Winter? What winter?
While the North concerns itself with survival, the rest of the Seven Kingdoms is still playing the Game of Thrones. When the fantasy drama returns for its fifth season on Sunday (9/8c, HBO), Queen Regent Cersei (Lena Headey) is embroiled in the politics of King's Landing, but she can't control everything that happens in Westeros. In fact, a few new players will emerge that she didn't have to contend with before.
How will these newcomers strike out on their own? And will Cersei have inherited her dad's political savvy? Read on for the Seven Kingdoms scoop:
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) Last year, Sansa dyed her hair dark, as if to signal her debutante status in the world of lies and maneuvering. This season, however, she is full-force Dark Sansa, and has graduated to actively participating in a scheme that could potentially upset the current balance of power in a big way. No deceitful diva would be complete without a wardrobe to match, so expect to see her in a dress that's, well, to die for. Move over, Cersei. The realm has a new, younger femme fatale whose lineage inspires loyalty. The North remembers.
Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) If Littlefinger's mustache were longer, he'd have to resist twirling it. The master tactician is thrilled with how he's mentored Sansa and has put into motion a plot that could be as devastating — and perhaps satisfying? — as Joffrey's death. (Never forget he was behind the Purple Wedding!)
Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne (Gwendoline Christie, Daniel Portman) Brienne hasn't had a lot of luck with keeping her vows. First, a king was assassinated on her watch, and then Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) refused to be properly saved. Fortunately, her trusty squire Pod is a cheerful and practical companion who soon becomes a confidant. He reminds her that there's still one other Stark daughter on the loose. If only they could find her.
Cersei Baratheon Life after the death of Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) means that Cersei can make most of the crown's decisions unchecked, especially since her son, King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), is naive enough to be easily (mis)led. She's not the mastermind her father once was, however, and a new alliance she forges soon gets out of hand due to her shortsightedness.
Tommen Baratheon "Tommen doesn't really understand the world that he's in and he's very young," Chapman tells TVGuide.com. "Tywin was the only one pushing him into the right direction of being this wise king, and now he's gone. Cersei only wants what's best for her and her family, so she's going to try to take Tommen. Margaery (Natalie Dormer) is going to try to take Tommen because she wants the claim to the throne. Tommen is getting pulled between the two." Although Tommen is a dutiful and loving son, nothing is as wonderful as life with his new bride. "[He] loves her," Chapman says. "He idolizes her. He's never had a girlfriend or anything, so it's all new to him. He's the king, he's got a new wife, life's good."
Margaery Tyrell The ambitious new queen is delighted by her young and enthusiastic king, but when outside forces threaten something she holds dear, the Tyrell ruthlessness emerges. After all, remember that she's the granddaughter of Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg), aka the Queen of Thrones.
Jaime Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) Heartsick and feeling guilty that he had freed his imprisoned brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), who then killed their father, Jaime will try to make amends by traveling to Dorne on an important covert mission. He'll face challenges as a one-handed knight, but he'll learn to turn it to his advantage. But if he thought dealing with his demanding sister was bad, he has yet to meet the headstrong women of Dorne.
Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) Tempers in Dorne run as hot as the climate. As the lover of the late, lamented Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal), Ellaria is out for Lannister blood to avenge his death, and enlists the help of Obyern's bastard daughters, known as the Sand Snakes.
Obara, Nym and Tyene (Keisha Castle-Hughes, Jessica Henwick, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) The three Sand Snakes share their father's fiery temper and fighting skills. In particular, Obara wields a spear just like Oberyn did, Nym uses a whip, while Tyene favors daggers. "[Obara is] fierce, she's strong and she's taken her father's death pretty badly," Castle-Hughes says. "So she's dead-set on revenge."
Game of Thrones premieres Sunday at 9/8c on HBO.
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