Setting the Stage for Season 4
netw3rk: Where we left off after Season 3, set to Cara Rose DeFabio’s “Game of Phones”:
In the North
Jon Snow spent Season 3 undercover with the Wildlings on a mission to discover their plans. In the course of that mission he: fell in love, got laid (thus breaking his solemn vows), met King Beyond the Wall Mance Rayder, and got his back, ass, and thighs laced with arrows courtesy of his Wildling boo Ygritte. Jon somehow made it back to the gates of Castle Black, falling at the feet of his old pal Samwell Tarly.
Meanwhile, Ramsay Bolton — son of former Stark bannerman, Red Wedding participant, and freshly minted Warden of the North Roose Bolton — spent all of last season torturing Theon Greyjoy, culminating in the amputation of Theon’s kraken and squids. Ramsay celebrated this by gleefully eating a sausage.
Walder Frey reigns triumphant having hosted the Red Wedding at his family seat the Twins, a.k.a. the world’s worst toll bridge.
The Hound brought Arya Stark to the Twins in an attempt to sell her off to her brother Robb, only to arrive outside the castle just as the massacre was taking place. To keep Arya from rushing into the melee, the Hound knocked her out with a steel-fisted sock to the back of the head and carried her away into the countryside.
The capital, it seems, is the place for lovers! Lannister patriarch Tywin Lannister, seeking to solidify power and stabilize the war-wracked kingdom, has engineered the strategic marriages of his son Tyrion to Sansa Stark (ensuring a Lannister heir will inherit Winterfell) and his daughter Cersei to Loras Tyrell (shoring up his western flank against a Tyrell revanche). Meanwhile, planning for the royal wedding of renowned crossbow connoisseur King Joffrey Baratheon and professional fiancée Margaery Tyrell continues apace and threatens to bankrupt the kingdom. Which is just one more thing for newly minted Master of Coin Tyrion Lannister to worry about.
Jaime Lannister is back in King’s Landing after the hither-and-thither Midnight Run–esque road trip he shared with the towering Brienne of Tarth. They bickered; they fought; they fought with swords; they were captured by Northern men; and, as in all good buddy comedies, they found a grudging mutual respect. Then Jamie’s hand got cut off and the rotting extremity was tied around his neck, thus neutering Westeros’s most dangerous swordsman.
Stannis “Puff-of-Smoke Daddy” Baratheon — his forces repulsed in a rain of fire and steel at Blackwater Bay — spent much of last season in a full-on emo sulk, scribbling Thirty Seconds to Mars lyrics in his notebook, and looking for someone to blame. That blame — owing to policy differences with witchy woman Melisandre over whether or not to sacrifice teen Baratheon bastard Gendry to the flames — fell on his trusty salt-of-the-sea adviser Ser Davos the Onion Knight, nearly resulting in Davos’s execution. Détente was reached when Davos, having taught himself to read, produced one of the ravens’ notes loosed by the Night’s Watch warning of the rise of the White Walkers. Stannis & Co., it seems, are headed north.
When we last saw Daenerys, she was crowd-surfing on the outstretched hands of the former slaves of the eastern city of Yunkai as her advisers, mercenaries, and army of Unsullied soldiers looked on. Her next stop is the slaver city of Mereen. Though the city has no strategic value to Daenerys, she plans to occupy and use it as a laboratory of sorts to sharpen her leadership acumen and dragon-riding skills.
Direwolf Power Rankings
The Core Four
Where the only criterion for being ranked is being alive …
From the first episode, Summer has been on point. He whimpered warnings from the ground as Bran made his fateful climb up the Tower of Brotherly Love; he ripped the throat out of the assassin sent to kill Bran, then immediately lounged on a fur blanket in what I can only assume is the direwolf equivalent of a postcoital cigarette; and he shared Green Dreams with an imprisoned Bran while roaming the Winterfell Godswood. But at the end of Season 3, he dropped the ultimate “I’m a Better Pet Than You Are, So Take That, You Silly Fire-Breathing Dragon” trump card, letting Bran realize his full warg potential, enter his mind, and share his skin in order to kill a group of approaching Wildlings. Even Hodor’s penis had to be impressed by that.
Ghost is the best. Sometimes, I think he’s my favorite character. Before you ask: Yes, I have a white cat. Yes, I sometimes call him “Ghost” for fun. Yes, I have human friends, I swear. Anyway: Ghost is instinctual and fierce, quiet and kind. He’s regal. And so very handsome! He’s bullied bullies and killed the undead. He is the sword in the darkness. He is the watcher on the Wall. He is the wolf who guards the realms of men. But he was on his own when Season 3 ended, having chosen the solitude of the Haunted Forest over the chaos of Craster’s Keep. Ghost’s likeness graces the pommel of Jon’s sword, but that’s not the same as Ghost actually being by Jon’s side. These two need each other, and those fools south of the Wall need both of them.
Nymeria arguably deserves perpetual top billing for mauling Joffrey’s arm in Season 1, but since she failed to rip out his filthy inbred throat, I’m forced to consider that she last appeared in the second episode of the first season, and rank her accordingly. While we haven’t seen Nymeria since she and Arya did their best Ethan Hawke/White Fang impression, we’ve heard whispers of a great she-wolf roaming the Riverlands. She’s named after a warrior queen, and her Stark human is also a lethal lone wolf; maybe Nymeria will get to munch on some more kingly limbs before the cold winds stop rising.
Heeeeeere, Shaggydog. Heeeeeere, Shaggy Shaggy. Shaggydog, like his human counterpart Rickon, has largely been relegated to prop duty through three seasons. He’s set dressing. But he’s also a bit of a badass. He scared the shit out of Bran and Osha when he jumped out at them from the shadows of Winterfell’s crypts in Season 1, and he helped Summer attack the approaching Wildlings in Season 3. He’s heading to the Umbers with Rickon and Osha, so who knows when we’ll see him again? Maybe Hot Pie can bake us all some direwolf bread to help us remember Shaggy’s face. Though if Shaggy saw those misshapen lumps, he’d probably take a dump on them. Baller.
Seriously, Westerosi assholes; isn’t killing people bad enough?
Grey Wind was so dope. Remember that time he bit off the Greatjon’s fingers? And that time he snarled menacingly at Jaime Lannister? Grey Wind was a fierce warrior and a good friend, and the Fuckface Freys rewarded his excellence by butchering him in a pen, severing his head, and stitching it onto Robb Stark’s body. Assholes. How many times had we heard characters whisper in awe of Grey Wind’s skill on the battlefield? How different might things have been if Grey Wind had stood by Robb’s side when “The Rains of Castamere” began to play? May this be a lesson to the living Starks and their wolves, and may Grey Wind gnaw on Bolton bones in direwolf heaven.
Lady was the smallest of the litter, and her time with us the shortest. Like her brother Grey Wind, Lady died because of Stark foes; unlike Grey Wind, Lady was granted the dignity of a clean death, and her bones now rest at Winterfell. Oh, and the actor who plays Sansa adopted the dog who played Lady! For once, Sansa didn’t ruin everything! Upset of the century!
Theon Greyjoy’s Favorite Toy Coloring Pages!
A Song of I(n)ce(st) and Fire
Holly Anderson: I present “Brother Comfort Zone,” a down-home lament for Cersei Lannister, with apologies to Brad Paisley, who has seen the world but is still wearing that hat.
When your wheelhouse is a big red castle,
The first time you head north it can be strange, you miss your vassals
Not everybody knows with us, you’re family or enemy
Not everybody knows what it’s like, gettin’ married at 19
Not everybody gets sold off to bring their family lands
Not everybody makes love with their own reflection, only it’s a man
Oh, dead King’s Hands,
I hope you understand
When I miss my Casterly home
And I’ve been away way too long
I can’t see this world unless I go
Outside my Brother Comfort Zone
The only blondes in seven kingdoms, you don’t know how that feels
We just want to be in love but everybody wants to squeal
We threw that one kid off a tower top, turns out he cain’t fly
(But if he weren’t really a raven then he ought not to’ve spied)
Keeping our bloodline pure; just look at all it’s cost me
You think being mother of dragons is hard, have you tried raising Joffrey?
And I miss my Casterly home
And my Brother Comfort Zone
We’ve killed before; we’ll kill again
But have you seen his cheekbones?
I miss your blonde hair and your green eyes
And I miss you having two hands
Our cousin’s OK in a pinch
When he’s not spying for the half-man
And I can’t remember what’s shinier
Your armor or your hair
Just come back and I’ll put the bear mask on
And let you play the maiden fair
[Guitar solo; there’s a giraffe wandering around for some reason]
I wish I was just Queen again
I miss my Casterly home
It was gross for a pilot
And it got worse from there
In my Brother Comfort Zone
Look away, look away
Seriously, it’s about to get so much worse, look away
Download now to receive bonus Lannister Roots tracks “If the Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me, Screwing My Sister Will” and “Live Like You Were Tywin.”
Spoil Yourself Via Actual European History
Emily Yoshida: My mom and I have always bonded over massive genre geek-magnets, but when I introduced her to Game of Thrones I never expected her personal fandom to take off the way it did. In the couple years since, she’s read all the ASOIAF books and watched every season twice. It’s very possible she’s appreciating it in a completely different light than I am; she’s a medieval and ancient art history professor, and so a lot of the historical realities George R.R. Martin borrows from are immediately familiar to her.
Since she’s already read ahead and ostensibly knows what’s coming this season, our Thrones-anticipation conversations have to be vague, but yesterday I thought it could be fun to be half-spoiled via history. It’s kind of like reading The King in Yellow in anticipation of the True Detective finale — it could have nothing to do with anything, or it could enhance your appreciation of whatever shocking thing is down the road. Anyway — HISTORICAL SPOILER ALERT — she told me to look into the circumstances surrounding Attila the Hun’s death. Attila was, of course, the ruler of an empire that extended through most of Eastern Europe and parts of Asia, and he was the biggest threat to the Roman Empire during his rule. By most accounts he died on his wedding night of a nosebleed or esophageal rupture, though some historians still suspect foul play.
I have no idea what the significance of any of this is with regard to the fourth season; I very specifically did not ask! If nothing else, it’s an excuse to read up on the early Middle Ages, which were every bit as gnarly as GoT. Just substitute “Western Europe” or the “Roman Empire” with “Westeros” in your head and you don’t even need to wait for Martin to finally squeeze out another book. It’s all just historical fanfic anyway.
Which Indie Rock Band Should Record the Next “Rains of Castamere”?
Sean Fennessey: During Season 2, at the conclusion of the now-iconic “Blackwater” episode of Game of Thrones, a cover of “The Rains of Castamere” by the National played over the end credits. It was brooding and morbidly ominous, as nearly all songs by the band are. At the conclusion of the third episode of the third season, a cover of “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” — a song composed by George R.R. Martin for A Song of Ice and Fire — by the indie rock band the Hold Steady played over the credits. It was raucous and charmingly discordant, as nearly all songs by the band are. Three makes a trend. Which token credible white-walkin’ male indie rock band will score a ditty about bloodshed and sigil oaths this season? Let’s make some odds.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Melodramatic; obsessed with gore, death, and bodice-ripping, just like GoT; and appropriately bearded. Don’t tell me you can’t hear Cave’s lothario-creep baritone croon on the heels of another Tywin-to-Tyrion deep burn.
Reference Track: “Hold on to Yourself”
Jack White loves the old-timey and nothing is more ancient than a dragon world. White may not know what Game of Thrones is — he doesn’t own a Netflix subscription or a TV or a telephone or anything made from synthetic microfibers. He sits beside a transistor radio all day and waits for a Son House song to play so he can feel the great blues god inspiration course through his veins. At least, that’s what I’ve heard. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I sense White would be way into the Lannisters.
Reference Track: The White Stripes, “The Union Forever”
Perhaps not as theatrical as some previous choices, but peak Modest Mouse has the calm-to–HOLY HELL intensity of your best “Red Wedding”–style Thrones mind-blowers. Picture wayward, Greyjoyesque lead singer Isaac Brock singing of distorted dreams and mournful, gut-wrenching sadness in the lonesome crowded Westeros.
Reference Track: “Bankrupt on Selling”
Reference Track: “Juicebox”
Read ‘A Cry for Help in the Night,’ an Exclusive Excerpt-Excerpt From The Winds of Winter
Mark Lisanti: Earlier this week, notoriously slow world-builder George R.R. Martin released a chapter from the in-progress sixth installment of the Game of Thrones series, The Winds of Winter, amid much talk that the HBO incarnation of his masterwork might soon surpass the pace of his glacial literary output. Here is an excerpt from that excerpt. We worry a little. Note: This may or may not contain spoilers for future seasons. Who can know?
She woke with a gasp, not knowing who she was, or where.
The smell of blood was heavy in her nostrils … or was that her nightmare, lingering? She had dreamed of wolves again, of running through some dark pine forest with a great pack at her heels, hard on the scent of prey. Half-light filled the room, grey and gloomy. Shivering, she sat up in bed and ran a hand across her scalp. Stubble bristled against her palm. I need to shave before Izembaro sees. Mercy, I’m Mercy, and tonight I’ll be raped and murdered. Her true name was Mercedene, but Mercy was all anyone ever called her …
Except in dreams. She took a breath to quiet the howling in her heart, trying to remember more of what she’d dreamt, but most of it had gone already. She’d write it feverishly in the Journal of Dreams she kept beside the bed, because the world’s appetite for her brilliant night-stories had become insatiable — nay, crippling — and she could not afford to forget any of them. Always they wanted the dreams, wanted them faster, wanted them now, lest the keepers of the Moving Dream Box run out of them and be forced to concoct their own, inferior tales. Indeed, they might ask her what she planned to dream about, where her dreams might one day go, but that is not how dreams work. She was dreaming as fast as she could, and the constant cries for more dreams were not helping anybody; if anything, they chased the dreams away with their wild-eyed greed. There had been blood in the latest dream, though, and a full moon overhead, taunting her suddenly dreamless sleep, and a tree that watched her as she ran. It probably wanted to take her dreams as well. She couldn’t so much as go for a walk in a dark forest without somebody haranguing her for dreams. It was always take, take with these trees. With all the things in the forest, really. No one ever thought to ask if they could do anything for her, to ease the burden of the dreaming. Maybe brew her some dreamytime tea. Anyway.
She had fastened the shutters back so the morning sun might wake her, for the dawn brought a brief freedom from the demands of dreaming. But there was no sun outside the window of Mercy’s little room, only a wall of shifting grey fog. A fog that enveloped her, that suffocated. That whispered in her ear. How about one more dream tonight? The sun’s not quite up. You wouldn’t want to fall behind your dream schedule. People are depending on you. Don’t disappoint them. The air had grown chilly … and a good thing, else she might have slept all day. It would be just like Mercy to sleep through an entire day of whispering fog, just to spite it. Give her a little room to breath, foghole.
Gooseprickles covered her legs. Her coverlet had twisted around her like a snake. Dreammmmms, it hissed. She unwound it, threw the blanket to the bare plank floor and padded naked to the window. Braavos was lost in fog. She could see the green water of the little canal below, the cobbled stone street that ran beneath her building, two arches of the mossy bridge … but the far end of the bridge vanished in greyness, and of the buildings across the canal only a few vague lights remained. She heard a soft splash as a serpent boat emerged beneath the bridge’s central arch. “What hour?” Mercy called down to the man who stood by the snake’s uplifted tail, pushing her onward with his pole. “How about you dream me some dreams and then we’ll talk? I need to know how the dream ends!” came his response. He paddled away. Mercy closed the shutter and went back to bed. Perhaps the dreams would come. But probably not. He was officially annoyed now. She.
Never Talk to People Who Read Books
John Lopez: I love Game of Thrones; my sister lives for it. I’ll treat myself to Thai food while I watch; she once cooked a seven-course meal from the Game of Thrones cookbook. She’s read all the books, I haven’t, and she was grinning with demonic glee while we watched the Red Wedding last year. So this year, I asked her for a heads up. (Warning: This may contain spoilers, although I can’t tell how much she was messing with me. Don’t read if you’d rather live in terror of the unknown as you watch.)
Is there another Red Wedding coming?
Do you really want to know?
I don’t know! Do I?!?
Um … I don’t think this season will have a moment quite like that. I mean … there’s a wedding. But I don’t think it’ll be upsetting.
Now I feel disappointed I asked. Then again, it’s hard to top the Red Wedding.
Maybe not in shock value. I feel like last season was about killing your soul, but this season you might be more, not happy … encouraged.
So, even if there are no shocks, shit’s about to get real this season?
Shit gets real especially because of a new character they’re introducing — he’s one of my favorites: Oberyn Martell. He’s going to introduce the Dornish people.
The guys with the wine?
I want to drink some of that.
I’d say they have the potential to really fuck stuff up. I’d say it’s less about shock this year and more of a grudge match. But be excited for the Dornish.
So, I won’t feel like an abused child this season?
No, this season Game of Thrones will tell us it loves us and buy us ice cream and promise never to do it again.
But it will, won’t it?
Of course. Game of Thrones doesn’t change. It is who it is. But we’ll always come back for more.