Since its premiere in 2011, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” has become one of TV’s richest, most celebrated, and most unlikely hits. The brutal, political, intimate, and visually absorbing epic has managed to succeed equally with lovers of the lengthy novels by George R.R. Martin, with new initiates, and with fantasy-phobic viewers like me, who never imagined themselves falling madly in love with any saga containing fire-breathing dragons and dark priestesses who give birth to smoke-monster assassins.
That’s quite an accomplishment for a TV series, to simultaneously meet the picky standards of diehards, clearly introduce a labyrinthine universe to newcomers, and seduce those who generally run screaming from the fantasy genre. And based on the first four episodes of season 3, the show will only continue to win loyalty from all quarters of its audience. “Game of Thrones” returns on Sunday at 9 in excellent form, ready to deliver the first half or so of Martin’s “A Storm of Swords” with deepening story lines, transporting images of cold blue landscapes, and, if you listen closely to Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, wry vaudevillian shtick.