Game of Thrones season 6 is currently in production, mostly in Belfast, Ireland, where cast and crew have begun to emerge in the local restaurants, coffee shops and hotels. As anyone who follows the production closely can tell you, there’s a lot to be learned from who shows up and when. Especially when they don’t otherwise have a reason to be in Belfast. The same will be true in a few weeks when the production begins shooting in various locations around Spain.
Before we receive any real confirmation from HBO, which will come in early 2016 when they begin to market the new season, all we have to go on is rumor, speculation and the Instagram posts of giddy fans snapping selfies with their favorite performers on the streets of Belfast. Instead of a long parade of “You Won’t Believe Who Was Spotted on The Game of Thrones Set This Week” articles, I’d like to do some real talk around who may or may not be coming back. And more importantly, how and why they might be back. One of the strongest theories I have is that season 6 will have a strong thematic presence of resurrection. It’s not just about “he who shall be named later,” but other characters we haven’t seen in a long time coming back to life or perhaps just back into the fold after a long hiatus.
Let’s begin with three groups that will make a return that we can safely say aren’t spoilers. This is more common sense than anything else.
At the end of season 4, Bran, Hodor and Meera Reed made it to the big Weirwood tree, where they met the Three-Eyed Raven and were promised that while Bran may never walk again, he will “fly.” This entire storyline took season 5 off, during which time we have to assume that Bran has been training like the Warg version of a Padawan. We also know for sure that his trainer, the Three-Eyed Raven, has been recast and will now be played by powerhouse Max von Sydow. There are many who believe that von Sydow’s addition lend credence to the notion that Bran’s storyline will be somewhat intermittent (as in, we won’t see a ton of him), but it will be very important and include a number of Weirwood tree acid trip visions that will reveal truths about the past, present and future. Who better to explain some of that thick exposition than Mr. von Sydow?
The Sand Snakes
In an interview at Comic-Con, Jessica Henwick (Nymeria Sand) mentioned that she’s already read scripts for season 6 and is very hopeful that fans will like where things are going. As she explains, the many storylines within Thrones will begin to come together. This indicates a return for The Sand Snakes and Dorne. When last we left them, they were watching Jaime Lannister sail away with his now-dead daughter/niece and their cousin, Prince Tristane. Will Jaime be returning to Dorne following Myrcella’s death? Will the Sand Snakes be sent to King’s Landing to rescue their cousin as punishment for being an accessory to the murder of a princess? Somehow, they will still be involved. And here we were, thinking that Dorne was a one-and-done storyline. It’s hard to know, deep in my heart, if I even want to go back to Dorne.
Osha and Rickon
It was reported earlier this week by Watchers On The Wall that Natalia Tena (Osha) and Art Parkinson (Rickon Stark) were spotted in Belfast. This was confirmed by an Instagram post by Tena that was deleted shortly after word started to go around. This would infer that the youngest Stark child might be making a comeback. It also indicates that Art Parkinson may have survived the show’s trend of recasting young actors. Perhaps they couldn’t find anyone who could better smash walnuts than Art Parkinson. The kid’s a natural.
Now let’s talk spoilers, right after this important message from Walter White Walker, Lord of Spoilers:
For a more in-depth conversation about who is coming back and what it means, you can listen to a very special offseason episode of A Storm of Spoilers below, in which Dave Gonzales, Joanna Robinson and myself walk through all the recent new and speculation and put on the tinfoil hats for some wild theories. Including one that involves a Weekend at Bernie’s-esque subplot. It got weird.
This is perhaps the most obvious of all season 6 returns. To date, actor Kit Harrington has spent far more time in Belfast than it should take to shoot a simple funeral pyre scene. It seems as if we’re seeing a fan posting a shot with him almost daily. Unless he’s trolling the entire fanbase of Game of Thrones or he just really loves the Irish countryside, there’s no reason to believe that Jon Snow will be staying “dead, dead, dead” for very long in season 6. It doesn’t help the production’s “No, he’s dead!” stance that it’s been confirmed that The Tower of Joy will appear in season 6, as that’s the centerpiece of the R+L=J theory of Jon Snow parentage. You can’t keep up your parade of lies for much longer, Game of Thrones!
Another actor spotted very recently in Belfast is Rory McCann, who played The Hound. The last we saw of Sandor Clegane, he was bleeding out on a hillside while Arya Stark walked away and caught a ship to her creepy summer internship abroad. He has been presumed dead, but we never really saw him die. In the books, there’s a storyline in the Riverlands that involves Brienne and Pod traveling with a Septon named Meribald (who has been pretty much confirmed for S6 and would be a dream role for Ian McShane) to The Quiet Isle. There they meet a group of monks led by The Elder Brother. It is during this visit that Brienne spots a large man whose face is covered. He’s the size of The Hound and he walks with a limp. Many believe that this man, known as The Gravedigger, is actually a recovered Sandor Clegane. And the most wishful fans would love to see Sandor become a champion of The Faith in time for Cersei’s trial by combat. This would mean that he would have to fight the zombified Ser Robert Strong, aka whatever remains of his brother, The Mountain. It’s called #CleganeBowl and it’s a great theory. Almost too good to ever be true.
Actor David Bradley has also confirmed his return as the sleazy Lord of the Crossing, Walder Frey. He has recently been spotted traveling to Belfast, which means that his promised return is very likely for season 6. This fits right in with all the other information we’re getting about the show’s return to the war-torn Riverlands region, where the Freys are now in charge and renegades still roam the forests.
The Brotherhood Without Banners (and maybe Gendry)
Speaking of renegades roaming The Riverlands, it’s entirely possible that we might hook back up with the Brotherhood Without Banners. You remember these guys, right? From season 3? Beric Dondarrion, the knight who fought The Hound with his flaming sword and lost, only to be resurrected immediately by the red priest Thoros of Myr? These guys are still out there. And according to what we know from the books, they have been very busy making life difficult for the Freys. It’s also possible, though pretty unlikely, that Gendry, last seen rowing, may find his way back to the Brotherhood. Sadly, none of these actors – most importantly Paul Kaye, who plays Thoros – have been spotted in or around the production, but there’s still time. There’s also still time for another appearance…
As any book reader will tell you, at length, the show’s persistence in not including Lady Stoneheart is a tragedy unto itself. But there have been further rumblings about an impressive prosthetics effect that was cut from season 4, then almost used in season 5, which now seems almost certain for season 6. What would be a really impressive prosthetics effect? How about a hooded woman who has risen from the dead and still has a very badly slit throat? That sounds pretty impressive to me. Plus, she is the terror of The Riverlands. Come on, Game of Thrones, let’s do this already.
Just this week, George R.R. Martin confirmed in a comment on his LiveJournal that according to the books, Stannis is not dead. This is true, as Stannis is still alive when we leave him in A Dance with Dragons. The important element that he’s leaving out is that while the book hasn’t progressed to the Siege of Winterfell, the show absolutely showed us what happened. So either Martin is playing coy and the sixth book, The Winds of Winter, will include something similar to what we saw at the end of season 5, or we’ve got a big diversion. My instinct tells me that the show is maintaining Martin’s storylines very tightly so as not to go too far off book. It’s another example of a Game of Thrones creative entity playing the technicality game. Technically, Stannis is still alive in the books. How long he will remain alive is another thing entirely. Then again, do we really know that he’s dead in the show? They did cut away right before Brienne of Tarth allegedly took him out. As with all things death in Westeros, I’ll believe it when I see his body burn.
Everyone Who Dies in Season 6
There’s a massive army of ice zombies heading south for Winter, led by a guy who can literally raise the dead on demand. No matter how many Freys are hung in the Riverlands or how many arrows find their way into beloved Night’s Watch characters, we can be certain that there will be a lot more of this:
Which means that literally everyone who dies in season 6 could come back with blue eyes. So prepare yourselves for anything and everything as we move forward.
Related Topics: Game of Thrones