There are so many Game of Thrones characters to keep straight — and it feels like every time someone dies, two more characters pop up to replace him. Yesterday we reminded you about where we left off with all the returning figures, but there will be many more new faces to memorize in season three (which starts Sunday on HBO). To give you a head start acquainting yourself with some of the more interesting and crucial characters coming into the story, we’ll break them down by territory.
Beyond the Wall
We've been hearing about the King Beyond the Wall for two seasons now, and the wait is finally over: Jon Snow meets him straight away in episode one. Mance Rayder (played by Munich’s Ciarán Hinds) has a commanding presence, along with the biggest army we've seen so far (literally: Some are giants). Rayder's lieutenants include the great fighter Tormund Giantsbane (played by Kristofer Hivju) and the skinchanger Orell (played by Mackenzie Crook), who comes on the scene in episode two: Eyes rolled back into his head, he can share the vision of his eagle the way Bran can with his direwolf.
Now that Margaery Tyrell is engaged to King Joffrey, she is introducing everyone to the whole family, including her sharp-witted grandmother Olenna Tyrell (played by Diana Rigg). There's a reason Olenna is called the Queen of Thorns, and it's not just because the Tyrell sigil is a rose. When we meet her in episode two, she's taken a keen interest in Sansa, quizzing Joffrey’s former fiancée on what he is really like. "We've heard some troubling tales," Olenna says. "Is there any truth to them? Has this boy mistreated you?" Unlike Sansa, Olenna has the means to do something about it.
Stannis is licking his wounds from his defeat at the Battle of Blackwater, but he's eventually going to have to face his family as well. His long-suffering wife Selyse (played by Tara Fitzgerald) was glimpsed in season two (although played at the time by another actress), but their daughter Shireen (played by Kerry Ingram) has been hidden from sight because of her affliction with greyscale, which turns skin and flesh gray, black, and stone-like. (Perhaps out of respect for her condition, there are no pics of her available yet.)
In the Riverlands
In episode three, Catelyn Stark arrives for her father's funeral at Riverrun, where we meet her brother Edmure Tully (played by Tobias Menzies) as well as her uncle Brynden Tully (played by Clive Russell), who is otherwise known as the Blackfish. Her brother doesn't think things through, and her uncle is a skilled battlefield commander who might be able to help the Starks sort out some of their increasing problems. Problem number one being, what to do about the broken promise to marry Robb off to a Frey? If not Robb, someone is going to have to make a marriage vow to keep the alliance. And at the shotgun wedding later in the season, we'll meet a whole host of Freys, including Roslin (played by Alexandra Dowling) and the brash Black Walder (played by Tim Plester).
On the Road
After escaping Harrenhal, Arya will try to make her way to Riverrun to meet up with her mom's side of the family, but is waylaid by a troupe known as the Brotherhood Without Banners, led by Beric Dondarrion (played by Richard Dormer). We briefly met this character, known as the Lightning Lord (and then played by David Michael Scott), in season one, when Ned Stark ordered him to go off and capture the Hound’s brother, the Mountain. Since then, Beric has gotten a second life and gathered a bunch of characters at his side, including the archer Anguy (played by Philip McGinley) and the red priest Thoros of Myr (played by Paul Kaye). What, you thought Melisandre was the only shill for the Lord of Light? "I've been reborn in the light of the one true god, as have we all," Beric says after revealing himself in episode four.
En route to King's Landing, Brienne of Tarth is trying to guard Jaime Lannister, no easy task with such a recognizable captive. Soon they encounter Locke (played by Noah Taylor), who is a variant on the Vargo Hoat character from George R.R. Martin’s books. He's the leader of the troupe known as the Brave Companions, or the Bloody Mummers as they're sometimes called, and they carry banners for House Bolton, the sigil of which is the flayed man. Ramsay Snow, the Bastard of Bolton (played by Iwan Rheon) is no less cruel — and perhaps much more so — when he starts to toy with another captive in episode two.
Meanwhile, Bran's been dreaming of a three-eyed crow since season one, and in season three, he finally meets someone who can help him interpret and control his "dreams": Jojen Reed (played by grown-up Love Actually drummer boy Thomas Brodie-Sangster, putting his elfin appearance to good use). Jojen and his feisty sister Meera (played by Ellie Kendrick) technically should have been introduced last season as part of the escape from Winterfell, but no matter — we're getting the "frogeaters" at a good time in Bran and Rickon's journey. Jojen can provide some much-needed mystical wisdom, and Meera her hunting skills, as the little Lords make their way to the Wall.
In the East
In the season premiere, Daenerys and Jorah Mormont land in Astapor in Slaver's Bay to acquire an army (Dany has her eye on some 8,000 eunuch warriors known as the Unsullied who are said to be fearless). First, though, she must negotiate with the crass slaver Kraznys mo Nakloz (played by Dan Hildebrand) via his more graceful translator Missandei (played by Nathalie Emmanuel). (When Kraznys says, "Tell this ignorant whore of a westerner to open her eyes and watch," Missandei finesses it with, "He begs you attend this carefully, your grace.") Later on in the season as the Khaleesi moves on to Yunkai, she makes use of her improved negotiating tactics when dealing with several mercenaries: Mero (played by Mark Killen) of the Second Sons, Prendahl ze Ghezn (played by Ramon Tikaram) of the Stormcrows, and Daario Naharis (played by Ed Skrein), who offers more to Dany than just his sword.