Welcome back to Game of Thrones! I don't know if you remember, but this show has a lot going on. Let's get to it in the short form, and I'll be back later in the week with all the details. All of them.
Up in the north, Samwell Tarly (you might remember him as "the fat one") got scared by spooky zombies, so he forgot to loose the ravens. And that was literally his only job, so Lord Commander Mormont is not at all happy with his performance. And even farther north, Jon Snow finally meets Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall. Just in case you were worried that we didn't have enough kings on this show. Jon joins up with the wildlings, possibly so that he can make friends with Ygritte the Sexy Wildling Lady.
In King's Landing, Tyrion is recovering very well from being almost killed in the Battle of Blackwater. He's already up on his feet and being sarcastic at everyone he can find. He starts with Cersei, who parries his sarcasm with some gloating about how Tyrion isn't the Hand anymore. Then he works on Bronn, who has become Ser Bronn of the Black Water, not that any of the real knights will give him the time of day. Finally, he tries out his gift for verbal irony on Tywin, father of the Lannisters. This doesn't go so well as Tywin flat-out tells Tyrion he doesn't think he's a real Lannister, and no matter what the tradition is, Tyrion is never going to inherit Casterly Rock.
Meanwhile, Margaery Tyrell is making herself beloved by the people of King's Landing. It turns out all you have to do is give a few toys to orphans and the people will love you! This is a message that's completely lost on Joffrey, but Cersei seems like she's pretty tired of Margaery's faux-ingenuous style already. I bet she misses Sansa's genuine naïveté now.
Oh! And remember Blackwater? That big battle with the green fire? Ser Davos somehow survived it, and he's lucky enough to be picked up by his old pirate buddy Salladhor Saan. So he gets taken all the way back to Dragonstone, where he tells Stannis Baratheon that Melisandre is obviously evil. Just because she's been burning people alive! And he does this while Melisandre is in the room, so obviously he gets thrown in the dungeon. Good work, Davos.
And out west, Daenerys's dragons are getting pretty big. She's also got a ship, although it's crewed by Dothraki, who turn out to be comically bad at operating watercraft. The cutaway shot makes them look like basically the Keystone Kops of the sea. But they get Daenerys to a city where she has the exciting opportunity to purchase an army of brainwashed murdering castrati from some people that despise her. Before she has to decide, Barristan Selmy appears out of nowhere and foils an assassination attempt on her. He's here because Joffrey fired him from his kingsguard, so he wants to guard Daenerys instead. Maybe he should start by teaching her to keep a low profile, because it can't be a good sign that he found her so easily.
Oh boy! Season Three of Game of Thrones! As I understand the plan, this season will be roughly the first half of A Storm of Swords. Season Four will finish out the book, and then it gets complicated because A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons take place at basically the same time. [Note: The producers have also said that they're not going to worry about strictly staying in order of the books, so there's the likelihood that this season will have book two, three, four and five stuff in it as well. Beware of book spoilers, I guess? -- Rachel.] And by the time we work through those books, the child characters will all be played by twenty-year-olds and there's a chance that a sixth book will have been written. My advice is not to worry about the future. Just enjoy the ride and live in today, man. Oh! And I'd like to point out that the dedication for A Storm of Swords is "For Phyllis, who made me put the dragons in." So if you enjoy the dragons, thank Phyllis.
Previously on Game of Thrones: so very many things. Daenerys lost her dragons and Robb Stark agreed to marry someone and Melisandre gave birth to a shadow-demon-baby, and Jon Snow killed Qhorin. And "Blackwater" was an awesome episode and got nominated for a Hugo award this week. More immediately, Ser Mandon Moore tried to kill Tyrion, but he was protected by the power of being a character that everyone loves. Oh, and there were a bunch of what are probably either White Walkers or wights but could have been garden variety snow zombies or something. The show hasn't really gone out of its way to explain the taxonomy of whatever things exist beyond The Wall, but everyone seems to feel that these weren't the official White Walkers, even though they were pretty pale. And most of them were walking.
The actual episode starts with exciting battle noises and bird screeches. But the screen stays black. Is this an audio drama now? That's pretty edgy! It could also save on special effects. When we fade in, we're in a blizzard. Sam Tarly (the fat member of the Night's Watch) runs in a panic, surrounded by sound effects. He comes on three kneeling figures. When he stops, he says, "Brotha." But are these shadowy figures his brothers? They might have been once, but now they look dead. It's the way they're holding their own heads in their hands that does it. Sam looks around to see a figure walking out of the snow with an axe. But before it can kill Sam, a white wolf jumps out and attacks it. And then the figure catches fire! Not because this was some kind of incendiary wolf but because all the other Night Watch men are there. We didn't see them come up because they're cool and taciturn instead of running around screaming like Sam. Lord Commander Mormony asks Sam, "Did you send the ravens?" He did not. And it was his only job! I was going to say that as a joke, but Mormont explicitly clarifies that is was, in fact, Sam's only job. Mormont tells his men they have to get back to the Wall. Or everyone they've ever known will be dead! Also, they'll probably be killed and turned into snow zombies themselves, if that's the sort of thing you find motivating.