At long last, winter is back.
"Game of Thrones" returns with its fourth season premiere tonight (April 6), reuniting viewers with all of their favorites from all across the Seven Kingdoms: tyrannical Tywin and his Lannister lions, Jon Snow and his fellow watchers on the wall, Daenerys Targaryen and her dragon-fueled army out in Essos, and so many more.
Having peeped the season premiere a little bit earlier than the rest of you, we feel very confident making the following predictions about your upcoming "Thrones" viewing experience:
1. The reason for the episode title, "Two Swords," will give you Red Wedding whiplash.
One Valyrian sword is cool, so two Valyrian swords must be really cool, right? Wrong. The two "new" Valyrian swords introduced in the season premiere are very uncool when you learn where they came from.
2. Prince Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper of Dorne, will be your new favorite character this season.
Really, no one else will come close. Chilean actor Pedro Pascal brings the Red Viper to life with all of the hot-blooded passion and fury that drew in fans of the books on his first appearance. Chances are good you'll like the Red Viper's paramour, too. She's played by Indira Varma, late of "Rome" and "Luther." If nothing else, you'll really like their first scene together.
3. You won't recognize Daario Noharis.
That's because he's played by a new actor in season four. Gone are the days of Ed Skrein's luscious locks and arrogant attitude. Now, we live in the reign of Michiel Huisman as the Second Sons mercenary, who looks less like Skrein's Daario and more like a distant Lannister relative. It's never fun when films and shows recast their characters, especially on a show as detail-oriented as "Thrones." But given the difficult situation, Huisman does an admirable job stepping into the well-worn role.
4. You won't recognize Arya Stark.
Well, technically, you will. It's still Maisie Williams in the role, and she's still the fierce firecracker she ever was — except with some deeply disturbing Hound-like tendencies. If you still think Arya isn't destined to become a Seven Kingdoms super-villain after watching the premiere, then you and I are watching different shows.
5. You will love this new season.
If "Game of Thrones" reached its peak at the Red Wedding, then we're now in the utter free fall on the other side of the wall. The season premiere is an exciting episode — it's always wonderful to return to Westeros after nearly a year away — but it's nothing compared to the events coming up throughout the rest of the season. Winter is about to arrive in an avalanche of fire and blood. Get ready.
Are you excited for the "Game of Thrones" premiere?