'Winter is coming' might be the motto of the Starks, but for Game of Thrones viewers I'm sure it would be 'Winter won't go away!' At least we had the new season to feast on whilst cooped up indoors, a slow-burning reintroduction to the show that introduced a couple of new characters and highlighted how the dynamics have changed in the battle to rule the seven kingdoms.
Sam's pathetically slow running from the White Walkers immediately showed the jeopardy the Night's Watch face. Failing to send the ravens to warn those still at the Wall of the massive undead army on the way, Jeor Mormont bitterly declares, "We have to warn them that before winter's done you and everyone you've ever known will be dead".
The rest of the Seven Kingdoms continue to act oblivious to this news, as the Lannister's consolidate their power in King's Landing with an alliance with house Tyrell. This hinges on the mismatched marriage of monstrous boy king Joffrey and cunning queen to be Margaery.
It seems Cersei isn't too keen on Joffrey's future bride, with her affections for the poor and incredible ability to maintain her smile at all times. The queen can barely hide her scorn whilst an incandescent Margaery declares over dinner, "The lowest among us are no different from the highest if you give them a chance and approach them with an open heart".
What's worse for her is Joffrey's increasingly hostile attitude towards his own mother. After spending all of last season battling with her brother Tyrion, Cersei realises she now has a new rival far deadlier than Sansa ever was competing for her son's affections.
Littlefinger, the man who brought this alliance together, also has plans for power. He promises Sansa that now she is no longer betrothed to the king he will find a way for them to leave King's Landing together. But as the man who betrayed her father Ned, can Sansa really trust him? In an unnecessary exchange the two prostitutes Ros and Shae discuss the master of coin's merits, with Ros warning that she should, "Watch out for her with him".
Away from King's Landing, Robb's northern army marches into Harrenhal to find the Stark prisoners have been massacred by the mountain, Gregor Clegane. His relationship with his mother is still strained. Whether you agree that keeping Catelyn as prisoner is fair or not, there's no question that many northmen feel aggrieved that Jaime Lannister was let loose.
The Kingslayer and Brienne, along with Stark children Bran and Arya, even Theon, don't make an appearance in the first episode. With so many narrative strands it would be impossible to fit them all in an hour, but it does mean that the first couple of episodes of the new season will take a while to gather momentum.
We do get to see Daenerys, still detached from those in the Seven Kingdoms as she sails to Slaver's Bay in the hope of recruiting an army of Unsullied. The mercenary warriors seem to have an almost impossible level of willpower, where in one gruesome moment an unsullied solider doesn't even flinch after having his nipple sliced off.
Daenery's survives a warlock assassination attempt after being saved by a mysterious cloaked figure. Revealed to be Ser Barristan Selmy, former Lord Commander of the King's Guard, I'm sure many viewers will be scratching their heads over when they last saw him.
It was in fact the eighth episode of season one, The Pointy End, where a disgraced Selmy storms out of Kings Landing after being relieved of his role by King Joffrey. It shows that every scene in Game of Thrones holds importance in one form or another, and to follow the complex web of characters requires a great deal of attention.
Playing the Game
Jon Snow is taken to meet the king beyond the wall, and makes a blunder by mistaking Tormund Giantsbane as the leader of the wildlings.
When finally speaking to Mance Rayder, his speech on fighting for the right side against the white walkers appears to convince the king to let him join their group. But will the son of Ned Stark truly turn his cloak?
It's a surprise to find Davos Seaworth still alive after escaping the wildfire inferno of Blackwater Bay. He wastes no time in risking his life all over again, rushing to Dragonstone to tell Stannis that Melisandre is the enemy.
Her poisonous words in his ear, telling Davos that his son's incineration was "the purest death", are enough to make him pull out his dagger in rage and see him condemned to his cell, and a likely sacrificial burning as an infidel to their cause.
Tyrion spent most of this episode lying low, fearing for his life with a nasty scar across the face showing why he is right to be on guard. His confrontation with his father Tywin is an excellent exchange.
Tyrion, wounded both physically and psychologically by the events of the Battle of Blackwater, demands recognition for his achievements and reward in the shape of the Lannister's ancestral home.
Tywin makes it clear his true feelings for his son, informing him, "I would let myself be consumed by maggots before mocking the family name and making you heir to Casterly Rock" It seems however much good the former hand will do for his own family, he'll never gain their respect.