COMING SPRING 2016 ON HBO
WARNING! SPOILERS FOR THE SHOW AND THE BOOK SERIES BELOW!
This was a season of change, concision, and convergence for the biggest series in the world. Series showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss took over a decade of author George R.R. Martin’s struggle to tell his massively sprawling tale and managed to condense it down to 10 episodes over two months. That is called an achievement, no matter what. To that end, much fat was stripped, characters combined or eliminated, and we ended with the most original product of the show. Also, perhaps not coincidentally, the most controversial.
Now, we enter a new phase: the unknown. We are out of published material (more or less; there are some minor threads left unfilmed). Martin’s professed goal is to publish the book basis for next season, The Winds of Winter, before the show returns so he may, perhaps for the last time, tell his story before the adaptation does. That would, most optimistically, put the ideal publishing date of the much-anticipated sixth volume in the first quarter of 2016.
And yet, despite Martin’s every effort to not let the show surpass him, his attempt to publish prior to the season is irrelevant. The battle is already lost.
Martin’s tale has already been caught up to behind the scenes. Benioff and Weiss spend the first six months every year crafting the seasonal outline and the episodic scripts, the majority of which they personally write. At this point, it’s safe to say next year’s season scripts has already been written and locked, regardless of what Martin does or does not have written. It’s the facts of shooting such a massive endeavor. The real world requires actor contracts, city permits, departmental planning etc.
Now that Season 5 is done and dusted, where are things going next year? Let’s start with the biggest of the finale’s loose threads:
Kit Harington is unarguably the biggest breakout star of the show (other than Peter Dinklage’s sly dwarf Tyrion). He is honorable and heroic and thus, in Westeros, marked for death. However, it is far more ambiguous in the books. Martin has refused to neither confirm that he is dead nor deny he could come back to life, as other characters in the series have (most notably Beric Dondarrion in Season 3.)
Fans have denied such a narrative failure since it occurred in 2011. There’s just too much tale left to do for Jon to pull a Ned and exit stage right. Add the thick foreshadowing of Jon’s Targaryen ancestry (once again, if you haven’t heard, Google: R+L=J), and you have a conclusion: Jon Snow WILL be back, in some way, shape, or form.
With the recent inclusion of Jon’s direwolf in Episode 7 (whom he is speculated to warg into to survive his body’s death) and Melisandre’s return (her Red God’s power was responsible for Dondarrion’s repeated resurrections), there are two options right there for Jon’s continued existence. Whether what we meet will be the Jon Snow we knew or a different creature altogether is the real question, and the one Martin himself stated for bringing characters back from the grave at all.
Sansa & Theon’s escape, Brienne’s future
Sansa and Theon leapt off the walls of Winterfell to escape the torment of Ramsay Bolton. Brienne seemed to execute Stannis. Despite the camera cutting before we see Brienne strike the killing blow, I’m 99% certain this death will stick.
What if the two troubled Stark family members meet up with Brienne and her n’er-do-well squire Podrick? What if they agree to a journey to, say, the Wall, to seek refuge with the last person they can trust: Jon . . . only to be in the dark about his terrible fate. That sounds Thrones-y for sure. Maybe they’ll team with Davos or something. With Stannis probably gone, he gonna need something to do.
King’s Landing & Dorne
Myrcella’s death will finally cause a political catastrophe between the Martells and Lannisters. With Tommen the last of Cersei’s children, you can bet the recently-humbled queen will be seeking to un-humble herself all over her enemies, most notably Tyrion. She still blames him for Joffrey’s death and she remembers he was the one to arrange Myrcella’s trip to Dorne. In her mind, it’s all his fault. Now that Qyburn has delivered her a freakish mutant Mountain-man as a Kingsguard knight, she has the firepower to unleash vengeance.
But what about Jaime? What will he do when he gets back to King’s Landing? What will happen in Dorne after this death?
My prediction is they will reveal one of the series’ secrets: that the quiet and cautious Doran Martell – played by Alexander Siddig this year – has been planning an intricate revenge for years with Varys: to destroy the Lannisters and restore the Targaryens to the Iron Throne. It’s literally the only way to get me invested in Dorne at this point, which was by far the weakest part of the season. As for the Faith Militant, which emerged as powerful political and martial entity this year, I have no idea where their road leads. Maybe they can be convinced to remove Tommen and support Daenerys in the end?
The Meereenese Knot
Tyrion assumes the role the novels’ gave to Barristan Selmy: a Westerosi out of his element in a foreign city, forced to try to placate it while Dany goes on her second Dothraki pilgrimage. I see a lot of potential here; Jorah and Daario are another great team-up in the series’ tradition of team-ups and Powerful Tyrion is our Favorite Tyrion. Dany re-integrating with the Dothraki also has a chance to both echo and comment on her character’s growth and potentially seal her return to Westeros.
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT SEASON 6:
Recently, we entered the casting phase of production. The Watchers on the Wall first reported casting reports, pointing to book storylines that were thought to have been dropped due to time or budget.
As such, we appear to be giving a fuck about the Greyjoys next season, a dangling thread last checked in on in Season 4 when Yara’s mission to rescue Theon failed miserably and the final Ironborn holdouts were routed out of Moat Cailin through Ramsay’s treachery. Their resurgence appears to be led by this new character, “a man in his 40’s to late 50’s. An an infamous pirate who has terrorized seas all around the world. Cunning, ruthless, with a touch of madness. He’s a dangerous-looking man.” A very good part this season.”
Either this is Euron Greyjoy, Theon’s long-absent uncle, or I read the wrong books. In the fourth novel, A Feast for Crows, he returns upon his brother (and Theon’s father) Balon’s suspicious death to claim the Seastone Chair and renew the Ironborn’s rebellion against the Seven Kingdoms. In the books, Balon suspiciously fell to his death walking on a bridge from one castle to another. It is heavily implied that the Faceless Men were involved, making it an assassination. WILD THEORY: Will Arya get to take the role of Balon’s killer?
Later, upon seizing the throne, he sends another of Theon’s uncles, Victarion, with a huge fleet to court Daenerys in his name. There’s no description matching Victarion (who is a POV character in the books) in the recently released descriptions and, in any case, Victarion’s storyline was set to collide with Dany in Meereen around the Season 5 finale. That obviously didn’t happen so it remains to be seen how the Greyjoys are re-integrated into the story after their many seasons of rot.
The other listed roles are heavily speculated to be Sam’s family, which makes sense. He left the Wall in the finale on a mission to become a Maester at the Citadel in Oldtown, located in the southern Reach. This was a storyline that, like the Greyjoys, was originally a part of A Feast for Crows. While much of the novel’s material was adapted for Season 5, it appears both of those plots (plus Bran’s storyline from A Dance with Dragons) were held until Season 6 due to the already-impressive girth of the narrative.
Samwell, Gilly, and Aemon actually interact with Arya in Braavos before Aemon dies there, instead of Castle Black as in the show. Could this be remixed for an Oldtown encounter? This is supported by book evidence that the conspiracies swirling in Oldtown are connected in some way to the Faceless Men. Further evidence points to yet another Faceless Man (implied to be Jaqen H’ghar) infiltrating the Order. This would make for interesting drama, as the maesters represent science and reason in Westeros and they are not happy about the return of magic or Daenerys’ dragons.
Some speculate the casting that calls for actors with Northern accents indicate flashbacks of Ned Stark and his past, seen perhaps through the use of Bran’s new skills as “greenseer.” A greenseer is a psychic that can connect or “warg” into the magical Weirwood trees and witness the past, present, and future of Westerosi history.
Let’s conclude on one of my favorite character’s, Littlefinger. His quote to Roose Bolton in Episode 3 struck me as prophetic: “The last time the North and the Vale were aligned, they toppled the greatest dynasty the world has ever seen.” Sounds like an endorsement of their alliance, right? Well, in Episode 7, Littlefinger’s plan become clear: to become both Warden of the North as well as Lord Protector of the Vale. He tells Cersei of Sansa’s whereabouts – conveniently leaving out his involvement – and offers to root out whomever should win the Battle of Winterfell: Stannis or the Boltons.
In one fell swoop, Littlefinger would be second-only to the king in political and martial power. At that point, he would presumably marry Sansa to legitimize his claim over the ancestral Stark home. Now, with the Boltons victorious over Stannis, it seems Littlefinger will be using the armies of the Vale to take them on for control of Winterfell and the North. On the other side, I can’t imagine the psychotic and impulsive Ramsay sitting around the castle waiting for his wife and beloved servant to return. We’ve seen and heard of Ramsay’s hunting skills. Something tells me we’re going to see them again next year.
SAM’S SEASON 6 FINALE PREDICTIONS:
We are in endgame territory and I can say definitively based on what has been reported that there won’t be anymore than three more seasons, with the final seventh season split across two years just like fellow prestige dramas Breaking Bad and Mad Men. Season 6 will, for all intents and purposes, be the penultimate season and setup the finale. What will Season 6’s finale be like? Prediction time!
This year, Benioff and Weiss threw down the gauntlet on the White Walker threat, demonstrating their unstoppable army of the dead in the acclaimed eight episode “Hardhome.” I think season 6 will conclude with Dany and her dragons finally arriving in Westeros, either prior to or in the finale. The finale’s main set piece will be The Wall collapsing, leaving the war-torn continent completely undefended against the White Walkers.