21 things you need to know about Game of Thrones season 6

The new season of Game of Thrones is almost upon us now, but with so many unresolved plot threads and deaths to keep on top of it can be hard to keep track of what's going on. Never fear though, we've got a list of everything you need to know about season 6. Be cautious though, spoilers lie ahead...

George RR Martin might well be a genius, but genius takes its own sweet time. In a recent blog post, the author admitted that the next instalment of A Song Of Ice And Fire – The Winds Of Winter, the follow-up to 2011’s A Dance With Dragons – won’t be ready before season six of Game Of Thrones airs. “Will the show ‘spoil’ the novels?” asks big George. “Maybe. Yes and no. I never thought the series could possibly catch up with the books, but it has.” Which means, for the first time ever, readers and TV viewers alike are in the dark as to where the plot is headed. Exciting, right? 

So, where were we? Predictably, given Game Of Thrones’ predilection for killing every mother flipper in the room, there were a lot of dead – or presumed dead – folk at the end of season five. Stannis is an ex-Baratheon (as confirmed by season five finale director David Nutter), Cersei’s daughter Myrcella is a gonner, and as for Jon Snow, well, who knows. But the two Royal deaths alone will have dire consequences. Is war on the horizon?

Regardless, war in Westeros is of little consequence to everybody’s favourite Lannister. Tyrion was left holding a Meereen-sized baby when Daario and Jorah buggered off to track down the errant Khaleesi and her dragon. Peter Dinklage has been spotted filming at Meereen-substitute Peñiscola Castle in Spain alongside a number of emaciated extras. So… famine? Plague? Whatever it is, there’s big trouble headed in Tyrion’s direction.

At least some of that trouble looks to be in the form of another Red Priestess popping up in Meereen. R’hllor’s disciples seem to cause grief wherever they go (we’re looking at you, Melisandre), so the casting of Melanie Liburd as a “woman in red” who preaches in Meereen doesn’t bode well...

Daenerys got off her royal backside last season, much to the relief of all. We’ll see a return to her Khal Drogo roots this year in the form of Dothraki and dragons, although if scenes being shot in Navarra, Spain, are anything to go by, she’s not going to be treated like a queen. Held captive by a rogue Khal? Dany’s going to need those dragons more than ever…

Which is handy, because the dragons are growing up fast. According to VFX supervisor Joe Bauer, this season “the dragons will again double in size”. Drogon and co had a wingspan of 60 feet at the end of season five, but that’s going to double to 120 feet in season six. Whichever way you slice it, that’s some supersized dragonage. 

Speaking of dragons, is there anyone more dangerous in the Seven Kingdoms than Cersei Lannister right now? We think not. In the wake of her walk of shame, and with a mysterious, terrifying new knight of the Kingsguard (who looks suspiciously like the Mountain, brought back to life by dodgy ex-maester Qyburn) in tow, Cersei is surely out for blood. Lannister vengeance beckons. 

Cersei won’t be alone in attempting to make King’s Landing her own, though. Margaery and Loras Tyrell, both currently prisoners of the High Sparrow, surely won’t remain in chains long, and there are rumours of a faux-conversion/power-grab by Margaery. Set-spotters also report Tyrell troops – led by none other than Jaime Lannister – being filmed storming the High Sparrow’s stronghold.

And that’s not all for Natalie Dormer, who been on her travels this year. “I’m mainly in Belfast,” she said, during an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live. “But I was in Spain a lot this year, I really enjoyed being in Spain.” Could this mean dear Mags is heading to Dorne? It certainly sounds like it.

And she’s not the only Tyrell that has been spied in sunny Spain. Diana Rigg’s imperious Lady Olenna has allegedly put in an appearance at the Alcazaba fortress in Almería, filming with the Dorne production crew. A Tyrell-Martell alliance could be pretty formidable, and spell big trouble for the Lannisters…

From women with a plan to one without: Brienne has her work cut out for her this year. Season six will likely see the further adventures of Brienne and Pod as they wander Westeros looking for Starks – and a sense of purpose. Rumour has it the Hound isn’t as dead as we were lead to believe, so perhaps we’ll see round two of Clegane the younger versus the Maid of Tarth.

Talking of ass-kicking ladies, we’re hoping the show will introduce a cult character this season in the form of Lady Stoneheart. Wishful thinking perhaps, as there’s no sign yet that she’ll appear in season six, but we live in hope. We won’t spoil who she is for folk who haven’t read the books but suffice it to say she’s a returning character in a new guise that takes over leadership of the Brotherhood Without Banners and hunts down Freys for fun. 

Naturally, this season those dastardly Freys continue their bastardly ways. House Tully, sent into freefall after the Red Wedding (remember that?), are apparently to begin season six under siege by Frey forces at Riverrun. Crappy for them, but great for us as that means we’ll see the return of the Blackfish (Brynden Tully, played by Clive Russell), Catelyn Stark’s uncle and official badass. Here’s hoping for some Tully revenge.

In other sort-of good news for dear, departed Catelyn, young Bran is back in the frame after an entire year off. Last seen north of the Wall, deep underground in the lair of the Three-Eyed Raven (who, incidentally, has been recast, with Max von Sydow stepping in fresh from The Force Awakens), Bran and Hodor (Hodor!) are finally relevant to the plot again, so expect to see the young Stark hone his Warg and Greenseer powers to all sorts of revelatory ends.

Sebastian Croft has been cast as Ned Stark, so an appearance from a young Eddard in some form or another seems nailed on. An educated guess tells us this will tie in with Bran’s story, and opens up the possibility of some fascinating backfilling of plot details. Could we finally be about to discover the truth of Jon’s parentage?

What is to become of Ayra, our favourite burgeoning assassin? Blinded as punishment for the brutal killing of Meryn Trant, she’s now stuck in Braavos and at the mercy of the House of Black and White. This season will see a travelling troupe passing through Braavos (Kevin Eldon and Richard E Grant among them), which could well prove pivotal to Arya’s arc. Here’s hoping she gets her eyesight back in time, eh?

While Arya continues her journey to ultimate badass-itude, Sansa is in all sorts of trouble. We last saw Mrs Bolton and Theon/Reek jumping into a snow drift from one of Winterfell’s bloody great big walls. Are they alive? Well, yes, they are, but where they go now or what happens to them is trickier to answer. The north could feasibly rise up behind Sansa, and a redemption arc for Theon is surely in the offing. 

Theon aside, it’s been a bit quiet on the Greyjoy front of late, but with Borgen’s Pilou Asbæk cast as Euron Greyjoy – think “terrifying nutjob pirate” – the Ironborn should be back in the thick of it. We’d like to see Theon get back to his family, if only to see how the proud islanders react to the man he’s become. 

Sam the Slayer is another character heading for a family reunion, with big brother Dickon, dad Randyll, and his mother and sister all cast. Sam and Gilly are on their way to Oldtown, presumably passing chez Tarly en route – we can feel Samwell’s famously frosty familial relationship dropping another couple of degrees already.

It’s a good job Sam has left the north, as it looks like it’s about to royally kick off up there. The Night’s King – the White Walker leader Jon Snow encountered at Hardhome – is clearly amassing a significant force. Will the Wall finally buckle under a massive undead assault? We can’t help but wonder if dragons might be the only way to defeat them. The very thought of a united Westeros, led by Daenerys, her dragons, and a resurrected Jon Snow, taking on an army of White Walkers, is almost too tantalising to deal with.

Finally, where would Game Of Thrones be without political machinations? Nowhere, that’s where, so we’re particularly looking forward to catching up with Varys and Littlefinger. The Spider was instrumental in bringing Tyrion to Meereen, but on past form he isn’t the sort of man to leave the Iron Throne to its own devices. We anticipate Varys creeping back into the Red Keep, although to what end we couldn’t possibly say… As for Littlefinger? Well, don’t rule out the reveal of another epic long con now that the north is in upheaval…

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