FEATURE: Who's Who: Westeros Edition

As of today, it is exactly 4 days until HBO's Game of Thrones returns to our screens on 1st April. If you haven't seen the first series yet, you should grab yourself a boxset, get some snacks and clear out your schedule. It's well worth the catch up.

But naturally, here be spoilers so please be aware of this if you do decide to read on.

Based on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, the first Game of Thrones was a success both critically and commercially, introducing people everywhere to the land of Westeros while pleasing fans who already loved the books. I started off watching the series and became so desperate to know what happened, I ordered all the available books and read them all ridiculously quickly. Staying predominantly faithful to Martin's narrative whilst adding in scenes that improved the story and brought out the best in the characters. The second series will naturally be based on A Clash of Kings and if you thought the shit hit the fan at the end of the first season, you haven't seen anything yet.

Plenty of characters, new and old, will be hitting our screens so if you have trouble telling a direwolf from a grumpkin or, more importantly, your Starks from your Lannisters, here's the Assorted Buffery guide to who is doing what (or who...) in the second Game of Thrones series.

The Starks:

Having held the role of Hand of the King in the first series, Stark patriarch Ned (Sean Bean) fell foul of several different players in the game of thrones and inevitably lost his head, thanks to evil Joffrey Baratheon. The rest of the Starks meanwhile, are scattered to all corners of Westeros.

Now the head of the most powerful family in the North, Ned's firstborn son, Robb (Richard Madden), has been declared King in the North and has moved against the Lannister faction, winning victories and capturing Jaime Lannister, the Queen's brother and one of Westeros' most infamous knights. Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), Ned's wife, is with him, advising the new King on just how to hit back at the family that destroyed theirs. Robb's direwolf is the fearsome Grey Wind. Seriously... don't mess with him.

Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), the second eldest, is trapped in King's Landing by the Lannisters, first of all because she was intended to marry Joffrey then because beating her down and treating her appallingly became his favourite thing to do. Her direwolf Lady was executed in the first series.

The three youngest Starks are predominantly out of harm's way but naturally it's not going to stay that way very long. Arya (Maisie Williams), the youngest daughter (and one of the best characters), is on her way to the Wall, disguised as Arry, a servant boy from King's Landing after escaping the city following her father's execution. Arya's direwolf, Nymeria, is still nowhere to be found, though rumours of a giant she-wolf are heard through the Riverlands. Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), still without the use of his legs, is the Stark holding Winterfell and taking care of the youngest son, Rickon. Their direwolves are Summer and Shaggydog.

Then there's Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Ned's bastard son, fleeing to the Wall and joining the Night's Watch after feeling isolated from his family. Aside from Arya, Jon is the most interesting Stark character in terms of what he's going through because, as several warnings in the first series suggested, the threat in the North is far worse than the civil war raging in the South. His direwolf is the runt of the litter, Ghost.

The Lannisters:

Even typing the name makes me shudder. They're just awful. Clearly the Big Bad of Westeros (well before the dragons arrive anyway), the Lannisters control the money so therefore, they pretty much control everything else. And as evil as they are, they're just too damn cool to completely dislike.

Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) is the current Protector of the realm thanks to the death of Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), the previous King. Yet she's proving pretty unpopular and soon finds out the hard way that mobs are not prepared to be ruled by someone they dislike.

Cersei's son, Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), devil-spawn extraordinaire and the product of her incestuous union with twin brother Jaime, is on the Iron Throne. He's really relishing the power trip, lopping off heads and beating up poor old Sansa like there's no tomorrow. You know a character is successful when even the mention of his name brings about sheer hatred and props must go to Gleeson for creating a character we all love to hate.

Jaime (Nikolai Coster-Waldau) is currently the prisoner of Robb Stark and is soon to form interesting alliances in order to get back to King's Landing and, more importantly, to Cersei. There'll be an intriguing relationship formed with an unlikely ally, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), a female warrior who comes close to matching him both mentally and physically.

Tyrion Lannister, known as the Imp, is quite possibly the best character that Martin has created, realised brilliantly by Emmy award-winning Peter Dinklage. Simultaneously a bad guy and someone you can't help rooting for, he spent the first series whoring and drinking his way around Westeros whilst taking in everything. Not an opponent to take lightly, Tyrion will use just about anything he can to gain the upper hand. The second series will see him return to the hornet's nest to become the Hand of the King and all-out military general when King's Landing comes under attack.

The Baratheons:

With King Robert dead, it's left to the two remaining Baratheon siblings to squabble it out between them as to who has the biggest right to the throne. Renly (Gethin Anthony), the younger brother, decides that he is far more suited to sitting in the Iron Throne than his elder brother Stannis (Stephen Dillane). Having failed to recruit Ned Stark to his cause at the end of the last series, Renly ran away to regroup and pool together his forces but is back and ready to march on Westeros.

Stannis meanwhile, is the dark, brooding member of the family and is by far the most dangerous thanks to his right hand woman, the Lady Melisandre (Carice van Houten), a Red Priestess of the great god Rh'llor. Witchlike, conniving and with the eldest Baratheon firmly under her thumb, she's the one to watch owing to her willingness to burn people alive for her god.

Another key player in the Baratheon faction is Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), known as the Onion Knight thanks to his smuggling past. Fiercely loyal to Stannis, Davos is a key player throughout the second book and later on into the Song of Ice and Fire. In this, it's his prowess in battle that takes the fore though his suspicion of Lady Melisandre brings him into dangerous territory.

Across The Narrow Sea:

After the big reveal at the end of the first series, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and her three shiny new dragons are moving across the lands of the East gathering forces for her eventual attack on Westeros. With the help of Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), Dany's becoming fierce and it's looking increasingly likely that her ragtag bunch of followers will turn themselves into an impressive army, allowing her to retake the Iron Throne.

The Greyjoys:

More famous for their failed rebellion against Robert Baratheon than their designs on the Iron Throne, the Greyjoys nevertheless prove to be a threat to our central families. Led by bitter Lord Balon, the men of the Iron Islands separate themselves off from the rest of the Seven Kingdoms and haven't really got over being defeated.

Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) is currently helping out Robb Stark, having been held as a hostage in Winterfell as Ned Stark's ward preventing his father from rebelling again. Theon's none too happy about becoming synonymous with the Starks however and is looking for an opportunity to prove he still belongs to the Iron Islands.

Everyone Else:

The second series will also see the return of some of the minor characters of the last series, not that they don't hold any major influence. Lord Petyr Baelish, known as Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen), is the best example of someone who seems to be on the outskirts looking in, but is in actual fact, controlling pretty much everyone around him. Responsible for Ned Stark's downfall, Littlefinger continues his manipulating and giving us another villain to curse and jeer at.

Elsewhere, there is Lord Varys, known as the Spider or the Eunuch (Conleth Hill), and, like Littlefinger, is adept at playing the situation to meet his own ends. Swearing that his allegiance is to the realm, no one is ever sure which person Varys is feeding information to. Just don't talk out loud anywhere, one of his little birds is sure to pick it up.

So there you go, the main players are all in place ready to move when Game of Thrones returns to our screens on Sunday (Eee!).

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