Winters and memories may be long in Westeros, but things can get much foggier in the land of Game of Thrones fandom. It’s been ten months since the second season ended in a flurry of treachery, battles, surprise weddings, and a march of undead White Walkers, so a refresher course is definitely in order before season three begins this Sunday on HBO. Is Theon dead? Did Robb get married? Where are Dany’s dragons? All of these questions and more will be answered in the new season, in which even avid readers of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series will be surprised at a few things. (What Sam does, and when he does it; when a certain bastard comes on the scene; how effective the language High Valyrian can sound when used at a dramatic moment.) Read on for a character-by-character guide to what you need to remember before beginning the next round of the Game of Thrones. (And warning: mild spoilers are coming.)
WHERE WE LEFT THEM: During the Battle of Blackwater, in which Tyrion basically saved King’s Landing with a surprise wildfire attack, an attempt was made on his life — by someone on his own side. He survived, but his face was disfigured, and he awoke to find that not only had he been robbed of credit for his battlefield leadership, but his father, Lord Tywin, had revoked Tyrion’s status as Hand of the King, taking back the office (and living quarters) for himself.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Imp has a taste for power now, so do you really expect him to give it up? (After all, he refused to turn away his prostitute lover Shae, even when commanded by Tywin to bring no whores to the capital.) But he’s going to need a new position to stay on the King’s Council — and in dear old Dad’s semi-good graces. And he can’t stay privately coupled and publicly single forever.
WHERE WE LEFT THEM: With Blackwater won (rendering moot Cersei’s suicidal plan B), she has more confidence, but even less control over her son the King (or is he the cowardly Lion for running away from battle?). The bratty and sociopathic Joffrey broke off his engagement to Sansa Stark and is now betrothed to Margaery Tyrell, who brings much wealth and influence as her dowry. (Never mind that this would be her second connubial King, after Renly, who was struck down by Melisandre’s shadow, but more on her later.)
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Cersei was never threatened by Sansa, who was but a child, but Margaery is a force to be reckoned with: She has ideas of her own about how King’s Landing should operate and the ability to manipulate the men in her life. Could this mean the end of Cersei’s sway over the King? What’s a Queen to do when her brother/lover is away, her father/the Hand doesn’t respect her, and her son/the King doesn’t listen? Knowing Cersei, she’ll find a way to multitask dealing with any threats while also planning the biggest royal wedding of all time.
WHERE WE LEFT HER: With the Tyrells on the scene, Sansa is relieved of her engagement to Joffrey; she remains a captive at King’s Landing, desperate for an escape route, though still declines an offer by Lord Petyr Baelish, a.k.a. Littlefinger — Maester of Coin, brothel-operator, consummate schemer — to help her get home to Winterfell. Littlefinger was given the (cursed) Harrenhal as thanks for setting up the Tyrell alliance, elevating him to high lord status and making him eligible for a high-born wife. Baelish’s No. 2 in the brothel biz, Ros, meanwhile, was tortured in Shae’s stead and recruited by Varys to spy on her employer.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Littlefinger has already made it clear that he’s long carried a torch for Catelyn Stark and considers Sansa a ringer for her mom, which is why he seems eager to help her. How exactly that will manifest itself is the question. The other question is whether Sansa will remain fiancé-free for long: Arranged marriages for political gain are all the rage, and as long as Winterfell remains without a Lord in residence, it’s up for grabs.
Photo: HELEN SLOAN
WHERE WE LEFT HIM: He and his brother Rickon, both believed dead, fled Winterfell not long after two farm boys were burnt to a crisp by Theon Greyjoy and passed off as the Starks. Maester Luwin died telling the two brothers to make haste to the Wall and seek refuge with Jon Snow; guiding them on their journey are Hodor the half-giant half-wit, Osha the wildling, and the boys’ direwolves.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Bran remains crippled from his fall out a window at the hands of Jaime Lannister, but in his dreams of pursuing the three-eyed crow, he can walk (and perhaps more). His dreams might also be a way to see the future — if only he could learn to read them.
Photo: HELEN SLOAN
WHERE WE LEFT HIM: After taking Winterfell — defying his father’s orders and betraying the Starks, who once fostered him — Theon’s plans fell apart. Marked as the killer of Bran and Rickon, and surrounded by the Northmen and facing imminent death, Theon tried to rouse his men into battle, only to be bonked on the noggin during his speech. After he fell to the ground, he was dragged off, head covered, leaving viewers to wonder if he was dead or alive.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Readers of the books may not expect to see Theon, as he is absent from book three, A Storm of Swords, but the show is taking a different course in when it reveals what happens to him.
WHERE WE LEFT THEM: The King in the North, Robb, is furious that his mother set free his captive, Kingslayer Jaime Lannister. (She was under the erroneous impression that she could trade him to the Lannisters for her daughters, not knowing that Arya was no longer in King’s Landing.) While stubbornly refusing Catelyn’s counsel, Robb breaks his pact to marry a Frey (a promise made way back in season one when he needed one of their bridges) and marries Talisa instead, antagonizing a needed ally.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Catelyn has been warning Robb about keeping his side of the bargain with the Freys for good reason, and someone is going to have to settle that debt.
WHERE WE LEFT THEM: Catelyn sent Jaime off to King’s Landing under guard of her trusted knight Brienne, who swore Lady Stark fealty after Renly’s death. Jaime disparages her at every turn, but seems sympathetic when she’s given some grief by a few soldiers for being a lady knight.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Jaime’s plans to escape are complicated after the two encounter some less-than-friendly types on the road. The Kingslayer is a prize, to be sure, but Brienne starts to see the value in him (and he in her) after they are forced to learn to rely upon each other in more than one bind.
WHERE WE LEFT HER: On the road again! After her assassin friend Jaqen killed off most of Harrenhal, she escaped with Gendry and Hot Pie. Jaqen offers to teach her the ways of the Faceless Men in Braavos, but Arya decides to head for the Riverlands to find her mom’s side of the family.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Arya has trouble finding her family, but has great success finding some of the most unsavory folks south of the Wall, including the Hound. Luckily, she knows how to stand up for herself.
Photo: HELEN SLOAN
WHERE WE LEFT THEM: Defeated at Blackwater as he attacked the Lannisters to claim the kingdom, Stannis (the late king Robert’s brother) is in retreat, and his trusted aide Davos the Onion Knight is lost at sea. The red priestess Melisandre — who skipped out on the battle — seems to lighten Stannis’s spirits when she has him look into some flames, where he sees some sort of vision. Magic? Wishful thinking?
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: It was so easy to kill Stannis’s brother and rival Renly (have sex with Melisandre, birth a shadow monster), but it’s not so easy for Stannis to take out the rest of the competition. And in order for Melisandre to serve her king, she needs blood from a descendant of the King. (Luckily, there’s a lot of that around.) If only Stannis could realize that all the in-fighting for the Iron Throne is detracting from protecting the realm from a bigger threat … and we’re not talking about his wife.
WHERE WE LEFT THEM: Ned Stark’s bastard Jon was captured by wildlings when the Knight’s Watch ventured north of the wall, and hoped to play double agent by defecting to their side to get a glimpse their operation and agenda. (He had to kill a fellow ranger to get in.) Poor Sam was left cowering as the Others (the wildlings’ name for the White Walkers) marched on the Fist of the First Men.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Kick-ass wildling Ygritte’s got her eye on Jon Snow, and if he wants to maintain his cover (and get in good with wildling leadership), he can’t keep the Night’s Watch vow of celibacy for much longer. He also has to figure out a way to get his newfound intel to Castle Black. Sam and the rest of the Night’s Watch, though, are desperate to protect themselves against the walking dead. Probably not a good time for division within the ranks, eh, Lord Commander Mormont?
WHERE WE LEFT HER: After her babies were dragon-napped, Dany went to the House of the Undying to retrieve them, roasting a warlock for his troubles. She then locked her double-crossing suitor Xaro in a vault and stole all of his valuables to buy a ship.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: It’s time for the Khaleesi to take her Dothraki followers across the sea (cue sea-sickness galore) to Slaver’s Bay, where she hopes to acquire an army. Could the Mother of Dragons ever consider giving up one of her own children if it meant gaining some 8,000 soldiers? And can she ever lead an army into Westeros if she doesn’t first learn how to conquer and rule? What about gaining an old ally or a new love interest along the way? Hey, when you’ve got dragons, you can get pretty much anything else.
Photo: Paul Schiraldi/Paul Schiraldi Photography
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