Game of Thrones is back! With some serious vengeance.
Season four of HBO’s mega-hit fantasy series premiered Sunday night, allowing fans to catch up with its many beloved and despised characters – well, at least the ones who aren’t dead yet.
Here’s what we know now about the goings-on in Westeros and beyond:
Obviously, there are huge spoilers below. Proceed at your own risk!
The capital is bustling with anticipation ahead of King Joffrey’s wedding to Margaery, who was previously married to his late uncle Renly. While she consults with her grandmother, House Tyrell’s crafty matriarch Lady Olenna, over details, Brienne of Tarth pays her a visit. Brienne recalls seeing Renly stabbed by a shadow that resembled his brother and Joffrey’s enemy, Stannis Baratheon.
Petulant Joffrey – who erected a silly statue of himself towering over a dead direwolf – is overly pleased with himself for “winning” the war against Stannis and dismissive of his uncle Jaime, who is back in town and fitted with a golden hand to replace the one he lost while held captive by Locke of House Bolton.
Earlier, Jaime was given a sword of Valyrian steel, forged from the late Ned Stark’s weapon, from his father, Tywin Lannister, who asks him to leave and return to rule over the Lannisters’ home in Casterly Rock. Jaime refuses (to leave, not the sword), claiming he wants to stay to protect Joffrey as a member of his Kingsguard. But really, he just wants to be close to his sister and former lover, Cersei. Too bad Cersei, who is drowning her sorrows in red wine, has no time for him anymore.
The other Lannister, Tyrion, has his hands full. He’s keeping an eye on a vengeful and lustful Oberyn Martell, who’s in town for the wedding and perhaps to kill some Lannisters. Tyrion is also trying to get his very reluctant wife, Sansa Stark, to eat some lemon cakes before she withers away from grief over the death of her brother Robb and mother Catelyn. Meanwhile, his true love, Sansa’s handmaid Shae, is upset that he’s not paying enough attention to her. As if he’s got nothing else going on.
Sansa doesn’t trust Tyrion but she does find a friend in tipsy knight-turned-fool Ser Dontos, whose life she saved at Joffrey’s name day celebration. Dontos follows Sansa in the woods and offers her some jewels, which she accepts.
Far away from Westeros, along the cost of Slaver’s Bay, Daenerys Targaryen is on the march with her council (including Ser Jorah, Ser Barristan, Unsullied leader Grey Worm and the new Daario Naharis) an army and her dragons. Drogon, the largest of her “children,” snaps at her, prompting Jorah to remind her that the growing dragons cannot be controlled. The army, made up of Unsullied from Astapor, is on its way to Meereen, the northernmost city along Slaver’s Bay. Daenerys’s reputation precedes her – and the Meereenese rulers have strung up the dead bodies of slave children as mile-markers along the way. Not that she’s frightened.
Jon Snow is back to black after going undercover with the wildlings and falling for Ygritte, who shot him full of arrows when he abandoned the freemen to return to the Night’s Watch. He’s not getting a warm reception from his commanding officers, who don’t trust him and accuse him of breaking his vows, including murdering the Night Watch’s elite ranger Qhorin Halfhand. But Jon is adamant about his loyalty and warns of an upcoming attack from north – and south – of the Wall.
Heartbroken Ygritte is south of the Wall, preparing for battle with her comrads, including Tormund Giantsbane, who questions whether she ever intended to kill Jon. They are joined by some spooky, cannibalistic wildings, who’ve also made it south of the Wall.
Sandor “The Hound” Clegane still has orphan Arya Stark in his custody. The plan is to go to the Eyrie in the Vale to sell Arya to her aunt, Lysa Arryn. But along the way, they stumble upon Polliver and his band of loathsome Lannister-lovers at the Inn at the Crossroads and kill them in a wild and messy sword fight. The Hound takes his prize, some chickens, and Arya gains a bit of freedom in the form of her own horse and her sword, Needle, which Polliver stole when he took Arya prisoner and killed her friend Lommy.
That’s a lot going – and there’s much more to come. Thank the gods we have nine more episodes! Game of Thrones airs Sundays on HBO.