Game of Thrones Season 2: Expect even more action in Westeros

Season 2 of HBO's award-winning fantasy show Game of Thrones premieres April 1, 2012. Find out how to catch up on Season 1, and what to expect from the new season.

The HBO series Game of Thrones based on George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series returns this Sunday, April 1st 9:00 PM (EDT) to the fabled land of Westeros, home of the Seven Kingdoms of the First Men and the Andals.

If you missed the first season, you can catch up on the 10 hours of content before the premiere of Season 2 by buying or renting the DVD or Blu-ray, streaming video from HBO directly, Amazon, or VUDU, or watching it on-demand from certain cable or satellite providers. If you're short on time, you can get a good 22-minute overview of Season 1 and a teaser for Season 2 on the HBO site. You should also check out Jason Hiner's Game of Thrones post and Season 1 character guide.

Spoiler alert: If you haven't read the books or watched Season 1, the rest of the post does contain spoilers.

What to expect in Season 2

Season 2 is based on the second book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Clash of Kings. When we left off last season, the Starks had reclaimed their ancient kingship of the North, a full-blood Lannister (with a Baratheon name) holds the Iron Throne, and two true Baratheons are vying for the kingship of the realm that they each believe they deserve. Meanwhile, Sansa Stark, who is betrothed to Joffrey Baratheon, is effectively being held captive within the Red Keep, and Arya Stark is being smuggled out.

This season will surely bring more action to the small screen, due to the budgetary increase HBO has given the series (which is, I'm sure, in part to do with the show's Golden Globe and Emmy wins and nominations); besides, you can't have a "clash of kings" without some on-screen clashes. Fans can also to expect to revel in some awesome battle scenes, plumb the depths of Joffrey's exquisitely twisted mind, and meet several new characters, including Stannis Baratheon and Balon Greyjoy.

Stannis is, speaking strictly from a lineage perspective, King Robert's rightful heir. However, he has holed himself up on Dragonstone, an island off the coast of Westeros in the Narrow Sea for the last several years. He has allied himself with a Red Priestess of R'hllor and is building a substantial force with the intention of storming King's Landing and taking the Iron Throne for himself. Meanwhile, Balon and his son Theon, former ward (read: captive) of Ned Stark, are planning an invasion of the north lands -- the lands which Robb Stark is now king over.

Watch this Season 2 preview video:

Dig deeper into Game of Thrones

If you were intrigued by Season 1 and want to dig deeper into the lore of Westeros or are interested in further study of A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, Martin's fantasy novels are your best bet. The TV show doesn't leave a lot out, but there is definitely more to the story than you see on-screen.

There is also a massive list of related books and merchandise that can be found with a quick Amazon search, including Game of Thrones and Philosophy (which is part of the Popular Culture and Philosophy series I've covered before for World of Warcraft and Star Trek), a graphic novel, and even a parody book.

If you want to express that you're a fan of the show, check out the HBO site's collection of Game of Thrones wallpaper.

Do you think Game of Thrones is the best show on TV?

Have you read any of the books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series? If so, did you read the books before the show, or did the HBO series inspire you to read the books? Do you think Game of Thrones is the best show on TV? Join the discussion.