Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.
We've moved! Come join us at our new show page.
"When you play the game of thrones, you either win, or you die," Cersei Lannister says to Eddard Stark in the HBO series "Game of Thrones."
Truer words were never spoken about a television show, and if you haven't seen it yet, prepare to accept your fate. The team behind "Game of Thrones" has brought more than severed heads to HBO, their series also delivered nearly 4 million pairs of eyes an episode last season.
When it comes to the sprawling, intricately plotted series about the struggle for the fantasy Kingdom of Westeros - no one is safe. So what can fans expect this season?
"This is a big season of reversals and high drama and big dragons, bigger dragons," says co-creator David Benioff.
The hit show is back for season three - with its flow-chart worthy cast of characters - the Starks, the Lannisters, the Targaryens - all of them jockeying for the Iron Throne.
For the uninitiated, "Game of Thrones" is one of the most critically acclaimed and most expensive shows on television - exploring a medieval alternate universe where there is some magic and some make believe. But the show is not about the magic, it's about power.
"We always come back to power," says Benioff. "I mean, it's about people who have power desperately trying to cling to it, people who don't have power trying to grab it, and those on the fringes of it, who are powerless, who are the - kind of the innocent bystanders who get caught up in the melee."
Along with power, there is also a lot of sex on the show. So much, that certain CNN reporters have had to cover up their laptops, or warn people nearby that they are not, in fact, watching a dirty movie on their iPad.
"I've had the same experience, where I'm watching an episode that hasn't been released yet for editing on an airplane and realizing that it's a pretty graphic scene. And I find myself kind of hunching over the laptop, so that no one sitting near me can see," says Benioff.
"The books are quite sexual and graphic. And, in fact, if we included everything from the books, [Daniel Weiss] and I would be thrown in prison," says Benioff.
The show is based on the hugely popular series of novels by George R. R. Martin - five published so far, probably two more to go. Martin is still typing away, and has expressed concern that the series might overtake his writing pace.
"We're hoping that, you know, that George will get there in time, because it's what's best for all of us, obviously," says Benioff.
"We spent a week with him a few weeks ago in Santa Fe, talking about how the series ends ... having these long wonderful conversations about where all the characters are going, because we want to know, even though some of the stuff won't happen for years to come, it's really important for us to know the direction of the story," says Benioff.
The award-winning show is also the winner of one dubious distinction.
"We were the most illegally downloaded show in the world. And one episode was illegally downloaded 4.8 million times," says Benioff.
"If we could just get 99 cents from each of those 4.8 million people, how many more, you know, all the scenes that we wanted to have in season 3 that we couldn't have ... that extra scene with the dragons. Or we could have had one more - that big battle scene that we wanted, that we couldn't get, we probably could have afforded," says Benioff.
With its ever-expanding cast of 27 regulars, there's not always a clear-cut choice of whom to root for in Game of Thrones, though Benioff says he has a clear idea of who to root against.
Th most evil character on the is "Joffrey," says Benioff, without question.
"We actually worry about - we worry about [actor Jack Gleeson] walking into a bar somewhere, and some drunk guy, who watches the show and hates Joffrey, like, takes a swing at him for no reason," says Benioff.
The secrets begin to unfurl once again Sunday night, with some of the most shocking moments yet to come. And even Benioff's biggest fan, his wife, actress Amanda Peet, has learned the hard way - don't get too attached to anyone.
"She'll look over and she'll see a character get killed. And she didn't know that character was going to get killed. And she loses her mind," says Benioff.
Notify me of new comments via email.
The Lead with Jake Tapper draws not only on Tapper’s deep knowledge of politics and national issues, but also seeks to examine and advance stories across a wide range of topics that demonstrate his own curiosities and interests. Compelling headlines come from around the country and the globe, from politics to money, sports to popular culture, based on news drivers of the day.
The Lead with Jake Tapper airs weekdays at 4 p.m. ET.
Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.
Join 134 other followers