Game of Thrones has indisputably the largest ensemble on television, with a cast of over 20 main players and dozens of recurring and guest actors. The show does manage to kill off major characters rather frequently - almost always to the shock and horror of the audience - but each new season adds more new faces than it loses.
For season 5 of Game of Thrones, there will be more new characters joining the cast than ever before. In part, this is due to showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss having killed a good number of the main cast in only four seasons, but also because the geography in Game of Thrones will expand and grow more even more.
In an effort to help make sense of the series’ ever-growing roster, we have compiled a guide to the new characters that we know are joining HBO’s Game of Thrones in season 5.
[WARNING - This article contains SPOILERS for 'Game of Thrones' through season 4.]
Prince Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig)
A major factor in season 5 will be the fallout surrounding Prince Oberyn Martell’s death. As we’ve seen from the season 5 trailer, Jaime Lannister and Bronn will travel south to Dorne (Oberyn’s home) in what’s very likely an effort to soften the blow the Red Viper’s death will have on the region.
While there, they’ll meet several of Oberyn’s surviving relations, the most significant being his older brother and ruling lord of Dorne - Prince Doran Martell. Unlike his fiery younger brother, Doran is even-tempered, cautious, and calculated in his decisions. He also suffers from a severe case of gout, and some consider his poor health and hesitancy to act as signs of weakness.
Yet, Prince Doran is a not a man to be underestimated and he holds no love for the Lannisters. Oberyn may have a forced a confession from The Mountain for the murder of his sister Elia and her children, but it came at the cost of his life. Now, all of Dorne looks to Doran to see how he reacts to another of his family being murdered by the Lannisters.
Trystane Martell (Toby Sebastian)
When Tyrion Lannister was acting Hand of the King, he brokered a deal with Prince Doran for the betrothal of Myrcella Baratheon to Doran’s son and heir, Trystane. Tyrion pursued that betrothal in order to ensure the Martells wouldn’t ally with the Lannisters’ enemies during The War of the Five Kings, but now the arranged marriage may be the only hope the Crown has of holding Dorne’s loyalty.
Presumably, the future of Trystane and Myrcella’s betrothal will be a point of discussion during Jaime’s visit. With Joffrey’s death and Tommen on the throne, Myrcella (who in season 5 has been recast with Nell Tiger Free) is now Robert’s only other surviving heir, and any of her children could conceivably lay claim to the Iron Throne. (That is, as long as her true parentage remains hidden.) This now places a larger significance on who Myrcella marries, and a match with Trystane may no longer be desirable - for either family.
The Sand Snakes (Keisha Castle-Hughes, Jessica Henwick, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers)
Oberyn’s legacy will weigh heavily over season 5 and that will be especially apparent with the introduction of his bastard daughters, the Sand Snakes (a nickname they're collectively given that reflects Oberyn’s own moniker, The Red Viper). Each daughter is a trained warrior and just as dangerous and deadly as their father.
In the novels, Oberyn has eight daughters in total, but it appears that for the sake of simplicity only three Sand Snakes will be appear on Game of Thrones. The oldest and most fearsome of the Sand Snakes is Obara (Castle-Hughes), the daughter of a Dornish peasant woman. Nymeria (Henwick), shortened to Nym, is the second oldest and her mother was an Eastern noblewoman. She is more elegant and cultured than her sisters, but is just as deadly with a whip. The youngest is Tyene (Sellers) and she is the daughter of Oberyn and Ellaria Sand. Tyene may appear weak when compared to her fierce sisters, but she too is armed and dangerous with a pair of twin daggers.
Even though the Sand Snakes are Oberyn’s illegitimate daughters, they hold a great influence in Dorne. They and Ellaria desperately want to see Oberyn avenged, and their emphatic urging of Prince Doran toward war will be a sentiment many of the Dornish people share.
Areo Hotah (DeObia Oparei)
Areo Hotah is the captain of Prince Doran’s guard and extremely proficient and deadly with a long axe. He is fiercely loyal to Doran and the Martell family, though he finds Dornish culture strange and alien having come originally from Norvos, one of the Free Cities across the Narrow Sea.
However, there’s a good likelihood that Game of Thrones will alter Areo’s history and have him originate from the Summer Islands - as they have done previously with characters like Salladhor Saan and Xaro Xhoan Daxos - to reflect the casting of DeObia Oparei, a black actor in a role originally described as white and depicted as such in any illustrations of the source material.
Yezzan zo Qaggaz (Enzo Cilenti)
While the majority of new characters will appear in Dorne, there are still a few new faces joining the cast elsewhere. In the far east, for instance, Daenerys will continue her struggle to abolish slavery in the region, already having liberated Astapor, Yunkai and now Meereen from its ruling slavers.
Yet, after Daenerys moved on from Astapor and Yunkai, the slave masters regained power and now plan to attack Meereen. Of those masters, Yezzen is one of the less horrid, treating his slaves fairly (much like a farmer treating his livestock well to ensure a good product), and he hopes to strike a peace with Daenerys that would allow the slave trade to resume.
The High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce)
Religion has always had a presence on Game of Thrones, with several different faiths being introduced over the seasons (the Old Gods, Lord of Light, the Drowned God, etc.). The Faith of the Seven, however, remains the official religion of the Seven Kingdoms, and in season 5, a new, radical sect of the Faith will emerge.
Referred to as “sparrows," this new order of holy men and women arise in reaction to the war’s destruction throughout the Riverlands and the rampant corruption within the church. They are known by their simple attire and lack of jewels and finery, which is in stark contrast to the rich robes and fancy crowns typically worn by the church’s septons and septas. There's even a Lannister among their ranks - Lancel, Cersei's cousin and former lover.
In season 5, the sparrows descend on King’s Landing preaching against the elite and wealthy, holding the upper classes responsible for all of Westeros’ problems. The High Sparrow is soon elected the new leader of the church and brings a radical new approach to how the Faith operates, putting an emphasis on charity and high morals. He also reestablishes the Faith Militant, the military arm of the church, granting the church more power than it has seen since long before the reign of the Mad King and Robert’s Rebellion.
Bowen Marsh (Michael Condron)
Bowen Marsh is a man of Night’s Watch who has technically been at The Wall since the series’ began. However, Bowen only comes into prominence at this point in the story, so he’s joining season 5 as a new character played by Michael Condron. Bowen is the First Steward of the Night’s Watch and had (according to the novels) been left in charge of Castle Black while Lord Commander Mormont took many of their men north beyond The Wall.
However, Game of Thrones has already established Alliser Thorne as interim Lord Commander in the wake of Mormont’s death and until the Night’s Watch elects a new Lord Commander. That election must happen this season, and afterwards Bowen will be both a help and hindrance for the next Lord Commander.
By no means is this meant as an all inclusive list of new characters joining Game of Thrones in season 5. These are simply the roles that we know have been cast. There are other important players expected to appear in upcoming storylines - Arya, for instance, is expected to meet several new characters in Braavos - but with no official casting, it's hard to predict just how many of A Song of Ice and Fire's countless characters Game of Thrones is intending to include.
Still, we hope this guide to the new players we know are joining Game of Thrones season 5 will prove helpful. Which new character are you most looking forward to meeting? How do you expect these new players will change the game? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!
Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights on HBO @9pm.