We've been waiting a long time for Winter, and I'm relieved to say it's finally here.
The hit HBO success story that is Game of Thrones made its epic return to our screens last night, picking up where the end of season two left us; with Sam running through the snow to find his fellow rangers decapitated by white walkers.
This episode very much ties up lose ends of the last series, whilst setting the scene for season three.
We're finally introduced to Mance Rayder (played by Ciarán Hinds) who, for the time being, spares Jon Snow's life and welcomes him to the wildling camp. For now, it seems his plan to infiltrate the wildling's headquarters has worked - but, for how long?
We see Stannis Baratheon cast aside Sir Davos' unrelenting loyalty in favour of the wicked charms of Melisandre. He throws his most faithful subject into the dungeons below Dragonstone for mistrusting the sorceress.
Meanwhile, in Kings Landing, Margaery attempts to rebuild King Joffrey's image by helping the orphaned children of the war. Cersei expresses her cynicism at the Tyrells' shameless act, but we are left to wonder if her criticism stems from jealously or pure disdain for the soon-to-be queen.
There's an emotional scene between Tyrion and Tywin Lannister as the newly restored hand of the king disowns his son; laying blame on Tyrion for the death of his wife and heartlessly rebutting his request to be named the rightful heir of Casterly Rock.
We join Daenerys and her growing dragons as she puts her trust in a ruthless slave trafficker to provide the army she will need to unseat Joffrey from the Iron Throne. Toward the end of the episode, Dany is approached by the exiled Sir Barristan, who swears to protect her as he did her father. Jorah looks on hesitantly, knowing how Barristan stood aside while Jamie Lannister put a sword in her mad father's back.
Giants and child shape shifters add to the melee of fantasy characters we've seen so far, and with promise of more to come, it's sure to be one hell of a season.
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