Folk in the Game of Thrones fandom got pretty excited when it was revealed that the short lived but fan favourite character Lord Eddard Stark would be returning to our screens for Season 6 of the massively popular HBO fantasy series.
Sadly we're not going to see the enigmatic Sean Bean popping back up after retrieving his head from that nasty looking pike, but rather a younger version of the late Lord of Winterfell will be appearing in Game of Thrones Season 6 via flashback (or flashbacks). He'll be portrayed instead by newcomer 13-year old Sebastian Croft, reportedly in a scene sparring with an older boy.
That's pretty much all we know about Ned Stark's return, but as the Game of Thrones fandom so often does there's been all sorts of theories and such emerging online about what this flashback could mean. It's pretty unusual for Game of Thrones to use the structural narrative device of flashback so it must be something important.
In fact a popular theory is that the flashbacks as well as the reports that the Tower of Joy is going to feature in the new season point to a resolution to the question of Jon Snow (Kit Harington)'s parentage. The prevaling theory in the fandom is that Jon Snow is not in fact a bastard child of Ned Stark but that of his sister, Lyanna Stark, and Rhaegar Targaryen (Daenerys' elder brother - no, not the one got bumped off in Season 1). You can read the full theory explained here if you haven't heard of it already.
The debate around whether or not Jon Snow actually died at the conclusion of Season 5 has been raging online ever since the season ended earlier this year, and we can't even look to the books for an answer to this one given how the narratives are now diverging. Cast and crew alike have been hounded for an answer to this question, and whilst some like Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) have said they think there's a chance he'll return others like Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) have been much blunter about his death.
Williams: "I think you're in denial about it for a long time when you see the death of a big character but I can't help but think it makes for such a great storyline! All the time people are asking me if Jon Snow is alive and the answer is no! He's dead! I promise."
That's us told then!
Sean Bean has been the most recent actor to comment on Jon Snow's supposed fate. At a recent press conference for his new show The Frankenstein Chronicles Bean was asked for his thoughts on whether or not Snow would be returning to Game of Thrones, and his answer was pretty much the same as the rest:
Bean: "It kind of didn’t look like it, I have to admit, but who knows? Anything could happen. I guess that’s the big question. It used to be: Who’s Jon Snow’s dad? Now it’s: Is Jon Snow really dead? But I think he probably is, what do I know?"
He makes a fair point. His comment that it "didn't look like it" may give fans hope that the rumours of Harington being spotted on set are true, but it's been more than four years since Ned Stark famously had his head lopped off by King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) leading to Bean's exit from the franchise, so he's likely to know about as much as anyone else at this point.
For now I guess we're just going to have to keep taking everything that comes out of the Game of Thrones rumour mill with a very large pinch of salt, and perhaps a glass of wine. It's what Tyrion would want us to do.