HBO's crossover sensation Game of Thrones appears to be well on its way to television immortality. As controversial as it is infinitely watchable, the series continues to build on its already massive fan base year after year, with the season 5 finale setting several personal bests in the ratings department. Now that the dust has settled on the most divisive year to date in the series' history, diehard fans have already begun counting down the days until the April 2016 premiere of season 6—thanks in part to a recently released teaser trailer. One of the best shows on TV is only a few months away from its long-awaited return, and it doesn't have to show off any new footage whatsoever in order to get people talking about it again.
The upcoming season will certainly be an interesting one, as Thrones has (for the most part) finally caught up with the events depicted in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series. Showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have more responsibility on their shoulders than ever, though if they manage to properly execute a few key storylines, they should be primed to log another excellent entry into the history books. Here are the 10 Storylines We Want to See in Season 6 of Game of Thrones.
Be warned: SPOILERS lie ahead for the fifth season of GoT and the ASoIaF novels.
11 The return of Jon Snow
Let's start with the obvious. Game of Thrones has come to be known for its scandalous character deaths, but the season 5 finale may have delivered the most shocking one yet when the man who knew nothing was stabbed to death by his fellow Night's Watchmen. Like many fans, we've had our doubts over the permanence of that brutal betrayal from the start. Even if one ignores the mountain of evidence that suggests Snow will return, more concrete proof of his resurrection exists in the ever-spoiler-y world of the internet. His return shouldn't come as any major surprise; Kit Harrington himself pretty much confirmed it back in September.
Now that the boy has been killed and the man officially born, what should fans expect from the former Lord Commander? Having technically fulfilled his oath to the Night's Watch, the Bastard of Winterfell will likely march south to take back the North from the Boltons. Whether or not he does so with a full understanding of who his parents are is another question entirely. Will season 6 bring with it a confirmation of the R+L=J fan theory? We can only hope, but for now, we're just happy that we haven't seen the last of Jon Snow.
10 A small-scale Stark family reunion
Fans have been holding out hope for this one ever since the Stark children were scattered to the wind following the events of Thrones' first two seasons. We've had several near-misses over the last few years (Bran and Jon at the raid on Craster's Keep, Arya and Robb at the Red Wedding, etc.), but no two Stark kids have been together since Bran and Rickon separated late in season 3. Expect that to finally change this season. Sansa and Theon are now officially on the run, having fled Winterfell in search of Bolton-less pastures. Assuming they survived their leap from the walls of the Northern capital—no way Weiss and Benioff would kill them off so unceremoniously—they'll likely be seeking sanctuary as they search for Sansa's surviving family members.
Meanwhile, with Brienne of Tarth having avenged Renly by killing Stannis (probably), she'll be refocused on her sworn oath to protect Sansa and Arya—despite their apparent lack of interest in her services. Arya and Bran are off training in their respective fields of interest, and Rickon is...somewhere, but the eldest surviving Stark is currently in desperate need of protection. Could Brienne lend a helping hand in reuniting the most unlucky family in television history? Not everyone was in favor of the major book deviations she was put through last year, and this could be a great way to make her a more relevant character in season 6.
9 Arya's training continues without sacrificing the character
One person Lady Brienne won't be helping next year is Arya, whose training across the Narrow Sea in the House of Black and White comprised her entire season 5 arc. The path to becoming a great killer has not been an easy one for the youngest Stark daughter, and the finale saw her quest hit a pretty serious roadblock after her vengeful murder of Ser Meryn Trant. Jaqen H'ghar, a stand-in for the Many-Faced God, takes Arya's sight from her as a result of her inability (or willing refusal?) to leave her identity behind, though this is likely just another part of her training rather than an actual punishment. With only a few more years remaining in the series, however, could Arya's time in Braavos come to an end in season 6?
It seems highly unlikely that Arya will fully submit and become a Faceless Man, since doing so would mean giving up her identity and, essentially, her humanity. Not only would that effectively do away with five seasons of characterization, it simply doesn't seem like something she's capable of doing. Book spoilers aside, we'll just say that Arya's reasons for acquainting herself with the Many-Faced God were largely self-serving, and she'll likely head back to Westeros sometime this season or next—with a beneficial set of assassin skills in her arsenal.
8 Bran returns to relevance
The second youngest member of the Stark clan is set to make a triumphant return to the screen after being left out of season 5 entirely. Showrunners deemed his training with the Three-Eyed Raven as being not "particularly cinematic," hence his exclusion, but promotional material for next season seems to confirm the character's upcoming return to prominence. Now with an extensive amount of training in the ways of greensight under his belt, Bran's gifts need to start paying dividends/revealing major mysteries sooner rather than later.
How Bran's (likely) full-fledged status as a warg and prophetic seer will factor into the series' overarching story will definitely make for an interesting side plot. Will the character be relegated to a few "interesting visions," or does he have a far bigger role to play in the events to come? Fan theorists have pointed to the words of the Three-Eyed Raven in the season 4 finale as proof that Bran will one day become a dragon rider:
You'll never walk again. But you will fly.
We'll dive further into the various prophecies of Westeros in a bit, though even if Bran doesn't end up riding Rhaegal or Viserion, he'll likely still factor into the war with the White Walkers in a major way. The full power of Bran's abilities don't need to be displayed this season, but we feel it's high time this storyline started pulling a bit more weight. Considering his evolving skills and newly established relationship with the Children of the Forest (who aided mankind in the first Long Night), we suspect it will.
7 The revenge of the Lannisters
We haven't often found ourselves rooting for the Lions of Casterly Rock over the course of the series, but given the hardships endured by the Lannister twins in season 5, we're definitely looking forward to seeing them get their share of retribution. Cersei's shortsighted plot to restore the Faith Militant in order to take away power from the Tyrells backfired in spectacular fashion, and she'll surely be looking to avenge the embarrassments she suffered in the upcoming season. Meanwhile, her obvious betrayal of House Tyrell can and should have major repercussions. The Lords of Highgarden are the crown's most powerful ally at the moment, but they could very well end up backing Daenerys when she inevitably arrives in Westeros, as was (lightly) teased by Tyrion last season in "Hardhome." Cersei will have her hands full next year with the High Sparrow and his followers, but the Tyrells could eventually prove to be an equally imposing threat.
Her twin brother Jaime will be very busy this season as well. The death of his niece/daughter Myrcella at the hands of Ellaria Sand was greatly overshadowed by Jon Snow's demise, but it shouldn't be understated. All-out war with Dorne is highly unlikely, but there's no way the former villain-turned-anti-hero simply sails back to King's Landing with a dead child in tow. Many fans felt that the Dornish subplot was among the most underdeveloped storylines of season 6; the Kingslayer's vengeful return to Westeros' southernmost kingdom could flesh out a bit more of Dorne and its inhabitants.
Jaime won't be able to stay for long, however. Casting rumors for the upcoming season indicate that he'll be traveling to the Riverlands to end the siege at Riverrun, picking up on a believed-abandoned plot from the novels. It's hard to imagine he'll do so without having first removed Ellaria's head from her shoulders, though.
6 Abandoned book plotlines
Like any book-to-television adaptation, Thrones has been known to branch off from its source material. Streamlining George R.R. Martin's ever-complicated narrative is an obvious necessity for the small screen, but fans have grown increasingly agitated over the absence of two characters in particular: Lady Stoneheart and Young Griff.
Even those who haven't read A Song of Ice and Fire have likely heard the name "Stoneheart" by now. Widely expected to make her debut at the end of season 4, the resurrected Catelyn Stark has yet to appear on screen. Zombified, unforgiving, and consumed by her singular desire for revenge, Lady Stoneheart would undoubtedly make for an exciting addition to the series, though the practicality of it is questionable. We've mentioned contractual issues as one possible reason for her exclusion, but season 6 brings with it a new obstacle: Jon Snow is (in all likelihood) already set to return from the grave. Would Benioff and Weiss really revive two Starks in one season? Probably not, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be awesome.
Fans were shocked yet again this past season when Tyrion's journey to Daenerys included neither Griff nor Young Griff, the latter of whom is revealed in the novels to be Aegon Targaryen, the believed-dead son of Dany's older brother, Rhaegar. The validity of the boy's origins is somewhat questionable, so his absence from the TV series has led many readers to conclude that the character is simply a red herring. Lord Varys is said to have been behind the plot to save the rightful king, so if Young Griff is indeed a Targaryen, expect the Spider himself to bring the boy into the fold in season 6. If we don't see an appearance from the blue haired lad, then book readers will know he's nothing more than a misdirection. They should love that bit of spoilery-ness.
5 Tyrion's second chance at ruling
It's been a long time since the dwarf son of Tywin Lannister held any real power. The fan-favorite's reign as Hand of the King was as brief as it was entertaining, but it was apparently enough to convince Varys of his true potential. The two play off each other as well as any pairing on television, and we're genuinely excited at the prospect of a full season of them pulling the strings in Meereen. With Daenerys stranded up north in the Dothraki Sea, and Daario Naharis and Jorah Mormont out in search of her, the fate of the greatest city-state in Slaver's Bay lies in Tyrion and Varys' hands—with some help from Grey Worm and Missandei, of course.
Meereen is in pretty dire straights nowadays. On the brink of civil war, with the Sons of the Harpy spreading chaos throughout the city, TV's best odd couple have their work cut out for them. This being their best opportunity to prove their worth to the Mother of Dragons, we're expecting great things.
4 Daenerys makes real progress towards Westeros
How far off Daenerys is from making her move on Westeros depends entirely on what role she'll be playing in the war against the White Walkers—a war that she has no idea is coming, mind you. Will the last Targaryen move to claim her throne before winter arrives, forcing her to band together with the seven kingdoms she's attempting to conquer when they're confronted with this impossible threat? Or will she play the part of the knight in shining armor, flying in to save Westeros in its final hour? In the latter scenario, Dany could be in Essos for quite a while longer. In the former, we could very well see her set sail for her homeland as early as next season.
To take back the Iron Throne, of course, she'll need a powerful army at her back. Daenerys just so happened to run into such an army when she stumbled upon a hoard of Dothraki in the season finale, but how could she possibly hope to recruit them to her cause? They won't follow their former Khaleesi out of nostalgia, as the horselords follow strength above all else, though perhaps they could be swayed by the sight of a fully-grown dragon. Could the Dothraki interpret Drogon to be "the stallion who mounts the world?"
While initially a scary moment for the Mother of Dragons, running into the Dothraki could prove to be the stroke of luck she needed to help her cross the Narrow Sea and take back the throne. Look for Daenerys to take her first meaningful steps towards Westeros this season.
3 The emergence of the 3 heads of the dragon
The world created by George R.R. Martin has a long, storied history, one that has no shortage of prophetic foretellings. Some of these prophecies are already well on their way to coming to fruition (the predictions of Maggy the Frog, for instance) and others won't be proven true or false for a while yet, but we'll be keeping an eye out for one in particular this season: "the dragon has three heads." Daenerys' trip to the House of the Undying back in season 2 was altered significantly for the HBO adaptation. But in the books, she has a vision of her brother Rhaegar stating the previous quotation, which has been widely interpreted to mean that two more dragon riders will reveal themselves and join Dany in the fight to save Westeros. Now that she's proven that dragon riding is still very much a thing, we're hoping the other two riders aren't too far behind.
Who might those lucky individuals be? Fan speculation commonly points to some combination of Jon Snow, Tyrion, and Bran, though other candidates—Jamie, Arya, and of course Aegon, should he indeed be a Targaryen—certainly exist. With at least two more years in Westeros still on the dock after season 6, we don’t necessarily need a full reveal of the three heads of the dragon, but our hopes are high that we’ll be in store for a heavy tease, at the very least.
2 Winter's Arrival
Most accounts of A Song of Ice and Fire's timeline indicate that between two and a half and five years have passed since the books began. Winter’s been coming for a long time now, and while it’s definitely arrived in the North, those south of the Wall appear to remain unaware of the horrors to come. That blissful ignorance needs to come to an end. The undead have been up and about since the opening sequence of the television series—aka when Matt Damon was the victim of GoT's first on-screen death—and they've now made their most public appearance to date. How much longer will they choose to bide their time? Hardhome isn't very far from the Wall, after all.
In order to do the final war with the White Walkers justice, showrunners Benioff and Weiss would be wise to set aside most (if not all) of the final season for the climactic battles. The previous Long Night is said to have lasted an entire generation, so a season-long commitment to the second coming of the Others seems appropriate for the TV adaptation. Whether the season's arrival is signaled peacefully (by say, snowfall in King's Landing) or violently (the righteous and complete desolation of the remaining members of the Night's Watch), we fully expect winter to come to Westeros by the tail end of season 6.
With an abundance of storylines spanning multiple continents, the live-action adaptation of George R.R. Martin's fantasy series just keeps getting bigger. Hopefully, a refocused effort on the characters that make this show great will result in the best season of Game of Thrones to date.
Which storyline are you most excited to see? Who do you think will steal the show in season 6? How incensed are you that we didn't attempt a single Hodor joke? Be sure to let your voice be heard in the comments below.
Game of Thrones season 6 will premiere on HBO in April 2016.