Easter is coming, fellow Westerosians (Westerosi? Nerds?), and with it season 6 of the phenomenally huge television series Game of Thrones. But you probably already knew that and have the start date lovingly circled in your calendars, didn’t you?
The previous 5 seasons have been based on existing novels and were always accompanied by people who read them constantly see-sawing between smugness or outraged depending on the level of creative license in each particular episode. For those of you who stubbornly refuse to read the frankly-chewy fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, rejoice! The series has finally caught up with the glacial pace of George R R Martin’s writing process and will deal with events that haven’t yet been put to print.
When we left the series way back when in the distant haze of June 2015 a hell of a lot had happened, leaving people confused, upset, and – as always – avidly awaiting the commencement of the next season and rabidly speculating as to the nature of events yet to pass.
In the finale of Season 5 we witnessed Stannis no longer be the mannis, the flight of Sansa and Reek from occupied Winterfell, the shame of Cersei Lannister, the poisoning of Myrcella Baratheon, the blinding of Arya Stark by the Many-Faced God, and the abandoning of Daenerys in the middle of Dothraki territory by her arsehole of a dragon.
What’s that? I missed something? Oh yes, this happened too:
In a move that had many fangirls (and boys) howling in emotional anguish, the Nights Watch turned on their lord and saviour Jon Snow and gave him a thorough shanking for being a decent enough guy to not let thousands of innocent people be murdered by the creeping tide of undeath slowly marching its way towards the Wall.
So what’s going to happen to our beloved characters?
Very recently HBO released a slew of on-set photographs from the upcoming season to get the fandom fires stoking nice and early. We see hints of the fates of most of those I listed above, with the notable absence of that Stark bastard.
First off we can see images of Sansa at least alive and functioning, still in the snowy wilderness of the North, accompanied by the abominable creature known as Reek. Everyone knows that the former step-siblings are hardly seeing eye-to-eye after Theon’s defection back to the Greyjoys and his involvement in the capture of Winterfell, but maybe in their reliance on one another to survive we could eventually see the reconciliation of the two of them and the eventual reclamation of his wits by Theon.
The pictures we have of the Lannisters show us Cersei in her rather fetching pixie cut, an ever-handsome Jamie, and the adorable King Tommen in good health. We also see stills from the funeral of the rather less good-healthed Myrcella, where Cersei is peculiarly absent. Whether it’s just the particular framing of the shot or whether she can’t bear to be at the funeral of another of her children, only time will tell.
Arya Stark is even more of a mystery than the previous characters as all we get is a couple of shots of her definitely blind, dressed in rags, and begging in the streets of what is probably Bravos. Will she be like this forever? Probably not because, unless she develops Daredevil-esque superpowers (not impossible), she would make a pretty awful assassin. Perhaps after an indeterminate amount of time she will learn her lesson and earn a new appreciation for not pissing off the Many-Faced God.
The other fan-favourite, Daenerys, is shown with her hands tied up but still standing proudly in front of what is presumable the local big Dothraki cheese. If events of the past are anything to go by she’ll use her knowledge of the language and the culture to sway them over to her side and swell the ranks of her ever-growing army with a brand-new horde of pseudo-Huns before hitching a lift back to Meereen. Can you really imagine it going any other way?
Whilst we’re on the subject of Meereen, we may as well mention that other Lannister, you know, the short one that no-one really likes. We see him along with Lord Varys enjoying the finer things in life in the Khaleesi’s throne room, so are they just keeping the place warm until Daenerys gets back or do they have a bit more ambition than that? Maybe Varys does but Tyrion seems to be more along the lines of keeping his own head on than making a power grab so we’ll soon see what happens there. No sign of Jorah in any of the pictures yet, however.
And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for:
What in the name of the Old Gods and the New is going to happen to Jon Snow? If you ask me he looked pretty dead when we left him lying there in the snow…
However, here’s where things get a little bit more complex. We already know that death is not necessarily the end of things in Westeros, what with at least one person being brought back by the Lord of Light on more than one occasion, so there’s a good chance that we may see something like that come in to play. Especially seeing as the Red Witch Melisandre fled to Castle Black after the monumental cock-up that was Stannis’ attempt to take Winterfell.
There’s a lot of evidence pointing towards Jon Snow being the reincarnation of Azor Ahai, a great mythical champion in the religion of the Lord of Light (a speculation that has prompted the creation of many scarily in-depth Youtube videos), which is something that Mel and her convenient timing may recognise and use that as her reason to bring him back from the dead.
Furthermore we have the little matter of Jon’s last word: “Ghost”. Did he mean that he’s going to come back and haunt the people who killed him? Is he really into Swedish doom metal? Or did he use his last breath to think about his beloved dire wolf. If the latter is true (which it probably is) then we may see that Jon is yet another in a great number of Starks who is a Warg, able to cast their spirits out to hitch a ride in the mind of an animal.
You see, if a Warg’s body dies while their consciousness is still inside an animal then their consciousness stays inside the animal safe and sound, something we all saw when Jon killed the Wildling Warg, Orell, who cast his mind into an eagle at the last second and attempt to claw Snow’s face right off.
So if Jon just so happens to be a latent Warg then it’s not entirely unreasonable to assume he had a flash of inspiration in the moment of death and cast his mind into the body of Ghost for safe keeping. To be honest you could have a much worse temporary body than that of a giant-ass wolf.
One of the implications of his resurrection is rather huge. The first line of the oath of the Night’s Watch says "Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death”, which has certainly happened. If he does come back then he has legitimate grounds to be released from his oath and, if some theories are to be believed, eventually claim the throne of Westeros.
Seeing as Jon features prominently on the Season 6 promo poster, and actor Kit Harrington was spotted lurking near the set last year, we can expect Jon to come back in some form or another. It is just how that remains yet to be seen.
In amongst the photos we can see both Yara and Balon Greyjoy, not to mention Ramsey Bolton, possibly implying that the Ironborn will be gearing up for round two against the house of the Flayed Man. Will Season 6 be the one in which we see the Greyjoys storm their way across the North to take Winterfell (again) and provide a rule with a few less skinnings? For the sake of the few remaining Starks, and the rest of the North, we can only hope so.
As for the fate of our favourite white walker-killer, Samwell Tarly, we have a single photo showing him and Gilly in what looks like a boat, with the great hero himself clutching a bucket and looking rather green around the gill(ie)s. Looks like the man is heading south to train to be a Maester after all. Let’s just hope he gets there in one piece.
Last, but certainly not least, we come to a photo of Bran Stark. We see him in what looks like a castle courtyard deceptively tall, almost as if he were standing. However, that could just be a trick of the crop because there is no evidence he will ever be able to walk again through magical means or otherwise. What’s also interesting is that he is accompanied by an old man captioned as being the Three-Eyed Raven, who we last saw entwined with a weirwood far beyond the Wall.
There’s a good chance that they’re in the courtyard of Castle Black but considering the magical nature of the Three-Eyed Raven (and his suspected former career as a Crow), then it’s hard to say whether what we see is real or just a vision. I for one like the idea that Bran makes his way to Castle Black to arrive just in time for Jon’s (probable) resurrection.
So how about that, then? I don’t know about you but I’m pretty excited for the commencement of the new season. No doubt we can be assured to have one hell of an intense ride.