Game Of Thrones Season 2 Preview: First-Look Photos Show Off New Characters

The most highly anticipated returning series on any network has to be HBO's Game of Thrones. The fantasy epic spawned from the George R.R. Martin series A Song of Ice and Fire has transcended the genre and developed a wide and diverse fan base. And deservedly so, because the first season of GoT was absolutely impeccable in every single aspect, and that was the creative team just getting their feet wet. Can you imagine what they have in store for the second season now that they know it's a huge success and people are chomping at every bit they can find awaiting its return?

April 1st is still quite a ways away, but HBO has released several new images for Season 2 from both Westeros and across the Narrow Sea. If the teaser for Season 2 -- which I personally hoped they would dub Game of Thrones: A Clash of Kings, but alas my nerdery goes unfulfilled -- wasn't enough, here are five (one above, and the four below) sneak peeks at the upcoming season. Okay, so photos aren't as exciting as the video releases. However, this does offer the first clear looks at many of the new characters and the wonderful actors they have cast to play them.

Don't worry, there are many images of our returning favorites -- Jon, Arya, Robb, Cat, Bran, Tyrion, etc. -- on the official HBO Game of Thrones Facebook Page, but I chose to share photos of some of the new faces. The pictures below include Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) with the Red Priestess Melisandre (Carice van Houten), Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), and Lord of the Iron Islands Balon Grejoy (Patrick Malahide). Those who have read further in the series know just how these fresh faces fit into the world of Westeros. As for the rest of you, well, be excited that you're soon going to find out!

Game of Thrones returns to Sunday nights on HBO starting April 1, 2012. It stars Kit Harrington, Emelia Clarke, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. The show was created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, based on the novels by George R.R. Martin.