knightsman hopeful Brienne of Tarth have seemed to spark a sense of humility in him. He now seems to take the nickname of Kingslayer and Oathbreaker to heart.
Tywin couldn’t care less, and reminds his son that there is little market for a 40-year-old one-handed swordsman. It’s a sentiment his son Joffrey Baratheon later reinforces during their meeting about security for the wedding.
Everyone else seems to have forgotten about the events of the Red Wedding, as plans move full speed ahead for Joffrey’s marriage to Margaery Tyrell except for the remaining Starks (there are five left if you count Jon Snow, and they’re dwingling rapidly). Sansa Stark is in King’s Landing, still mourning the loss of her family and her all too new nuptials to Tyrion Lannister. While walking the grounds she runs into the former-knight-turned-fool she saved on Joffrey’s name day. He gives her a necklace for saving his life.
Meanwhile Jon has survived climbing the wall with the Wildings and escaping the arrows of love from Ygritte, and returned to the Night’s Watch. He appears healthy enough to face a court martial for desertion and treason, headed by his nemesis Alliser Thorne. While Alliser Thorne wants Jon’s head, Jon is more focused on preparing for an imminent attack by an army led by Mance Rayder. His little sister Arya Stark is still being led about by her “kidnapper,” The Hound, who honestly doesn’t seem much more like a kidnapper as he does an annoying older brother.
During their travels, they run into a group of Lannister men at an inn. Arya recognizes one of the men as the one who killed her friend, but more importantly has Needle (the sword that Jon Snow had forged for her). At the inn, The Hound inevitably gets into a fight and Arya takes the opportunity to take back her merchandise. She uses it on the thief in a very chilling scene, showing just how the world has changed young Arya.
Tyrion’s role as Master of Coin has been expanded to Welcome Wagon, as he is sent to meet the Prince of Dorne, but instead finds out that he sent his brother, Prince Oberyn Martell instead. Oberyn has brought with him a lust for life, sex and vengance.
He is the brother of Elia Martell, who was the wife of Rhaegar Targaryen. During Robert’s Rebellion, the Lannisters took King’s Landing and killed Elia’s two children. The Mountain raped her and split her in two with his sword (as the story goes). So Oberyn has come to enjoy the wedding and see about paying a few debts.
Joffrey’s wedding ends up being the spectacle we all thought it would be. It was chock-full of all the luxury and treachery that you would expect of something associated with the demented boy king. Before the festivities, Tyrion has to put somethings in order. Still loyal to his brother Jaime, Tyrion gets his sell-sword Bronn to train him to fight left-handed.
He also learns from Varys that Cersei Lannister knows about his lover, Shae. He picks a fight with Shae to make her leave King’s Landing and go to Pentos. He lets Varys handle the preparations, and has Bronn make sure she gets on the ship. At a pre-wedding party, Tywin gives him the second of the Valyrian swords forged form the Stark Blade. After the wedding, Joffrey has commissioned some entertainment in the form of a troupe of little people who are dressed up to re-enact the War of Five Kings.
Each character represents one of the five kings, including a Renly Baratheon lookalike with his pants around his ankles, and one representing Robb Stark with the head sown on a human body echoing what happened to Robb at the Red Wedding. Joffrey berates his uncle Tyrion, and tells him to put on a costume and join the performance.
Tyrion declines and instead invites Joffrey to show the crowd “how a true king wins his throne.” It’s a jab at Joffrey’s fighting prowess, as it was Tyrion who led the forces against the siege on the city led by Stannis Baratheon. He then adds another zinger about how Joffrey should be careful as one of the actors is clearly “mad with lust.” Not one to be the butt of jokes, Joffrey pours a goblet of wine on Tyrion and makes him fetch his goblet.
As Joffrey looks for other ways to embarrass his uncle, a giant pie arrives. Margaery bids her new husband to cut it, which he is all too willing to do with his new sword, and sends a bunch of doves into the air, along with some bloodied corpses in the pie. But still steaming from Tyrion getting the best of him, Joffrey tells him to bring him another glass of wine.
As soon as he drinks from the goblet, Joffrey begins choking, foaming at the mouth. And to the horror and probably delight of those gathered, he dies. Cersei runs to her child and screams to have Tyrion arrested for killing Joffrey. During the drama, the fool comes to Sansa and tells her to come with him if she wants to live. With the death of Joffrey, his brother Tommen Baratheon is now named king.
Not wasting any time, Tywin goes about the work of making sure the new king won’t be as out of control as the last one. He takes him under his wing and explains what makes a good king. He also explains why a king needs a queen, a great way to get on a teenage boy’s good side.
Also knowing that Oberyn is in town, Tyrion extends a peace offering to the kingdom of Dorne by promising the head of The Mountain if Oberyn helps find Joffrey’s killer. He also offers Oberyn a seat on the tribunal who will judge Tyrion, and a seat on the small council that advises the king. Cersei is once again on the outside looking in as her children are being manipulated, and powerless to protect them.
Her helplessness is more evident in Season 4. While she mourns, her lover and twin brother Jaime, the person who started this whole thing rolling when he pushed Brann out of the window back in Winterfell in Season 1, basically rapes her next to Joffrey’s body.
In prison, Tyrion is visited by his squire Podrick Payne who refused the offer of knighthood if he sold out Tyrion. He thanks Podrick, and warns him to leave King’s Landing.
Tyrion is put on trial for poisoning Joffrey and the verdict is all but known beforehand as he is found guilty and sentenced to death. Perhaps more painful was the testimony of Varys, and Shae’s harsh surprising testimony. Her recitation of their intimate moments is probably the most damning of the testimony against him.
Upon hearing her words, he knows there is no justice, and decides to roll the dice again and ask for trial by combat. It saved him back in the Veil when Bronn stepped in to be his champion. Back in prison, Tyrion is visited by Bronn who now has a nice young wife provided by Cersei (wonder how he got that). He refuses to help Tyrion with a playful, “When have you risked your life for me?”
Tyrion respects this decision, and the two friends part. Jaime arrives and chastises his brother for losing his temper and not taking the wall, but he also refuses to be his champion. Finally he is visited by Oberyn who offers to act as Tyrion’s champion. Things looked promising for Tyrion as Oberyn’s speed seemed almost too much for The Mountain. But once The Mountain got his hands on Oberyn, his death was one of the more gruesome deaths in the show’s history, as his head was literally smashed in The Mountain’s hands.
While her husband has landed in jail, Sansa has been spirited off to a ship owned by Petyr Baelish, known as Littlefinger and is on her way to the realm of her Aunt Larysa the Veil. Here he reveals that he had a role in the assassination plot as did Olenna Tyrell, mother of Margaery.
Upon arriving at the Eeyrie, we are re-introduced to Sansa’s cousin Robin, currently Lord of the Veil. While little more than the boy who wanted to see the half man fly, he seems to have not lost his mean streak. During a touching moment of talking about their homelands, he laid waste to Sansa’s snow rendition of Winterfell. We also learn that Auntie Larysa has always been a little off as she was the one who killed Jon Arryn (Robert Baratheon’s first hand). She also wrote the letter that accused the Lannisters of killing him, at the behest of Littlefinger, setting the wheels in motion way back in Season 1.
We also learn that Sansa will become the unwilling bride of another, as her aunt says she will marry Robin once Tyrion is dead. Thankfully, Larysa’s special type of paranoia intervenes. When she sees Sansa kissing Littlefinger, Larysa attacks her near the moon door once they are alone, until Littlefinger again plays hero and saves her. Sansa then watches as Littlefinger pushes her aunt out of the moon door. Later, in front of the tribunal convened about Larysa’s suicide, Sansa echos Littlefinger’s lie about her aunt’s “suicide” to even his shock.
Brienne, who escorted the Kingslayer back to King’s Landing, finds herself in uncomfortable surroundings as Jaime is now back among the Lannisters. Margeary who was once married to Brienne’s king Renly, is now sworn to marry into the Lannister family. So it was probably a welcome respite when Jaime gives her the sword his father made him along with Podrick, and asks her to help him keep his vow to Catelyn Stark by finding and protecting her daughters.
Across the sea, Daenerys Targaryen continues her freedom tour which has now stopped in the slavetown of Meereen. As her army approaches, she sees a little slave girl who had been nailed to the mile marker and is told there are more bodies marking the 146 miles left to the town. She asks that their collars be removed before they are buried.
When she reaches the gates, she returns the collars by shooting them over the walls at the slavers. We’ve got to love her brashness. She sends in a group of her own forces to mingle with the slaves and rile them up into attacking their masters. Shortly after Daenerys rules Meereen, she answers “injustice with justice” and has the slavers nailed to the mile markers that she had the slaves removed from. She also find out that her long trusted adviser Jorah Mormont has been a spy for Varys. She immediately feels betrayed and banishes him from her sight.
Later a man comes to her carrying the charred remains of his child in his arms the victim of one of her dragons. Unable to find the one responsible she locks up the remaining two as she is coming to realize that maybe she can’t control them.
As Jon Snow has narrowly avoided an executioner, another task is laid upon him as Thorne orders him to take back Craster’s Keep and avenge Lord Mormont, but to do so with only volunteers.
The ex-Night’s Watch members have gone rogue, by raping Craster’s daughters and managing to capture Bran Stark, Jojen Reed, Meera Reed and Hodor. One is about to rape Meera when Jon’s force attacks and ends up killing the rogues. Bran and his little band escape during the confusion. He sadly catches a glimpse of his brother but is warned not to call out to him so he would continue on his mission. Jon returns to Castle Black and joins the rest of his brothers preparing for the attack of the Wildlings, who have already sacked Mole’s Town and are steps away.
Alliser Thorne, Jon Snow’s principal antagonist at Castle Black ,shows a moment of humanity as he admits he should have listened to Jon. But now is no time for apologies, as the Night’s Watch braces for attack. If you didn’t see the battle, just imagine Episode 9 of Season 2, when Stannis attacked King’s Landing. Just add snow and subtract the shiny armor.
During the battle, Jon comes face to face with Ygritte. When they are about to fight, a boy shoots an arrow into her back and she dies in Jon’s arms. The men are able to defend Castle Black, but Jon knows that this isn’t the main force since Mance Rayder has yet to arrive. And he knows his only chance to win is to kill Mance before he gets to The Wall.
Jon goes north of The Wall by himself and meets Mance. During a conversation between the two men, Stannis’ forces arrive and forces Mance to surrender. Stannis learns that Snow is Ned Stark’s son and immediately gains his respect. Ned was the only one who respected Stannis’ right to the throne after Robert’s death.
The season ends the way most seasons of Game of Thrones end— with some journeys ending and others just beginning. When Bran, Jojen, Meera and Hodor finally reach the three-eyed raven, they are attacked by a bunch of stalfos. Jojen is wounded and unable to go on, so his sister cuts his throat in order to not be taken by the wight, reanimated corpses.
The three-eyed raven is actually an old man whose body is fused into the limbs of a tree. He tells Bran the ominous words that he will never walk again, but will fly. Bran’s big sister Arya continues her travels with The Hound when they run into Brienne and Podrick. Brienne wishes to take Arya under her protection and a fight ensues. Brienne eventually bests The Hound, landing a lethal blow that sends him down into the ravine.
Arya hides from Brienne and once she is sure she has left she goes to her old traveling companion. They exchange a few words and he asks her to kill him. She responds by taking his bag of silver and then walking away. She then grabs the coin that Jaqen H’ghar and heads to Braavos.
At King’s Landing, Cersei finally lets her father in on the worst kept secret in Westeros— that Jaime is the father of her children. Jaime sneaks to the dungeons and frees Tyrion. He tells Tyrion to head for a ship that Varys has set up for him to escape King’s Landing and his impending beheading.
As Tyrion sneaks out of the castle, he passes his father’s bedroom and finds Shae in his bed. Enraged, Tryion kills her. He finds his father on the toilet and after exchanging words, puts two arrows into him and escapes the city with Varys.
Make sure you tune in to the Game of Thrones Season 5 when it premieres April 12 on HBO.