With the Game of Thrones season 5 finale behind us and months before its season 6 premiere ahead, we're speculating about what the hit HBO series could have in store. As it stands, the television show is mostly caught up with where readers left off in the novels. There's now very little of George R.R. Martin's (published) A Song of Ice and Fire novels left to adapt, and outside of Martin and the HBO series' producers, David Benioff and Dan Weiss, no one knows just what will happen on Game of Thrones next.
But there are some things that could happen. Here are ten things we believe may happen on Game of Thrones in season 6.
[WARNING - SPOILERS for Game of Thrones season 5 and the Song of Ice and Fire novels.]
10 Bran's Return
Going into season 5, the fans were aware that Bran - the last Stark to oversee Winterfell - wouldn't appear. Benioff viewed it as Bran's journey being put on hold while the other characters' narratives caught up, adding that Bran's training wouldn't be "particularly cinematic." When Bran reappears it will be as a fully trained warg and seer, which Benioff suggests will make for a more dramatic reveal.
Now that most of Game of Thrones' many plot threads have been brought up to speed with the novels, it only makes sense for Bran to return in season 6. And as for how? Well, one of the last moments readers are with Bran in A Dance With Dragons involves him connecting his consciousness with the Heart Tree at Winterfell. While connected with the weirwood he see visions of the past, including his father and the old Kings of Winter. But it is also implied that he can contact someone in the present through a weirwood tree - while Theon is in Winterfell's godswood, he thinks he hears Bran's voice.
If contacting people though the vast network of weirwoods is indeed a possibility, then there's a good chance it is through one of these trees and their carved faces that Bran may make his dramatic return. Whether it's to witness some major event or to offer aide to someone in peril (possibly Theon or Sansa) remains to be seen, but it's a strong theory that this ability to see and communicate through the weirwood faces could be key to Bran's future.
9 Where's Rickon?
The last time both television viewers and book readers saw Rickon, he was parting ways with Bran under the care of the wildling woman, Osha, heading toward... well, no one really knows where. In the novels, Bran suggests Osha take Rickon to White Harbor, on the show he suggests Last Hearth. Both are seats of Northern houses that were Stark bannermen (House Manderly and Umber, respectively), but whether they're still loyal to the Starks remains to be seen.
However, in A Dance With Dragons, Ser Davos Seaworth of all people hears rumors of Rickon's true whereabouts while visiting White Harbor's Lord Wyman Manderly. He's there with the intention to win his allegiance to Stannis, but Manderly informs Davos that a young boy of Rickon's age was seen on the island of Skagos, accompanied by a woman and a direwolf. And before the Lord of White Harbor will swear fealty to Stannis, Manderly asks Davos to return with Rickon, the de facto Lord of Winterfell and true Warden of The North.
On the show, Lord Greatjon Umber could easily stand in for Wyman Manderly, but since Game of Thrones also (seemingly) killed Stannis, Davos won't need to be securing him additional troops. Will season 6 still see Davos searching for Rickon? Possibly, there are a couple of people who may be interested in Rickon after all. One is Brienne, who may try to fulfill her oath to Lady Catelyn by finding her sons as well as her daughters, and another is Lady Melisandre, who may have need of a relative's blood were she to resurrect Jon Snow (as some theories suggest she will). Whichever route Game of Thrones goes with, Davos could potentially still play a role in the search. Either way, Rickon is likely turn up sooner than later, and there's a could chance it'll be in season 6.
8 Brienne's Continuing Search
Speaking of Brienne, as of the season 5 finale she has yet to find any of Lady Catelyn's children, having only missed Sansa by a few moments. In season 6 her search will continue on, which only makes sense because there was quite a bit of Brienne's journey was skipped over last season.
During her seemingly endless search in A Feast for Crows, Brienne and Podrick never come across Sansa but instead meet quite the colorful cast of characters: Lord Randyll Tarly, father of Night's Watchman, Sam; Septon Meribald, a traveling preacher; the Brave Companions, cutthroats who formerly worked for The Mountain; as well as the Brotherhood Without Banners, the company of men led by the oft-resurrected Beric Dondarrion.
When it comes to what she and Podrick will do in season 6, there's a strong likelihood Game of Thrones will revisit some of that journey from Feast. Of the characters mentioned above, both Tarly and Meribald seem likely to appear as recently released casting breakdowns for season 6 include characters that match their descriptions. But to what end will Brienne's search take her? Hopefully to a reunion with Sansa before too long, and maybe even Rickon. Otherwise, season 6 will see her story tread over the same territory (in some cases literally) that we already saw for much of season 5.
7 Jaime & Brienne Reunited
In the novels, Jaime doesn't travel to Dorne to retrieve Myrcella. Instead, Cersei sends him to end the Freys' siege of Riverrun and return order to the Riverlands. And Game of Thrones could do the same in season 6 seeing as there's been hardly a mention of Rivverun or House Tully since season 3. But Jaime did just spend an entire season away from King's Landing, and the show may not be willing to send him off on another adventure so soon - especially with the Lannisters in such a vulnerable position.
However, by the end of A Dance With Dragons Jaime is visited by none other than Brienne of Tarth while he's still in the Riverlands. She comes to him claiming to have found one of the Stark girls and demanding Jaime accompany her before The Hound kills the girl. The scene comes across as highly suspicious in the book since it doesn't match the real status of said characters - and is potentially a scheme to do with Lady Stoneheart (a resurrected Catelyn Stark and character cut from the show).
Yet, in season 6 there is a chance that Brienne will have found Sansa, and though we're meant to believe The Hound is dead, the fact that no one witnesses him actually dying leaves the door for his potential return wide open. Perhaps that wild and seemingly false tale Brienne brings to Jaime turns out to be true - at the very least on the show.
6 The Ironborn
A rather glaring omission from Game of Thrones season 5 was any mention of Balon Greyjoy, including whether or not he's still alive and kicking. In the novels, Balon is killed either by Melisandre's blood magic or one of his brothers - depending on whose story you choose to believe since the act happens off-page. With Balon dead, a kingsmoot is held to elect the new Lord of the Iron Islands, and the field of successors is comprised of Balon's brothers and his daughter, Yara.
As indicated by that previously mentioned casting breakdown, we know at least one of Balon's brothers is set to appear in Game of Thrones season 6 (probably Euron), which would imply that the show is going forward with at least part of this storyline from the books.
But with Game of Thrones having already pushed certain characters so far forward, it isn't clear how the Ironborn fit within the rest of the show's plot lines. For example: some time after the kingsmoot, Yara is captured by Stannis' army, but obviously that can no longer happen on the show. So Game of Thrones must, once again, take liberties with their adaptation when the Ironborn are reintroduced.
5 Sam's Family & Oldtown
Something else that appears to be all but confirmed for Game of Thrones season 6 is the introduction of Samwell Tarly's family. Not only is there a character included on that season 6 casting breakdown that is very likely Sam's father, Randyll Tarly, but there's also a casting breakdown for his wife, Melessa Florent and two children.
Presumably, this means that on their journey south to Oldtown - where Sam will train at the Citadel to become a Maester - he and Gilly will stop by his childhood home, Horn Hill. Lord Tarly may not be at home (having been named Master of Laws by new Hand of the King, Kevan Lannister), but Sam's mother and siblings will be there to welcome them. And it's also quite likely that Sam will insist Gilly stay at Horn Hill, which is an option he's considering during their journey in A Feast for Crows.
After a stop at Horn Hill, Sam will continue on to Oldtown - Game of Thrones' new location for next season. But readers are actually introduced to Oldtown before Sam arrives: in the prologue chapter of Feast we follow a young novice of the Citadel named Pate to familiarize ourselves with the ins and outs. Game of Thrones hasn't depicted a prologue chapter onscreen since season 2, but if Oldtown is introduced next season, this prologue seems like a must.
4 Doran's Future Plans
There's no question the Dornish plot this season was underwhelming largely due to the absence of what actually made the excursion worthwhile in the novels. In A Feast for Crows, after the thwarting of Arrianne's (Doran's daughter) failed kidnapping and crowning of Myrcella, Doran finally lets her in on something he's been planning for years: to place a Targaryen on the Iron Throne with the full support of Dorne.
Initially, his plan had been to wed Arrianne to Viserys to seal the alliance, but plans had to be changed (once Visery wound up getting a fatal crown at the hands of Khal Drogo). Now Doran intends to wed his other son, Quentyn to Daenerys. Obviously, neither Arrianne or Quentyn appear to have made the cut on Game of Thrones so it's difficult to speculate just how much (if any) of Doran's plans for the future will remain the same.
One possible way the television series could involve Doran's wish for a Targaryen ruler is to combine his ambitions with those of Varys. This season Varys was instrumental in bringing Tyrion to Daenerys, but in the novels Varys is working for another Targaryen. Yes, another Targaryen, which is a needlessly complicated plot line that is very likely cut from the show.
Having Doran working with Varys to bring Daenerys to power in Westeros would give the excursion to Dorne this season a purpose and reveal how the region ties in with the larger and ongoing battle for the Iron Throne.
3 Tyrion Rules Meereen
Whether or not Varys is in cahoots with Prince Doran, as of the season 5 finale it appeared the spider will hang around Meereen and possibly assist Tyrion in ruling. And much like when Varys helped Tyrion during his time as Hand of the King in season 2, there could be a real battle ahead for the city of Meereen.
In the novels, when Daenerys takes off with Drogon, there's already a large host sitting outside the walls of Meereen. The army is comprised mostly of hired sellswords and slaves from Yunkai, but they are led by the great masters who want to see the slave trade return to Slaver's Bay and for Daenerys to surrender. In Daenerys' absence it's left to Ser Barristan Selmy to keep the peace within Meereen and defend the city from the forces of Yunkai.
However, to make matters worse the sellswords and slaves have brought with them plague. Called either the "bloody flux" or "pale mare" in the books, we know the disease better as dysentery (of Oregon Trail fame) and it is very deadly and very contagious. By the time Daenerys leaves, the plague is already savaging much of Yunkai's forces, but it becomes a much bigger threat to Meereen when they begin catapulting disease-ridden corpses over the walls and into the city. Once that happens, Ser Barristan chooses to ride out and meet their armies head on in the hopes of defeating them before the plague overruns Meereen.
There's no telling whether Tyrion will be facing exactly what Ser Barristan does in the novels, but compounding threats of an army at the gate and a horrible plague would make ruling in Meereen very difficult. Hopefully, Tyrion is up to the challenge.
2 Dragons Under Control
When we last we saw Daenerys in the season 5 finale she was being surrounding by a massive Dothraki khalasar. The books leave off with her in a similar predicament, though Drogon is more clearly nearby and the Dothraki are wary of the large dragon. There's no indication given for whether or not the khalasar poses a threat to her, but many have speculated that with Drogon by her side she could easily win the Dothraki over to her cause. After all, the Dothraki follow strength and there's nothing more powerful than a fire-breathing dragon.
However, word of Daenerys' dragons has spread and there are others interested in controlling that power for themselves. Of those seeking Dany and her dragons, the biggest threat is Victarion Greyjoy. In the novels, Euron Greyjoy is chosen as the next Lord of the Iron Islands and he entrusts his brother, Victarion, with a mysterious horn he found in Old Valyria - Dragonbinder. As the name implies, this horn supposedly has ability to control any dragons within earshot and it's been said that Valyrians tamed and controlled their dragons with magical horns prior to the Doom.
The novels have yet to produce any evidence that Dragonbinder can do what Euron claims, but with the Ironborn returning next season there's a good likelihood Dragonbinder could appear as well. And while Daenerys struggles to control her children, another may use Dragonbinder's magic to seize control away from her. Either way, someone will need to control these dragons if they're ever going to be useful in retaking Westeros. The question is, who?
1 Jon's Resurrection
Lastly, there's no question Jon Snow's death is what fans have had the most difficulty grappling with since the season 5 finale. Book readers felt very much the same when they read Jon's final chapter in A Dance With Dragons, and in the time since then there have been a few theories put forward to explain how Jon could come back.
And Jon will be back. After all, both Game of Thrones and the Song of Ice and Fire novels spend a lot of time discussing the true nature of Jon's parentage, and to have that reveal come after the character is already dead seems anticlimactic to say the least. But Jon is also definitely dead, as both actor Kit Harrington and producers Benioff and Weiss have repeatedly stated.
With that in mind, the theories surrounding Jon's resurrection all suggest that the man who returns won't be exactly the same man who died. If it's the Lady Melisandre who brings Jon back, then he'll probably have lost a part of himself in the process - something Beric Dondarion talks of after he's brought back to life by Thoros of Myr. The other option is for Jon to have warged into his direwolf, Ghost at the last possible moment, preserving his consciousness while his body dies.
Whether Jon is resurrected by the red priestess or lives out his days as a wolf, fans likely won't have long to wait out before they learn if Jon is returning. It's still the plan for Game of Thrones to finish in only seven seasons, and if that's the case then Jon must return next season (if he will at all).
Game of Thrones season 6 will air on HBO in spring 2016.