2016 is the year that Game of Thrones starts to outpace the George RR Martin novels that it’s based on, tearing into the unknown for its sixth season and finally stopping those smug book-readers in their plot-spoiling tracks.
Or so we thought – because based on what we’ve seen in the series trailers, it looks like HBO is actually returning to a few book storylines that were previously left unadapted. So here are a few ideas ripped from the pages of A Song of Ice and Fire that you might just be seeing on your TV this year…
1. The Siege of Riverrun
Last series saw Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s Jaime Lannister head off to Dorne in order to rescue his daughter Myrcella, but in the books that never happened – instead, the Kingslayer was sent to the Riverlands to try and lay claim to the Stark-loyal castle of Riverrun, which was being held by Ser Brynden “The Blackfish” Tully.
Now, a year later it looks like that storyline is coming true – various clips in the trailers show Jaime at a battle camp (see above), while Tobias Menzies (whose captured Lord Edmure Tully played a major part in the plotline) has confirmed he’s returning to the series. Also, if you look closely during the trailer at one point you can see the Tully banner (a red fish) behind Brienne of Tarth and Pod, both of whom also played a part in that storyline in the book.
Likelihood – Four and a half resurrected Jon Snows
2. The Kingsmoot
While the TV series hasn’t spent a lot of time with the citizens of the Iron Islands (aka the Ironborn) apart from the unlucky Theon Greyjoy, we might be about to learn a lot more about them. Based on casting calls and scenes from the trailer of various characters (including Theon’s sister Yara) converging on main island Pyke, it seems likely that this series will see the appearance of the Kingsmoot storyline, where the Ironborn elect a new leader after the death of King Balon (he’s currently still alive in the TV series, though he hasn’t appeared much in recent years).
Crucially, this storyline (from book four of the series, A Feast for Crows) sees the introduction of Theon’s uncles Victarion and Euron Greyjoy, the latter of whom is a ruthless pirate who wins the election with a plan to use a magic horn to gain control of Daenerys’ dragons.
We think we’ve spotted one or both of Euron and Victarion in the trailers (the former played by Pilou Asbæk) so this plotline seems like a safe bet – especially if the Ironborn are headed into Daenerys’ path for a showdown.
Likelihood – Five resurrected Jon Snows
3. Lady Stoneheart
This fan-favourite plotline from the books saw Throros of Myr (Paul Kaye in the TV series) raise Stark matriarch Catelyn from the dead after her murder at the Red Wedding, only for the maimed and traumatised lady to embark on a campaign of vengeance against the Freys and Lannisters who betrayed her family.
Sadly this zombie revenge tale never made it into the TV series, with creators David Benioff and DB Weiss often saying that they didn’t fancy bringing back Catelyn’s actress Michelle Fairley to be a largely mute and heavily made-up corpse.
But who’s to say Lady Stoneheart has to be Catelyn? Maybe instead of a dead Stark, she’ll be a living one – Sophie Turner’s Sansa to be exact, who has plenty of vengeance to wreak on the Freys (and the Boltons) herself. Sure it’s a bit far-fetched, but the series has form for giving Sansa other characters’ storylines, with her marriage to Ramsay last series lived out by an entirely different character in the books. Plus, we know Sansa is teaming up with Davos (Liam Cunningham) this year and that the Freys are returning, and it would be SO satisfying.
Unless of course the show has other book-friendly plans for the Freys brewing…
Likelihood: Two resurrected Jon Snows
4. Wyman Manderly’s revenge
Though he’s never actually appeared on the TV series, Wyman Manderly has still had a bit of an impact – his son Wendel was killed at the Red Wedding with his liege lord Robb Stark (Richard Madden), and in the books this results in some serious plotting from the powerful noble.
Fiercely loyal to the Starks due to their generosity to his family years before, the novels see Manderly (though affecting low intelligence and loyalty to the Freys, Boltons and Lannisters) secretly scheme with Davos to join up with Stannis and return remaining Stark Rickon to leadership in the North. Later, it’s also implied that Manderly may have killed some of his Frey houseguests and baked them into pies for Roose Bolton, which is just too good an image not to adapt.
Counting against this theory is the fact that (as far as we know) no-one’s been cast as Wyman Manderly and he’s not appeared in the series at all thus far, but take heart – there’s always the possibility they’ll give this storyline to someone else as well.
Likelihood: One resurrected Jon Snow
5. The Tower of Joy
This flashback tale of how Ned Stark’s sister Lyanna died seems like a lock for the next series, with several shots in various trailers showing what appears to be younger versions of Ned and friends taking on Targaryen royal guards as they defend the tower Lyanna would later die in.
Fans can take some heart from this, as the scene is supposed to cast some light on Jon Snow’s mysterious parentage (of which more here, but in short: R+L=J) which could indicate Kit Harington’s brooding hero will live to find out more about his origins.
Likelihood: Five resurrected Jon Snows
6. Aegon Targaryen
George RR Martin’s latest novel A Dance with Dragons introduced a shocking twist when it was revealed that Daenery’s presumed-dead nephew Aegon was alive and well with an army of his own. Joining up with Tyrion (who hasn’t yet met Daenerys in the books) and undercover as the son of a loyal subject, Aegon prepared to make plans to attack Westeros while it was vulnerable – though some have expressed doubts as to whether he’s the real Aegon at all or just a pretender to the name and title.
The books also revealed that spymaster Varys (played by Conleth Hill in the TV series) was loyal to Aegon all along, subtly manipulating King’s Landing to be unstable enough for the young prince to seize it when he returns.
So yeah it was a pretty big deal in the books, but the TV series seems to have ignored it entirely, leading some fans to assume the plotline in the books has little importance to the endgame. Of course we COULD see the emergence of Aegon this year, but there’s not been a peep out of casting for someone that could match his description and to be honest we’re doubtful how he could fit in. For now, we’re thinking Aegon is Ae-GONE.
Likelihood: Two resurrected Jon Snows
7. Strong Belwas
OK, Strong Belwas isn’t a plotline, but the eunuch slave-gladiator is a book character sorely missed in the TV series (he basically functioned as an extra bodyguard and champion for Daenerys). And while the time for his introduction has really long passed, we’re hoping that part of the episode summary for season six’s first episode – “Daenerys meets a strong man” – hints at his appearance this year.
Likelihood: Four resurrected Jon Snows
8. Quentyn Martell
Another character removed from the TV show, Quentyn Martell is the eldest son of Dorne’s ruler Prince Doran Martell, who appeared in the TV series last year played by Alexander Siddig. A Dance with Dragons sees him travel to Meereen to asks for Daenerys’ hand in marriage, get turned down and then be burned to death when he tries to tame one of her dragons (he thought he had a chance due to his Targaryen ancestry).
Now, we don’t think there’s much chance of Quentyn himself turning up this year, but his move to claim a dragon after Daenerys’ disappearance looks to have been given to another character instead – Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister, left in charge of Meereen with a hostile populace and in need of some scaly muscle.
And based on the above moment in the latest trailer, it looks like Tyrion might end up just as barbecued as Quentyn…
Likelihood: Three Resurrected Jon Snows
Though to be honest, we REALLY don’t mind if you keep that one in the books, HBO. Anything to keep Tyrion around a bit longer…
Game of Thrones returns to HBO and Sky Atlantic on Sunday 24th April