HBO’s juggernaut drama Game of Thrones returns next week with its third season, and for the first time Collider will be doing weekly recaps of all of the action. In the meantime, with all of the many, many storylines and innumerable characters swirling around in Westeros (and, for the moment, Qarth) why not take a look back at where things left off last year, with a comprehensive list of who is where, and where they will be heading. No spoilers for the upcoming season, but obviously if you haven’t finished Season Two then in the name of the Seven go no further! Hit the jump for why you never, ever want to hear three horn blasts on the Wall.
While most of Season Two only included a few storylines per episode, the finale packed everything in, giving time to all of the major houses and their main characters. To keep things as straight as possible, I’ve organized the plot reminders by house:
- After the brilliant idea to use Wildfire and leading a dying charge against Stannis’ ground forces himself, Tyrion ends up shunted away in a back room after surviving an attempt on his life set up by his sister Cersei, while his father Tywin — whose forces came in at the last minute to defeat Stannis’ for certain — resumes his position as Hand of the King.
- Tyrion’s whore/lover Shae also survives the siege and is brought to him by Varys, who informs Tyrion of his total loss of power, though consoles him slightly by saying there are many who know how much he did to save the city. Thanks for the memories, Varys.
- Littlefinger helped engineer the uniting of the Tyrell troops (formerly supporters of Renly Baratheon) with the Lannisters, and was rewarded with his own castle: the haunted Harrenhal. Further unification took place when Loras Tyrell asked Joffrey to wed his sister Margaery, Renly’s “virgin” widow. Joffery agrees, throwing Sansa to the side with his mother’s blessing.
- Margaery is making a bald-faced play for Queen, something that was much more muted in the books, where her motivations were always sly and questionable. Next season, her grandmother, known as the Queen of Thorns, will come on the scene to assist in her machinations for power.
- Cersei got a lot of screen time this season, showing off more of personality than we got in the A Clash of Kings book (on which this season was largely based). But, bringing forward some of her motivations that are revealed in A Feast for Crows is definitely a good thing.
- Joffrey remains a horrible little shit.
- Jaime, having been released by Catelyn Stark in an unofficial trade for her daughters, is being escorted back to King’s Landing by Brienne of Tarth, who now serves Cat after she encouraged her to flee the Tyrell camp following Renly’s untimely death.
- These two were fantastic together in the books and remain so on screen. At the end of the season, Jaime seems to have found some actual respect for Brienne as a warrior, too.
House Baratheon (a.k.a. Team Dragonstone)
- Stannis, defeated by the Lannisters, returns home to lick his wounds. Though Davos and his son do not make an appearance, we do get one scene with Melisandre who tells Stannis not to lose faith. Distraught over having assisted in murdering Renly and unsure of his future, he looks into the flames and appears to see something — his eventual victory?
- Robb, “The King in the North,” paused his fighting to marry the mysterious Talisa, against his mother’s wishes and against the oath he swore to Walder Frey to marry one of his daughters in return for the use of the bridge he controls.
- This was one of the storylines that bothered me as a book reader because I always felt it was essential to Robb’s character that he broke his vow to the Freys because of a personal mistake in a moment of weakness, which he thought to fix by upholding, at all costs, the same moral code as his father (and we know how that worked out). Instead, he suddenly becomes petulant after getting turned on by Talisa cutting off a foot, and here we are.
- Arya escapes Harrenhal with the help of Jaqen, who offers to train her as an assassin, which she declines to find her family instead. He gives her a special coin and tells her to find him again she should present it to any man from Braavos and say the words “Valar Morghulis.”
- One of the most tragic moments of Season Two: when Jaqen changed his face. Sigh.
- Originally Arya served as cup bearer to Roose Bolton instead of Tywin, but the interactions between Tywin and Arya on the show were worth the swap (also because more Charles Dance is never a bad thing).
- Sansa was brazenly approached at court by Littlefinger who promised her he could get her home. She already said no to the Hound, saying that King’s Landing was her new home, but Littlefinger reminds her that now she is no longer betrothed to Joffrey, she only has more pain and suffering there in her future.
- The Dontos storyline from the books was cut and shortened to have Littlefinger diretly rescue Sansa. Littlefinger is far more transparent in his motivations (he also seems to teleport) than in the books, but I admit it might be too confusing for TV-only viewers to always trace his machinations back in the subtle and surprising ways they play out in the novels.
- Bran and Rickon, who survived the Short and Terrible Reign of Theon (and the sacking and burning of Winterfell), said goodbye to Maester Luwin under the Godswood before taking off to the Wall with Hodor, Osha and their direwolves. Godspped, little lords …
- In one of the best moments of the series, Theon‘s battle cry to motivate his 20 Iron-born men to fight the 500 Northmen at the gates ends with him getting knocked out and a bag put over his head, and handed over to said Northmen so the Pyke men could go home. Deuces!
- Alfie Allen really deserved an Emmy for his portrayal of Theon this season. He was fantastic.
- Over in Qarth, Dany visits the House of Undying to retrieve her dragons, who can now helpfully breathe fire, and do.
- The show manufactured this “Where Are My Dragons?!?!” storyline, but it worked out fine. The House of the Undying was a little tedious (though featured some beautiful art direction) and ended without much trouble. Dragons!
- In the TV show’s version, Dany also gets revenge on Xaro by trapping him to kill him, and loots Qarth in order to buy ships. This is basically where the Khaleesi turns into a badass.
The Night’s Watch
- Jon, having mucked everything up with the prisoner Ygritte, is goaded into battle by his fellow Night Watchman Qhorin Halfhand in order to gain the trust of the Wildlings and gather intel from the inside. Sure enough, after Jon kills the Halfhand, he’s freed by the Lord of Bones, and Ygritte promises to take him to see Mance Rayder, known as the King Beyond the Wall.
- Finally, in the dramatic conclusion to the season Sam comes face to face with the White Walkers, who give him a once-over but then appear to pass him by on their way to the Wall, showing us that during the drama of the many “Kings” of Westeros, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition (i.e. Zombies).
All in all, a strong season, though fans of the book series may have felt the series stuttered a few times with character changes. Still, the last two episodes (particularly “Blackwater,” which was written by series author George R. R. Martin himself) were really fantastic and set up plenty to come.
A Storm of Swords is considered by most fans to be the best book of the series so far, and there are lots of things on the horizon for these characters that should make for really great (and heart-wrenching) TV. There will also be a ton of new characters, so make sure you don’t consume any milk of the poppy before watching or you’ll never keep them straight.
I’ll be recapping the third season starting next week, with R’hllor’s light guiding the way. I hope. Because literally, until HBO lightened up those night scenes on the Season Two DVD I swear I didn’t see half of it. The night is dark, and full of terrors …
Game of Thrones returns to HBO Sunday, March 31st at 9pm.