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Grace Dent on TV: Game of Thrones

Take it from me, there's much more to Game of Thrones than gnomes bumming

"Oh Christ, not a Game of Thrones-season-3-is-here column", some of you might be saying, immediately ripping out this article and using it to mop up cat leakage. But I make no apologies for lavishing this week's outpouring on the jewel of my TV heart. Crivvens, I suffer enough piffle from you shower about Breaking Bad and Mad Men. We Brits watch TV in a peculiarly intense and habit-forming manner these days. Due to our being fed regular dollops of likeable idiocy – Ant'n'Dec or The Big Reunion for example – it follows that solid-gold nuggets of HBO or FX big-budget TV bliss make us quite frothy-mouthed and cult-like. If you tell someone you don't enjoy Mad Men they look at you with an expression I generally reserve for a ripe wheelie bin then calmy instruct you to "try again, but harder".

During season 1 of Game of Thrones, the esteemed Caitlin Moran referred to the show as "that one with the gnomes bumming", mistaking it for some sort of Hobbit spin-off full of gratuitous rutting. After she'd left my house and located her coat and handbag in a nearby hedge, she was prepared to re-evaluate this slur. (Incidentally, if you're planning to write long anti-Americanisation letters whining about my use of the term "season" as opposed to "series" please put them on good-quality Basildon Bond notepaper as I find the lovely "HDDD" sound it makes in the paper-shredder most invigorating.) Things change in TV land. No matter how long one sits outside BBC Television Centre weeping for a new series of Ever Decreasing Circles, it's not going to happen. And Game of Thrones is a wonderful reminder of this.

Who predicted HBO's big success story would be a mega-budget fantasy medieval show featuring Charles Dance, that short bloke out of The Station Agent and several ex-members Hollyoaks? So, in the opening episode of season 3, what did we learn? We began precisely where we'd been abandoned last year, with useless Night's Watch recruit Samwell Tarly beyond the wall being pursued by a White Walker. It was just the one White Walker, singular, although last season's closing scene showed us throngs of the undead, who en masse resembled a coach-load of cheap Ozzy Osbourne lookalikes, the cast of the 1983 Michael Jackson "Thriller" video, some survivors from a coach crash on Casualty, him from The Goonies, and what a lot of Ketamine users look like when the harsh lights go on in nightclubs at 3am. They weren't a pleasant sight. I rather like rotund virgin Samwell as he gives a teen horror-movie tinge to every scene. By rights, he should die first, but yet again he was saved. Jeor Mormont – Lord Commander of the Night's Watch and Superhard Bastard – gave a neat motivational talk to the crows about the importance of getting back to The Wall alive. "We have to warn them", he said "Or before winter is done you and everyone you've ever known will be dead". We also caught up with Jon Snow, who I'm thrilled to say has betrayed his oath to the Night's Watch and joined the Wildling troops, led by terrifying but oddly sexy Tormund Giantsbane who we first met dining on a partially toasted decaying crow on a stick, clad in 19 layers of animal pelt with a beard full of feathers and icicles, yet still resembling someone off the cover of Arena Homme+. (Incidentally, "partially toasted decaying crow on a stick" is exactly the sort of dish one gets served in pop-up restaurants in east London that food bloggers rave about.)

Jon Snow's change of heart about his oath came, coincidentally, after a night with his erection pressed in the back of his female hostage Ygritte. These "free people" don't hold with kneeling, genuflecting and arse-kissing which is a positive boon as by god do the people of Westeros love a bit of etiquette. Meanwhile, Khaleesi (milky skin, constant whining, owns dragon), has convinced some Dothraki to get on boats and purchased a slave army of men so hard they can have their nipples cut off with a rusty knife with nary a flinch. I still doubt if a single one of them could cope with a menstrual cycle without three days in bed and a doctor's note, but they look the part. Khaleesi narrowly avoided being killed by a blue-tongued child assassin thanks to the arrival of heroic former Commander of the Kingsguard, Barristan Selmy. Or "Commander Cock-block" as Jorah probably calls him, if Jorah's expression was anything to go by. It's never going to happen Jorah. So there you go, not just gnomes bumming. It's much more than that. Him out of Robson and Jerome gets a lot of sex too.