“Game of Thrones” remains one of the best shows on television — and certainly the most massive. There is literally a cast of thousands, a dizzying array of concurrent storylines and multiple settings, all of which are part of an imaginary world dreamed up by author George R.R. Martin.
And, as Season 3 begins (Sunday, 10 p.m., HBO), it will once again require a bit of patience.
Season 2 ended with the stunning sight of an army of undead White Walkers advancing toward the Wall that protects Westeros — the mythical, medieval, magical land that various noble families are battling to control. The feeling was — Whoa! Something really big is about to happen!
Yeah, well, not so much. Season 3 starts out as a relatively slow build.
And that, according to executive producer David Benioff, is because viewers are smarter than the trained bear that appears on the show.
“We don’t think we need to constantly be chucking Oreos into [viewers’] mouths right from the outset,” he said. “We have faith in the intelligence of the people watching that they understand if they’ve made it to Season 3, they know what kind of show this is. It’s kind of like the roller coaster clack, clack, clacking up that hill. And it’s taking some time to get up that hill for a reason.”
There are some payoffs in the first three episodes. And something really big happens in Episode 4, which I won’t spoil here.
But this remains a series that’s impenetrable for newcomers. If you haven’t watched Season 1 and Season 2, you’ll be completely lost. Which the producers acknowledge.
“We and HBO are doing everything we can to invite more people in and turn more people on to the show,” said executive producer Dan Weiss. “But in terms of diving into the show midstream, it’s just not that kind of show.
“It’s a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. And it really is about starting to experience it from the beginning.”
Only it’s not a show with an end. Yet. “Game of Thrones” is based on Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice novels, and two of the seven aren’t completed.
Seasons 3 and 4 of the TV show will be drawn from the third book, but fans have long worried that the show will catch up to the books.
“My guess is we spend more time worrying about it than the fans,” Weiss said, “because it directly affects our careers. It’s been an issue since we started.”
The producers spent a week with Martin in February talking about “where the saga is going,” which they found “incredibly useful.”
“We feel well prepared,” Weiss said. “But there’s no question it will be better for all of us if the books come out before the various seasons.”
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.