Fantasy drama Game of Thrones is notorious as one of the most densely populated and politically complex shows on TV. Even the most dedicated fan could be forgiven for losing track of the precise movements and motivations of some of its characters. So as season four begins, here’s a reminder of where we find each of those key players with an eye on the future of the coveted Iron Throne of Westeros…
Power is ever shifting in the political snake-pit that is King’s Landing.
Ever since being stripped of his role as Hand of the King in favour of his father Tywin, it's safe to say that Peter Dinklage's disfigured Tyrion Lannister is not having the greatest of times; tormented by his father, and forced to marry Sansa Stark just before his family slaughtered most of hers. Awkward. Can it possibly get worse than that for Tyrion in season four? This is Game of Thrones. Of course it can.
Meanwhile, there's a new House in town: the Tyrells. Having come to the aid of King's Landing during the Battle of Blackwater, this mysterious family have been rewarded with the honour of joining their house to the Lannisters with the prospective season four marriage of King Joffrey – still a psychopath – to the brazenly ambitious Margaery Tyrell.
The Tyrells have changed the dynamic of King's Landing. Now there's another family just as adept at scheming as the Lannisters – especially Margaery's cunning grandmother Lady Olenna, The Queen Of Thorns. Towards the end of season three, this rivalry is epitomized in a scene in which a threatened Cersei Lannister tells Margaery, “if you ever call me sister again I'll have you strangled in your sleep.”
Ever since losing the Battle of Blackwater, Stannis Baratheon is a broken man; spending most of season three stewing away in his castle, concocting strange schemes with sorceress Melisandre to kill the son of a king in order to awaken some stone dragons. See, this is what happens when you live in a land without television.
This son of a king comes in the form of Gendry: the bastard child of Stannis' brother, Robert. Interestingly, Gendry doesn't end up in Dragonstone in the books, so perhaps is written in to give Davos – now Stannis' hand of the king – something to do. Namely, to free Gendry and give his king a letter from the Wall pleading for help – reminding him that if he wants to be the king of Westeros, then he needs to start acting like it.
You might still be trying to repress it so here's a reminder: Robb and Catelyn Stark are dead. Betrayed and slaughtered by the Freys at what is now known as the Red Wedding, they are survived only by Robb's younger siblings Sansa, Bran and Arya and his bastard brother Jon Snow.
Arya is traveling with the Hound, who plans to return her to the Starks for a price. At the end of season three, however, they arrived too late, with Arya witnessing Frey soldiers parading the decapitated corpse of her brother around the keep with the head of Robb’s wolf sewn on to it. Later on, she kills a Frey solider. It won't be her last.
As for Bran, he's still on a quest to find the three-eyed raven in the north and explore his strange power to warg into the minds of beasts and – as he does to Hordor at the end of season three – people. While on his travels, he encounters Jon Snow's friend Sam, who tells him of a passage to get beyond the wall.
Beyond the Wall
Speaking of Jon Snow, he has been discovered as a spy while undercover as a wildling after refusing to kill an innocent man. Leaving behind wildling lover Ygritte we last see him riding back to the Night's Watch with three arrows sticking out of him (love tokens from Ygritte) to inform them that King Beyond The Wall Mance Rayder has amassed an army far greater than any of them imagined.
Across the narrow sea
The dragons have grown strong, and so have their mother. In her mission to end slavery across the narrow sea Daenerys Targaryen has used her army of Unsullied warriors to take the major slaver city of Yunkai. Having freed its people, she is then hailed as their “mhysa", meaning "mother.” Season three ends with her being held up in a sea of people like some sort of god – which, let's face it, she basically is.
Game of Thrones returns to Sky Atlantic at 9pm on Monday 7 April