There has been a lot of hype and hyperbole flying around in anticipation of Season 6 of Game of Thrones. Show-runners Dan Weiss and David Benioff have called it their “strongest” and “best season yet.” (Even as they admit they might not be the most objective judges.) Emilia Clarke teased the big upcoming moments even further, saying, “Everything we’ve ever managed to do in one entire season, we’re like doubling and putting into Season 6.”
That’s a big promise, indeed, considering all the heartbreaking deaths, eye-popping dragon stunts, and chilling White Walker encounters we’ve seen so far. So what shocking moments are still in store? There will be a huge battle—their “biggest action sequence yet!” claims producer Bryan Cogman—but there’s gotta be more. Well, we know the show is going back to pick up some discarded book plots, and there are some pretty intriguing hints to be gathered from the recent trailers, clips, and behind-the-scenes footage. So, based entirely on book knowledge and (mostly) reasonable speculation, here are the craziest plots we might finally see in Season 6 of Game of Thrones.
Are they gone? Good.
Here’s a gruesome, revenge-filled Book 5 plot that many readers were hoping would make its way into Sansa Stark’s Season 5 story line. In the books, a loyal Stark bannerman—Wyman Manderly—gets his revenge on the Boltons and the Freys at Ramsay’s wedding by serving up some Sweeney Todd–esque pies. Clearly, nothing like that happened at Ramsay’s wedding last year. In fact, the Freys didn’t even show for the TV version of the nuptials. But we know from casting news and a shot in the Season 6 trailer (see the GIF above) that the Freys will be back and celebrating at a feast where some dubious pies could easily find their way in front of Lord Walder.
In the books, it’s suspected (though not explicitly confirmed) that Wyman Manderly kills three Frey kinsmen, has them baked into three huge pies, and serves them up to the Boltons and the Freys. What evidence is there that this plot will play out in the show? Well, first of all, a Manderly popped up very briefly at the Red Wedding in Season 3. (We know because of the ostentatious merman sigil he was wearing.) In the book, Wyman’s revenge is motivated, in part, by losing his son Wendel at the Red Wedding. Secondly, back in Season 3, Bran told his traveling companions the story of the Rat King, a vengeful cook who killed a prince and baked him into a pie he then serves to a king. In the books, Wyman Manderly has the bard sing the song of the Rat King as the Freys and Boltons chow down on his pies. So will we see Wyman Manderly and some vindictive baking this season? According to the trailers, some Northerners are going to the Riverlands and will be deep in Frey territory, so it’s very possible indeed.
In the books, Coldhands is a mysterious figure north of the Wall who helps Sam and Gilly when they are attacked by White Walkers (in the show back in Season 3) and helps Bran, Meera, Jojen, and Hodor in their travels north of the Wall (Season 4). Coldhands is a fantastically enigmatic figure in the books who is clearly a good guy, but has some of the characteristics of a White Walker—without the icy blue eyes. He wears a tattered cloak that makes him seem like he was once a member of the Night’s Watch, but covers his face with a scarf. When Coldhands is present, Bran’s direwolf smells “dead meat, dry blood, a faint whiff of rot. And cold. Cold all over.” Coldhands gets his name from his black and icy hands, commands a flock of ravens, doesn’t breathe, and rides a large elk. Why would you not want something like that on your HBO show?
Book readers don’t actually know who Coldhands is, but they have plenty of guesses. The most prevalent—one that has been debunked by George R.R. Martin himself—is that he’s Jon Snow’s missing uncle, Benjen. Well, judging by the shots above from the Season 6 trailers, it looks like a hooded somebody—Coldhands, the real Benjen Stark, or someone else entirely—is
smiting wights and possibly rescuing Meera, Bran, and Hodor after they appear to flee the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave (seen in this VFX video) potentially in response to a White Walker attack (seen in this VFX video). So someone seems to be looking out for Bran, and it’s anyone’s guess, including book readers, who it actually will be.
This is the name of the long-cherished fan theory that some day readers/viewers will see a match-up between Sandor Clegane (a.k.a. the Hound) and his brother Gregor Clegane (a.k.a. the Mountain). Sure, both brothers seemed to die, but that’s not necessarily the end of the story in Westeros. The Hound—we’re pretty sure—will be making a brief return this season. After all, Arya left him dying, not dead. Actor Rory McCann was spotted around set, and Ian McShane has hinted that his character will probably be involved in bringing him back. You can read more about that and the Hound’s peaceful retirement here.
As for the Mountain, well, in case you hadn’t noticed, that’s actor Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson under that zombie makeup and armor going to bat for Cersei in the Season 6 trailers, and carrying her to safety after the Walk of Shame at the end of Season 5. Readers strongly suspect (they pretty much know) that the Mountain is resurrected in the books by Qyburn and pressed into service for Cersei under the name Ser Robert Strong. So we’ve got the Mountain in King’s Landing and the Hound somewhere in the Riverlands (where McShane’s character will be).
But how could the two possibly do battle? That’s where this theory falls apart. It’s possible that Cersei will request a trial by combat in Season 6 and elect zombie Mountain as her champion (wouldn’t you?). But Cersei seems disinclined to play by the rules in the Season 6 trailers (“I choose violence,” she says right before Ser Robert seems to pop a Sparrow’s head off). And what would possess the Hound to travel back to King’s Landing to fight on behalf of the realm? This one seems shaky, but with the Brothers Clegane both back on the board, I wouldn’t rule anything out.
Readers have been kicking this theory around since way back in Season 3, when, if the show followed the books, Thoros of Myr would have resurrected Catelyn Stark soon after she had her throat slit at the Red Wedding. Another zombie? Another zombie. In the books, the undead Catelyn runs a group of outlaws under the name Lady Stoneheart and makes revenge on behalf of the Starks her one and only mission. But the show-runners decided not to resurrect Catelyn then, or in Season 4 or in Season 5. So why bring her back now? Hasn’t her zombie ship sailed?
Well, Paul Kaye, the actor who played Thoros of Myr, was just confirmed as part of the Season 6 cast. Add to that the fact that in the trailers Brienne, Pod, and Jaime Lannister are all converging on Riverrun—Catelyn’s family home—and you have the perfect setup to bring back Lady Stoneheart’s book plot. (There is a lot more evidence supporting the return of Catelyn Stark—including a tantalizing interview from a visual-effects guy—gathered here.) In the books, Stoneheart captures Brienne and Pod and, seeing the Lannister armor on Brienne, assumes Brienne has allied herself with Jaime and broken her promise to rescue Catelyn’s daughters. Catelyn strings Pod and Brienne up and tries to get the Lady Knight to promise to kill Jaime. What happens next? Not even book readers know for certain.
What, you thought we’d get this far in a post about zombies and resurrections and not mention Jon Snow? Fat chance. Jon Snow is almost certainly coming back. But how? The most convincing theory relies on the story of his true parents, and we know from the trailers that the show will explore that parentage in Season 6. Book readers (and Weiss and Benioff themselves!) have long suspected that Jon Snow is very likely the illegitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.
A Song of Ice and Fire fans pieced that theory together thanks, in part, to a dream Ned Stark had in Book 1 about a fight he participated in at a place called the Tower of Joy. We will get a flashback to that fight—thanks to Bran’s handy new vision powers—in Season 6. You can see some of the collected Tower of Joy trailer footage here. And there’s no real point in re-enacting the Tower of Joy if it is not a key to unlocking Jon Snow’s parentage and his resurrection, right? For a complete rundown of all the times the TV series tried to prepare you for the fact that Jon Snow is secretly a Targaryen, check out this fantastic video.
How does being secretly Targaryen help Jon Snow come back from the dead? Unclear. Book readers don’t even know for a fact. Though you can read the most popular theories here. An eagle-eyed viewer did notice that the blood stains spreading out from behind Jon in the snow seemed to take the shape of Targaryen-ish dragon wings in this behind-the-scenes look from the Season 5 Blu-ray. (That screenshot is real, I double checked.) Though if that’s anything, it’s the show-runners just having a bit of fun.
But if Jon Snow is a secret Targaryen (he probably is), he may not be the only one. The show keeps making a big deal about Daenerys being the last Targaryen, but the Westeros of the books is potentially lousy with secret Targaryens. There’s Jon Snow, someone claiming to be Dany’s “nephew” (who’s been written out of the show), Varys (yes, Varys), and, of course, Tyrion Lannister. Tywin, you might remember, was forever going on about Tyrion not being a real Lannister. Some took that as run-of-the-mill terrible Westerosi parenting, but it could have been more.
Many theorize that Daenerys (proven Targaryen), Jon, and Tyrion (secret Targaryens) are the three fabled dragon riders that George R.R. Martin and his books have promised. That’s what makes that trailer shot of Tyrion seemingly getting roasted by a dragon so interesting. Is Tyrion taking the place of Quentyn Martell—a book character cut from the show who tries to release Dany’s dragons and gets burned alive for his troubles? Is this just a case of tricky editing, and Tyrion is nowhere near that flame? Or will he be engulfed in it and emerge unscathed a la Daenerys in Season 1? The relationship between Targaryens and fire is tricky (and different, it seems, in the books than it is in the show), so while it would be inaccurate to say all Targaryens are fireproof, it would be a heart-stopping way to reveal Tyrion’s hidden ancestry. And, as we know, Weiss and Benioff will, more often than not, choose the heart-stopping option.