Early in the new season of "Game of Thrones" (8 p.m. Sunday, HBO; 4 stars out of 4), Ser Jorah Mormont tells Daenerys Targaryen that her dragons will never be tamed.
The sprawling HBO hit easily could have been like Dany's beasts—an unwieldy monster. But showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have trained their dragon, turning it into a magnificent creature that consistently soars.
The first three episodes of the epic fantasy's fourth season reach new heights at times, offering enough twists, shocks and action to make us forget last season's mind-blowing Red Wedding. (No Season 4 spoilers ahead, I promise.)
This season, like the previous three, starts out slowly as an army of old and new characters parade across the screen. It's a lot to take in, but Benioff and Weiss are pros at juggling the myriad stories, characters and locations so that viewers don't get completely lost in this vast world thought up by author George R.R. Martin.
As the season begins, many of the characters are reeling from or celebrating the Red Wedding. Even though the wine is flowing as House Lannister prepares for the wedding of evil King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) to Lady Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), danger and death are never far away.
As Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) says, "The king is never safe."
Wildling leader Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds) has gathered a huge army and plans to tear through Jon Snow (Kit Harington), the Wall and Westeros itself. Dornish Prince Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal), known as the Red Viper, has arrived in King’s Landing for the wedding—and a bit of revenge against Lord Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance). Would-be king Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and his Red Witch Melisandre (Carice van Houten) are itching to avenge their defeat at Blackwater Bay. To the west, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) has three dragons and an army of thousands executing her every command.
Nope, the war definitely isn't over—and no one in Westeros is safe.
With so many characters traversing this fully-realized world, it’s difficult to mention them all or to give proper accolades to the uniformly marvelous performances. Two of the more intriguing story lines involve the Stark sisters and prove how the show's writers can move from intricate palace intrigues to clever comedy to stomach-turning violence.
Still married to the imp Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), Sansa (Sophie Turner) is continually reminded of the deaths of her brother Robb and father Ned as she navigates the dangers of the palace. Fiery Arya (Maisie Williams) hilariously challenges her captor, The Hound (Rory McCann), every step of their journey north.
I just dropped a lot of names on you, dear readers, but that's not even half of the folks we’re going to meet before this complex yet consistently excellent series ends after a promised eight seasons.
"Game of Thrones" is densely packed with action, deceit, backstabbing and beheadings, yet somehow Benioff and Weiss keep all these balls—and the dragon that is "Thrones"—flying high.
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