Rivers of blood, acres of flesh, Cersei and her bottomless goblet of wine – nobody could argue that Game of Thrones hasn't played to its strengths thus far this season. But, in addition to reheating favorite cliches, the new series represents a significant forward step for the swords and sorcery ratings gobbler, with the storyline departing from George RR Martin's source material to an unprecedented degree.
Thus, readers of the books may be surprised to see Sansa and Littlefinger off on an adventure in the north while the premature dispatch of Wildling King Mance Rayder has created a power-vacuum Martin did not have to worry about. Furthermore, series creators David Benioff and DB Weiss are to introduce a raft of new(ish) characters, several likely to play a significant part in the future of the Seven Kingdoms. Here are five newcomers you'll know all about come the end of episode ten.
Religious fundamentalism has seized King's Landing, where scowling acolytes in grey robes are instituting a moral crackdown on this hotbed of licentiousness.
Leading the zealots is Jonathan Pryce's pretend-modest 'High Sparrow', a world class humble-bragger who has inveigled his way into the inner circle of Queen Mother Cersei.
That Cersei is manipulating him for her own ends is clear – but it seems obvious, too, that the Sparrow has a (potentially nefarious) agenda of his own.
Look – it's Dr Bashir from Deep Space Nine. Only he's in Dorne – and he's sad! Older brother to slain Viper Oberyn Mortell and ruler of the munificent desert kingdom in the far south of Westeros, Doran is extravagantly grumpy – but essentially a good egg.
Wheel-chair bound due with a debilitating case of gout, he is determined to take the moral high ground.
Which means putting the brakes on vengeful courtiers eager to extract vengeance against the Lannisters by having their daughter chopped up and shipped to Cersei in a very small box.
The Sand Snakes are a ruthless all-female militia comprising Oberyn's eight illegitimate daughters.
De facto head Obara is the baddest of the bunch, with a throw-spear-first, consider-the-consequences-later approach to life and a penchant for wearing asphyxiating leather armor in the pounding heat of Dorne.
We've checked in with the eldest child of Robert and Cersei (okay, okay – Jaime and Cersei) previously.
But, with Myrcella to take on a larger role this year, the character has been re-cast. Tyrion packed her off to Dorne for an arranged marriage in season two – Dornish anger towards the Lannisters means her life is now in very real danger.
Which is why daddy-uncle Jaime is en route to rescue her, with the aid of buddy-movie second banana Bronn.
This morbidly obese slaver is a major character in the books. He is a Wise Master of Yunkai, one of those pesky Slaver's Bay cities the Mother of Dragons hasn't quite crushed under her boot-heel.
We suspect he will feature in the unfolding drama regarding Daenerys and the fighting pits (pssst..just open them Dany and save yourself a world of grief).