This year’s Game of Thrones has been a smorgasbord of character returns, whether it’s characters who’ve been absent a few episodes (Jerome Flynn’s Bronn), a few years (Clive Russell’s The Blackfish or Rory McCann’s The Hound) or since the very first season (Joseph Mawle’s Benjen Stark).
And now a few fans think they might have spotted a clue that yet another presumed-dead hero is returning to the series, thanks to this preview picture for next week’s episode.
Yes, that’s Faye Marsay’s Waif, fresh from her attempted murder of Arya (Maisie Williams) and looking a bit worried about her future. But it’s the shadowy figure behind her who’s really piqued everyone’s interest, because an awful lot of people think it could be…Syrio Forel.
In case you’d forgotten, Syrio was the Braavosi swordmaster (played by Miltos Yerolemou) hired to teach Arya how to use Needle back in season one, who apparently sacrificed himself to help her escape by battling Ser Meryn Trant and Lannister soldiers with nothing but a wooden sword.
But fans have suspected Syrio might be returning for a very long time (mostly because you never see him die on screen), with some suspecting that the Swordsman could have some connection with Faceless Man Jaqen H’ghar due to their shared Braavosi heritage and similar turns of phrase. Some have even suspected that Jaqen and Syrio are the same person (a popular vein of theories at the moment).
And now with this new picture people think Syrio might finally have returned, perhaps to save Arya from the Waif after watching over her from afar for years. But could it really be him? Let’s look at the evidence.
If we enhance the picture and play with the colours a bit we can get a better look at the shadowy figure behind the Waif, and at first it’s not very good news. If you note the position of his hands and the cut of his jacket, the figure is clearly walking away from the Waif rather than sneaking up on her (as the image first appears), suggesting that this is nothing more than a bystander in the scene who bears a similar-shaped hairdo.
Plus it does beg the question why HBO would release a picture that reveals such a big twist, even if it was handled in quite a subtle way (and for a character that, let’s face it, a lot of viewers won’t remember). So not looking super likely at an initial glance.
However if you continue to look more closely at the picture you can notice more concrete similarities to Syrio, including the hair and the distinctive shoulder pads of his costume, and while that could be a coincidence (or just the Braavosi style) the resemblance is pretty uncanny.
And the fact that HBO released the picture isn’t exactly a deal breaker either – it could just be that someone didn’t realise what they were uploading, and since that point this picture hasn’t been uploaded with the others, suggesting to some fans that it wasn’t supposed to be seen.
And then there’s actor Miltos Yerolemou. Having teased fans about his possible return in charming emoji form, in a recent interview the actor also seemed to give some hint that he might be more connected to the current series’ action (and Jaqen H’ghar’s Faceless Men) than he’s letting on.
Asked on Sky Atlantic’s post-show discussion series Thronescast about Forel’s connection to the Faceless Men and their House of Black and White, the following exchange took place:
Question: “Syrio Forel has a strong relationship with the House of Black and White, doesn’t he?”
Response: “Well! Yeah … Well, no. Uh … No! Nah, I don’t know! … With Braavos, yes.”
The Braavosi doth protest too much, wethinks. Especially when someone rather matching his description turned up on the Game of Thrones set this year with Maisie Williams and Faye Marsay, complete with press-shielding umbrellas…
Of course none of this is concrete, and it’s incredibly likely that we’re all getting very excited about an extra who forgot to get a haircut and wandered into the back of a shot. That’s VERY possible.
But on a series where the deceased just keep returning, we can’t help that hope Syrio called in one last favour from the God of Death. The First Sword of Braavos deserves another chance to show us what he can do.
Game of Thrones continues on Sky Atlantic this Monday at 2am and 9.00pm