With two weddings and many funerals, this season was nothing if not bloody - and very bloody good.
"Oh seven hells," I hear you say. "Not another recap!"
"The season has finished, please just let us return to living our lives in peace, untroubled by machinations in Westeros, nightmares beyond the Wall and so forth."
But wait! Let us at least pause, before we scatter to the edges of the Seven Kingdoms for another year, to collect our thoughts, and do a house-by-house breakdown of where our major players were by the end of Season Three.
Once again, I have not read Book 3 or beyond, so all of these are mere suppositions and theories. Happy to hear yours as well - but remember, no spoilers, or we'll go all Ramsay Snow on your sensitive areas.
Season 3 Spoilers
How they fared: "Poorly" is an understatement. The Red Wedding dispatched King in the North Robb Stark and matriarch Catelyn, as well as Robb's pregnant wife Talisa. Arya was this close to seeing her family again before they were slaughtered, and was subjected to the horror of seeing her brother's decapitated body paraded with a wolf's head. Sansa was given a glimmer of hope, but schemes to marry her off to Slow Lorus were derailed by Tywin Lannister, who married her off to his son Tyrion in the hope their offspring will produce an heir to the north. Bran and Rickon escaped further injury, but have been split up, meaning the Starks are more scattered than Amanda Bynes after a big night.
Predictions: Arya will go to Braavos and learn to be a Faceless Man. Then she'll kill everyone. Bran will do Warg-y things beyond the Wall, perhaps get the use of his legs back through some magic merging with his direwolf or something. We probably won't see Rickon again for a while. Sansa will continue trying to hold off demands that she get preggers. Let's hope Tyrion can keep Joffrey away from torturing the poor thing anymore.
How they fared: High fives all 'round, really. Except for Jaime, of course. Joffrey remains about as appealing as sour rat's milk, but that's only to be expected. Tywin's mastery of politics was evident in shutting down the Tyrell's marriage schemes, and matchmaking his own kids.
Predictions: There will be a reckoning (mostly for Joffrey). Tyrion will have to do more work as the Master of Coin - remember that business about the kingdom being badly in debt? I'm hoping Jaime's experiences will prompt some juicy encounters with his relatives; I have no doubt Cersei will end up miserable as usual. Tywin seems untouchable. While I'd like to see him kicked around a little, Charles Dance is such good value, I'd hate to see Tywin leave the series.
"You can't lose your tackle and expect the fishing trip to be the same."
How they fared: Stannis remains slightly frustrated and impotent on Dragonstone. We discovered his actual wife was a few coffins short of a cemetery; suspending her dead male children in formaldehyde or goo or something. That was probably the freakiest shit all season. His love/hate relationship with Davos continued, with the Onion Knight continuing to endear himself to viewers with his friendly relationship with Shireen and learning to read. And Melisandre seems to be growing in power; finally agreeing with Davos that they've had the wrong end of the war the whole time.
Predictions: Stannis will go north, reassembling an army. Melisandre will continue doing hot, nude magic rituals and saying weird stuff. I hope Stannis learns to trust Shireen a bit more; I hope Gendry doesn't drown in that boat Davos sent him off in.
How they fared: Like a flower, they bloomed then faded. Margaery/Kate Middleton did her best to instruct Joffrey in the ways of PR; Lady Olenna added delicious spice to the mix at King's Landing, and all those inside plots with Sansa, Slow Lorus and Varys were magic. But then Tywin through Littlefinger discovered them and the Tyrell influence was crushed underfoot.
Predictions: The much anticipated wedding of Joffrey to Margaery didn't happen. I assume it will come in Season 4, and no doubt it will be cringe-worthy. Hopefully Margaery makes it through the wedding night unscathed. Shudder. Slow Lorus is supposed to marry Cersei, but she seems to have other ideas.
How they fared: Daenerys remains super hot, super cool, super fair and super determined to get her rightful throne back. After doing a bait and switch with that douchey slave trader Kraznys (that dragon-face-burning remains one of the highlights of the series), she captured the loyalty of mercenary Faabio and the Second Sons, then took the city of Yunkai, becoming mother to all of its people.
Predictions: Both her dragons and her loyal followers will grow, and Dany will probably traverse a few of the other Free Cities. But I suspect it won't all be smooth sailing and there may be three-way tussles for dominance between Jorah, Barristan and Faabio. She's got to still be a top pick to come out of this whole mess. One of her best decisions was recruiting Missandei; she is a brilliant minor character and I hope she's put to good use in Season 4.
How they fared: Traitorously well.
Predictions: You are DOOMED, Walder Frey. Your multitudinous spawn too, probably. The North Remembers.
How they fared: Decidedly sub-par, particularly for Theon. After weeks (months?) of torture at the hands of a psychopath (revealed to be Ramsay Snow, Roose Bolton's bastard), he suffered the cruellest cut of all. Dad Balon and sister Yara were nowhere to be seen until Episode 10, in which Yara pledged to go get him back.
Predictions: You can't lose your tackle and expect the fishing trip to be the same. Theon will be a broken man; his pride well and truly humbled. I don't think Ramsay Snow will kill him, but he may as well. Could Theon ever be of any use to anyone again? I like Yara but am hesitant to say she will achieve automatic victory over the Dreadfort. But if something happens to her, at least Balon might be spurred into action. But more likely he'll just die of crabs or whatever you catch on those miserable salty islands.
The Night's Watch
How they fared: Fair to middling. Jon Snow became a wildling long enough to fall in love, but it turned out Cupid's bow shoots some fairly nasty arrows. Can I get a three cheers for Sam Tarly? How brilliant is that chap? Escaping the slaughter of rebel Crows in Caster's Keep, then seeing Gilly and her baby safely back to Castle Black. Along the way he killed a White Walker and was able to equip the "Hodor Four" with weapons.
Predictions: With his cover blown and Mormont dead, Jon could take up a leadership role in what remains of the Watch. Remember there's a bunch of murderous ex-Crows out there; not to mention Ygritte, Mance Raydar and all the zombies and white walkers and such.
Some of our other favourites:
The Boltons: Roose is a traitor of the worst kind. He needs to be punished, but he's too damn snaky, like Lord Voldemort with a codpiece. Ramsay has to cop a dose of his own medicine at some point, surely. Then again, this is Game of Thrones, so he'll probably live to a ripe old age on a diet of suspicious-looking sausages.
The Tullys: One imagines Edmure will remain a stammering prisoner at The Twins; but what of The Blackfish? Gee, I hope for bloody vengeance. There's nothing better than watching old dudes beat the crap out of stuff; why else would people keep casting Christopher Lee in movies?
Brotherhood Without Banners: Can Beric survive any more deaths? Can Thoros survive without Beric?
Shae: Will Tyrion let her stay in King's Landing? I'm guessing he won't have much of a choice. I see Shae potentially becoming a wedge issue between Tyrion and Tywin - if there aren't enough already.
Brienne of Tarth: What will she do now Jaime is back in both arms of his sister, and Catelyn is dead? I hope she goes a bit nuts and kills some dudes. That would be awesome. But I assume their relationship will just be tested and stuff.
Varys: He felt like a good guy in Season 3, even if he still has self-interest at heart. We never saw him torture his captive prisoner, the one who de-bollocked him back in the day. I assume that guy is still in a crate somewhere.
Littlefinger: DIE YOU HORRID SCUM. DIE MISERABLY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
Casting Wish List
I have no idea about characters that might be introduced in Season 4, but there are still a bunch of British actors who should be getting parts on this show. Here are some I would love to see: Alan Rickman, Hayley Atwell, Christopher Eccleston, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Dancy, Jane Horrocks, Ian McShane, Rosamund Pike, Sir Richard Attenborough and.... of course... Brian Blessed.