It looks like next week's Game of Thrones continues the series' first half of the season strategy of introducing new faces and welcoming back old favorites while only advancing the plot ever so slightly. The preview for "Dark Wings, Dark Words" shows very little overlap with "Valar Doeheris," the Season 3 premiere, since there are so many different characters to catch up with or meet before, well, before the notoriously unsentimental drama kills them off. If not this year, then probably Season 4.
The spot opens with our first look at Diana Rigg as Lady Olenna Tyrell, perhaps better known by her nickname, “The Queen of Thorns.” The strong matriarch from House of Flowers is Margaery and Loras Tyrell's grandmother and she immediately puts Sansa in an awkward situation by giving her the fifth degree about Joffrey. Margaery has a right to know what she's getting into but could telling the truth have its consequence? Are the Flowers friend or foe?
Bran also shows up for the first time this year, taking up a large portion of the preview by facing down an approaching ominous figure. At least Tonks, I mean, Osha and Summer are around to protect him as they journey away from the ruins of Winterfell. Oh, and there's Hodor. Hodor! Bran is also not the only Stark making their Season 3 debut in Episode 2 with Arya making her first appearance by running into another new character in Paul Kaye's Thoros of Myr.
Speaking of new characters, the recently introduced Mance Rayder is seen talking with Mackenzie Crook (Gareth from BBC's The Office) and we immediately get to see his special talents. One of the most exciting additions to the Game of Thrones cast, Crook plays a wildling warg named Orell, warg meaning he's a 'skin-changer' capable of entering other creatures, like Bran does with Summer. And the bird he becomes sees nothing but bad news for Jon Snow.
Finally, there's also attention paid to Robb's campaign and the growing dissension in his ranks as well as Jamie and Brienne getting their spar on. As always, there's a lot going on in Westeros. Game of Thrones Season 3 returns next Sunday with Episode 2, “Dark Wings, Dark Words,” at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. The series stars Peter Dinklage, Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Join The Realm.