One of the major stepping stones for (and one might say, roadblocks to) the enjoyment of Game of Thrones is its gargantuan cast of characters. Newcomers to the HBO series can easily become lost in the web of dozens of names, family allegiances, secret agendas, and sometimes difficult-to-parse backstories. No matter how many characters the show seems to gleefully kill off, there always seems to be a new face or faction waiting in the wings.

Things will only get more complicated for Game of Thrones as it kicks off its third season. As if in celebration of the show’s ever-expanding cast list, HBO has released a bevy of new images from the production of season 3 to highlight all the faces new and old we can expect to see this March.

EW has shared a small army of new images from the upcoming third season of Game of Thrones. These consist of 23 character portraits, including many first-time looks at faces new to the series. You can browse these brief glimpses of the show’s future in the gallery below.

While none of these pictures give us a clue as to any twists Game of Thrones will be throwing into its formula, they do serve as great looks at old characters and exciting introductions to the new. Each image of a returning character seems like reminders of their status at the end of season 2. Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) nurses a nasty scar and a grudge; Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) is under house arrest in her ancestral home; Jon Snow (Kit Harington) finds himself among an army of Wildlings; Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) is on the run through the northern wilderness; and the grotesque King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) finds himself wooing a new prospective queen in Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer).

As interesting as the looks at familiar faces are, the photographs of new ones are the real coup here. The Brotherhood Without Banners – mentioned in snarled Lannister whispers in season 2 – gets a big shout-out with the first clear shots of the knight errant Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) and fighting priest Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye). The guerrilla fighters will almost certainly play a large role this season, especially with concern to the journey of Arya Stark (Maisie Williams).

Also of note are Jojen (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick), allies of the Stark family that are set to come to Bran and company’s aid as they flee north. Many fans of both the Song of Ice and Fire novels and its attendant show speculated that the Reeds would be excised completely from the adaptation, as the pair originally showed up in the second book.

With the hype machine for Game of Thrones running at full tilt, these images are only the latest evidence that production on season 3 seems to be going well. The number of new characters is slightly worrying, as the show’s second season sometimes had difficulty juggling the rapidly multiplying number of faces and plotlines. Hopefully, the show’s newly acquired extra runtime and the move into a season that showrunner D.B. Weiss describes as, “…the place we needed to get,” will help smooth any clunkiness caused by a much larger cast.

Game of Thrones, much like winter, is coming to HBO on March 31, 2013.

Source: Entertainment Weekly