War rages in new ‘Game of Thrones’ season

Winter has passed for those living in the U.S., but for the characters of HBO’s hit television series “Game of Thrones,” it’s still coming.

Fans of the series have hungered like the Stark’s dire wolves for new episodes of the series that blends historical epic with mythical fantasy since its last season ended in June.

The series, based on the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series of novels by George R. R. Martin, follows a number of intertwining narratives from the far reaches of the fantasy realm of Westeros. Clans and noble families are in constant battle over the Iron Throne of the land. Meanwhile, supernatural forces threaten to spread death throughout the land.

The series is notable for the way it builds suspense. There is a sense of danger, since it airs on HBO and has less scruples so far as content goes, and that its most prominent characters are in constant danger of being killed off.

More than this, though, the show is a pioneer in television. Instead of other series that neatly wrap up plots from episode to episode and season to season, “Game of Thrones” takes a cue from “Lost,” presenting a seemingly endless story full of treacherous turns and surprises.

The final image of season two was of one of the much whispered about whitewalkers, mythical ice zombies, looming over the loveable yet fat night watchman Sam’s cold body. The season three premiere begins with Sam being saved from danger and then abandons the idea of frozen zombies, perhaps not to be mentioned again until season’s end.

From here the season’s first episode, “Valar Dohaeris,” touches on the lives of each of the show’s other main characters. Jon Snow, bastard of season one protagonist Ned Stark and rising star of the nightwatch, continues his infiltration of wildling society.

Dejected dwarf Tyrion adjusts to life as an outcast in exile, realizing it’s much more far flung from his life as an outcast in luxury than he expected. The kind-hearted Margaery adjusts to her new life as the wife of the easily detestable King Joffrey. And Daenerys, the mother of dragons, has a discomforting run-in with a slave salesman and his army of eunuch baby murderers.

The show’s threads constantly near each other and bounce off of one another like charged particles. It’s a delight trying to guess how the actions of one character will affect other arcs later on, but there’s also a horror to this as well. None of the show’s expansive collection of characters is ever safe, and while it’s easy to pick favorites, it’s extremely likely that none of them will survive until the end.

“Valar Dohaeris” does a great job of re-orienting viewers to the characters and plot of the series. There were a lot of great character moments here from Tyrion, Jon and Daenerys — especially her run-in with the slaver and his translator. One can only hope that the remainder of the series offers them each ample screentime.

The interaction between the deplorable Joffrey and his saintly new wife Margaery was also fun. Might this be a new beginning for Joffrey, one where he involves himself in charity work instead of the torturing of prostitutes? Doubtful, but one can imagine the scenario with amusement.

While those who have read the novels may feel they know where the plot is going, the series does a great job of throwing a wrench into the works every now and again. Last season featured the introduction of a made-for-tv romance for Robert Stark, and interviews with cast have already hinted at more than one deviation from the plots of the books this season.

Overall, “Game of Thrones” continues to be one of the most engrossing and promising offerings on television. And with more than a million people downloading the series illegally each week, HBO offering up free weekend subscriptions so people can view the premiere, and millions of subscribers tuning in each week, it’s only reasonable to assume that it will grow to become of the biggest events on television as well.

If the first episode of the season is any indication, season three will continue to bring fans epic and complex storylines the series is loved for.