For five seasons HBO's Game of Thrones has relied on the guiding prose of creator George R.R. Martin and even though certain cast members (as well as TV fans) have avoided spoilers from the books - readers have known the broad strokes for years. Showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss make minor (and some major) adjustments along the way - in order to adapt the sprawling book series for weekly TV viewing; nevertheless, with season 5 concluded and Martin working-away on books six and seven of A Song of Ice and Fire (The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring), producers are in the unique position of pressing forward with storylines that have yet to debut in print.
Martin is still a consultant on the series, relaying his full plan for A Song of Ice and Fire's conclusion to Benioff and Weiss; yet, even if key plot points have been mapped-out, that doesn't mean that the Game of Thrones set is free of uncertainty. Following a pair of season 5 cliffhangers, Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams, are opening up with their own predictions for the Stark sisters in season 6.
NOTE: The following post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the Game of Thrones season 5 finale - as well as previous events from the books and show. If you do not want to be spoiled, look away! You have been warned:
Winter is Spoilers are coming!
Begin SPOILERS for Game of Thrones season 5
Speaking with EW, Williams reflected on Arya's punishment at the hand of Jaqen H’ghar - who removed the Stark daughter's eyesight after she murdered Meryn Trant (a corrupt Knight of the Kingsguard) without permission from the House of Black and White. Longtime viewers (and readers) will remember that Trant was one of nine names on Arya's hit list - after Trant killed Arya's sword instructor (at the time of Cersei Lannister's betrayal of Eddard Stark).
In keeping with Williams' playful approach toward book readers, the actress admits she knew about the twist long ahead of time - and had remained coy about Arya's eventual blinding (to try and throw fans off their game):
"Somebody on the street will go, ‘Oh, you’re going blind, and I wanted to keep them guessing. I love keeping everything a surprise. So I’m always like, ‘Am I? Oh my God! Did I not get the memo?’”
Williams doesn't elaborate on how long she had known about her season 5 finale fate - but the actress has clearly given a lot of thought to what the loss of her eyesight will mean for Arya (as well as Williams) in season 6:
"I don’t want to wear these crazy contacts for the rest of my time on Thrones! I don’t know how that will impede her life. She’s going to become very vulnerable thanks to that. It’s exciting and scary. So I’m worried about next year.”
Book readers who have made it through Martin's fifth installment A Dance with Dragons, from which seasons 4 and 5 drew several storylines, will have some insight into where the character is headed, and Williams likely knows more than she is letting on, but there's no question that the punishment represents a major turning point for the previously fearless and able-bodied, Arya.
As indicated, while a number of characters are confronted by major twists in the season 5 finale, the biggest change coming to Game of Thrones season 6 will be a heavy reliance on entirely new (read: unpublished) story material. Benioff and Weiss have discussed the unique situation, and the many challenges it produces, on multiple occasions - but they are also in the know about where the series is headed (and what exactly Martin has planned for the books).
With smart showrunners at the helm, many Game of Thrones actors choose to be kept in the dark - to ensure story beats are fresh in mind prior to filming; however, the secrecy of Game of Thrones' production, coupled with Martin's trademark penchant for suddenly killing-off fan-favorite characters (or drastically altering their circumstances) has impacted how the cast views their time on the show.
Speaking to her own unwritten fate, Williams teased that Benioff and Weiss only tell the actors as much as they need to know: "They treated me to a pizza and I just sat there asking questions and they won’t answer anything. It’s heartbreaking, it’s petrifying.”
Of course, anyone who frequents Game of Thrones discussion boards (or Screen Rant comment threads) knows that a lack of concrete details fuels theories and speculation regarding what is coming in the series. It might surprise viewers to know that the Game of Thrones cast and crew is also speculating about what might happen next.
Turner is among the members of Game of Thrones' cast that tries to avoid spoilers for the series - but that hasn't stopped the actress from trying to predict where her character is headed in season 6. In the season 5 finale, Sansa is aided in escaping from her malevolent and abusive husband, Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), by Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen); though, the pair's fate remains unconfirmed - as they are last seen leaping from atop a Winterfell guard wall:
“I don’t want to know, but Alfie and I have been talking about it a lot. We reckon Theon and Sansa will get away, but then Sansa will sell Theon out and be like, ‘Screw you,’ and go out on her own. Or Ramsay will come and chase them down. But I don’t think the two of them will stay together as buddies, though that would be kind of cool.”
Even for book readers, Sansa's future is less clear - as Martin's published account of the character ends with events that occurred midway in season 5. As a result, Game of Thrones' version differs significantly from Martin's printed writing (more on that in a recent Book to Screen Spoiler Discussion post) - meaning, unlike Arya (whose post-season 5 storyline has been explored in the most recent Martin book), there is no clear record of what will happen to Sansa (or Theon) in the show.
Time will tell if Williams, Turner, and Allen are accurate with their predictions; regardless, their comments mark a unique moment in the show's development - not to mention TV history. Few programs have ever faced the challenge that now stands before Game of Thrones - where, thanks to a slow-moving novelist, a live-action cable show is pushing-on with material that fervent book readers are not able to read (yet).
Understandably, some longtime fans will be frustrated that they'll no longer be ahead of the game - plus forced to choose between avoiding TV spoilers in order to (eventually) complete Martin's tale in its original print form. Still, considering that the Game of Thrones season 5 finale set a new ratings record for the series, do not expect HBO to pump the breaks in season 6.
Game of Thrones will return on HBO for season 6 in Spring 2016.