'Game of Thrones' season premiere recap: Blood, sex, and dragons

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After a hiatus of nearly a year, "Game of Thrones" made its triumphant return Sunday night.

The characters are still coping with the events of the Red Wedding and one thing is certain: The savage killings of the Starks won’t soon be forgotten. Arya continues riding along with The Hound, bruised, dirty and mentally broken. She wishes for a horse of her own, but also for vengeance. While she may have the opportunity to spill Lannister blood, she’s quick to take any opportunity for violence.

When the duo encounter a bunch of Lannister lackeys, including Polliver -- who captured Arya and stole her sword way back in season two -- it's clear not everyone is going to make it out alive. After a tense scene in which many thinly veiled threats are made, a brutal bar fight ensues.

The Hound leaves nearly all the patrons dead, maimed or crippled except for Polliver. While attempting to regain his composure, Arya comes up from behind and sticks a sword straight through him. She stands over Polliver as he lay dying, reminding him of what he took from her. Reclaiming her sword, affectionately known as "Needle," she finishes him off while he begs for mercy. In the end, Arya rides away with The Hound on her own horse, a smile on her face.

Not surprisingly, the Starks aren’t the only family with a vendetta against the Lannisters. Oberyn Martell (better known to fans of the books as "The Red Viper") arrives at Kings Landing as an uninvited guest to King Joffrey’s upcoming wedding. In classic "Thrones" fashion, he undresses several female prostitutes and invites a male guest to join the group, just in his first scene.

By the time Tyrion is able to track Oberyn down at the brothel, he’s already stabbed a member of the Lannister family in the wrist. Bitter that his niece, nephew and sister were brutally murdered by the least popular family in Westeros, Oberyn might prove to be their most capable foe yet.

Even discounting the lustful, violent wedding guest he was forced to greet, Tyrion still has plenty on his plate. Poor Sansa Stark can’t finish a meal without envisioning the brutal murder of her mother and brother and his attempt to comfort her brings out a jealous side of Shae. Their argument is overheard by a handmaiden, who is quick to tattle to his big sister. While we don’t know what Cersei does with the info just yet, we can assume it’ll be cruel. You see, Cersei’s reunion with her twin brother/lover isn’t as fulfilling as Jaime had once hoped. She thinks months of imprisonment and the loss of his sword hand is nothing compared to what she’s been through, telling him simply "you took too long".

When Jaime isn’t getting turned down for a romp with his sister, his father is telling him just how disappointed that he is, even encouraging him to leave the Kings Guard. Jaime refuses, only to be mocked by his nephew/son King Joffrey, whose callousness seems to get worse with each episode. Still, Jaime offers a glimmer of hope to Kings Landing’s unluckiest resident. He’s reminded of a promise made to Catelyn Stark to set her daughters free, but whether he can really offer Sansa a way out remains to be seen.

Jon Snow has clearly never heard the phrase “don’t ask, don’t tell”. Even though he’s threatened with execution, he confesses all of the vows he broke to the Night’s Watch, including his dalliance with Ygritte. Turns out, vows of celibacy aren’t taken too seriously and they spare his life after he warns them of the army of Wildings assembling to invade Castle Black. It’s a good thing too, since Ygritte is keeping busy by whittling arrows with Jon Snow’s name all over them.

Meanwhile, Daenerys is learning that just because you’re the mother of dragons doesn’t mean you can control them. Bigger and more vicious than we’ve ever seen them before, one nearly takes a bite out of after she makes the mistake of touching him while he feeds. Later, after a flirtatious interaction with Daarios, she sets her sights on conquering the pro-slavery city of Meereen. Considering the size of her army and the new found ferocity of her dragons, it's safe to say anyone who gets in Dany’s way doesn’t stand a chance.

"Game of Thrones" airs Sundays on HBO.