Spring is coming, and with it, Season 6 of Game Of Thrones. The show continues to grow in popularity, even while its shocking and graphic scenes have been causing outrage. (Or perhaps that’s just helping to boost the viewership!) It’s been seven months since we last visited Westeros, and excitement is brewing for the April premiere of Season 6, especially after that shocking Season 5 finale.
With three months still to go, it’s time to remind ourselves of what’s going on in this incredibly complicated world. With multiple lands, families, convoluted plots for the throne, and any number of unanswered mysteries, it’s easy to forget some details during that long stretch between seasons. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with these 12 Things That You Need To Know About Game of Thrones Before Season 6. (Warning: There are lots and lots of spoilers for Season 5 and 6 coming up. Obviously.)
Here are 12 Things You Need To Know Before Season 6.
12. David Benioff and Dan Weiss Return
Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss are returning for Season 6, alongside writer Bryan Cogman (the man behind Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken) who will be scripting two scripts for the season. Benioff and Weiss have been with the show since Season 1, but the two are only currently contracted through this season. We will have to see if they do come back for Season 7, because although they (obviously) want to, the pair have also publicly stated that they would like to see the show end after seven seasons. Fans, HBO, and George R R Martin have said that they would prefer to see ten seasons for the series, so the future length of the show is going to have to be decided very soon.
Directing, we will see the return of Jeremy Podeswa (Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken), Mark Mylod (Sons of the Harpy) and Miguel Sapochnik (The Gift). Two new directors will also be brought in for the season: Daniel Sackheim, who has worked on Lie To Me and House, and Jack Bender, known for Lost and Under The Dome.
11. George R R Martin Will Not Be Writing
The author of the series that started it all, George R R Martin announced on his blog that he will not be scripting any episodes of the latest season. He remains involved in the writing for the series, and we have known since the beginning that despite the deviations from the original story, the outcome will be the same in the books and on the screen. However, he won’t be writing his customary episode this time around.
Martin has also canceled several convention appearances, although he was quick to reassure fans that he would be attending as many as possible. It seems that the author is planning to focus entirely on finishing the next book in the series, The Winds of Winter, which he had originally wanted to have completed before Season 6 aired.
10. Who Died in Season 5
Game of Thrones is known for having a seriously high body count, and Season 5 was no exception. Ignoring the various warriors, wildlings, and nameless background characters who bit the dust, we had eleven big names leave us. Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) was responsible for three of the biggest, as he burned Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds) at the Wall (although Jon Snow stepped in with an arrow to end it quickly), as well as his own daughter, Shireen (Kerry Ingram), who was burned on the march to Winterfell. Shireen’s mother, Selyse (Tara Fitzgerald) couldn’t live with herself after watching her daughter burn, and hung herself soon after. However, Stannis got some karmic retribution for that particularly heinous bit of fathering as he died after a battle on that same march.
At Winterfell, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) managed to throw off his Reek persona long enough to save Sansa (Sophie Turner) from an attack by Ramsey’s mistress Myranda (Charlotte Hope), who he threw off a castle wall to her death.
Back at the Wall, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) beheaded Janos Slynt (Dominic Carter) for disobedience, but also lost Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughn), who managed to die of old age – no small feat in Westeros! In Mereen, Daenerys (Emilia Clark) beheaded former slave Mossador (Reece Noi) for killing a prisoner, and lost a loyal follower when Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) was slain by the Sons of the Harpy. Daenerys also said goodbye to her fiancé, Hizdar zo Loraq (Joel Fry), who was stabbed in the chest during the riots at the fighting pits.
Finally, across the sea, Arya (Maisie Williams) ticked another name off her kill list with the brutal murder of Ser Meryn (Ian Beattie), and Myrcella Baratheon (Aimee Richardson) received the kiss of death from Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma).
9. Bran Is Back
Stark fans were wondering what happened to Bran (Issac Hempstead Wright) and his friends last season, as the group were no where to be found. Season 6, however, promises to return to the adventures of Bran, Hodor (Kristian Nairn), Meera (Ellie Kendrick), Jojen (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Summer. In Season 4, we saw Bran reach his destination of a cave, deep in the earth and far north of the Wall. In their final scenes, we saw Jojen lose his life when stabbed but a Wight, and Meera and Bran escorted into the caves to meet a man who is fused with the roots of the weirwood tree they are under.
We now know that between seasons 4 and 6, Bran has been training. He already knew how to warg with Summer, as well as with Hodor, and his visions have been getting stronger and clearer. With the help of the Children of the Forest and the Three Eyed Raven, he will return in Season 6 as a powerful seer and skinchanger. We don’t yet know how this will play into the plot, but presumably he will start to journey South again now that he is trained, possibly headed for Castle Black where he believes that Jon Snow still lives.
8. Two New Unnamed Characters Are Joining The Cast
Ian McShane will appear in a single episode, and has revealed very little about who he will be playing. However, he has hinted that his character is involved in bringing somebody back from the dead, and the character has also been described in a casting call as a priest, which has set the internet ablaze with speculation. Theories include that he will be the Gravedigger, a new Red Priest, or even perhaps the man to bring Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) back as Lady Stoneheart.
Richard E Grant will also be joining the series as well, and was spotted filming in Girona, Spain. The set photos show him as the lead actor (and potentially the Grand Theater Manager mentioned in another set of character descriptions) of a group of players.
7. Other New Characters Include a Greyjoy and a Priestess
The Greyjoy family hasn’t been much of a focus in the show yet, with the obvious exception of Theon Greyjoy/Reek. Now, Theon and his sister Yara (Gemma Whelan) will be joined by Euron, to be played by Pilou Asbaek. Euron is Theon and Yara’s uncle, their father Balon’s younger brother. Readers of the series can guess what this will mean for Yara (called Asha in the books), and presumably this character will mean that we spend some more time on the Iron Islands this season.
We are also going to be seeing a new Red Priestess Kinvara, played by Melanie Liburd. From set photos, we know that she will be making an appearance in Meereen while Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) is at the Wall. Kinvara will be High Priestess of the Red Temple of Volantis, and will undoubtedly be meeting Daenerys at some point in Season 6.
6. Dead Characters Are Appearing On Set In Spain…
Rumors of Ned Stark’s return have been flying ever since a video was posted to social media that purported to show him fighting at the foot of a tower. (The video was shot from far away, and was quite blurry, so it was impossible to tell.) Turns out that the head of House Stark will be back for Season 6, despite his beheading, but he won’t be played by Sean Bean. Instead, we will see a much younger Eddard, played by Sebastian Croft. The flashback may well also include a young Robert Baratheon.
Another set photo popped up from filming in Spain, and it also showed the possible return of a dead character. Sibel Kekilli was spotted on the set for Meereen, suggesting that Tyrion Lannister’s lover, Shae, will be making a reappearance. We don’t know anything more about how she’ll manage to return after being strangled by Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), but theories range from her not really being dead, to being a hallucination, to appearing in a flashback.
5. …And On Set In Ireland
Rory McCann was spotted around the Game of Thrones set in Ireland, where the Westeros scenes are often shot, leading to speculation that The Hound may not be quite as dead as we thought. We last saw Sandor Clegane in Season 4, when he and Arya parted company. After a brief battle with Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), Arya left him bleeding on a hillside, with a broken leg and a bad infection. The Hound himself said that he was done for, and begged her to just kill him and get it over with. However, Arya chose to take his coins and walk away, leaving him to a slow and painful death.
However, now that he’s been spotted in a hotel in Belfast, the rumor is that The Hound didn’t actually die, and will be making a reappearance this year. These are unconfirmed, and he was only spotted near the set, not actually on it, so we’ll have to wait and see if Clegane is as dead as we thought.
4. We Can Expect A Big Change For The Dragons
Daenerys and her dragons have gone through a lot in the past five years. We’ve seen Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion grow from adorable little things that rode on Dany’s shoulders, to the enormous beasts that she can now no longer control. However, it seems that the three aren’t done growing quite yet. VFX Supervisor Joe Bauer told Yahoo TV that they will be doubling in size again this season, leading us to wonder what else these fire-breathers will be up to. (And if Daenerys is going to be riding Drogon again.)
More set photos also gave us a clue as to what the Mother of Dragons will be doing this season, after she fled the fighting pit on Drogon’s back. She was revealed riding at the head of a Khalasar, alongside Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman). Could these be the Dothraki who were bearing down on her in her final scenes of Season 5?
3. House Tully Comes Back Into Play (With White Walkers!)
Riverrun, the seat of House Tully (and Catelyn Stark’s childhood home) looks like it will make a fairly big appearance in the new season, having disappeared since Season 3. Set photos from Ireland show a castle emblazoned with the symbol of the Tully house (the trout), along with a small village of tents outside. Although this hasn’t been officially confirmed as Riverrun, it fits the description, and seems to make sense. More interestingly, there have been reports of White Walkers on this set!
Along with the reappearance of the castle, we are obviously going to see the Tullys themselves, as they attempt to (presumably) hold Riverrun. Brynden ‘Blackfish’ Tully (Clive Russel) was sighted on set, last seen at the Red Wedding. He was presumed dead after the slaughter, although we never saw a body, and now it seems that the Blackfish survived, and is undoubtedly going to be involved in the siege of Riverrun this season.
2. The Fate Of Jon Snow
At the end of Season 5, viewers were left speechless when Jon Snow was brutally murdered by his own men of the Night’s Watch… or was he? His final scenes had him betrayed, stabbed, and bleeding profusely into the snow, but many fans are refusing to believe that he could really be dead.
Despite the fact that the series has had no compunction about killing off major characters in the past, why are fans so convinced that Jon Snow isn’t actually gone? Well, there are a lot of little things that have started to add up to him being sort-of-dead-but-not-really (in true Game of Thrones style!). For one thing, his hair is still long, despite the fact that he has often talked about how annoying it was to keep that way for the role. Snow is also not dead in the books yet, and the assumption is that he still has quite a bit of work to do. George R R Martin has hinted that he isn’t dead yet, and many other actors from the series have also dropped some cryptic clues about his continued (possible) existence. Harrington himself said that he won’t be in Season 6, but that his contract isn’t expired yet. Putting the final touch to this is-he-or-isn’t-he question, Harrington was spotted on set in Belfast, and was front and center on the Season 6 posters.
So is Jon Snow actually dead? We have no idea. Popular fan theory puts his human body as dead, while his soul wargs into Ghost’s body, and carries on that way, but there is no truly conclusive evidence. Yet.
1. A Reminder of Where We Left Off
Most important of all, where did we leave off with Season 5? Game of Thrones is an incredibly complicated show, especially with the numerous sub-plots and characters who may or may not be dead, reappearing, or important at a later date. Obviously, the best way to catch up is to give Season 5 a re-watch, but if you just don’t have the time, here’s a little run down of where the major players were at the end of Season 5.
Jon Snow and The Night’s Watch: Jon Snow, as we’ve already talked about, is potentially dead, but probably not. He was stabbed to death by his men. Melisandre is back at Castle Black having abandoned Stannis to die, along with various Wildlings who were brought in by Jon Snow. Sam Tarly (John Bradley-West), meanwhile, has left Castle Black along with Gilly (Hannah Murray) and her child, headed to Oldtown and the Citadel where Sam plans to become a Maester.
The Lannisters: Cersei (Lena Headey) is back in the castle at King’s Landing after her brutally humiliating walk of shame. Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is on his way home to King’s Landing from Dorne. He was sent to bring back his illegitimate daughter, Myrcella, but she ended the last season with a shocking death on board the boat. Tommen (Dean Charles Chapman), their son, is the King, but clearly has little power himself. Tyrion, meanwhile, has risen back to a position of power. He is in Meereen alongside Varys (Conleth Hill), committed to holding Meereen together while Daenerys is found.
The Stark Girls: Sansa Stark has fled her childhood home of Winterfell and her psychotic husband Ramsey Bolton (Iwen Rheon) with the help of Theon Greyjoy/Reek. The two of them presumably survived the fall, and will hopefully find Brienne of Tarth, who has been waiting to help Sansa if she can. Arya, meanwhile, is in the House of Black and White, learning to be a Faceless Man. When we last saw her, she had broken the rules of the House in order to murder a man on her list, and was blinded as punishment.
House Tyrell: Queen Margaery (Natalie Dormer) is currently imprisoned by the High Sparrow, on charges of giving false testimony for her brother, Loras (Finn Jones). Both Loras and Margaery are to stand trial in Season 6. Olenna (Diana Rigg), meanwhile, revealed to viewers that she was part of the plot to kill Joffrey. She and Lord Bailish (Aiden Gillen), who is also back in King’s Landing, had previously colluded to have Cersei arrested.
Dorne: Ellaria has poisoned Myrcella, and is unhappy with the situation in Dorne. The Sand Snakes (Nym, Obara and Tyene) were imprisoned, but brought out to watch Ellaria swear her allegiance to Doran (Alexander Siddig) and end their rebellion. Doran himself is still trying to keep the peace, and is unaware of Ellaria’s treachery. Trystane (Toby Sebastian), Prince of Dorne and Myrcella’s betrothed, is headed to King’s Landing with Jaimie and Bronn (Jerome Flynn).
Daenerys: The last of the Targaryens was last seen by her people fleeing the fighting pit on the back of Drogon, her biggest dragon. After finding his nest, Drogon largely ignored his “mother,” and Daenerys set out, and was found by a Dothraki Khalasar. Daario Naharis and Jorah Mormont leave to seek her out. Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) have recognized their love for each other, and alongside Tyrion, they will be attempting to run Meereen until Daenerys is found.
Can you think of anything we missed? Let us know in the comments!