Viewers may have cheered a trip back to Westeros on the Game of Thrones Season 3 premiere, but the returning favorites we caught up with on "Valar Dohaeris" were stuck on a very different kind of trip tonight:
Indeed, the fallout from the events of last season - the battle at Blackwater, the freeing of Jaime Lannister by Catelyn Stark, the killing of Qhorin by Jon Snow - weighed heavily on all involved, both emotionally and, as evidenced in the photo below, physically.
How will these figurative and literal wounds play into upcoming decisions, actions and events? We have a ways to go before we find out. But a few hints were dropped on the premiere and, with such a loaded cast, it's easiest to run them down character-by character...
TYRION: The most beloved, the most layered and, of course, the most scarred. He saved King's Landing in the incredible "Blackwater" and his reward is a disfigured face, tiny quarters, relegation to irrelevance and a father who is cursed to "watch him waddle" forever.
Yeah. That chat with Tywin had to sting a little.
Imbuing this unexpected hero with every ounce of pain and sarcasm Peter Dinklage was at the top of his game as usual. But will Tyrion ever have the chance to return to the top of his, given the state of those around him?
He told Shae last season that he didn't want to make a run for it because he liked playing the games of Westeros. He liked out-manipulating Varys, out-thinking his sister, out-leading Joffrey. What Tyrion lacks in brawn he more than makes up for with brains - and he knows it. And he takes pride in it. And in one brief conversation his father stomped all over it, making Tyrion feel smaller than any dwarf joke ever could.
His mother died giving birth to him, it's the ultimate guilt trip that Tywin tosses at his son any chance he gets. It's the only way anyone has found so far to shut Tyrion up.
Easily the most enjoyable of all Game of Thrones characters, Tyrion is now faced with a journey back to importance, which ought to make for a fascinating watch, largely because he's so intertwined with King's Landing itself. Unlike...
DAYNERYS: Game of Thrones Season 2 was a lost run of episodes for this Mother of Dragons. She lost her children, she craved a ship, she fought off some magic and she ended up back where she started: with her dragons, on her way to King's Landing.
But at least she made some real progress in that venture this week, coming across a group of slaves and standing along with the audience for the most gruesome GoT scene to date: nipple, meet knife.
What will I be if I own an army of slaves, Daenerys wondered, preempting a potential guilt trip and proving that there still is a soft side to this hardened widow warrior. But now she has multiple loyal men fighting alongside her, willing to kill bugs and destroy all that stand in her path to the throne.
Daenerys has always felt especially far removed from the main action, but her storyline on the premiere offers hope that her wandering days are over. It's full throttle now to the seat on which she rightfully belongs. Unlike...
JON SNOW: Even farther removed that Khaleesi from the backstabbings and actual stabbings around King's Landing Jon Snow came face-to-face with Mance Rayder. An overbearing and frightening Mance Rayder, worthy of all the hype and fear that surrounds his name back at The Wall?
Not really, not upon first meeting. Ciaran Hinds played the character as more pragmatic than anything, attempting to understand Jon Snow more than intimidate him. Why does this young man wish to switch teams? Because he wants to "fight for the side that fights for the living."
It's meant to be a lie couched in some truth from that one baby-stealing incident... but it's safe to assume there's more validity in that statement than Jon Snow cares to admit. Might he be feeling guilty about associating with anyone who would allow such a scenario to have taken place? Will his undercover mission cause him to question his loyalty? To consider himself more of a Wildling than a Wall Watcher? That's the main question viewers should be asking themselves.
JOFFREY: I should really title this section Margaery, huh? Ms. Tyrell made the quite the impression on her betrothed, daring to - GASP! - not just interact with the townspeople, but to help them, to learn more about them, to offer them her assistance.
Is Margaery truly this magnanimous? Does she truly wish to rule because she yearns to empower the peons? Or, in a far more likely set-up, is she simply a politically savvy future Queen who comprehends the pros of cozying up to those beneath her, as opposed to cowering like a certain boy King?
It's also worth noting Cersei's quip about Joffrey's "bravery," or lackthereof. There are major chinks in this family armor, something Margaery is sure to notice and play to her advantage.
Elsewhere, Sansa yearns to escape; Davos is headed to the dungeons; and Robb Stark is still angry at his mother, while lamenting the lack of any real battles between his men and the King's army.
However,, as is so often the case on such a dense series, these storylines were merely touched upon. Game of Thrones is so epic in scope that many times we just spend a moment or two with certain characters, bouncing around the Seven Kingdoms and never feeling especially entrenched in various storylines.
But "Blackwater" proved how it's all worth the wait, that there's a payoff at the end and producers understand sometimes you need to focus entirely on the fight for the throne itself. The bloody, no holds-barred, who-will-possibly-die-next battle for the throne, that is. So let's all celebrate that the path there is no longer coming, it has returned.
NOTE: TV Fanatic will be reviewing Game of Thrones as a television show. We ask those who have read the books to please refrain from spoiling anything for viewers. Thank you - and comment away!