We’re in a bit of a unique position as we approach this year’s series of Game of Thrones. For the first time since the HBO fantasy drama began in 2011, the action won’t be based on the source novels by George RR Martin, the series having overtaken the books last year.
Combined with the fact that HBO are keeping the series completely under wraps this time round (after leaks in 2015), the upshot of all this is that for once nobody has any idea of what we can expect going into this sixth season. Maybe Jon Snow is dead, maybe he’ll return. Maybe Daenerys will finally take the Iron Throne, or maybe she’ll be destroyed by her own dragons. Maybe Pod will finally reveal his evil plan and take over the Seven Kingdoms while Hot Pie opens a chain of low-price bakeries.
Fundamentally, we just don’t know – but to be honest, it’s pretty exciting to actually be able to speculate about the show, rather than just pretend to ignore the source material. Finally we have some genuine mysteries to solve, and the first one on our minds is pretty obvious.
1. Is Jon Snow really dead?
This question has dominated the discussion of Game of Thrones series six after Kit Harington’s Night’s Watch leader was apparently stabbed to death at the end of the last series. Since the episode aired both the show’s creator and Harington have continually asserted that Jon is done – but the fans aren’t having any of it.
Their evidence? First, there was the fact that Kit Harington hadn’t cut off his long Jon Snow hair, which he’d previously said he would immediately lop off when he left the show. Then he was spotted on set a few times (though the actor has said he was only playing a corpse), and appeared on the series’ first poster.
Since then, the trailers and promotional material for the series have seemed to place an almost comical emphasis on the fact of Snow’s death, perhaps implying that though he is currently deceased, something may happen to change that fact (with the creators and Harington not TECHNICALLY lying). Bringing us to…
2. Will Melisandre raise Jon Snow from the dead?
The title for series six’s first episode was recently revealed to be The Red Woman, implying a central role for Carice van Houten’s mysterious priestess Melisandre (often referred to with that nickname).
And Melisandre’s sorcery might just prove capable of raising Jon Snow. You see, previously in the series her fellow Red priest Thoros of Myr was shown capable of raising the dead, with Richard Dormer’s Lord Beric Dondarrion brought back to life multiple times despite a variety of injuries.
Though Melisandre herself once expressed surprise at Thoros’ ability, who’s to say she can’t summon the same power in a pinch, perhaps even by the end of the first episode?
This advance Telegraph preview from the red carpet premiere of the first episode would certainly seem to suggest something like this has happened:
“The Red Woman” of the episode’s title, the mystical Melisandre – who was left at Castle Black along with Jon Snow’s corpse as season five closed – in no way dominates the action, but by the hour’s end, with a luridly surprising twist, sets the scene for some powerful sorcery to come.
Hmm, we wonder what that sorcery could be – unless it’s all a big fakeout double bluff of course, in which case we’ll all pretend we were certain of Jon Snow’s death the whole time.
And anyway, it’s not like there’s not plenty of other things for us to wonder about with our other favourite characters…
3. Where is Daenerys being taken?
After screwing up royally (in every sense of the word) as Queen of Meereen, Game of Thrones’ final episode last year saw Daenerys swept away by her dragon, only to be plonked in the path of a khalasar (aka an army of Dothraki) just like the one she was sold to back in series one.
In subsequent trailers and newly-released preview clips (see above), it looks like the Dothraki are treating Daenerys as some sort of prisoner, and taking her back to their capital city Vaes Dothrak for some unknown purpose. So what are they up to?
Well, to find the answer we have to turn back to Game of Thrones’ first series, as Daenerys met a group of women called the dosh khaleen who foresaw that her unborn child would be a great conqueror long foretold in their religion. That prophecy ended up not coming true, of course, but the group of wise women may still be crucial to Daenerys’ storyline.
You see, the dosh khaleen are traditionally made up of widowed Khaleesi just like Daenerys, taken after the death of their Khal husbands and put to work as the high priestesses and seers for the Dothraki religion. When Daenerys’ husband Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) died back in series 1, by all rights she should have taken up the same position (on pain of death if she refused according to the books), but instead she headed off to conquer new lands.
Now, years later it seems like she’s been brought back to do what the Dothraki see as her duty, with one trailer showing her apparently stripped down from her finery in a temple (see above). We bet she won’t be there long, though – she’s still got Drogon looking after her.
4. What’s Drogon up to?
Daenerys’ dragon seems to be terrorising a primitive settlement here, so it’s not a huge leap to suggest that he might be swooping down on Vaes Dothrak to rescue his mummy. Or just drop off some washing and raid her fridge, like a normal adolescent.
5. How’s Tyrion’s rule going?
“Do you like games, little man?” asks one man during a trailer for series six, so it sounds like the Half Man’s rule over Meerreen in Daenerys’ absence isn’t going down too well with the city’s inhabitants. Also, it appears that disenfranchised former slave owners-turned-rebels the Sons of Harpy are still in business, perhaps leading to Tyrion’s unwise decision to try and get Daenerys’ remaining dragons back in play.
Hopefully, this apparently fiery end for Tyrion is just an editing trick, because if he dies it might be the final straw for us. We can only take so much emotional scarring, and if Peter Dinklage goes, so do we.
6. Why is Davos protecting Jon Snow’s body?
It looks like the former Hand to Stannis has teamed up with Jon’s direwolf Ghost and a couple of loyal Night’s Watchmen to protect his body from his former sworn brothers (as also shown in this preview clip) – but why? Could it be to keep Jon intact (and unburned) for Melisandre to resurrect him?
7. Is Davos teaming up with the Starks?
Pictures from the two trailers seem to indicate that Davos will meet with Sophie Turner’s Sansa Stark this series – but could their interaction be closer to a military alliance?
At one point we see Davos looking over at a battlefield littered with Bolton victims, while the wolf crest of House Stark flutters behind him. Is this the sign that Sansa and Davos have teamed up due to their shared beef with the Boltons?
We’ll have to wait and see – but it certainly looks like the Boltons (and their flayed man symbol) are battling SOMEONE in the footage we’ve seen, and we’re not sure who else is left to oppose them.
8. Is Ned Stark (sort of) returning?
A few months back a casting went out that sounds an awful lot like a younger version of Sean Bean’s long-deceased character, and several scenes in both trailers appear to show a flashback scene with men in Stark armour attacking Targaryen-crested soldiers.
This is probably a callback to the Tower of Joy battle, an event mentioned in the book series where Ned’s sister Lyanna died after being abducted by then-heir to the throne Rhaegar Targaryen while her brother fought to rescue her. Though some people believe there’s a bit more to the story than that…
9. Are we going to learn the truth of Jon Snow’s parentage?
Many fans believe that Lyanna actually went willingly with Rhaegar and was hiding in the Tower of Joy during her pregnancy while her lover fought a war. The theory goes that when Ned finally fights his way up to Lyanna he finds her dying in childbirth, with her oft-quoted last words –“promise me, Ned” – suggesting that she persuaded her honourable brother to pretend her son was his own illegitimate offspring, aka Jon Snow.
In fan circles this theory is often abbreviated to R+L=J (aka Rhaegar plus Lyanna equals Jon), and if true could put Jon somewhat distantly in line to the Iron Throne. Though perhaps what we’ll see this series will only hint at this theory – it seems too good to spill the beans on just yet, and the apparent presence of Max von Sydow’s Yoda-like Three-Eyed Raven in the same scene could indicate that this is one of Bran’s quick visions, guided by his new mentor.
10. Speaking of, what on Earth is Bran up to this year?
Oh yeah, we totally forgot Bran was a thing. Isaac Hempstead-Wright’s character sat out the last season (probably because he’d caught up with his book storyline a series before the rest of the show did), and is now returning fully-grown and apparently walking around with White Walker leader the Night’s King.
Of course, we’re probably not seeing exactly what’s happening – in his absence from the action Bran’s apparently been working on his Jedi skills (aka his greenseeing visions and animal possession and so on), so this is probably some sort of premonition about what faces Westeros when the White Walkers attack.
Though based on other moments in the trailers, it looks like they might actually be attacking Bran in his secret greenseeing tree lair, so he might need to decipher those visions rather quickly…
11. Is Arya in trouble?
She’s been blinded and is now being beaten up by Faye Marsay’s Waif – could Arya’s (Maisie Williams) life get any worse? Well, possibly – scenes in the trailer seem to show her jumping out of a window, while others show her learning to adapt to her new limitations. Will she be blind forever? And is she running from an assassination attempt for the Faceless Men gone horribly wrong? Only time will tell.
12. Are we going to see revenge for the Red Wedding?
If Sansa and Davos ARE taking on the Boltons, perhaps we’ll also be seeing some vengeance against the traitorous Frey family, who betrayed Sansa’s brother Robb and butchered him at his uncle Edmure’s wedding back in series three.
After all, they’re back this series after an absence of two years doing evil villain toasts, and it’s high time for payback. You’d have to be a stone-hearted monster not to agree.
13. Who’s this?
This confident-looking lady hanging out with Tyrion and Varys (Conleth Hill) in the latest trailer is played by actress Ania Bukstein, and appears to be another Red Priestess in the vein of Melisandre (though with a smirkier sense of humour) based on her outfit. We’re not sure exactly what relevance she’ll have to the plot, but we’re betting it won’t be to make Tyrion’s life super convenient and easy.
14. Who are the Lannisters fighting?
A few people, perhaps – various clips in the trailer show Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei (Lena Headey) on the warpath, both at home in King’s Landing and somewhere further afield where they’ve pitched camp.
It seems certain that the scenes of soldiering at King’s Landing are the crown’s response to the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) and his Faith Militant taking control of the city, with various city troops and Jaime facing off with the holy man in tense scenes.
But what’s the other battle? Well, this one glimpse of a banner behind Brienne and Pod (Gwendoline Christie and Daniel Portman) might give us a clue – it’s the sigil for House Tully, one of the last noble houses loyal to the Starks whose head Edmure (Tobias Menzies) was captured back in season three.
Now, in George RR Martin’s novels Jaime led a siege on the Tully stronghold Riverrun while it was being held by Edmure’s uncle Brynden the Blackfish (Clive Russell), and while this storyline was changed for one set in Dorne last series it now seems like the TV show is finally bringing it to the screen complete with the book-accurate presence of Brienne and Pod. As well as possibly someone else…
15. Where’s Bronn?
There’s been no sign of Jerome Flynn’s sellsword-turned-Knight in the run-up to the series, but while he’d left the book series by this point in the narrative we’re not too worried for his health.
In fact, we think he’s the man grabbing Pod by the neck in the second trailer during the siege of Riverrun (the gloves and hair look like his), and while we’re not sure why he’s turned on his former ally (they both served Tyrion together, remember) or why he’s been held back from the trailers so far we can probably expect him to be a part of Jaime’s storyline again this year.
16. And finally, why hasn’t the series started yet?
It feels like we’ve been waiting for these episodes almost as long as the Starks have been warning us about winter. Hurry up already!
Game of Thrones returns to HBO and Sky Atlantic on the 24th April