A new round of medieval mayhem and intrigue is in the offing as HBO's Game of Thrones returns for a third season March 31. In the widely acclaimed and wildly popular epic fantasy series based on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the warring Seven Kingdoms of Westeros will continue to try to tip the balance of power.
It currently resides with the sadistic young king Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) who is counseled by his duplicitous mother, Cersei (Lena Headey), the Queen Regent. But powerful forces are determined to change the status quo as alliances shift, loyalties are betrayed, conspiracies hatch and new enemies arise. The third season will be based on A Storm of Swords, the third novel in the series.
In its first two seasons, the show has received 25 Emmy nominations and won eight.
Fans who want to catch up with all the intertwining story lines and re-familiarize themselves with the vast ensemble cast before the show returns can do so with the lavish Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season (2012, HBO, not rated, $59; Blu-ray, $79). In addition to the 10 episodes, the sets come packed with extras. Among them are a 30-minute documentary on creating the pivotal Battle of Blackwater Bay, an explanation by Martin of the show's various religions, a round-table discussion among Thrones' actors about shooting the season and accompanying audio commentaries for each episode.
An interactive guide to the five would-be kings struggling to control Westeros, animated history lessons, an in-episode guide with an option for pop-up information and hidden dragon eggs that lead to more bonus material are all Blu-ray exclusives.
In season two (based on A Clash of Kings, the second novel in the series), the hated Joffrey sits upon the Iron Throne in King's Landing. He has promoted Tyrion Lannister (Emmy-winning Peter Dinklage), the despised "imp" who is his uncle and Cersei's brother to Hand of the King. Tyrion, who tries to curb Joffrey's cruelty, works to increase his family's power. He faces opposition from revenge-seeking Robb Stark (Richard Madden), who is King of the North.
Meanwhile, Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) rejects his young nephew's claim to the throne and plans a naval attack. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), who makes a deadly desert crossing with her Dothraki people and her trio of baby dragons in search of allies, also has designs on the throne. Finally, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and the men of the Night's Watch travel north of the Wall searching for missing rangers and checking into gatherings of wildings. A confrontation with the feared White Walkers seems inevitable.