A series is nothing without a good guest star, so imagine the power that Ciarán Hinds will bring to "Game Of Thrones" next season.
The veteran Irish actor will tackle the role of Wildling leader Mance Rayder, the King Beyond The Wall, whose presence has been mentioned throughout the series, but has never actually been seen. This will obviously change in Season 3, especially since the last episode closed with Jon Snow of the Night's Watch being taken to meet him.
To add to the upcoming drama, Rayder's aim is to attack The Wall, and has united the North in this mission. And considering Hinds' résumé is stacked with Oscar contenders, winners, and most currently, "Political Animals," he'll undoubtedly do wonders in this role as the Night Watch's feared enemy.
Perhaps what's even more exciting is that momentum for the HBO fantasy-drama is still at a premium. For months, "Game Of Thrones" aficionados lied in wait for this particular casting news, especially since Rayder is such a prominent figure. A character often resented for abandoning Night's Watch, his arc throughout the series -- especially in books "A Storm Of Swords" and "A Dance With Dragons" -- requires a strong, commanding actor. Luckily, Hinds' turns in "Rome," "Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows," and "The Debt" prove not only his abilities, but his range -- traits that are essential to a series defined by rich storytelling.Kit Harrington as Jon Snow. (HBO)
Of course, if you're not already a "Game Of Thrones" fan, Hinds might help reel you in. On top of recently channeling his inner Bill Clinton-esque character on "Political Animals," the Belfast-born actor also appeared in "The Woman In Black" and even "John Carter," further attesting to his penchant for unique, diverse roles. His "Rome" cast mate, Tobias Menzies (who played Brutus) also recently signed on for Season 3, and is slated to play Catelyn Stark's younger brother, Edmure Tully.
However, what's ultimately most exciting about "Game Of Throne's" upcoming season is how it will continue to challenge conventional TV. Having earned accolades for its visual efforts, adult subject matter, and its talented cast (see: Peter Dinklage's Emmy and Golden Globe wins last year), the series breaks from formulaic prime-time drama and offers audiences a free pass into an indulgent (albeit violent) fantasy world.
Here's hoping escapism continues to be as exciting when "Game Of Thrones" season three debuts on March 31.