Game of Thrones Season Three is going to be massive (dare we say… epic?) in every manner conceivable. The lauded HBO fantasy television series’ ensemble cast is growing even more dense, with important new character additions such as Mance “King Beyond the Wall” Rayder (Ciarán Hinds) and the Stormcrow captain Daario Naharis (Ed Skrein) among numerous others (for much more, check out the Comic-Con cast announcement video).

Moreover, the production is expanding to include footage shot in Morocco, in addition to reusing locations in Croatia and Iceland. The former of those countries is expected to serve as the backdrop for Slaver’s Bay, which is where Daenerys “Dragon-Born” Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) ventures in George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords novel (the basis for GoT S3).

In fact, only the first half of Martin’s 973-page hardcover book (or 1,216-page paperback novel) – his heftiest A Song of Ice and Fire installment… yet – is going to be covered in Game of Throne‘s third season. That should allow more substance from Martin’s source material to be included and thus, explored in greater depth. Moreover, co-showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss are going to take more time within the season to realize Martin’s half-tome on the small screen (literally).

EW is confirming that GoT S3 will be composed of 10 episodes per usual, but that each one will run an additional 4-5 minutes in length than chapters in the first two seasons. That might not seem like much, at first glance; however, in terms of the over-arching season’s narrative, it equates to a whole extra episode (in terms of total screen time).

To quote the gentlemen responsible for keeping Game of Thrones moving full-speed ahead:

“There’s almost another full episode’s worth of extra minutes spread across the season,” Weiss says. “One of the great liberties with HBO is we’re not forced to come in at a specific time. We can’t be under 50 minutes or over 60, but that gives us a lot of flexibility.”

“A super-sized season, as befitting Storm of Swords,” Benioff adds. “Last year we had a lot of 52-minute episodes. This year is a lot of 56, 57.”

Similarly, the S3 finale is expected to run over an hour long, much like the original pilot episode (‘Winter Is Coming’) and Season 2’s finale ‘Valar Morghulis’. The third season’s central narrative is also expected to adhere to the structure of its predecessors – with the penultimate episode serving as the climax, prior to the finale wrapping up straggling loose ends (and paving the way for the forthcoming season).

Suffice it to say: you won’t hear us complaining about this development.

Game of Thrones Season 3 premieres on March 31st, 2013.

Source: EW