‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6: Everything You Need to Know For the Big Return
It’s an annual traditional we know all too well. Spending 10 weeks enraptured by the sex, blood and drama of the Seven Kingdoms, watching our favorite characters killed off by season’s end, then finding ways to survive a whole year without Game of Thrones. Luckily we’re only days from the Season 6 premiere, but this year will be unlike the others. Now that the series has surpassed George R.R. Martin’s books, show and book fans, as well as critics, will enter Game of Thrones knowing as much as Jon Snow. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared; you should be very prepared.
A lot went down in Season 5 that you may have forgotten. To refresh your memory, here’s a spoiler-heavy recap on where all the major and minor characters left off, plus all the fan theories, predictions and obsessive trailer decoding to give you an idea of what to expect for Season 6. Many literary spoilers follow; you’ve been warned!
Say It Ain’t So Jon Snow
If Game of Thrones Season 5 will be remembered for anything, it’ll be for igniting a debate on existential semantics. We all know Jon Snow “died,” as everyone from Kit Harington to co-creator Dan Weiss have repeatedly confirmed. We saw Olly and Jon’s Night’s Watch brothers stab him repeatedly before he fell to the ground with blood draining out of him (in the shape of a direwolf? a dragon’s wing? Hmm). But “dead is dead“ doesn’t mean gone for good, as HBO has so teasingly revealed from that trolling poster to the trailers. Though Harington’s insisted he’ll only be playing a corpse, he did reveal he’ll appear in multiple episodes, and Thrones isn’t going to stare at a motionless body for multiple weeks. Based on a leaked set photo that finds Harington in Stark armor, we can only assume Jon will be fairly mobile and life-like this season, and uh, maybe fighting in battle. So the question remains, how will he come back?
The most popular theory starts with Melisandre, predicting the Red Priestess will use the magic of her Lord of the Light, R’hllor, to bring Jon back to life. This could happen (or being to happen) in the premiere episode, which is titled “The Red Woman.” We know this is possible since Thoros of Myr resurrected Beric Dondarrion six times using the power of the Red God, and we know Melisandre is back at the Wall this season. If not good old Melly, other theories predict Jon could warg into his direwolf Ghost, that Jon will become a White Walker (highly doubt it), or that Bran will warg into Jon, as Vanity Fair predicts. Or perhaps it will be a combination of those, as Winter is Coming suggests. We don’t know how exactly it will all go down, but based on some rumors we can expect to see Jon, dead, alive, or resurrected, reuniting with Sansa to have a chat with Ramsay and Littlefinger at Winterfell.
Sansa On the Run
The eldest Stark daughter endured her worst season yet last year. Forced to marry Ramsay and then raped in the series’ most controversial episode, Sansa finally escaped capture by jumping from the walls of Winterfell with Theon. We know they both survived that fall based on trailer footage showing them running through the snowy woods. But who are they running from? Our own Kevin Fitzpatrick predicts Sansa is running from Bolton soldiers in those shots who Brienne may also be fighting. Perhaps Brienne finally catches up with Sansa to fulfill her oath to Catelyn Stark. We can expect Sansa to escape from Ramsay for a while, but as mentioned above she’ll face-off with him later on in the season. Jon Snow won’t be the only ally on her side.
As Vanity Fair noticed by stitching together footage in the latest trailer with an old shot of Sansa, Davos will be joining Stark girl’s side. The scene shows the two of them discussing military tactics, which we’ll see come to fruition in Episode 9.
So Arya Blind Or Not?
Arya finally got to cross a name off her kill list last season, but that left her with some heavy punishment. Disguising herself with a face from the House of Black and White, Arya snuck into a brothel to get revenge against Meryn Trant, the man who (supposedly) killed her sword instructor Syrio Forel. After stabbing him in the eyes and slicing his throat, Arya returned to the House of Black and White to find Jaqen wearing a bunch of faces. But Jaqen (or whoever was under all those faces) told Arya she had murdered a man who wasn’t hers to kill, thus subjecting her to blindness as punishment.
But will she stay blind forever? Probably not. In the books Arya’s blindness is a part of her training rather than a punishment, so the show may be combining those this season as Arya learns to become an assassin. Maisie Williams is shown doing some crazy flips in the new trailer, so at the very least we can expect more action and (hopefully) less cleaning dead bodies this year.
Bran Is Back!
After a season-long hiatus, Bran is finally returning to Game of Thrones. The last time we saw him was at the end of Season 4 when he traveled to meet the Three-Eyed Raven with Hodor, Jojen and Meera Reed. Jojen was killed in an attack by wights, but the sequence also featured the third time Bran warged into Hodor (Hodor!). Since then, the Stark boy has apparently been busy training with the Raven, who has been recast this year with Max von Sydow. Bran’s Greensight is likely much stronger now, which will likely explain the most shocking bit of Season 6 footage thus far: Bran hanging out with the Night’s King.
The Night’s King made his first appearance in Season 4 when he touched a finger to one of Craster’s babies, turning the child’s eyes an icy blue. He showed up again in “Hardhome” last season for an epic stare-off with Jon Snow. In the series’ March Madness trailer, the Night’s King is seen grabbing Bran’s arm, which likely had you freaking out. But don’t worry just yet. Based on the fact Bran is standing in this scene it’s likely a vision and not actually happening. Yet Bran’s visions are sure to be some of the most exciting parts of Season 6. In addition to this Night’s King vision, fans can expect to finally get a look at one highly anticipated sequence with a young Ned Stark.
The Tower of Joy
In George R.R. Martin’s books, Ned Stark has a flashback about the raid at the Tower of Joy that happened years before. The latest trailer shows a quick glimpse of these events in which a young Ned, along with six other men, battle three members of the Kingsguard outside the Tower in Dorne. Inside Ned finds his dying sister Lyanna Stark whom he made a promise to. Bran will likely have a vision of the fight, which left only Ned and Howland Reed (Jojen and Meera’s father) alive. Though far from confirmed, fans believe this sequence could finally reveal the true parentage of Jon Snow. According the popular R + L = J theory, Lynna gave birth to Jon and made her brother promise to keep his Targaryen and Stark blood a secret. But will the show actually, finally, reveal Jon’s parents?
Back to the Iron Islands
Remember the Iron Islands? Game of Thrones forgot about Theron’s homeland as much as abandoned poor Gendry. But the show is finally heading back to the land of House Greyjoy to introduce us to a new character, Theon’s uncle, Euron Greyjoy played by Pilou Asbæk. In the books, Euron returns to the Iron Islands shortly after the death of his brother Balon, Theon’s father and the head of House Greyjoy, who fell from a roped bridge. By the looks of a shot in the first Season 6 trailer that finds Euron on a swinging bridge, the show might just confirm a fan theory about who killed Balon. Get ready for some serious power struggles to go down this season as the Kingsmoot kicks off to declare a new Greyjoy king. Oh, and Yara will apparently be making out with naked women.
The Queen Mother had one of the harshest punishments of all in “Mother’s Mercy.” After being imprisoned for her incestuous affair with Lancel, she was stripped down and forced to cross the Sept of Baelor naked, viciously shamed by the citizens of King’s Landing, plus that damn shame nun with her shame bell. The former Queen Regent got a major blow to her ego and status with the rise of the Faith Militant last season, but this is Cersei, and she’s bouncing right back into her wicked ways.
Based on what we know from the books, Cersei will opt for a trial by combat for her accused crimes. And in case you forgot, Cersei has one hell of a warrior to fight for her. At the end of Cersei’s walk last season, Qyburn introduced her to the “newest member of the Kingsguard,” a knight glad in gold armor who’s taken a vow of silence until he kills all of Cersei’s enemies. The show has yet to give that fighter a name, but in the books he’s known as Ser Robert Strong. Fans believe Strong is the reanimated corpse of The Mountain, who after being injured in Tyrion’s trial by combat in Season 4, was experimented on with Qyburn’s unorthodox ways. So if this new Kingsguard solider fights for Cersei, who will he be battling…
Did Someone Say Cleganebowl?
That brings us to [drum roll] CLEGANEBOWL: Sandor Clegane, aka The Hound, v. Gregor Clegane, aka The Mountain. The theory proposes that the two nemesis brothers will finally face off in Cersei’s trial by combat. But how can that happen with a dead The Hound, you ask? Because he ain’t dead! Follow me deeper down the rabbit hole to the Gravedigger theory.
Although Arya left The Hound for dead after his fight with Brienne in Season 4, we never technically saw him die. In the books, The Hound is similarly left by Arya but rumors spread that he may have remerged as a mysterious hooded figure leading a band of outlaws. In A Feast for Crows, Brienne visits a monastery on the Quiet Isle and meets the Elder Brother who tells her Sandor is dead. But interpreting this as a metaphorical death, fans have theorized that The Hound may in fact still be alive as a gravedigger. Still not convinced though? Don’t worry, new Season 6 cast member Ian McShane already gave away the surprise. Not a man who vibes with HBO’s no-spoilers policy, McShane revealed that his character, who might be a mix of the book’s Elder Brother and Septon Meribald, will “bring back a much-loved character who everybody thinks is dead.” It’s not Jon Snow, so we can easily assume it’s The Hound.
If the series revives The Hound, that makes Cleganebowl even more of a possibility. Since the monks on the Quiet Isle are followers of the Faith of the Seven, the High Sparrow could declare Sandor as his champion to fight against Cersei’s Robert Strong. But we’re not done here. If Cleganebowl happens, this could also lead to a third major, and even crazier, theory: the valonqar. Remember Maggy, the fortuneteller young Cersei visited in the Season 5 premiere? In the books, Maggy prophesied Cersei’s death, declaring she would die by the hands of the “valonqar,” which means “little brother.” Though some have believed this to mean Tyrion, Cleganebowl enthusiasts believe Sandor Clegane could be the valonqar who, by defeating his older brother, causes Cersei’s death. While the series never mentioned Maggy’s valonqar prophecy in the Season 5 episode, this may have been a way to keep viewers in the dark. Could this be Cersei’s last season?
Speaking of Lannister deaths, last season ended with the demise of Jaime’s
niece daughter Myrcella, who was poisoned by Ellaria Sand. We know Myrcella is definitely dead (hence the above photo), but Jaime won’t be in mourning all of Season 6. The newest trailers show his returning to King’s Landing where he’ll appear on the Sept of Baelor with House Tyrell guards demanding the High Sparrow to release Margaery. The Sparrow will reportedly hand over King Tommen’s wife easily and she’ll be dressed in the garb of the Faith. We’ll have to wait and see whether or not Margaery has actually converted into a religious follower or is secretly plotting her return to power.
It’s safe to presume that some point after this is when Jaime will finally head to the Riverlands, the book plot that was skipped over in the series last season. In the books, Jaime heads to Riverrun to besiege the now Frey-controlled castle. The latest trailer shows Walder Frey’s return, and rumors claim we’ll also see the return of The Blackfish, Catelyn Stark’s uncle, and Edmure Tully during Jaime’s trip, who we haven’t seen since his brutal bloody wedding night. Brienne and Pod will also be present in Riverrun, as the banners behind the two of them in the latest trailer reveal.
Dany & the Dothraki
Last season found Daenerys struggling to keep order in Meereen. After the rebellion of the Sons of the Harpy, which left Ser Barristan Selmy dead and Grey Worm injured, Daenerys finally met Tyrion in the fighting pits. After an attack by the Harpy, Drogon showed up to spit some fire and show off his wings, flying away with The Mother of Dragons on his back. After they land in an unknown location, Dany finds herself sees a group of Dothraki soldiers approaching and quickly drops her ring to leave a trail behind her.
Based on the Season 6 trailer, we know Jorah, who’s still infected with Grayscale, and Daario will find Dany’s ring in the grass. Whatever awaits the Khaleesi is anyone’s best guess, but we can hope that her Drogon will swoop in to help her out.
The Battle of the Bastards Is Coming
You’ve heard about it, you’re counting down the days, and I’ve already had a dream about it: Episode 9's epic battle is on the way. While “Blackwater,” the Battle of Castle Black, and “Hardhome” will be remembered as the most epic battles in television history, Season 6's Episode 9 battle is being called the “biggest [action sequence yet].”director Miguel Sapochnik has described it as a “proper battle” with “hundreds of human soldiers.” According to leaks from the set via Winter is Coming, the sequence has reportedly been dubbed the “Battle of the Bastards,” which can only mean one thing: Jon Snow versus Ramsay
Bolton Snow. Sansa, Davos, Littlefinger, lords of house Umber and Karstark, and even Rickon (he’s back!) are expected to appear. Get ready for blood.
Tyrion Rules Meereen
After traveling from Pentos to Volantis to Valyria, Tyrion finally arrived in Meereen last season. After Dany escaped with Drogon, Tyrion was named to rule the city in her place, with help from Missandei and Grey Worm. Varys suddenly showed to Tyrion’s surprise, offering to help counsel him during his rule.
This season looks to find Tyrion still in Meereen with the usual crew drinking his usual wine, but as the latest trailer shows he’ll have a little meet and greet with the dragons.
Meet the Tarlys
One thing we’re sure to see this season is a super sad Sam Tarly, who will likely soon find out about Jon Snow’s murder. Before the Night’s Watch attacked Jon, Sam left The Wall to travel to Oldtown to help protect with Gilly and her baby and to study and become the new Maester of the Watch following Maester Aemon’s death.
Season 6 will also finally introduce us to the rest of the Tarly family. Downton Abbey actor James Faulkner will play Sam’s father Randyll Tarly, whom forced his son to join the Night’s Watch, Sam’s brother Dickon will be played by Freddie Stroma, Samantha Spiro will play his as his mother and Rebecca Benson his sister.
Littlefinger Is As Mysterious As Ever
Littlefinger played his cards as sneakily as ever last season. Marrying off Sansa to Ramsay and then abandoning her in Winterfell alone, he traveled to King’s Landing to serve up more carnage. In order to be named Warden of the North, he supplies Cersei with Olyvar to testify against Loras Tyrell and get the Tyrells out of power. But shortly after, in typical Petyr Baelish fashion, Littlefinger told Olenna Tyrell that the same would happen for Cersei once Lancel Lannister reveals her past crimes. Whatever he’s up to this season, it’s definitely for his own advantage.
More Red Women
So far Melisandre has been the only Red Priestess we’ve met, but she’s far from the only one in the Seven Kingdoms. This season we’ll meet two new Red Women: Russian-born Israeli actress Ania Bukstein, as shown talking to Varys above, and one played by Rila Fukushima. The Lord of the Light ain’t going nowhere.
Game of Thrones Season 6 premieres on HBO on Sunday, April 24 at 10:00 p.m. ET.