(LOS ANGELES) -- Game of Thrones, which shocked viewers last season with the bloodbath known as the Red Wedding, returns to HBO Sunday night for season four, and things don't appear to be looking up in the Seven Kingdoms. After all, the tagline for this season is "All Men Must Die."
As season four begins, all our heroes-- and villains-- are scattered, and many find themselves in complicated circumstances, while others are settling into their newly-acquired power. That's the case with Daenerys, the Mother of Dragons, who ended last season by taking over the city of Yunkai and freeing all its slaves.
Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys, says, "The beginning of season four, you find her in a very self-assured place...ish. The politics seems to be sort of calming down for the time being, but her dragons seem to be getting bigger. So the problems are very mixed at the moment."
Meanwhile, following last season's murder of Robb Stark and his mother at the Red Wedding, the Lannisters are celebrating their victory in King's Landing, and preparing for the wedding of sociopathic teen King Joffrey to Margaery Tyrell. But everything isn't all hunky dory: Queen Cersei's twin brother Jaime, aka "The Kingslayer" -- who is also her lover -- has finally returned to King's Landing after being held captive by the Starks. But she's not as happy to see him as he is to see her.
Lena Headey, who plays Cersei, explains, "Things have changed for her. He's kind of appeared, thinking that it's all going to be as it were. And she had missed him and she needs him, but she's kind of stood alone for a year. And a lot happened, so she's trying to decide what's going to work for her, I guess. She's quite selfish!"
Also at King's Landing is a new and deadly character, Prince Oberyn Martell, known as the Red Viper. Why is he there? Actor Pedro Pascal, who plays Oberyn, explains of his character, "I'm invited to Joffrey's royal wedding. I am a prince from the land of Dorne, which is I would say the punk rock region of Westeros. We do things very, very differently there. We live life a little fuller."
"I have an agenda," he adds."I've got some vengeance in my heart, but I know how to have a good time." If you've read the books on which Game of Thrones is based, you know what's going to happen...but if you haven't, trust us, it's pretty exciting.
Meanwhile, in the North, Jon Snow has returned to the Night's Watch after infiltrating the Wildlings as a spy, and his former lover, Ygritte is pretty upset. In fact, she shot him with an arrow as he was escaping, and Rose Leslie, who plays Ygritte, says the whole experience has changed her. "At the beginning of season four, we find Ygritte a very different creature," she explains. "She is a scorned, wronged woman and so she's no longer the kind of playful, fun character....She's far more restrained and on a ruthless mission."
Since Game of Thrones has a ridiculous amount of characters, that's only a small part of what's happening as season four opens. We haven't even mentioned what's happening with Arya Stark, poor torture victim Theon Greyjoy, pretender-to-the-throne Stannis and his witch mistress Melisandre, and Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark, the world's most unlikely, and most unhappily married, couple.
As for why fans keep returning to a show that's so complex, well, it's not just the nudity. "What they really like about it is the fact that they're not being patronized, they're not being looked down on, they're not being treated like children," says Liam Cunningham, who plays the loyal Ser Davos.
"The passion that goes into it. That's what's so good about this show," adds Finn Jones, who plays secretly gay knight Ser Loras Tyrell. "Everyone that works on this show has incredible passion for what they're creating. And that just transcends. It seeps through the television and hits to the heart of the viewers. And I think that's what makes it such a successful show."
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