Game of Thrones: Season Four Plot Summary

By James T. Cains

The fourth season of Game of Thrones covers the last half of the third novel of the book series, A Storm of Swords, as well as portions of the fourth and fifth novels. To find out what happened before, see the recaps of the first season, the second season, and the third season of Game of Thrones.

In King’s Landing, preparations for the wedding of King Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell heat up as Oberyn Martell arrives. Although he is a formal guest of the wedding, Oberyn wants revenge for the murder of his sister at the hand of the Lannisters during the rebellion that put King Robert on the throne. Meanwhile, Jaime Lannister rejoins the Kingsguard, much to his father’s displeasure (because Tywin wants him to return to Casterly Rock as his heir). Jaime also receives a golden prosthetic hand, replacing sword hand he lost last season. Sansa Stark, still deep in grief over the deaths of her mother Catelyn and her brother Robb, accepts the gift of a necklace by Dontos, an ex-knight who she once saved from Joffrey’s cruelty.

Theon Greyjoy, now called “Reek” and in the service of Ramsay Snow, reveals that he didn’t kill Bran and Rickon Stark and that they may still be alive. Ramsay’s father, Roose Bolton, dispatches a party to find and kill Bran and Rickon, as well as Jon Snow. The Boltons plan to move onto Winterfell and take up their new roles as Wardens of the North. Meanwhile, Bran and his party have made their way north beyond the Wall, and he has a vision of the future and a voice tells him where they have to go.

The murder of King Joffrey

In King’s Landing, the day of Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding arrives. The ceremony takes place, and the wedding feast follows, with Tyrion, Sansa, Tywin, Cersei, Jaime, Olenna Tyrell, and many others in attendance. Joffrey announces a special performance of dwarves imitating the five kings that fought in the recent war. The dwarves’ performance is crude and offensive, except to Joffrey and Cersei. Tyrion is particularly offended and tensions between him and Joffrey escalate to Joffrey pouring a goblet of wine over Tyrion’s head. Joffrey commands Tyrion to refill his wine glass. Tyrion does so, but not before purposefully dropping the goblet on the floor, which Sansa retrieves and hands back to him. The refilled goblet is then set next to Margaery and her grandmother Olenna briefly. Margaery suggests cutting the huge pigeon pie, trying to ease tensions, and Joffrey uses his sword to cut the pie. Margaery serves Joffrey a piece of the pie, and Joffrey orders Tyrion to serve him the goblet of wine to wash down the pie down. Tyrion does so, and Joffrey drinks down the entire goblet. Suddenly, Joffrey begins to choke and falls to the floor. Dontos comes up quickly behind Sansa and spirits her away from the feast while everyone is distracted. Joffrey, still gagging, points an accusing finger at Tyrion right before he dies. Tyrion stands perplexed, holding the goblet, as Cersei commands the Kingsguard to seize Tyrion for killing her son.

In the aftermath of King Joffrey’s death, there are several suspects in the poisoning. The foremost is Tyrion, who is to stand trial for murder, but also Sansa Stark, who is now missing. It’s revealed that Dontos took Sansa to Petyr Baelish, who put her on his ship to sail to the Vale where he is to marry Lysa Arryn. Also, the Tyrells are not above suspicion because the wine goblet was briefly near Margaery and Olenna at the feast.

In Essos, Daenerys Targaryen and her army march toward the city of Meereen, another slave city. As they approach the city, they see crucified children marking the way to the city. Furious by what she has seen, Daenerys incites an uprising of the slaves in the city, which results in the execution of their slave masters. Daenerys has now liberated all three slave cities in Essos.

In King’s Landing, Jaime trains to swordfight with only one hand and then visits Tyrion in jail. Tyrion convinces him that he didn’t kill Joffrey. Later, Jaime angers Cersei when he takes Tyrion’s side against her. Jaime asks Brienne to find Sansa and keep her safe from Cersei’s men, who are hunting for her. Meanwhile, Olenna suggests to Margaery that she act fast to guarantee a marriage with Joffrey’s younger brother, Tommen, who will now become king. Olenna also says that she’d never have let Margaery stay in a marriage with a “beast” like Joffrey, suggesting that Olenna may have had Joffrey killed.

En route to the Vale, Petyr confesses to Sansa that the necklace that Dontos gave Sansa was the murder weapon in the death of Joffrey, though Petyr doesn’t quite confess to having planned the murder. Soon, they arrive at the Vale and, for her security, Sansa takes on the false identity of Petyr’s niece to all, except for Lysa. Lysa and Petyr immediately get married, which makes Petyr the new Lord of the Eyrie. Lysa, who is obviously mentally unstable, is jealous of Sansa when she senses Petyr’s affection for her. Meanwhile, not too far away, Arya and The Hound make their way to the Vale, so that The Hound can ransom Arya to her aunt Lysa.

At the Wall, Jon has warned the rest of the Night’s Watch of the planned attack by Mance Rayder, and they prepare for the attack. Jon and Samwell are assigned as sentries atop the Wall to keep an eye out for the invasion force. In the Iron Islands, word of Theon’s capture reaches his father, Balon, and his sister, Yara. She plans to launch an attack to free her brother from the Boltons.

The trial of Tyrion Lannister

In King’s Landing, Tyion’s trial for the murder of Joffrey begins, and it doesn’t go well for Tyrion as several witnesses testify against him; clearly, Cersei has manipulated the testimony in her favor. Jaime tells Tywin that he will give up his position in the Kingsguard and return to Casterly Rock as his heir if Tywin spares Tyrion. Tywin agrees, saying that Tyrion will be spared but allowed to join the Night’s Watch at the Wall. Jaime tells Tyrion this, but Tyrion is skeptical because Ned Stark was promised the same deal. Back at the trial, Tyrion suffers one more unbearable betrayal: Shae, the prostitute that Tyrion had fallen for and brought with him to King’s Landing, lies that she heard Tyrion and Sansa plotting Joffrey’s murder together. Tyrion is so enraged that he lets loose a public tirade against everyone, including his father and sister, saying that his only crime is being a dwarf. As he is led away to his cell, Tyrion demands a trial by combat.

Across the Narrow Sea in Meereen, Daenerys finds it difficult to control her oldest dragon, as the dragon causes destruction to local property, for which she must make amends. Also, Daenerys takes a new lover — the mercenary Daario who helped her in her conquest of Meereen. Jorah Mormont, one of Daenerys’s chief advisors and who happens to be in love with her, is revealed to be the spy who was sending reports back to King Robert on Daenerys’s actions — his reports had instigated the first assassination attempt on her. Daenerys banishes Jorah from her sight forever.

In King’s Landing, Cersei chooses Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane as her champion in Tyrion’s trial by combat. The Mountain is the brother of The Hound and is much bigger and stronger. In the meantime, after Jaime refuses to be Tyrion’s champion because of his inability to fight, Oberyn Martell visits Tyrion and volunteers to be his champion as the first step in Oberyn’s revenge against the Lannisters.

In the Eyrie, Petyr escalates his plan, and with Lysa watching, kisses Sansa. Sansa is so shocked that she doesn’t resist. Lysa confronts Sansa and threatens to send her out the moon door (a hole in the castle floor with a long drop to the valley floor below). Petyr intervenes, saving Sansa. However, Petyr confesses the only woman he’s ever truly loved is Lysa’s sister, Catelyn, and he pushes Lysa out the moon door to her death. Shortly thereafter, Arya Stark and The Hound arrive at the gates of the Eyrie, only to be told that Lysa is dead. They turn away and resume their journey, to where they don’t know. Later, at an inquest into Lysa’s death, Sansa lies, supporting Petyr’s testimony that Lysa committed suicide.

At King’s Landing, the trial by combat begins with Prince Oberyn taking on The Mountain. Immediately, Oberyn’s fighting prowess is clear, and he taunts The Mountain and demands a confession that The Mountain raped and murdered Oberyn’s sister. Oberyn manages to seriously injure The Mountain, and Tyrion thinks that he has won. However, The Mountain manages to gain the upper hand on Oberyn, pinning him to the ground. The Mountain admits to raping and killing Oberyn’s sister before he crushes Oberyn’s skull with his bare hands. As a result, Tywin sentences Tyrion, his own son, to death.

The attack on the Wall

At the Wall, Mance Rayder attacks with his wildling army from the north, with giants riding mammoths leading the charge. Ygritte and her party of wildlings attack from the south. The Night’s Watch, despite being vastly outnumbered, manages to hold off the invasion for the moment. During the battle, Jon shows great leadership and tactical skills, gaining new respect from his fellows. However, Ygritte is shot through the heart with an arrow and dies in Jon’s arms. Mance’s army retreats to regroup for another assault. The next morning, Jon realizes that the Night’s Watch can’t sustain another attack and comes up with a plan: He will venture into the enemy camp and assassinate Mance Rayder.

When Jon reaches the enemy camp, he is immediately taken before Mance. Jon tries to talk him into a peaceful solution by bluffing that the Night’s Watch has large army of reinforcements waiting for them, but Mance sees through it. Jon has no choice but to act on his plan. However, before he can do so, the wildling war horns blow. Surprising everyone, King Stannis and hundreds of his knights ride into the camp, kill most of the wildling soldiers, and take Mance captive.

Meanwhile, farther north, Bran, Hodor, Jojen, and Meera reach the massive heart tree that Bran saw in his visions. They battle wights that rise from the snow, and Jojen is killed. A mysterious girl comes to their aid by throwing fireballs at the wights, allowing Bran, Hodor, and Meera to escape into a cave. Bran discovers that the girl is one of the Children of the Forest. He also meets an old man who has been watching him all this time. The old man says that, while Bran will never walk again, Bran will “fly.”

In Meereen, Daenerys receives word that her oldest dragon has burned a child alive. Daenerys is horrified and realizes that she can no longer control her dragons. She leads her two remaining dragons deep into the catacombs beneath Meereen and chains them. However, her oldest dragon is still at large.

In King’s Landing, Cercei refuses to marry Loras Tyrell, but Tywin won’t have it. Cercei then admits the truth to Tywin — that she and Jaime are lovers and that Jaime is Joffrey and Tommen’s father, not King Robert. Tywin, who has heard these rumors but dismissed them, is enraged and tries to deny the truth. Meanwhile, Jaime frees Tyrion from his cell, saying he has arranged passage for him to Essos. However, before Tyrion leaves, he returns to Tywin’s chambers. He finds Shae in Tywin’s bed and strangles her; apparently, she had struck a bargain with Tywin to testify against Tyrion. Then, Tyrion kills Tywin with a crossbow. Tyrion eludes discovery and boards the ship for Essos.

Brienne discovers Arya and The Hound in the Vale. Brienne asks Arya to come with her to safety, but The Hound accuses Brienne of working for the Lannisters. Brienne and The Hound duel with swords; Arya sneaks away. Brienne bests The Hound, causing him to fall over a cliff. Arya finds The Hound dying slowly of his wounds and asks Arya to put him out of his misery. Arya refuses and leaves him to die alone. Arya gives Brienne the slip and, later, boards a ship bound for the Free Cities of Essos.