After Season 3’s Red Wedding laid waste to most of the Stark clan, paving the way for the Lannisters to maintain their viselike grip on Westeros, fans are equally eager and afraid to see what’s in store for their favorite characters. George R.R. Martin’s fearlessness when it comes to killing beloved characters makes the show irresistible entertainment, as much because of the outrage it produces as the surprises it offers.

With Game of Thrones Season 4 set to premiere Sunday, April 6, we’ve dug through recent interviews, clips and news items about the show to collect a handful of the juiciest tidbits to help fans prepare themselves for what will undoubtedly be a tumultuous collection of storylines.

1. Season 4 is the biggest yet – and the most expensive.

In an interview with the New York Daily News, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss revealed that adapting Martin’s material was more costly than ever before, thanks to some incredible, effects-laden sequences.

“There’s a scene in the final episode that definitely represents the highest dollars-per-second cost we’ve had so far,” they said. “And then there’s a battle — not a single scene, not the greatest number of actual bodies on the ground, but definitely the most challenging in general, production-wise.”

2. Just because Daenerys Targaryan has two dragons at her disposal doesn’t mean that she has them completely under control.

According to Emilia Clarke, who plays the would-be conquerer of Westeros, her ace-in-the-hole, the three dragons she’s been raising since the beginning of the series, are reaching an age when her control of them isn’t quite as effortless as it used to be.

“They’re getting bigger and it’s simple logistics,” she told Hollywood Life. “They’re harder to maintain… they’re harder to keep fed. They’re like rowdy teenagers — that’s the best way to describe them. They have a mind of their own and they breathe fire, so [Daenerys must] kind of fire-proof the world.”

3. If there were characters you’ve rooted for in past seasons, you may find yourself rooting against them now.

Season 4 promises all sorts of new developments for these characters as Westeros continues to descend into war. But Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow, told Zap2It that characters you might have looked at as heroes may perform some decidedly un-heroic feats in upcoming episodes.

“I think all of your heroes in Game of Thrones start [going dark], and that’s what’s really fascinating about it,” Harington said. “Tyrion, Arya, Dany, Jon, they’re kind of your classic heroes at the start. This season, every single one of them turns slightly, some more so than others. Tyrion gets very twisted. Dany goes very dark, and all the goodness in her starts turning quite dark. Arya starts having her lists of people she wants to kill, and Jon starts fighting dirty.”

“It’s what’s fascinating about it is that your good people aren’t good, and they can’t be,” he observed. “To win, they can’t be. Even in the first season, Cersei says, ‘You either win or you die,’ and that’s the lesson they’re taking as we go on.”

4. The brutality that the characters have faced in past seasons may help them survive future ones.

While some characters in Martin’s universe have surprisingly, even disappointingly flourished in Westeros’ atmosphere of murder and deceit, others have suffered enormous losses and been exposed to unimaginable levels of cruelty. Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark, said that it’s her character’s endurance of those experiences that has hardened her into a better and more aggressive fighter.”

”Arya has had a traumatic end to season three. She’s one of the lowest characters right now. In the new season, it’s a very different Arya to the one we got to know in season one. She’s experienced so much and had so much ripped away from her so brutally that anyone that age – it’s going to affect them,” she said.

“She’s with The Hound still, and she’s not sure where they’re heading. She doesn’t have an ultimate goal. She just knows she’s kind of in safe hands with The Hound. [And] going into the fourth season, they’re trying to get on a little better. They both have traits that the other needs. They are both learning from each other. She’s picking up on his brutality, almost. The way she fights, she can see pros and cons to the ways he fights, and ultimately she’s trying to make herself a better fighter. He’s doing the same, I feel.”

5. As in previous seasons, characters who seem to have the least strength, may make the greatest impact – even if it’s inadvertent.

Entering Season 4, John Bradley remains a sort of outcast among the heavy hitters with whom he’s shared the screen, playing Sam, Jon Snow’s friend. But according to the actor, it may be his decisions – as opposed to some of the more obvious candidates – which affect the fate of everyone in Westeros.

“You see Sam in a different light than you’ve ever seen before,” Bradley told The Hollywood Reporter. “There are moments early on in season four where certain parts of Sam’s neuroses and his paranoia and some of the less appealing aspects of his personality come to the fore for the first time.”

“For the first time we see him make some pretty selfish, self-centered decisions that are beneficial to nobody and could be utterly catastrophic.”

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