In the real world, winter comes and winter goes. In Westeros, winter is ever-present — and viewers are about to reunite with the bitter cold of "Game of Thrones," as the HBO fantasy series premieres its fourth season on Sunday (April 6).
When last we left the Seven Kingdoms, House Stark was in shambles, with the King in the North betrayed and beheaded by Walder Frey and Roose Bolton. In the aftermath of the Red Wedding, House Lannister appears to be the dominant force in Westeros, with Joffrey on the throne and Uncle Tywin pulling his strings as Hand of the King.
"Tywin is doing what he always does, which is basically maintaining and consolidating his position in this feudal society," Charles Dance told MTV news on the "Game of Thrones" premiere red carpet. "He takes advantage of every single opportunity that comes his way to do just that."
Tywin's daughter Cersei, meanwhile, isn't faring quite as well. Her son, Joffrey, is about to marry Margaery Tyrell, effectively ending whatever power Cersei has left as Queen Regent of Westeros.
"Cersei is very self-serving, if you hadn't noticed," Lena Headey said of her character. "She's trying to figure out what's going to work for her. The royal wedding is coming, and she's not too happy about that."
Equally unhappy is Cersei's betrothed, Loras Tyrell, best known in Westeros as the Knight of Flowers, and perhaps even more so for his secret relationship with the late Renly Baratheon.
"Loras is stuck between a rock and a hard place," Finn Jones, who plays Loras, said. "He has to get married to Cersei, and it's not what he wants to do."
Indeed, even though the Lannisters are in power, it seems that very few characters are actively enjoying their time in the proverbial lion's den — including one of the family's very own: Tyrion Lannister, played by Peter Dinklage, who forges a new friendship in season four with Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper of Dorne, sworn enemy of House Lannister.
"They have a great relationship, Oberyn and Tyrion," Dinklage teased. "Tyrion has a dislike for his own family as well."
Of course, the Lannisters aren't Tyrion's only problem. He's also tied down in a loveless marriage with Sansa, one of the last surviving members of House Stark.
"She's trapped in a marriage that she doesn't want to be in," said Sophie Turner. "The Lannisters are still around and still kind of suffocating her. She's not in a better place at all, especially because her mother and brother are dead."
Sansa isn't the only Stark in peril. Arya is on the run with Sandor "The Hound" Clegane, picking up his deadly habits along the way. Bran Stark continues his trek beyond the Wall in search of the "Three-Eyed Raven" of his dreams. And there are many more in danger throughout Westeros, and even beyond, as Daenerys Targaryen continues her chain-breaking crusade through Slaver's Bay in Essos.
In other words, a whole lot is happening in Westeros — and it all begins on Sunday night's season premiere.
Are you excited for "Game of Thrones" season four?