Winter is here! Winter is here! Thank the Seven, winter is here! At long last, "Game of Thrones" has returned for its second season, bringing us our first new trip to Westeros since last year's dragon-birthing finale "Fire and Blood." Tonight, we kick things off with "The North Remembers," an aptly titled episode filled with Stark vengeance, Lannister cruelty and Baratheon plotting. In short: it's everything you know and love about the HBO fantasy series, just with a lot less Ned Stark. (Rest in peace, Lord of Winterfell.)
Our live-blog of the season premiere starts right now, so join in and follow along while we watch winter and war sweep over Westeros!
9:58 PM: And that's a wrap! Hope you guys enjoyed returning to Westeros as much as I did. Check back in a few hours for the first of our new "Game of Thrones" weekly video recaps, and for now, let me know what you thought of the episode in the comments or on Twitter!
9:56 PM: Who's that "boy" at the center of the first "Thrones" season two cliffhanger? Looks mighty familiar...
9:54 PM: Bastards can't catch a break, can they? In seriousness, this scene is easily the most disturbing thing I've ever seen on "Thrones." And trust me, having seen the next three episodes, it only gets worse over the coming weeks...
9:52 PM: O hai gratuitous "Game of Thrones" sex scene! How we missed you!
9:51 PM: Jack Gleeson, good on you for being bold enough to play Joffrey with all of the whiney, bratty, little bitchiness that the character fully deserves. Said it before and I'll say it again: Joffrey is even more wicked on the show than he is in the books, which is quite the accomplishment.
9:46 PM: And there goes Theon Greyjoy, at the very beginning of the first of many, many, many bad ideas to come. Alfie Allen is going to have a lot of fun sinking his teeth into the "Ironborn" Theon throughout season two. Non-readers might be surprised to hear this, but Theon is, in my opinion, a clear-cut top ten character. Keep watching.
9:43 PM: A lot of the people I know who've seen this episode already didn't enjoy this scene between Cersei and Littlefinger. Honestly, I'm a fan of it, if only to see Lena Headey and Aidan Gillen participating in the most unexpected "Sarah Connor" and "The Wire" crossover of all time.
9:38 PM: Robb Stark and Jaime Lannister, both characters who mostly sit out of book two, are being given much bigger roles for the show's second season. It's a good thing, too — Richard Madden and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau are fantastic in the roles. Plus, more direwolf action!
9:36 PM: In the books, Maester Cressen's arc plays out differently. You feel awful for him — he's publicly embarrassed, Melisandre takes the first sip to give Cressen a fleeting moment of feeling victorious... on the show, he just comes out looking like a chump. No big loss in this guy's death. My only real knock against the episode, I'd say.
9:33 PM: Grievances aside, there's no knocking Carice van Houten as Melisandre. She's perfect for the role of the red priestess of Asshai. Same goes for Liam Cunningham as Davos, who is making an otherwise dry character (in my humble opinion) into someone a lot more lively.
9:30 PM: Welcome to Dragonstone, dear readers. I love this storyline in the novels, but yet to be convinced on the show. Not a fan of how they restructured the prologue chapter from "Clash." Curious to see what you guys think of it all.
9:27 PM: Did somebody say Mance Rayder? The King Beyond the Wall is one of my very favorite characters in the entire series. Don't think we'll see him this season, though I could be wrong. Whenever he shows up, though, this is the guy I want to play him.
9:25 PM: Meanwhile, north of the Wall, incest is just as popular as it is down south. Craster's a mean, nasty mother-effer. Perfectly cast, perfectly adapted. You really want to see an axe buried in this guy's face, don't you?
9:22 PM: Love that final shot of Dany's blood-riders heading out in all different directions. Things are going to be pretty bleak for Dany this year — to start, at least. Hope those dragons help to pass the time...
9:20 PM: Speaking of going for it, hello comet! And hello dragons! Computer generated and looking great. Baby Drogon is absolutely adorable. (Dany's poor dead white horse, on the other hand? Not as adorable.)
9:17 PM: Rumor has it that there won't be any Jojen or Meera this season. I'm okay with that, as long as they show up eventually — but Natalia Tena as Osha is pretty darn fantastic, so getting more of her is certainly not a bad thing.
9:16 PM: Bran Stark, bored and broken in Winterfell. But hey, wolf dreams! They're really going for it!
9:14 PM: Expect a lot of Dinklage / Lena Headey action this season. The two of them are fantastic together; this scene's just the tip of the iceberg.
9:13 PM: The long summer is over, says Pycelle. As Ned warned, winter truly is coming now, and these fools are going to need a miracle if they're to be ready for the coming snowfall — a miracle named Tyrion, perhaps!
9:10 PM: Bring in the Imp! Peter Dinklage, first billing this season, making his grand return in the season's very first scene. Great choice on D.B. Weiss and David Benioff's part. "Death is so boring" indeed.
9:09 PM: Ser Dontos! A great character from the books. This poor drunk has no idea who he's speaking to in Joffrey — who, by the way, is going to be even worse on the show than he is in the books, if you can believe it.
9:07 PM: Right off the bat, a big change from "Clash of Kings." Instead of starting with the Maester Cressen on Dragonstone storyline, we're brought immediately back to King's Landing. Not that anyone's complaining — any episode that begins with a knight getting knocked down to his bloody doom is pretty A-OK in my book.
9:05 PM: Love these opening credits. The "Game of Thrones" Blu-ray has a feature on creating the show open really makes you appreciate how much detail went into building this thing. Bonus points for the first appearance of Dragonstone! Certainly not the last new location we'll see this season.
9:02 PM: Shh! It's starting!
8:57 PM: Three minutes until game time. Last chance to catch yourself up on "Thrones" madness with this week's Talk Nerdy!
8:54 PM: But really, all of these books are in the A-range. "Feast," the one I rank last, gets an A- from me. If that's how fifth place finishes up, that's a pretty damn good track record. (In other words, those of you falling in love with the show with each passing episode, please read the novels — they are the greatest.)
8:51 PM: My power-rankings of the five "Ice and Fire" novels, by the by: "Storm of Swords," "Game of Thrones," "Clash of Kings," "Dance with Dragons" and "Feast for Crows." Book one beats out book two only because it's the original gangster on the street — it's the one that hooked us all. Gotta give props to the master. (Also, nothing tops book three, especially the last half. Ho-lee-spit.)
8:48 PM: We've got some time to kill before the premiere starts, so let's talk books. I love "A Clash of Kings," the novel that season two is (mostly) taking its cues from. It's your first really good look at the greater shape of the "Ice and Fire" tale: no Ned, lots of Tyrion, and (if you can believe it) even more sex, gore and war. Big emphasis on the war.
8:45 PM: Hello there! I'm Josh Wigler, and I'm a Thrones-aholic. I'm assuming you are too if you're joining me here. That's good — this is a safe place for "Ice and Fire" obsessors. Now grab a goblet of Dornish red and let's get down to it!
What did you think of "Game of Thrones" tonight? Let us know in the comments section or on Twitter!