Yesterday we checked in with all the Game of Thrones characters in King's Landing as we prepare for the launch of the show's fourth season. But this is Game of Thrones. There's many, many more in this vast ensemble for us to take a look at. Hell, this article was initially just going to be everyone in Westeros outside of the capital, but there's so many to check in on that we're dividing it into two categories: The North and The Wall and Beyond, which we'll tackle over the next couple days, before turning our eyes beyond Westeros, including Stannis Baratheon's island fortress Dragonstone (click for parts three, four and five).
Today, though, we look to The North, where once there were many Starks, and now there are shockingly few.
Arya's gone from slightly frustrated tomboy to orphaned prisoner of war to…well…let's just stay she stabbed a dude to death with shocking ease in the third season finale. While her sister Sansa has been locked in the gilded cage of King's Landing, Arya escaped after her father was beheaded and has been roaming the country ever since, trying to get to a safe haven. The list of available safe havens in Westeros grows shorter and shorter, though, and she's been moved around from one tenuous situation to another. She was in the hands of the Night's Watch headed north, then stuck at Harrenhaal pouring wine for Tywin Lannister, then captured by Beric Dondarrion and his Brotherhood Without Banners, then picked up by the Hound. Each experience has further soured her take on humanity, and her time with utterly nihilistic Hound seems to have encouraged her desire to take bloody vengeance against those who have wronged the Starks.
Sandor Clegane ("The Hound")
Sandor is one of Game of Thrones' most fascinating creations, impossible to label as hero or villain, unlike his terrifying mountain of a brother Gregor. He's rejected any concept of nobility or honor and seeks only to survive, dragging Arya along with him in hope for some sort of bounty. Still, there is some internal code Sandor is following, and he's developed an appreciation for Arya, much as he did for Sansa back when he was at King's Landing (although it seems like he respects Arya's skills as a fighter, while he just wanted to protect Sansa). But what's next for The Hound? He'll probably try dragging Arya to Lysa Arryn up in the mountaintop Eyrie, since I can't think of another safe haven at this point, but he should realize by now that wherever Arya goes, trouble follows.
Theon Greyjoy ("Reek")
It's almost a cliché to say that a Game of Thrones character has "had a rough go of it" since the show began. But there's really no way to undersell Theon's suffering. Yes, maybe he deserves it a little bit, since he conquered and sacked his adoptive home of Winterfell in a childish effort to impress his real Iron Islands father, causing chaos for Robb Stark (now dead) and burning some innocent kids to a crisp to convince everyone he'd killed the youngest Starks (who had already escaped). Then, the whole third season saw Theon tied to a cross and tortured, ending with his castration and the beginning of a deeper psychological enslavement at the hands of Roose Bolton's bastard son Ramsay. You can call him "Reek" now.
The lord of the Iron Islands is still technically part of the War of Five Kings (which is now down to three kings) but that mostly seems to involve him sitting in his castle being grumpy at everyone. Recently, he was sent his son and heir's genitalia in a box. His reaction, essentially, was to cut Theon out of his will. Will Balon try anything more ambitious this year? Probably not. He barely seemed interested when Theon took Winterfell.
Theon's sister was a little more sympathetic at the sight of her brother's dick in a box. She gathered together the Iron Islands' finest warriors and set sail to rescue him/cause trouble for the Bolton clan, now in charge up north. Yara has proven time and time again that she's not to be messed with, but will that translate in non-naval combat?
Brynden Tully ("The Blackfish")
Don't forget about this guy! Catelyn Stark's uncle, he was the more grizzled and wise of the Tully clan that we met at Riverrun, and he was the lone survivor of the Red Wedding, somehow escaping and fleeing while his family was massacred (his nephew Edmure, who was the one getting married, is also still alive and presumably a prisoner of the evil Frey clan). Who knows when he'll turn up, but he's one of the few Stark allies still running around who could scrape an army together.
He presided over the massacre of the Starks and Tullys at his home at the Twins, presumably in return for protection and rewards from Tywin Lannister. He needs a new wife, since he happily let the old one die during the Red Wedding. His family's reputation has also been ruined around the continent, probably forever. But what does he care? He's the meanest old man in the universe and he clearly long ago stopped worrying what other people think of him.
He's been lurking in the background for two seasons, first as an advisor to Robb Stark, then as his ultimate betrayer, stabbing him to death and telling him the Lannisters sent their regards. Bolton has decided where his bread his buttered, and it's with Tywin and company down south. In return, he'll run the north, one presumes, but how can he win over the people of that vast expanse considering his monstrous reputation? By fear, one imagines, but Roose is a fascinating character because he's not just frightening—he's calm, collected and intelligent, and it'll be quite something to see where that all goes in seasons to come.
Roose's bastard son is as evil as his father, but his opposite in so many other ways. He's demented, he maims and kills for pleasure, and he's fascinated with psychological torment as much as anything, turning Theon into a meat puppet over the course of a season. With his dad in charge of the north, he'll have things to prove, but his status as a bastard (confirmed at the end of last season) will probably be a hindrance to any grand ambitions. That, by the way, is why he has the last name Snow, like our hero Jon: any bastard born in the North gets that surname (here's a helpful list of bastard surnames around Westeros). This was by far the creepiest and most upsetting character on Game of Thrones to grace our screens last year.
The Lightning Lord, one-eyed, with the ability to come back from the dead! It's not even clear where Beric will fit in to the future of the show, but one doubts a character that strange will be forgotten entirely. Last we saw him, he gave up Gendry to Melisandre, telling Arya that money still made the world go round and that such moral equivocation was the only way to keep their vigilante business going. One assumes he still has his resurrection priest Thoros in tow and is still trying to make things difficult for the Lannisters.