Sad as it is to say goodbye to HBO’s Game of Thrones for another ten months, at least the show’s second season is going out strong. After this past weekend’s explosive penultimate episode, the fantasy series will be tying up loose ends with an extra-long finale this coming weekend.

And once that’s done, it’ll be time to start speculating and spreading rumors for Season 3. A new list has surfaced running down some of the characters that will be making their debuts in the upcoming third season, including a couple that many fans assumed had been cut. No new actors have been announced at this point, so we don’t know exactly what shape or form these characters will take, but fantasy-casting is part of the fun. Hit the jump for a (spoiler-free) rundown on who’ll be coming up in the next season, plus details on that lengthy Season 2 finale.

First off, the finale: HBOWatch.com has picked up on an unusual detail in the network’s official schedule, which has Veep airing at 10:10 PM on Sunday, June 3 instead of the usual 10:00. The reason? HBO is expanding the Season 2 finale of Game of Thrones by ten minutes.

While a typical episode clocks in at 54-55 minutes, the final episode, “Valar Morghulis” will run 64 minutes. Most DVRs should have the capability to pick up on the unusual scheduling, but if yours is as clunky as mine I’d keep an eye out just in case. That extra ten minutes certainly isn’t enough to make up for the next ten months of no Game of Thrones at all, but I’ll take it.

In the meantime, I’ll be keeping myself busy poring over news on the upcoming third season, starting with EW‘s scoop about who’ll be appearing in the new season. Character descriptions are strenuously spoiler-free, unless you consider the mere mention that an existing character has an uncle or grandmother to be an unforgivable reveal:

– Mance Rayder: We’ve heard about him all season. A former member of the Night’s Watch who became the “King Beyond the Wall,” the leader of the Wildlings.
– Daario Naharis: A confident and seductive warrior.
– Jojen Reed; Meera Reed: A teenage brother and sister duo with special insights.
– Edmure Tully: A brash young member of the Tully family.
– Ser Brynden Tully (The Blackfish): Catelyn Stark’s uncle.
– Lady Selyse Florent: Stannis Baratheon’s wife.
– Shireen: Stannis’ daughter.
– Olenna Redwyne (The Queen of Thorns): Margaery Tyrell’s sharp-witted grandmother.
– Beric Dondarrion: A skilled knight who is the leader of the outlaw group Brotherhood Without Banners.
– Thoros of Myr: A red priest who follows the same religion as Melisandre.
– Tormund Giantsbane: A Wildling raider.

Because this list gives very little away about upcoming plot points, the names will likely mean more to those who’ve already read George R.R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire series, on which the HBO show is based. But there are also a few who’ve been mentioned previously but have yet to appear in person, in the way that Stannis Baratheon kept getting name-dropped in Season 1 but didn’t actually show his face until Season 2.

For book readers, the biggest surprise may be the impending arrival of Jojen and Meera Reed. Without giving anything away for you TV-only fans, I’ll just say that had Season 2 followed Book 2, A Clash of Kings, more closely, the pair would have shown up by now, and that a few of their earlier plot points were given to a different character in the current season. But showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss point to the already massive size of the current cast as the reason for deferring the Reeds’ entrance. Says Benioff:

[Jojen and Meera Reed] haven’t been written out… It’s important to point out that that we have the largest cast on television right now. We introduced dozens of new characters in season two. If you hurl 300 characters at an audience, the story collapses under the weight of too many faces, too many names, and too many subplots. We need to be just as mindful of the audience members who have never read the books as we are of the readers; the series will fail if we only appeal to those who already know the characters. So we try to be parsimonious about how many new roles we introduce to the story and when we introduce them.

Benioff further added that there were “a few others” who’d be added to the roster in addition to the names listed above, which means that if one of your favorites from A Storm of Swords didn’t show up, there’s still hope. Though you may be waiting a while — as previously noted, the epic third novel is being split over two seasons. The first two seasons each corresponded, more or less, to one volume of Martin’s book series. Season 3 will kick off in spring 2013.

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