Awesome is coming.
By Gina Carbone
Awesome is coming: "Game of Thrones" Season 6 premieres Sunday, April 24 at 9 p.m. EDT on HBO. The gods will favor us with 10 episodes in 2016, and it won't take a vision from Bran Stark or a (probably incorrect) reading of the flames from Melisandre to tell us what's ahead.
Just read on for 20 teases on what's to come, including brief reminders of where we left such-and-such in Season 5, in case you forgot any of the nine thousand things you'll need to remember to keep up this year.
1. This Is 'the Best' Season Yet
It's the job of showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss to make and promote the show, but they don't declare every season to be the best. Season 6 was apparently a very tough one to make and the quality will be shown on screen. Benioff told Entertainment Weekly, "We're always reluctant to say it's 'the best season yet' because so much of that is in the eyes of the beholder. And Dan and I are so close to it that it's impossible to be unbiased. But that's my sense -- watching them all together now, this is the best one we've done. It's also the one I'm proudest of, because it was the hardest."
2. It's the First Post-Book Season ... Sort Of
There were pieces of Season 5 that were never in George R.R. Martin's book series. "A Song of Ice and Fire," and there will be segments of Season 6 that do go back and pick up storylines from the first five books. But the sixth book is not out yet, and Season 6 is the first year the series will take place almost entirely beyond the novel storyline to date. However, Benioff said the books will not be spoiled for readers, in terms of watching the show before reading "The Winds of Winter," whenever it comes out. "So much of what we're doing diverges from the books at this point," Benioff told EW. "And while there are certain key elements that will be the same, we're not going to talk so much about that -- and I don't think George is either. People are going to be very surprised when they read the books after the show. They're quite divergent in so many respects for the remainder of the show."
3. The Premiere's Twists Will Shock Even Fanatic Speculators
Do you love it or hate it when you think you know what's going to happen and you're wrong? We may find out on April 24 when "The Red Woman" airs, since critics who got an early look at the episode said the twists in the first hour will shock even hardcore fans who have been speculating. One reviewer noted there were gasps and even bits of uncomfortable laughter in the episode. We cannot wait to see what that's about.
4. Jon Snow Is Really Dead ... For Now
The showrunners actually said as much the day after the Season 5 finale, "Mother's Mercy," but there were so many question marks left in play that it took HBO adding "Jon Snow is dead" to the premiere synopsis to really confirm it for some folks. But will he stay dead? That's the question. This is a fantasy show, after all, and there's precedent for people coming back to life (remember Thoros of Myr bringing back Beric Dondarrion?). If Jon does come back to life, how will it happen? There's debate on this, and since the book is of no help, all speculation is only guesswork. Some fans think Melisandre will be involved, while another theory thinks fire will be the cause. Either way, if Jon does come back, he can't really be the same man he was before. And he couldn't exactly go back to being the Lord Commander, when being stabbed repeatedly "for the watch" is a pretty definitive impeachment.
5. Bran Is Getting 'Inception'-y'
Many "old" faces are returning this season, maybe even more than we know, since not that much about this season has been confirmed. However, we know for sure that Bran Stark and friends (Hodor!) will be back, after a season away, so we can pick up Bran's story after his training with the Three-Eyed Raven (played this season by the legend Max von Sydow). Actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright, now age 17, told Entertainment Weekly, "Previously Bran's seen tiny glimpses of future or past but never has he been very much in control in the situation. Now we're given looks into very important events in the past, present and future of this world and Bran is beginning to piece them together like a detective, almost as if he's watching the show. Equally, he's now discovering how crucial he could be in the Great War. It's quite 'Inception'-y."
6. More Greyjoys Are Ahead
Theon's sister Yara and father Balon Greyjoy are both returning for Season 6, but we're also going to meet a new Greyjoy: Theon and Yara's uncle Euron. Fans of the book know him as Crow's Eye, the feared captain of the ship Silence. Actor Pilou Asbæk has been cast as Euron, and we should expect to spend some time back in the Iron Islands to see what he and the other Greyjoys are up to. Perhaps we'll even see a homecoming for Theon, if he heads that way after his escape from Winterfell with Sansa Stark.
7. This Is the Best Season for Sansa
t is about time Sansa Stark caught a break, no? Apparently it's coming. She looks downright badass in the second trailer, wearing Stark attire and possibly even leading an army (against Ramsay?). Sophie Turner can't wait for people to see what's ahead for her character. "I mean this season is a really, really big one for Sansa," she told EW. "It's probably her best season yet. It's her really coming into her own. She, this season, really commands the respect that she deserves and she grabs hold of it and she runs with it and it's really good." Turner added to TVLine, ""She's trying to get people to listen to her. She's building a group of trusted people that will help her get what she wants, which is -- ultimately -- revenge." Get it, girl!
8. Cersei Will Not Be Chastened
Anyone who thought Cersei Lannister would be meek and quiet after her public humiliation (shame! shame!) in Season 5 is dead wrong. She's doubling down now, enraged that something like that could happen to her. In the first trailer, we see her telling her cousin Lancel, "I choose violence," in terms of a battle with the Faith Militant. In the second trailer she tells someone off camera to stand at the front of the army and show them what happens to enemies of the Lannisters. Lena Headey told Entertainment Weekly this is probably Cersei's "most interesting season," emphasizing "interesting." She'll be grieving for her daughter Myrcella, who was poisoned by the Sand Snakes, and you might wonder how her brother/lover Jaime's failed mission to Dorne will affect their dynamic. Lena told EW, "Her relationship with Jaime is at an all-time weird level."
9. Expect a New Side of Melisandre
Whether the premiere episode title "The Red Woman" chiefly refers to Melisandre or not, actress Carice van Houten promised changes ahead for the Lord of Light's most loyal and wildly off-base servant. "The arc of my character is finally going into a different direction. It's changing and I really like it. We see her from a really different side of her now," van Houten told EW, adding, "We see somebody whose whole belief system is tumbling down. She's completely confused, and I really like to play that. After all the security and strength and pride, now we see something completely different. I've been really waiting for this moment."
10. Expect a New Side of Ramsay, Too
When we last saw Ramsay
Snow Bolton, his army had defeated Stannis Baratheon, but he lost his ace cards in wife Sansa and torture pet Theon/Reek. Iwan Rheon told EW this season will show different sides of his character, too, including his reaction to losing Sansa. "He's sheepish. His father is obviously not pleased. Without Sansa, he doesn't have a much power as having a Stark and an heir. Without her, he is not what he was. He's still sort of a bastard, really, even though he's been legitimized by another bastard – as Sansa rightly pointed out. And we start by finding out how Ramsay really felt about Myranda ..." Maybe he loved her? Is he capable of love? Do we even want to find out or just indulge our hatred for him?
11. Brienne Actually Gets to Do Something
Huzzah! Brienne and Pod basically spent Season 5 like wallflowers at the Winterfell dance, just hanging around, waiting for Sansa Stark to notice them. Gwendoline Christie told EW, "I got the scripts for Season 6 and I thought the story was so fantastic. It's really exciting to see Brienne burst forth again." She also teased that Brienne will be interacting with characters she hasn't met before. If you look closely at the second trailer, it looks like she and Pod may end up in Tully country (that appears to be a trout sigil on the banner). Perhaps they connect with Bronn and Jaime?
12. Margaery Gets a New "Sparring Partner"
Poor Margaery and her brother Ser Loras were both locked away by the High Sparrow last season. Cersei did her penance, but what about the Tyrells? Natalie Dormer told TIME, "We all, season to season, get thrown in with a new sparring partner. And I've actually had a new sparring partner this season because Margaery is in jail and Cersei, obviously, after the walk of shame got back into the Keep." She added to Women's Health (via Bustle), "Margaery is a savvy chick and she's trying to find an angle. She's trying to find a way to get out of that cell, so it's pretty amusing and ingenious, the route she decides to take."
13. Ian McShane Will Bring Someone Back to Life
"Deadwood" alum Ian McShane was cast in a mysterious one-episode role this season. It's meant to be a small but pivotal part. At first, we thought he'd be Sam's father, but the Tarlys are a separate matter we'll get to in a minute. McShane shared some outright spoilers on his role, telling BBC Breakfast, "My character is an ex-warrior who's become a peacenik. So I have this group of peaceful...it's like a cult, peaceful tribe... who have brought back...I bring back this beloved character that everyone thinks is dead. So, I'll leave it at that." There's speculation on who exactly he means, and it's not Jon Snow.
14. It's Tarly Time!
We last saw Sam and Gilly on their way to the Citadel, and a clip actor John Bradley showed on "Conan" suggests Sam is just not a good ship traveler. It was also revealed that we'll see more of his family this season, with "unREAL" star Freddie Stroma cast as Sam's younger, more physically adept brother, Dickon. According to Watchers on the Wall, their father, renowned warrior Lord Randyll Tarly, will be played by James Faulkner. Samantha Spiro will play Sam's mother, and Rebecca Benson will play his sister.
15. Tyrion Is the ... Father of Dragons?
At the end of Season 5, Tyrion basically took over the ruling of Meereen while Ser Jorah Mormont and Daario Naharis went off in search of Daenerys Targaryen. Clips from the new season show Tyrion and Varys using their Westerosi politics on the streets of Meereen. But the second trailer also showed them appearing to be troubled by a visiting woman, a smirking woman in red who may be another "Red Woman" beyond Melisandre. What is she up to, and how worried should we be? And what about the dragons? The trailers have shown Tyrion entering the dungeon, perhaps to free Dany's other two dragons, who were locked up after their brother Drogon ate a child. What will happen if Tyrion does try to free them? If they can't be tamed even by their own mother, how much better could he do?
16. We May Not See as Much of Arya
Arya was blinded at the end of Season 5 as punishment for killing Ser Meryn Trant, which was the wrong life to take. No One is not supposed to carry grudges like Arya Stark. The second trailer shows Jaqen H'ghar telling "a girl" she's getting a second chance, but there will not be a third. A new clip also shows blind Arya getting beat up in training. We don't know how long Arya will stay blind in Braavos, but Maisie Williams hinted that her storyline may not get as much screen time in Season 6. "I feel like I'm not in it quite as much," she told Seth Meyers, "but my story flows a lot nicer than it has in previous years."
17. Dany Is Back to Square One
Season 5 ended with Dany surrounded by a massive khalasar. Based on the trailers and a clip from the new season, they don't exactly treat her with great respect, stripping her down and forcing her to come with them to Vaes Dothrak. In the book, all widows of slain khals are supposed to go to Vaes Dothrak and join the dosh khaleen, which is not something Dany ever wanted. At this point, she must want to get back to Meereen, or at least reconnect with her dragons and her squad, then get the heck out of Dodge. Can she convince the Dothraki to join her, and perhaps even finally cross The Narrow Sea to take Westeros?
18. The Biggest Battle Yet Is Ahead
You want action? You got it. Entertainment Weekly visited the set for some behind-the-scenes details and reported back on the most epic battle sequence yet. Writer/producer Bryan Cogman told EW, "It's definitely the biggest [action sequence yet]. We've always wanted to get to a place – story-wise and budget-wise and time-wise and resource-wise – where we would be able to do a proper battle, with one army on one side, one army on another side." But who are the armies? Here's a very spoilery potential hint: Google "game of thrones snowbowl."
19. We Should Get a Very Cool Flashback
The first two trailers hinted to a Targaryen battle scene, which doesn't make much sense since no one is wearing that three-headed dragon sigil on their armor these days. Is it a flashback? Probably. To what? The Tower of Joy sequence from the book, perhaps, in a traditional flashback or maybe even a vision from Bran. It's very spoilery, but read about it here if you want to take the red pill and go down that R+L=J rabbit hole.
20. This May (or May Not) Be the Last 10-Episode Season
HBO has not confirmed an end game plan for this beautiful series, but new-ish reports just started making the rounds saying Benioff and Weiss are considering shortened episode counts for the final two seasons. According to Variety, Season 7 would have seven episodes and Season 8 would have six giving us a total of 13 new episodes after the end of Season 6, instead of 20. (Noooooooo!) However, Benioff told Variety the "final 13 episodes" plan is not set in stone, so fans will have to wait for an official statement. HBO probably wants the show to go on for another 20 years, but the showrunners have always had a plan for how they want this song of ice and fire to be sung.