Attention fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones! This here is a wildly spoiler-y, über-speculative post featuring insight from both past seasons and GRRM’s novels. Do not read on if you’d rather know nothing, Jon Snow.
It’s finally upon us: the day we’ve been waiting for since the season five finale…arguably well before even that. When George R.R. Martin left us all hanging back in 2011 with A Dance with Dragons—the fifth out of seven proposed novels in the A Song of Ice and Fire series—so many things were up in the air: was Jon Snow alive? Is Dany OK? And where the heck is Gendry?! (And you thought waiting a season was rough.) And while that last one may go unanswered for the rest of time (sniff), there are definitely some threads and loose ends to dissect. Be it speculatory, based on book knowledge, or something else entirely, we’re breaking down what we think is slated to come in The Winds of Winter-centric season of HBO’s Game of Thrones.
New Plays for the Throne
Like every other season of the series, the opportunity to rule over/in Westeros is a huge point of contention. But with so many of the old players out of the game (or very nearly out), this opens up new opportunities for the more underlooked houses — the Greyjoys, the Martells, the Tyrells, and the Freys.
In the East
The most documented attempt from the books is most certainly those ironborn lads and lasses on the island, the Greyjoys. And no, it’s not just Yara with whom we’ll contend. The seeming heir to the Iron Islands has some uncles (Euron and Victarion) who are more than keen to throw their hat in the ring, especially with Theon good as dead. Of all the storylines to come, this one is perhaps the oldest, starting in book four, contining through book five, and ending (we presume) somewhere in book six. And since the Greyjoys have been largely out of the picture on the show since season four, expect a lot more action from them this go-around.
But here’s where things get different: in the books, after Euron Greyjoy wins the favor of his kingdom, Yara (Asha in the books) heads north with Stannis’ army towards Winterfell to beg for her brother’s life. With Stannis already dead, will Yara still head to Winterfell? There’s a case to be made that she won’t, but there’s also one that she will — with Jaime Lannister and/or the Tully’s of Riverrun.
This could potentially connect to House Frey—now stay with me here!
With the Freys arguably playing the long game towards the throne since murdering Robb Stark et al in the Red Wedding way back in season three, the time to make a bigger move in the riverlands is now. Think about it: the Vale is controlled by Littlefinger now that Sansa and her aunt are gone, and the Tully lands are now firmly in the hand of House Frey after Edmure Tully was married off to a Frey lass back at the aforementioned wedding.
In the books, however, the Tully’s are not wont to give up their castle, so a great siege begins. This is where Jaime will spend at least part of his season, given that his cousin is married to a Frey and was granted control of Riverrun and its castle. A major battle will take place between the unrelenting Tully men and the Frey/Lannister alliance that simply wants it all. This could also be the moment we see Catelyn Stark’s zombified return—but more on that later.
Down South and West
With all the hullabaloo surrounding anyone associated with the Big Three—Lannister, Stark, and Targaryen—it’d be easy to discount those feisty Martells and scrappy Tyrells of Highgarden. But you shouldn’t, because they’re impassioned and determined, which is all you really need to try and climb the proverbial ladder (thanks for that one, Littlefinger).
Down in King’s Landing, Margaery Tyrell is being held by the High Sparrow for crimes of infidelity trumped up by Cersei Lannister. But if we know anything about Margaery, is that her cunning is just as impressive as Cersei’s, and her ability to manipulate with kindness is a true gift. And after spending a good amount of time with Septa Unella and the High Sparrow in the dungeons, Tommen’s wife quickly aligns herself with the hyper-religious plight of the Sparrows in order to get back atop the struggle for power, asking for a trial by the judges of the Faith rather than one by combat (like Cersei).
Could this lend itself to be the bolder move? Will Margaery come out on top and end up ruining Cersei once and for all? If we were a betting woman, we’d err on the side of “yes” here—Cersei’s prophecy has all but confirmed this, try though she might to circumvent it.
But Margaery isn’t the only woman scorned looking for a chance to rule the roost. Of course we’re talking about the women of Dorne. In the books, the major play for Dornish control is from Arianne Martell, Oberyn’s sister. But on the show, most of her storyline has been given to Ellaria Sand, Oberyn’s paramour and mother to one of the Sand Snakes. At the end of season five, Ellaria poisoned Myrcella with a kiss on her way back to King’s Landing, and in season six, we’re betting her plan will only amplify. After all, Prince Doran has largely been inert in his rule—and no one in Dorne is all that pleased they let the Lannisters get away with their hand in murdering two beloved children of Dorne (Oberyn and his sister Elia Martell, wife to Rhaegar Targaryen—y’know, the would-be king before Robert’s Rebellion?).
Our money is on Ellaria and the Sand Snakes having a much bigger role this season—a welcome change given what happened in season five—taking on Doran’s rule and possibly/maybe even trying to put one of Oberyn’s beloved daughters: what say you, Obara Sand? No one would hate having more of her on the series, badass as she is and underutilized as she was in season five.
Of course, this could all fail spectacularly, and Ellaria Sand and her Sand Snake daughters could fail. But there’s still another woman out there with whom they could align…
Ahh yes, everyone’s favorite Khaleesi! The possibly-maybe Prince That Was Promised. The breaker of chains and currently-MIA dragon queen Mhysa of Meereen. For all of A Dance with Dragons, Dany remains largely silent—and most of what does go on in book five has already happened on the series. So, more than any other character, Dany has the real opportunity to surprise us all, especially with a return to Westeros seeming closer than ever.
Of course what we do know is quite a hiccup in that regard: Dany’s been captured by the Dothraki. Given the traditions of the Dothraki people, this could snare Dany’s plans. In Dothraki tradition, the widow of a Khal is mandated to head to Vaes Dothrak and live with the dosh khaleen, the wives of all the khals who have come before.
But here’s where things get interesting. Back in A Game of Thrones, Dany was presented to the old khaleesi before marrying Khal Drogo (a mandate amongst the Dothraki people). While there, the crones declared that the son of Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo would be known as “The Stallion Who Mounts the World,” a.k.a. a great conqueror whose coming has been foretold in Dothraki prophecies. It should be noted, by the way, that these esteemed and honored permanent residents of the city—the only ones, given the traveling nature of the Dothraki—are fortunetellers and omen-interpreters of the future.
Our money would be on Dany ultimately winning the allegiance of the Dothraki people after some tough times convincing the dosh khaleen that she is the Stallion Who Mounts the World. Maybe she’ll have to marry another Khal (the new one, Khal Moro, perhaps)? Either way, we doubt Dany will head to Westeros this season, but she may get on a boat to do so in the season finale.
Image: aprilis420 /DeviantART
Also on the “more” agenda? Those poor, unfortunate Starks. And we’re not just talking about Bran! For three seasons now, the Stark kids have been beaten, battered, and out-and-out murdered in their quest for justice after patriarch Ned Stark’s death in season one. Scattered across the Realm, it feels as though this is the season for reconnections amongst the lot of Bran, Rickon, Sansa, Arya, and Jon Snow (we’ll get to him later).
Bran, no doubt, will be the central focus of that. To start: the first chapter of the first book comes from Bran’s perspective. And GRRM has gone on record saying that the Bran chapters are the hardest to write—his importance to the series cannot go undiscussed. As the heir apparent to Brynden Rivers’ Three-Eyed Raven post, Bran will have the ultimate say as to how and when and why winter will come and the fate of all. No doubt, the importance of the morality of the Stark words will come into play here, as its guiding hand will surely have an affect on how Bran decides which potential future is in the best interest of everyone in the Realm.
Our money is on Bran coming to terms with the things he cannot change in the world of the Realm (Jon Snow’s death, mayhaps?). After gaining insight and experience with his powers, Bran will be forced into a position of choosing the Realm’s fate—probably after a Night’s King insurgence (remember that video of season six behind-the-scenes stuff that showed the White Walkers tangled in a bunch of roots?). But don’t worry: we’re fairly certain this is where a big, twist-y loophole will come into play—the season’s cliffhanger will be Bran’s decision on the fate of the Realm.
We also want to go on record saying that figuring out which gods are really true—the old gods or the new—will also play into Bran’s storyline big time this season. The Many-Faced God from the Faith of the Seven? WATCH YOUR BACK, the Lord of Light and all them Weirtrees are COMIN’ FOR YOU.
And yes: we’re also hoping for a bit of Rickon magic this season, perhaps as a newly christened cannibal thanks to his time on Skagos with his Wilding keeper, Osha. Poor, feral little Rickon—we’re fairly certain things won’t end well for him at all.
As for Arya, we’re given her the title of “New Dany” this season—meaning we’re going to probably see very, very little of her this season beyond continued training with the Faceless Men before heading back to Westeros. It’s been confirmed that her storyline with the Mummers from the books (a theater troupe) will come up, but who knows in what capacity, or if it’ll lead her back home to Westeros.
Given that Benioff and Weiss said that this season of the series won’t spoil the books, there could be an opportunity for Thrones to mess with the timeline here. We could see the series through Bran’s visions of the hypothetical future (and flashbacks to the past), either knowingly or not, throughout the whole of the season, ending with Bran trying to internalize the knowledge and make a decision.
Or it could just be that the stories are deviating so much that none of this will come to pass. For example, there are so many places Sansa’s storyline could go: she could be recaptured by the Boltons or become a rebel-leading Wardeness of the North, hellbent on recapturing Winterfell for her family. Heck, she could even do something else entirely unexpected, like take over the reigns for the Lady Stoneheart storyline. Wouldn’t that be a twist? After all…
What is Dead May Never Die
The Undead. Given everything that’s been set up this season, the return of the dead looks like a major plotline for season six. After all, we’ve got the undead Mountain, all those White Walkers, that pesky Night’s King, and—of course—Jon Snow. All totally dead—but not. Remember those Ironborn words, y’all.
Magic has always been a major force in the books, but the show? It’s rested a bit on its laurels on that front, eschewing more of the novels’ big moments of magical reveal for tinier ones that hint at a much bigger blow-out of the stuff in the future. Well, that future may finally be here (because winter and all), so there is sure to be more than just a bunch of White Walkers lumbering around all reanimated as such.
Ultimately, the dead are in a war with the living. Everything in the series can be chalked up to jealousy and/or desire in one way or another, and the dead are no different. They no doubt long for the land that belongs to the living—they retain memories from their past life, after all. And those that are alive and have lost dreams of the day their dead will return to them.
So, are we going to get a Cleganebowl (a.k.a. the undead fight between Clegane brothers The Mountain and The Hound)? Probably, in the name of Cersei’s honor (lol). Will the White Walkers descend upon The Wall yet again, with the Night’s King at the front line? Um, it sure as shit feels legit. But the biggest indicator of just how big the dead will be this season is undoubtedly Jon Snow.
Now, we have several theories about Jon Snow, but we should say one thing: yes, we believe he is truly dead. Dead, dead, super-ded-style dead. In fact, you kind of have to if you want any theory about his character to hold weight. And we’re not just talking about our thoughts on his becoming the new Night’s King. We’ll let the video do the talking there:
By now we’ve all seen the photos of Jon Snow hanging out in Stark gear on the fields outside Winterfell (no doubt from that biggest battle ever the series has said is coming), probably throwing down against those damn Boltons. It could be a hypothetical future fast-forward (since he’s his half brother, Bran could be trying to find any way to keep him alive), but it could also be what actually happens, since Jon Snow’s death gives him a loophole on his duties with the Night’s Watch—service to The Watch doesn’t end until that person dies.
And then there’s the Lady Stoneheart thing. After a prosthetics guy hinted at her possible return, plus the rumor that Thoros of Myr is also back in play, it feels as though Lady Stoneheart showing up is ~happening~ for real. The vengeance-hungry, undead Catelyn Stark rampage throughout the Riverlands has been long sought after by fans of the books. So bringing her back could make many frustrated fans very happy.
But …what if they give all that stuff to Sansa Stark? The series has long been known to blend character storylines, and all that bloodthirsty vengeance stuff would still hold up if it was Sansa that ended up carrying that proverbial torch. Between the death of her father, the cruelty of the Lannisters, the betrayal of the Freys, the rapes of Ramsay Bolton, it would surprise literally no one to imagine a reanimated Sansa Stark having the same frame of mind as her mom. And the story of the Starks has always been one of tragedy mired in their own obsession with justice and doing what’s right—maybe the only way she truly gets agency on the series is through death.
We only hope she manages to take out the Boltons and reunite the North (maybe with the help of Jon Snow?) first.
And Where Will We Land?
Ultimately, this season of Game of Thrones feels as though it will be a rumination on those with magic, and those without. It’s the battle of polar (heh) opposites—night and day, winter and summer, power and powerless—and what people do to replicate, capture, and/or secure it. (Basically, it’s the plot of The Incredibles. Also I’m totally serious right now.) The struggle for that “something special” has always played big into the series’ story.
Now, there’s plenty here that’s left unsaid—like Tyrion and Vary’s role, the plight of the Meereenese, the role of warging, what’ll become secondary and teriary characters—but unfortunately we don’t have 500 hours to compile a 70,000 word post on the matter. So we ask you, fair readers:
What do you think is going to happen in season six of Game of Thrones? Let us know in the comments below!
Or check out these totally real fake spoilers from the cast: