HBO debuted its new series Game of Thrones Sunday night and introduced TV audiences to Westeros, the complex and sprawling world created by A Song of Ice and Fire writer George R.R. Martin.
The first episode, "Winter Is Coming," introduces the various families who will struggle for the power of the iron throne: The Starks of Winterfell, King Robert Baratheon and Queen Cersei, her scheming brothers the Lannisters and the banished blonde Targaryens.
Ned Stark has been named the King's Hand, a job that requires him to "run my kingdom while I eat, drink, and whore my way to an early grave," Robert tells him. Such activities will take Ned away from his home, which lies between the seven kingdoms of Westeros and the untamed, spooky winter wastelands to the north.
Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, Viserys Targaryen hopes to reclaim the throne by marrying his sister Daenerys off to the nomadic tribal leader Khal Drogo. The alliance, he hopes, will allow him to have an army large enough to rival the king's.
We also learn that Queen Cersei Baratheon and her twin brother, Ser Jaime Lannister, have a very inappropriate relationship, which Stark's young son Bran discovers. In order to keep their secret, Lannister pushes the boy out a window and the incident sets in motion one of the show's major plotlines.
If it all sounds confusing, it is! Game of Thrones is not easy to follow at first but keeping up with the characters, the dialogue and the twists and turns is half the fun.
There are 10 episodes – nine more to go – in the show's first season but potentially much more if HBO will want to continue to tell the epic story contained in Martin's series of fantasy books.