Robb Stark (Richard Madden): Ned Stark's heir, whose ambition once extended no further than succeeding his father as lord of Winterfell, is now king of the north and leading an army against the even younger king, Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), who had Robb's father executed.
Area Stark (Maisie Williams): On the run (and disguised as a boy) since witnessing her father's beheading, Arya's irresistible. And surprisingly ruthless.
Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide): Father of Ned Stark's former ward, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), this aptly surnamed ruler of the Iron Islands has a philosophy of life that makes just about everyone else in Westeros look like a soft touch.
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner): Arya's girlier older sister has had a rude awakening, but she's still betrothed to King Joffrey. Look for her survival instinct - inherited, perhaps from their mother, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley)? - to kick in as Sansa fights for her life in an increasingly dangerous court.
Jon Snow (Kit Harington): Ned Stark's out-of-wedlock son, raised with his half-siblings, is pledged to spend his life guarding the icy northern boundary of Westeros, but will he be able to resist the urge to join Robb's rebellion?
Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie): Ironically nicknamed "The Beauty," Brienne, who joins the story this season as a woman warrior, is a favorite of fans of the George R.R. Martin series on which "Game of Thrones" is based. Strong, obstreperous and fiercely loyal, she maintains an idealized vision of knighthood that may prove contagious. n