It's been the central question in the Game of Thrones fandom ever since Season 5 ended: what the hell happened to Jon Snow (Kit Harington)? He can't really be dead, right?
Season 6 is set to really shake up the world of Westeros after the shocking events of the Season 5 finale, including introducing several new characters and bringing back old faces who haven't been around for a while. We'll get to the Jon Snow conundrum shortly, but first...
Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), one of the last remaining Stark children, featured heavily throughout the first few seasons. Arguably it was his discovery of Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) in flagrante delicto that triggered the events leading to war in the Seven Kingdoms.
But we haven't seen hide nor hair of him since he encountered the mysterious Three-Eyed Raven in the Weirwood tree who promised him that, though he had lost the ability to use his legs, the raven would teach him how to 'fly'. Bran didn't appear at all in Season 5, though he and Rickon were falsely believed to have been murdered by Theon at this time in the canon.
He reportedly didn't appear in Season 5 because he was training with the Three-Eyed Raven and the Children of the Forest, but Hempstead-Wright has confirmed that he'll be back in Season 6:
"I can't say a lot but I am back this season, and it's going to get particularly interesting with Bran. He has some interesting visions."
Hopefully this means we'll get to see him return as a fully-fledged Warg, and after all that has happened with Sansa (Sophie Turner) recently it would be nice to see her finally reunited with a member of her family as she's now escaped with Theon and the knowledge that Bran and Rickon are still alive.
Euron "Crow's Eye" Greyjoy
A new character enters the ring in the form of Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) - Theon's eldest uncle. He showed up much earlier in the books, but this will be the first time Euron appears in the TV series - though he was mentioned indirectly by Jaime Lannister way back in Season 1.
With blue lips and eyes (or eye), the vicious and mad pirate Euron is nicknamed "Crow's Eye" for the patch he wears over his left eye. He's an extremely skilled warrior and psychological tactician, a cunning and ruthless manipulator. He captains the Silence, a ship with a mute crew, and led raids all over the world after he was banished for sleeping with his brother Victarion's saltwife (though it is unclear whether or not this was consensual on her part).
Once the King of the Iron Isles, Theon's father Balon (Patrick Malahide), dies Euron returns to stake his claim on the throne, drowning anyone who objected in a cask of seawater. It is suspected that he had something to do with Balon's death due to the fact he arrived back at the Iron Isles the day after he died, but that currently remains unclear.
After he wins the throne by Kingsmoot he promises to conquer all of Westeros for the Ironborn using dragons. He sends Victarion to find Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), wishing to court her and bring her to Westeros, claiming he can control her dragons with a Dragon Horn - Dragonbinder - that he possesses.
A dangerous and interesting character, Euron's appearance in Season 6 is sure to shake up the Game of Thrones universe, and probably not for the better. He's set to first appear in episode 1 of Season 6.
Another Red Priestess?
A new original character for the TV series, Kinvara is the High Priestess of the Red Temple of Volantis, replacing Benerro who in the books was the High Priest of said temple.
Described as a "beautiful, intense and magnetic" young priestess in the casting calls, there hasn't been an actress confirmed for her yet. Reports of a leaked audition tape have been circling for a while now, and though we can't say for sure that she'll be the actress chosen to portray Kinvara, actress Tehmina Sunny did read for the role back in May and she certainly looks the part.
The audition script hints that Kinvara may step in whilst Daenerys is away, as she arrives to offer help to Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill) following her departure with Drogon.
And Jon Snow?
The debate has gotten really tired as of late, with speculation running rampant and fake interviews circling despite the insistence of cast and crew that yes, Jon Snow is dead. Sorry.
"We saw him get stabbed a lot, I think it's pretty clear he's dead." - Maisie Williams [Ayra Stark]
Director David Nutter described meeting President Barack Obama, who is apparently a big Game of Thrones fan, and even he had this burning question on his lips.
"He shook my hand, and he put his other hand on my shoulder and he said, 'You didn't kill Jon Snow did you?' and I said, 'Mr President, Jon Snow is deader than dead'."
But still theories persist: maybe Melisandre will bring him back to life, or his skinchanger powers will give him a vessel to live on inside Ghost, or some deus ex machina will come along to save him from bleeding all the way to death in the snow. It's the great and terrible thing about having such an active fandom - all sorts of theories get flung about until fact and fiction start to blur, and verifying facts on the internet can be difficult.
He's a popular character, and I think a big part of the reason people were upset by his death was cause he's at the centre of an unanswered theory regarding his parentage that fans hoped to see resolved during his run on the show.
Game of Thrones' popularity is mainly due to it's harsh, uncompromising, bloody narrative; though characters like Lady Stoneheart and The Lightning Lord Beric Dondarrion have returned it's not a common occurrence for someone to do so - and we haven't even seen Stoneheart in the show yet.
Sadly this isn't a comic book universe - this is George R. R. Martin's world, so I wouldn't hold my breath for Snow making a return. As Kit Harington himself put it - "dead is dead". That's the bottom line.
Of course if he wasn't dead, they wouldn't exactly come out and tell us, so we'll just have to wait and see what happens next season.