After being warned that it was on its way for five seasons, winter is finally here.
Game of Thrones’ highly anticipated sixth season premieres on 24 April and from the trailers we've seen so far, there's an exciting ride in store.
The cast of characters from the major houses — Starks, Lannisters, and the sole surviving Targaryen (or not, depending on your belief in conspiracy theories like R+L=J) are scattered on both sides of the Narrow Sea, their destinies playing out in Westeros and Essos. But the forces of show runners David Weiss and DB Benioff are conspiring to bring the characters together for the ultimate showdown -- the right to sit on the Iron Throne. Oh, and fight off a wave of white walkers.
So let's do a quick recap of how our favourite Game of Thrones characters were doing the last time we saw them -- all the way back in season five.
Ever since Ned Stark was dispatched in season 1, we've known never to trust in the long life spans of anyone in the GRR Martin universe.
And while we've seen some pretty grisly deaths over the seasons thus far, the fifth still managed to shock us.
The body count included such stalwarts as Stephen Baratheon (the last of the Baratheons, apart from Gendry, the late King Robert’s bastard son, who hasn't been seen for a while now) at the hands of Brienne of Tarth (avenging the assassination of another Baratheon, Renly -- remember him?). Before Stannis died, however, he was instrumental in having his daughter Shireen sacrificed to ensure his victory in battle against the Boltons -- at the behest of the Red Priestess, for all this good that did him. While Stannis was being pilloried for being ‘Worst Dad in Westeros’, his wife -- the Lady Selyse -- killed herself, unable to come to terms with what she had allowed to happen to Shireen.
Sundry minor characters died as well -- Myrcella Lannisters, on her way back to King’s Landing from Donne, thanks to a poisoned kiss by the hungry-for-vengeance Ellaria Sand. Of and there was Ramsay Bolton’s favourite girl and partner-in-torture Myranda, swiftly toppled from the battlements of Winterfell by her chief victim Sansa Stark, with help from Theon Greyjoy aka Reek. Lance Ryder. Scores of wildlings. Meryn Trant. We can hardly keep track!
But the big “death” of the season was undoubtedly John Snow’s. For a character who many thought was a viable contender for the Iron Throne -- if he could tear himself away from being the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch -- this was a sad end indeed. Or was it?
Season six’s trailers have shown us glimpses of Ser Davos standing guard over Jon’s “body” but the presence of Melisandre in the room -- who has quite the knack for raising people back from the dead -- indicates that there's a chance our favourite character on the Wall may rise again. More powerful than ever, and perhaps even discovering his (possible) Targaryen heritage.
Two is company:
For all those who say that Game of Thrones has too much gratuitous lesbian sex, we say there's far more bromance. Not that we're complaining.
Right from the King Robert-Ned Stark equation in season one to such epic ‘twosomes’ as Tyrion-Bronn, Varys-Littlefinger (more foes than friends true, but their face-off still gave us one of the most memorable dialogues from GoT -- “Chaos is a ladder” as a philosophy for life, anyone?), to Brienne-Jaime, Brienne-Pod, Jaime-Bronn, the Hound-Arya we've had large stretches of Game of Thrones dedicated to exploring the dynamics between two prominent characters.
Season five scored high on that count as well with Tyrion getting to team up with Ser Jorah Mormont and Lord Varys at various points. Season six will see the Tyrion-Varys equation continue as they rule Mereen in Daenerys’ absence. In the meantime, Ser Jorah won't be missing Tyrion too much we presume -- he'll have Daario Naharis for company, as the duo try to track down Dany, who was last seen flying out of the slave pits of Mereen on this back of Drogon the dour dragon as the Sons of the Harpy launched their unsuccessful assassination attempt.
Queens no more:
Two of the most powerful women in the Game of Thrones universe saw their privileges being stripped away by the end of season five, although in vastly different circumstances.
In Westeros, Cersei was no sooner congratulating herself on having her arch rival Margaery Tyrell and her brother Ser Loras incarcerated by the fanatical Faith Militant than she found herself a target of their self-righteous ire as well. Imprisoned, slapped about with a wooden spoon and lapping water from her dungeon floor -- Cersei’s fall from favour was steep. And before she could get back to King's Landing, there was more humiliation in store -- a long walk through the streets of the capital, shorn of her tresses and fine robes, as the citizens heaped abuse and garbage on her.
And in Essos, a very grubby, bedraggled Dany was wandering around as Drogon napped -- only to be taken captive by a Dothraki khalasar.
But in season six, we're betting that both these ladies will be making spectacular comebacks. Cersei now has the Frankenstein-ish Ser Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane back by her side, and he's stronger and more vile than ever. With such muscle power to protect her, the queen is no longer going to be quite as wary of the High Sparrow and his Faith Militant. In fact, she's itching for a showdown!
As for Dany, a long, hard march to Vaes Dothrak is in store. But she'll survive, and probably get another fancy moniker to add to her collection, which already includes Stormborn, Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons, Mhysa -- have we got that covered?
The scattered Starks:
Ever since Ned Stark left Winterfell with Sansa and Arya and Jon (half a Stark, but a Stark nonetheless) set off for the Wall, the once strong clan has never been together again. Each season has seen the surviving Starks, pitifully few in number, travel further and further apart. Bran is honing his psychic powers beyond the Wall. Sansa returned to Winterfell but as the bride of Ramsay-The Sadist-Bolton and was last seen running through the frozen wilderness with Theon/Reek with help from a waiting Brienne their only hope of survival. Rickon is somewhere with the wildling Osha. Arya is in Bravos, training with Jaqen H’ghar. Jon -- even if/when he is resurrected by Melisandre -- is unlikely to meet his half-siblings (or cousins, if his Targaryen origin theory is true) anytime soon.
Will season six be when the Stark siblings finally share the same frame? It is highly unlikely, as we have a minimum of two more seasons (after the sixth) and much of the drama will be reserved for that.
But, Sansa now knows, thanks to Theon, that her little brothers Bran and Rickon are alive, and we can assume that finding them will be a priority once she can put some distance between herself and the Boltons. Season six has also teased the rise of “warrior” Sansa — scenes of her wearing the direwolf sigil on her breast as she rides at what seems like the head of an army indicates a possible all-out war with the Boltons. In this, she may just have the help of the good Ser Davis, who would consider his duty to finish the campaign against the Boltons that his lord Stannis had started.
Arya and Bran, honing their very different skills in very different parts of the world, when they do choose to rejoin the Westerosi fray, will have a considerable impact on the proceedings.
Other places, other battles:
Jaime Lannister is among the characters to have had quite the character trajectory in GoT — we first saw him callously pushing Bran off the tallest tower in Winterfell with nary an attack of conscience. In the time since, he's lost his hand, gained our respect and a new code of ethics. No doubt due to the influence of Brienne. But the Kingslayer doesn't seem to have thrown off the hold Cersei had on him completely. In the time since he developed a moral compass, Jaime has lost a son/nephew (Joffrey), his father Twyin Lannister (killed by Tyrion whilst on the latrine) and his daughter/niece Myrcella.
Season six has shown us Jaime in battle gear, on horseback, and fan conjecture centres around him waging a campaign against the Tully stronghold of Riverrun. We've also seen Jaime solemnly promise Cersei in the season six trailer to get back everything that was taken from them. Hmm, that does sound like Jaime is firmly back in Camp Cersei.
What we can predict:
While we can spin all kinds of theories about what may or may not transpire in season six, we can make certain — dare we say infallible — predictions.
First, Littlefinger and Olenna Tyrell aka the Queen of Thorns, will team up in season six and plot the downfall of some major players. But will they get away with it this time?
The dragons will finally see some action! And we don't mean Drogon, but Rhaegal and Viserion as well. They've been locked up long enough, and they're not particularly pleased about it. We predict that Tyrion will learn of his own possible Targaryen heritage when trying to control the dragons. Or he could get burnt to a crisp.
There will be several gruesome deaths. Because this is Game of Thrones. It ain't a regular day until someone's been beheaded, poisoned or crushed in hand-to-hand combat.
And even as the greatest events of the century unfold around him, Tommen Baratheon (or Lannister) will continue to be the most oblivious person in all Westeros. Who else would be privy to the absolute hatred between his wife (Margaery) and parent (Cersei) and ask nonplussed, “Is everything alright between you and mother?”
No Tommen, things are not alright. And in season six, they're going to get worse.