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'Game of Thrones' premiere recap: Did the season 3 debut live up to the hype?

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Helen Sloan/HBO

(Read caption) 'Game of Thrones' stars Peter Dinklage.

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Each time Game of Thrones returns, it’s worth noting how the ever-expanding animated map of Westeros illustrates the series’ excursive story – a tale that shows no sign of restricting the number of borders it is willing to cross, or the seas it will traverse in order to regale viewers with the most unrestrained yarn possible.

As season 3 begins, the intro’s eye-in-the-sky zooms in on King’s Landing; does a flyby on the scorched stones of Harrenhal; buzzes a smoking Winterfell; and bounds effortlessly over the sea (offering a glimpse of Astapor, the home of the Unsullied). Through this journey one thing becomes clear: No matter how many Starks wind up with their head on a pike, no matter how many countless warriors become engulfed in wildfire and spend the rest of eternity in the depths of Blackwater, Westeros, the most vital element in Game of Thrones, will carry on. 

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