Heads Up: Game of Thrones

Bring on the swords, sex, saucy language ... oh, and dragons

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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about? The biggest, best-loved fantasy TV series of recent years – based on George R R Martin's much obsessed over novels – is back, for Season 3.

Elevator pitch The game is on, the dragons are back, the viewing figures should be higher than ever ….

Prime movers It was created by D B Weiss and David Benioff (Troy, X-Men Origins), who write and produce; author Martin also has a writing credit.

The stars There are returning favourites: Emilia Clarke as dragon-training Daenerys Targaryen, Kit Harrington as Jon Snow (not that one) battling in the frozen north, Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister still scheming away. There are also big-name recruits including Ciarán Hinds, Mackenzie Crook and Diana Rigg.

The early buzz Deafening. Great chunks of the internet are literally counting down the days. Entertainment Weekly has written: "You may think you know how brutal HBO's beautiful dark twisted fantasy Game of Thrones can get, but to paraphrase Wildling temptress Ygritte: 'You know nothing about Season 3' …. It includes some of the most rousing jump-off-the-couch moments of triumph in the saga's five-books-and-counting history — as well as its most bloody casualties. In geek terms: It's The Empire Strikes Back of the Thrones-verse." GQ suggests that "given George R R Martin's tendency towards grisly plot twists – and the TV series' recent habit of breaking from the books – even diehard fans should expect the unexpected." Empire described itself as "stupidly excited to see what level of bloody chaos the Seven Kingdoms' internecine scrapping leads to next, or what the Khaleesi's dragons set fire to".

Insider knowledge The series returns in a strong position: the DVD sales for Season 2 have turned out to be the highest grossing ever for HBO.

It's great that … the first episode airs in the UK a mere one day after it premieres in the US.

It's a shame that … for those that haven't already become immersed in the world – or who have forgotten the plot of last season in the intervening 10 months – it can all seem dauntingly complex and involved.

Hit potential You need to ask? Whether or not it lives up to fans' expectations, you can guarantee plenty of them will tune in – or buy the box set – to find out.

The details Game of Thrones Season 3 begins on Sky Atlantic on 1 April.