Game of Thrones season 4 recap: Everything that matters for season 8

A full recap of the fourth season of Game of Thrones focused on the moments that will tie in to Thrones’ final season, set to begin on April 14.

Warning: The following post is full of Game of Thrones spoilers. There might still be time to watch the full series, if you haven’t already. If you have, read on. 

In the fourth week of a seven-week series, we recap the key points of Game of Thrones season 4. ICYMI, you can read recaps of season 1, season 2 and season 3 through those links.

There was a lot going on in Game of Thrones’ fourth season. Daenerys completed her tour of Slaver’s Bay by taking the last of the big three cities, Meereen, but as it turns out, her quick-fix solutions weren’t holding up in the previous two locales and they slipped back into their old ways. After big changes, some stability usually helps, Dany.

In King’s Landing, things were even more chaotic. King Joffrey was poisoned on his wedding night, Tyrion was wrongfully jailed, a new hero came, fought the mountain, got cocky and died and Sansa Stark finally got the hell out of town. Three of those four things happened in one episode.

There were a few moments in season 4 that prompted speculation into what might happen in Game of Thrones’ final season. Let’s explore those in more detail.

Keep in mind: The following points should serve as reminders as to what happened in the season, but focused in relation to season 8. Some key points will be glanced over in favor of what will come to be important this season.

What happened in Game of Thrones season 4

The season opens with Tywin Lannister and the most skilled Valyrian sword smith in the Known World, melting down Ned Stark’s greatsword into two Valyrian steel swords: Widow’s Wail for Joffrey and Oathkeeper for Jaime. The swords would not remain in either Lannister’s possession for long.

King Joffrey is widely regarded as the biggest P.O.S. in all of Westeros at this point. The phrase “only a mother could love” is very accurate when it comes to describing Joffrey as a king and as a person. Thankfully, he dies after being poisoned by the super-secret duo of Olenna Tyrell and Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, who, as we know, loves climbing the ladder of chaos. The actual poisoning comes from Olenna, who wins MVP of this season. The camera holds on Joffrey’s dead face for what feels like several minutes, giving us the full satisfaction required for his death.

Obviously, this sets off a series of chaotic events in the capital. Tyrion is immediately blamed for the death, not only because Tyrion handed Joffrey the poisoned mug but also because Cersei has hated him every minute of his life. Amidst the chaos, Sansa is beckoned by Joffrey’s drunk jester, who was discreetly hired to help her escape by Littlefinger. She ended up on a ship with him, headed to the Eyrie where her (crazy) Aunt Lysa Arryn lives. Tyrion is immediately put in jail for the time being and Tommen is named the new king. Tommen is a great kid, his cat, Ser Pounce, is adorable and he would make a wonderful king. Unfortunately for him, his mother is insane (more on this in the coming seasons). Tywin tells Tommen that wisdom is what makes a good king great. This is spot on advice.

Joffrey’s death may be the most satisfying moment in Thrones history, but the showrunners giveth and the showrunners taketh away. Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne (who we loved) decided he would fight to save Tyrion in a trial by combat after he learned that Cersei named The Mountain as her champion. Oberyn, who was in town for the wedding anyway, vowed to get his revenge on The Mountain for murdering his wife and children. Unfortunately, he got a little too cocky in the final stages of the fight and ended up getting his own skull smashed in by The Mountain, who used every ounce of energy left for a brutal kill scene before semi-dying himself.

At the Eyrie, we learn that not only was Littlefinger behind the murder of Joffrey, but that he had a hand in the events that kicked off the entire show. Littlefinger convinced Lysa Arryn to poison her husband Jon Arryn and then blame the Lannisters for it. This brought Ned Stark to King’s Landing as Robert Baratheon’s new hand of the king. Baelish didn’t care much for her in the end, because he threw her down the Eyrie’s “moon door” where she fell hundreds of feet to her eventual death.

In the North, Jon Snow was back with the Night’s Watch, waiting for the oncoming wildling army. Eventually, they showed up and the crows (men of the Night’s Watch) were attacked from both sides of the wall. A small group of wildlings south of the wall (including Ygritte and Tormund) hopped the south gate with a group of Thenns (cannibal wildlings) while the rest of the army did their best to climb the 700 foot wall/break through the gate. In the end, the crows held off the army of wildlings but Jon suffered a great loss in the process. Ygritte was shot with an arrow from little Olly, a young boy whose farming village she and the others raided a few days prior. She gave Jon one more “you know nothing” as she died in his arms.

The following day, Jon crossed enemy lines to either kill or broker a deal with Mance Rayder, the leader of the free folk. Before anything could happen, Stannis Baratheon and his army showed up, cut down a few wildlings and took Mance prisoner. Jon lost Pyp and Grenn in the fight but Sam and Eddison survived and are still around today.

Arya continued her relationship with The Hound (Sandor Clegane) as he tried desperately to find a living relative to sell her back to. Outside of the Eyrie, after learning that Lysa Arryn has passed away, the two ran into Brienne and Podrick. Brienne insisted that she would take Arya home. Clegane disputed her claim by asking her how well it turned out for the last two who were under her protection (Jaime lost a hand, Catelyn is dead). The two fight, Brienne wins and The Hound begs Arya to end his suffering and kill him. “Cross me off your list.” Arya left him to die and took off to Braavos to learn from her old pal Jaqen.

Tyrion Lannister had himself a season. After being sentenced to death by his father in the wake of Prince Oberyn losing his trial by combat, Tyrion needed a little help from his older brother Jaime. Working with Varys, Jaime broke Tyrion out of prison and sent him off on a ship to safety. Tyrion had one last thing to take care of though, as he climbed through a secret door into his father’s room. Once there, he saw his ex-lover Shae, who perjured herself in a testimony against him after he saved her life by forcing her to flee the capital (scorned lover), in his father’s bed. He choked her to death then shot Tywin with a crossbow while he was on the toilet. This was the second very satisfying Lannister death of the season, the first being Joffrey.

What’s relevant for season 8

Valyrian swords: As we all know, there are two types of material that can kill White Walkers. Valyrian steel and dragonglass. Jaime ended up gifting his sword Oathkeeper to Brienne of Tarth before she rode North to help the Stark girls (as promised to Catelyn before she died). Jaime eventually took Widow’s Wail for himself, given that Joffrey would no longer have a need for it.

Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane: After being cut, stabbed and poisoned in the sh*t-kicking he took from Oberyn, The Mountain was pretty much dead. Grandmaester Pycelle wrote him off as too far gone, but the experimental ex-maester Qyburn decided he could reanimate him. Now, The Mountain is a zombie-like shell of his former self, who was a zombie-like killing machine. He’s every bit as strong as he was and will be by Cersei’s side in season 8. We can hope for fully expect him to fight his brother Sandor “The Hound” Clegane at some point in season 8. “The Clegane Bowl” is something we’ve been waiting for for some time now and it would be wrong not to give it to us.

Littlefinger: How can he have any impact on season 8? He’s dead, right? Maybe, maybe not. There are some interesting  theories out there that we’ll have to save for the season 7 recap. Just keep in mind how influential he was through everything that has happened in the game of thrones so far.

Daenerys’ leadership: Queen Dany plays the Game of Thrones like I play video games. Hack, slash, destroy and move on. In the early going, there is very little attention to detail in her approach. She gives very little attention or support to the areas she is conquering. She just takes them then leaves. To her credit, freeing hundreds of thousands of slaves was only a side quest to her main story and she has to remain focused on making her way back to the Iron Throne while Westeros is in shambles.

As the crew arrives in Meereen, they are greeted by 163 crucified slave children — one each mile for 163 miles leading into the city. This checks every box for Dany, who takes the city and then has each and every one of the slave masters nailed to crosses in the same patterns the slaves were nailed on her way in. Justice, but in a brutal fashion. She later learns that some of the masters were opposed to the message sending move but were brutally killed anyway.

Ser Barriston Selmy has a line in season 4 that foreshadows Dany’s next few moves: “Sometimes it’s better to answer injustice with mercy.” It’s a line that can be used throughout most of Game of Thrones‘ more impulsive decisions, and one Dany has yet to really put into practice. Granted, having mercy for assholes can be annoying and this style of leadership is one of the reasons we love Dany so much. If she plans on being queen, she’d best appoint a diverse council.

Arya and The Hound: Arya leaving The Hound was an important scene in Game of Thrones‘ fourth season. Perhaps she left him to suffer and die or perhaps it was because the two had grown fond of each other and she couldn’t pull the trigger. Either way, in leaving him to die, can she count him as crossed from her kill list? Arya and The Hound will meet again in Winterfell at some point in season 8 and chances are they’ll be happy to see each other, even if they don’t let on.

Tyrion: The first step in Tyrion’s journey to becoming an integral part of Dany’s supporting cast happened after he murdered his idiot lover and power-mad father. He shipped off with Varys, who values his abilities more than most and would eventually end up working with Dany, where he stands today. He’s been key in brokering deals with important characters leading up to The Great War. The most important of those being with Jon Snow, someone who he’s gotten along with since season 1. Expect more of the same from Tyrion in season 8, especially after the war is over. Oh, and there’s also a chance he murders his horrible sister Cersei (valonqar prophecy).

Other season 4 takeaways

  • Pod and Brienne team up after Tyrion is captured. This is the beginning of a lifelong friendship. The two were most recently spotted side by side awaiting the Army of the Dead in the latest Game of Thrones trailer.
  • Bran Stark experiences the same vision of snow falling in King’s Landing that Dany did in season 2. Interesting.
  • Bran also finds his way to the Three-Eyed Raven. The group lost Jojen Reed but Jojen’s sister Meera is still there. This is where Bran begins his studies as the heir to the Three-Eyed Raven.
  • Jon gains control over the Night’s Watch during the battle with the wildlings. Not in title, but in spirit.
  • The Mountain becomes The Mountain 2.0 in a later season after Qyburn “Frankensteins” him back to life.
  • When Stannis travels to the North and visits Castle Black, there’s a quick clip of Melisandre and Jon holding a long, rather intense gaze through the flames of a fire. Could this be when she realized she may be backing the wrong horse with Stannis?
  • Tormund Giantsbane is a captured enemy, but the respect between him and Jon is prevalent, even though they are still on opposite sides.
  • Ser Jorah Mormont, Dany’s most trusted advisor, is outed as a spy sent to watch her during King Robert Baratheon’s reign. Jorah took all of 15 seconds to fall in love with Dany and ditch the spy gig but she still didn’t appreciate this. She banishes him, but eventually, he works her way back into her good graces in season 6.

One of the saddest parts in season 4 happens after Dany’s dragons burn a child from Meereen. Yes, the death of the innocent citizen is sad, but Dany is then forced to chain up both Rhaegal and Viserion in a dark dungeon. They are not happy about this. Drogon, the biggest of the three dragons, is still doing his own thing somewhere. There are no such thing as bad dragons, only bad owners!

Game of Thrones returns to HBO on Apr. 14th, 2019.