Winter is coming back to HBO. The pay cable network just released a trailer for the highly anticipated second season of Game of Thrones, which will premiere on April 1. (Watch the video below.) The ambitious first season of the award-winning drama, based on George R. R. Martin's bestselling Song of Fire and Ice book series, followed seven noble families in a violent struggle for control of the mythical kingdom of Westeros, complete with incest, beheadings, shocking character deaths, dragons, gruesome violence, steamy sex scenes... and massive ratings for HBO. Now that the "intense" season two trailer has been released, fans and critics of the addictive fantasy drama are dissecting every second of it. Here, four talking points:
1. Peter Dinklage plays a big role
The first season of Game of Thrones was a critical darling, and no one received more accolades than Peter Dinklage, who plays the sharp-tongued "Imp" Tyrion Lannister. Dinklage won both the Emmy and Golden Globe awards for Best Supporting Actor, and his character is quite prominent in the trailer for season two. You can bet, says Ben Moore at Screen Rant, "that he'll play an important part not only in the show, but also in the political world of Westeros." Even in this brief trailer, Dinklage "gives us chills of anticipation," says Michael Arbeiter at Hollywood.
2. Female characters are stepping into the spotlight
"Watch out for the women," says Melanie Jones at the International Business Times. Game of Thrones' fierce female characters are heavily featured in this trailer, hinting that they'll play integral roles in season two. We see Emilia Clarke's Daenerys Targaryen on a crusade to take back the Iron Throne. Arya and Catelyn Stark also get big moments, with Catelyn looking to be on a satisfying vengeful tear, drawing a knife against Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, whose betrayal of her late husband Ned sent him to his death.
3. An intense power struggle looms
The trailer fades in on a world "where the noble Ned Stark is dead," the petulant Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne, two brothers are vying for a crown left by their late brother, "and Rob Stark takes up arms as the King in the North," says Steve West at Cinema Blend. On top of that, there's Daenerys (and her dragons) making a power play, and, most importantly, the preview's kicker line — "a very small man can cast a very large shadow — indicates that Dinklage's Tyrion "is looking ripe for a grab at the throne" as well, says Shante Cosme at Complex.
4. Season two should top the first
Gauging from this preview, it seems that Game of Thrones "is unlikely to stray from the bloody blueprint that worked so well last year," says Andy Greenwald at Grantland. The first season worked because it had a rare "wolf-like focus and a king's confidence in its own fantastical majesty." This is a show, after all, that had the audacity to kill off its main character before the first season even concluded. The trailer's most resonant soundbyte — "Who lives? Who dies?" — indicates that audiences should continue to expect the unexpected. Says West: "Game of Thrones is poised to be even grander than last year." See for yourself: