Don't the little ones grow up fast? It won't be long before Daenerys Targaryen's sweet young dragons will be melting the metal from a sellsword's helmet, or clawing his terrified face off with their talons. Game of Thrones (Mondays, 8.30pm, SoHo) is back for a third season, and with those fire-breathing creatures of the old world comes another round of power-lust, blood-lust and good old-fashioned lust-lust.
In the first episode, the White Walkers began their zombie apocalypse, a man's nipple was carved off without him flinching, and a knight hopped into bed with a whore. Business as usual then, in Westeros. (Although why the Walkers spared the quivering Samwell from death is hard to say. He'd keep them going for weeks.) Things got off to a slower start than fans have become accustomed to, particularly given the chaos of last season's final two episodes, when the Lannisters successfully defended King's Landing from Stannis Baratheon's men with a deathly fireworks display of exploding green poison.
But when you're dealing with more characters and storylines than Coronation Street, that's to be expected. Much of the season three opener dealt with the fallout of the battle at Blackwater Bay and the assassination of Renly. The defeated Stannis moaned to his righteous red witch, the newly wed Robb Stark went on the warpath and Renly's widow Margaery forged a powerful alliance with the Lannisters. The balance of power has already tipped in unpredictable ways. Robb imprisoned his mother, Catelyn, for releasing Jaime "Kingslayer" Lannister.
Jon Snow, who you might have once called the good bastard of the Night's Watch, has infiltrated the Wildlings' camp and met new character Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall (Ciaran Hinds). Even the cruel King Joffrey was shown in a softer light as Margaery leapt into the excrement of a Flea Bottom street to converse with orphans. Her good deeds are more likely to be self-serving though, as she manipulates her way to the crown.
The episode's best scene saw Tyrion Lannister unfairly dumped as hand to the King, have a run-in with his dear old dad. "You are an ill-made, spiteful little creature, full of envy, lust, and low cunning," said Tywin to his son, who looked more hurt than when his faced was sliced open in battle. I wouldn't be surprised if Tyrion lost faith in his back-stabbing clan altogether and defected to another camp with his girlfriend, Shae, or took Casterly Rock of his own accord. But then, I haven't read the books.
In another memorable exchange, Daenerys went shopping for soldiers and communicated with the nasty foreign leader of a slave army through a much kinder translator. "My master points out that men don't need nipples," the translator said, as her master demonstrated his men's resistance to pain.
Meanwhile, the writers have been priming us for two seasons to accept the show's supernatural elements: the half-dead, shapeshifters, smoke monsters, dragons, prophets or priestesses - all of which look set to weave their magic this season. Mostly, though, we're back to the mind games as the warring factions try to outsmart one another for the Iron Throne.
With so much going on it's no wonder we've yet to see what's happened to Arya and her creepy protector, and it remains to be seen whether poor Sansa will escape King's Landing with Lord Baelish's help. But the multitude of back stories have been told. The characters are finally entrenched. The luxury of making it this far is it's now possible to sit back and watch the damn show without consulting a family tree.