Seven hells! Valar morghulis! And, of course: HODOR!
It's finally the time of year to bust our your Westerosian exclamatories, because Game of Thrones is returning to HBO on Sunday, April 12. The sprawling, sexy, bloody fantasy is back for its fifth season, and it's anyone's guess whose head will roll — or explode in a ghastly geyser of blood, as the case may be.
And speaking of exploding heads, trying to recall all the details of last season might feel like that — which is why we've rounded up the essentials to catch you up.
At this moment in the series, Game of Thrones is quickly accelerating toward the point of outpacing the publishing schedule for George R.R. Martin's books. Season 5 is expected to not only cover the last of the available material in A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, the most recent two novels in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but to continue on into as-yet-unpublished territory.
Here's everything you need to know about where we left our characters at the conclusion of Game of Thrones season 4, and what to expect from the new episodes.
The Lannisters at Kings Landing
Ding, dong, the tiny sociopath is dead! Season 4 meant major wish fulfillment for anyone who'd ever prayed for the death of awful King Joffrey (Jack Gleason) — and by "anyone," we mean "the whole damn planet," because nobody liked that guy. Poisoned at his own wedding to Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer in a seriously great dress) toward the beginning of season 4, his death was a huge blow to Cersei (Lena Headey) and her shaky grip on the power-by-proxy of the Iron Throne. Also, she was being really mean to Jamie Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) about the fact that he only has one hand now. Then she and Jamie had terrible, rapey sex in front of Joffrey's dead body.
In the aftermath of Joffrey's death, Margaery was betrothed instead to his little brother Tommen Baratheon (Dean-Charles Chapman), who was just young enough for this engagement to be seriously creepy. Cersei was still locked in a battle of wills with her father, Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), who wanted to ship her off to a place where she couldn’t meddle in politics. Jamie was learning to fight one-handed.
And Tywin? Oh, he's dead after subjecting Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) to a sham trial for Joffrey's murder, including a humiliating public betrayal by Tyrion's beloved Shae (Sibel Kekilli), and getting murdered as revenge.
After Tyrion lost his trial and was set free by an increasingly enigmatic Varys (Conleth Hill), he paid a visit to his dear old dad's chambers — only to find the elder Lannister celebrating the verdict in bed with Shae. Tyrion promptly murdered both of them, strangling Shae with his father's Hand of the King necklace and shooting Tywin with a crossbow just as the old man was trying to go number two.
Dance has said that he's not quite done on the show, which means we could still see him in flashbacks. What will happen with his various children, on the other hand, is a mystery — but suffice to say we don't expect a happy family reunion, ever.
Oberyn Martell, Ellaria Sand, and the rest of the Dornish crew
Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal), aka the Red Viper of Dorne, arrived in season 4 for Joffrey's wedding and stayed to represent Tyrion in his trial by combat. (No, he was not just a really nice guy; he had his own ax to grind with the Lannisters.) He was accompanied to both these events by his paramour, Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), which meant the poor lady had a front row seat when the Mountain (Hafthor Bjornsson) crushed her beloved's skull like an overripe melon.
That was it for the Martell clan, but with Dorne on the itinerary for season 5, you can expect to meet several more of Oberyn's family members, and you may also expect that they're not pleased about that whole head-smushing thing.
Sansa Stark at King's Landing, and beyond
Sansa (Sophie Turner) was already having a rough go of it, being married off to Tyrion Lannister and instructed that neither of them could leave until she produced an heir. But things got even worse when King Joffrey was poisoned at the Purple Wedding and Tyrion was convicted for the crime, casting suspicion on Sansa by association.
The cherry on top of all this insanity: It turns out that she unknowingly toted the poison into the ceremony herself, thanks to the scheming manipulation of Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen).
Bad luck continued to follow Sansa as far as the Eyrie, where she fled with Littlefinger rather than remaining in King's Landing to be executed. There, his quickie marriage to her Aunt Lysa (Kate Dickie) ended abruptly, with Sansa accused of being a seductress in sheep's clothing, and an impromptu flight by Lysa out the Moon Door, courtesy of her not-so-loving husband. But! In her final scenes, Sansa emerged as a cunning, savvy player in her own right, telling a magnificent lie to save Littlefinger's hide. With a new black wardrobe and dark dyed hair, expect her to be a lot cooler this season than she ever was before.
Arya Stark on the road with the Hound
Season 4 was all about Arya's (Maisie Williams) burgeoning bloodlust, as she became a tiny murderous sidekick to the Hound (Rory Mccann). He's ostensibly still her captor, but their relationship is getting complicated. Arya racked up a few more kills as she and the Hound made for the Eyrie, the latter hoping to trade his captive for a hefty reward, with neither of them knowing that Sansa, too, had found her way to the mountain hideaway. But when word of her Aunt Lysa's death greeted them at the gate, they resumed journeying (with Arya laughing hysterically over their incredible run of bad luck.)
Shortly thereafter, they encountered Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick (Daniel Portman), who recognized Arya. The two knights dueled over her, with badass Brienne emerging victorious, but Arya didn't trust the stranger and hid herself during the fight. She emerged only long enough to steal the Hound's purse and leave him to die, passing up the opportunity to kill him. Now, she's bound for Braavos, her passage purchased by the coin Jaqen Hgar gave her. What awaits her there? Reasonable guess: more murdering.
Jon Snow at the Wall
After his romp with the Wildlings north of the wall, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) was back with the Nights Watch, trying to warn them of the impending invasion by the armies of Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds). Despite being woefully under-manned and poorly led by the cowardly weenie Janos Slynt, Jon's savvy strategizing allowed the men to defeat the hordes. And Samwell Tarley (John Bradley-West) displayed admirable bravery during the battle, saving Gilly, on whom he clearly had a bit of a crush.
The bad news: Jon's beloved Ygritte (Rose Leslie), fighting on the side of the Wildlings, was shot through the heart and died in his arms.
After the battle, Jon headed for the forest intending to assassinate Mance Rayder, knowing that the Wildlings clans wouldn't unite behind another King. He failed, but the surprise arrival of Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), spooky priestess Melisandre (Carice Van Houten), and his army allowed Jon to convince Mance to return with him to the Wall as a prisoner.
Daenerys in Meereen
After conquering her way to a lavish position atop the desert city of Meereen, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) realized the city full of now-freed slaves would implode without stern leadership. She installed herself as Queen, set her Unsullied to patrol the streets, and struck up a friends-with-benefits arrangement with sexy Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman).
However, she ran into trouble when it turned out that ending slavery in one fell swoop wasn't actually that easy. She also ran into trouble when it turned out that dragons, like, eat people. After Drogon, the biggest dragon, incinerated a small child, Daenerys decided to lock up her beloved "children" for the safety of the city that calls her mhysa (mother). Will she let them back out in season 5? And who's gonna clean all the dragon poop out of this catacomb?!
Bran Stark and Hodor beyond the Wall
Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and his entourage spent part of season 4 briefly in captivity, watched over by the murderous mutineer Crows at Craster's Keep. But thanks to his finely honed warging and/or Hodor-possessing abilities, the group escaped into the snowy north, at which point their storyline veered full-on into fantasy land. Last we saw Bran, he was hanging out in an underground cave with Hodor, Meera Reed, and the mystical three-eyed raven (actually a dude who has seemingly become one with a tree). Since Bran won't be showing up in season 5, per earlier announcements from HBO, let's just assume for the duration that he's still there, chewing bark.
Theon Greyjoy at Winterfell
In season 3, Theon (Alfie Allen) lost his wiener. In season 4, he lost something much worse: his identity. Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whalen), arriving at Winterfell with the goal of rescuing her brother, discovered that Theon had been completely broken by Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon), and now identifies as Snow's pet human. We'll have to see if his condition and chosen name, "Reek," are permanent.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.
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