If you believe the show's producers, the first two seasons of Game of Thrones - an awesome smorgasbord of palace intrigue, bloody battles, sorcery, back-stabbers and random acts of butchery - were mere appetisers for the feast we'll gorge upon this third season.
"This is always the one we've been anticipating and waiting for, and dreading, because so many horrible things happen to so many good people," says the executive producer David Benioff. "When we first pitched this show to HBO, before we even knew if there would be a show, we thought: 'If we could only make it to season three, then we'll have an audience forever' - because so many of our favourite events from the books take place in this season."
Expect tremendous reversals of fortune, adds his partner, the executive producer D B Weiss: "This is the rise-and-fall season because there are so many characters who come into the season with power of some kind only to lose everything - and other characters who enter with almost nothing and achieve great power. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, and horrified, in equal measure."
After reading the entrails tossed out to the media by HBO, one can safely divine that the overarching theme will be family and loyalty; many critical plot points from the first two seasons will come to a violent head. Cruel fates await several major characters; this drama isn't afraid to put the heads of its darlings on a pike pole.
"The show keeps expanding and breathing more deeply," says the Emmy-winning Peter Dinklage, a fan favourite as the cunning dwarf Tyrion Lannister, who now sports scars after taking a blade to the face in battle. "You know, we kill a lot of characters - but for every character we kill, we add two more."
"Everyone is mine to torment," declares Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson), the cruel boy-king idiot who, perhaps, has the biggest target painted on his scrawny worthless backside. His perch atop the Iron Throne and status as the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros couldn't be more tentative as the kingdom's noble families close in on him.
Despite its balmy seaside charms, even a halfwit Lannister would be wise to flee King's Landing before hordes of broadswords, fire-breathing dragons and icy-blue-eyed White Walkers ultimately arrive with their army of walking-dead Wights.
Let's face facts: The Lannisters clung to power by their fingernails after the savage naval onslaught of Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), the brother of the late king - and new stirrings in the North threaten to savagely tilt the overall balance of power in Westeros.
Meanwhile, major calamity lies ahead for Robb Stark, King of the North, in his efforts to build on his victories. Even further north, Mance Rayder (a new character, played by Ciaran Hinds) and his army of wildlings are marching inexorably south to scale the Wall with Ned Stark's illegitimate son, the infiltrator Jon Snow (Kit Harington), in tow.
Across the Narrow Sea, a hardened, steely Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) - the mother of three deadly, fast-growing dragons - is out to raise a merciless eunuch army to sail with her from Essos in hopes of handing King Joffrey his noggin and reclaim her birthright on the Iron Throne.
The author George RR Martin, whose fantasy-novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire, inspired the TV show, says Benioff and Weiss "are doing a terrific job with the show and the show is their baby and the books are my baby … so, I'm gonna keep writing the books and keep ahead of these guys before they catch up with me".
Game of Thrones returns tonight at 11pm on OSN First HD
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