It's been a long time, my old friends. A few recastings, a Belgian maths teacher threatening unruly pupils with spoilers and a lot of marketing later, and here we are. A new season.
In the first episode of Season 4, many of the characters of Westeros are still reeling from what happened in Season 3.
In King's Landing, Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has had a haircut and is getting used to a new sword and shiny gold hand. He tries to convince his family he's still capable of fighting and protecting the king, but votes of confidence are few and far between. Meanwhile Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) is having similar difficulties convincing the elders of Castle Black of the threat that Mance Rayder's (Ciarán Hinds') army poses.
The introduction of Prince Oberyn Martell (Pablo Pascal), aka the Red Viper, is an amusing and sordid affair. He provides some welcome fresh blood, in more ways the one, with an instant on-screen chemistry and hatred of the Lannisters.
Elsewhere, no one feels safe with spies lurking in the shadows, planting seeds for yet more drama to come. But when is anyone ever safe in Game of Thrones? Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) know this all too well, playing the game but with different results.
Elsewhere, Khaleesi's (Emilia Clarke's) dragons are growing and becoming unpredictable, as are the feelings between her and Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman).
With such a vast cast of strong characters, it's hard for an individual to stand out, but in this season premiere it is definitely The Hound (Rory McCann), who claims two of the episode's best quotes in quick succession. Still with Arya (Maisie Williams), 'the only thing of value' that he has left, both go through a major turning point at the episode's climax.
A theme of redemption looks set to run through Season 4, but how long this will last is anyone's guess (unless you've read the books). During a Q & A session after the episode one premier in London's Guildhall, Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth) said "it all kicks off early this season". He's right. Judging by this strong opener, it's obvious fans won't have to wait until episode nine or 10 for the extra blood, brawls and bare chests we've all become addicted to.
A great return for Game of Thrones, Valar Morghulis indeed.
Thanks to NOW TV for inviting us along to the premiere, the new series will air on NOW TV on April 7th, contract free and for just £4.99 a month www.nowtv.com/entertaiment