Game of Thrones has a lot of ‘splainin’ to do. The hit HBO show’s fifth season ended on a whole mountain range of cliffhangers, from Jon Snow stabbed by his own men to Daenerys Targaryen and her dragon running into a horde of Dothraki warriors. Meanwhile, Sansa Stark and Theon Greyjoy are running for their lives and political powder kegs everywhere are waiting to go boom. Since the show is now moving past the point where author George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series left off, nobody really except the showrunners knows where any of this is headed.
As anticipation builds for Sunday’s season premiere, get psyched — or go crazy — by reading up on the 11 biggest unanswered questions awaiting us in Westeros this year. Winter? Definitely coming. Everything else? Your guess is as good as ours ….
1. Is Jon Snow dead? Like, dead dead?
When everyone involved with Game of Thrones swears up and down that Jon Snow is dead, they’re probably not lying. Last season’s final shot — Jon in the snow, blood gushing out from multiple stab wounds, with the unblinking eyes that are cinematic shorthand for “yeah, this dude’s a corpse” — doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room. Nor do the clips from the trailers that show him lying in state, surrounded by Ser Davos and various Night’s Watch loyalists.
So does this mean Jon is following his father Ned, his half-brother Robb, and his stepmother Catelyn into Shocking Stark Death Oblivion? Since the most recent volume of the novels, A Dance with Dragons, ends on this exact same cliffhanger, nobody knows for sure — but don’t count the boy in black out just yet. For one thing, he has a special connection to his direwolf Ghost, and may be able to “warg” his consciousness into his animal companion. For another, the red priestess Melisandre is hanging around, and her religion has serious resurrection powers. Readers have long speculated that a combination of these two kinds of magic — ice and fire, if you will, perhaps with an assist from his psychic brother Bran — will give Lord Snow his ticket back to the land of the living, and leave him much more whole than other resurrectees have been in the past.
2. What the hell’s going to happen at the Wall?
Nothing good! Ser Alliser Thorne has led a mutiny against Jon Snow for allowing the wildlings through the Wall, which means more bloodshed between rival factions is sure to follow. The feral tribe from the outlands may not have been the late Lord Commander’s biggest fans, but they’re not likely to take kindly to his murder by a pack of bigots, whom they outnumber by an order of magnitude. The late Stannis Baratheon’s two most devoted followers, Davos and Melisandre, are still in the mix as well — and so is at least one giant, whom Jon helped rescue from the besieged fishing village of Hardhome. To the south, the Boltons are in charge, and they could well send forces to slay the few remaining Stark and Stannis loyalists at Castle Black. And to the north, of course, the White Walkers are coming, with their army of the dead in tow. It’s an explosive situation, and the whole Wall could fall if it blows up.
3. What’s going to happen to Daenerys?
The Mother of Dragons fared a bit better than Jon Snow did last season, if only because he’s dead and, well, she isn’t. Still, Dany is in a pretty precarious position. Her attempt to govern the city of Meereen ended in a bloody insurgency that forced her to flee on the back of Drogon, her black dragon. She’s now stranded in the middle of the grasslands known as the Dothraki Sea — alone, hungry, unable to force the beast to follow any of her commands, and finally, surrounded by a khalasar of warriors on horseback. Never the most popular figure among the horselords, our heroine is shown staggering into their capital city in the trailers, where forces unknown strip and manhandle her.
So: Is she a prisoner, forced to join other widowed khaleesis in early retirement? Is she going to rally the Dothraki to her side with a little help from her scaly friend? Where did he go, anyway? What will happen if and when Daario Naharis and Jorah Mormont — her two rival warrior-suitors, one of whom is infected with the greyscale plague — track her down? And will any of it bring her any closer to invading Westeros and taking back the Iron Throne — or defending the Wall from the White Walkers?
4. What’s going to happen in Meereen?
There’s no reason to believe the Sons of the Harpy will stop their insurrection just because the queen who freed their slaves fled the scene. The ruling council currently in charge consists solely of non-natives: Grey Worm, general of the Unsullied; Missandei, her translator; and Tyrion Lannister, who talked his way into her good graces just before she flew away. Two of the three are former slaves themselves and thus unlikely to be popular with the aristocracy; the other has a price on his head. The Imp’s pal Varys is along for the ride, too, but the spymaster’s loyalties have always been questionable. Finally, there are still two dragons locked up beneath Dany’s palace. Talk about wild cards!
5. What’s going to happen in King’s Landing?
Seriously, is there any place here that isn’t a ticking time bomb going into Season Six?! Like Jon and Dany, Cersei Lannister started last season in charge and ended up in deep shit. After empowering the extremist religious leader known as the High Sparrow — in the hope that he’d take down her rivals — she wound up in the crosshairs as well. Now she’s endured a horrifying walk of shame but will still have to stand trial … and we’ve all seen how trials in King’s Landing go. Her brother Jaime’s back in town, bearing the bad news of their daughter Myrcella’s murder, and her undead bodyguard Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane is running around too. There could well be a three-way bloodbath in the streets between Lannister, Tyrell, and Faith Militant forces before it’s all said and done — four-way, since Dorne’s Prince Trystane is a newcomer to the city this season. It’s a recipe for disaster potent enough to make Meereen look like Des Moines.
6. Will Arya stay with the Faceless Men?
The wild-child Stark girl ended last season by crossing the evil Kingsguard Ser Meryn Trant off her kill list; her supervisor in the mystical order of assassins called the Faceless Men blinded her as punishment. Will she continue her training to become “no one” and join the FM for real? Or will she continue her vendetta against the Lannisters, perhaps by heading back to Westeros to seek them out?
7. What will Sansa and Theon do?
When last we saw the Lady Stark and the heir to the Iron Islands, they were leaping from the walls of Winterfell to escape the sadistic Ramsay Bolton. The trailers indicate that they survived the leap, but little else. Who will they turn to for help? Will they hook up with Davos and Melisandre (and possibly Jon Snow) at the Wall? Will they hunt down her kid brother Rickon, since they’re among the very few people who know he’s still alive? Will they connect with Brienne of Tarth and her sidekick Podrick Payne, who are still sworn to protect her? And how will her malicious mentor Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish react once he learns the awful truth about her marriage and her subsequent jailbreak?
8. What will Bran learn from the Three-Eyed Raven?
The crippled Lord of Winterfell traveled far beyond the Wall to meet the literal man of his dreams: the Three-Eyed Raven, a sorcerer allied with the ancient Children of the Forest against the White Walkers. But the journey cost the life of his ally Jojen Reed, whose psychic abilities echoed those of Bran himself, and after their arrival at the Raven’s weirwood throne we haven’t seen a glimpse of the group since.
Magic is always a harsh master on Game of Thrones, and there’s no telling what further sacrifices the young Stark and his friends will have to make to aid his sorcerous new sensei (played this season by the great Max Von Sydow). Will he use whatever new powers he gains to help his scattered siblings, up to and including a revived Jon Snow? How important is he in the coming war against the Walkers and their horn-headed ruler, the Night’s King? And will he somehow gain access to Ned Stark’s big secret: the truth about Jon’s parentage?
9. Where’s Rickon?
The youngest member of the Stark clan (as well as the one with the least screen time), little Rickon was last seen a few seasons ago. He and his wildling babysitter Osha split up from Bran in order to evade detection by the Boltons, heading for the ancestral stronghold of devout Stark allies House Umber. With Robb dead, Jon a bastard and dead(ish), and Bran off taking wizard lessons from a tree-man, that leaves the little lord as the rightful King in the North. (Neither Sansa nor her M.I.A. Arya sister stand to inherit the title in this patriarchal system.) What will he do — or what will be done to him, if Roose and Ramsay get to him first?
10. What’s the deal with the Iron Islands?
They called it the War of the Five Kings, but there’s only one king left standing. Balon Greyjoy, Lord of the Iron Islands and father of Theon and his sister Yara, has managed to outlive nearly every other monarch on the show; only Daenerys has his staying power. Yet he’s been a marginal figure on the show for years, refusing to lift a finger to rescue his son from the Boltons — Yara had to attempt to do it herself — and doing little to hang on to the territory he captured from the Starks in the North as Baratheon and Bolton forces overran it. Meanwhile, the power struggle between various members of House Greyjoy is one of the few parts of the books that the show hasn’t completely tapped. With his pirate brother Euron finally scheduled to make an appearance this season, will their island nation become a true power player or get swept further out to sea?
11. Will the North get payback for the Red Wedding?
If you’ve had a hard time getting over Walder Frey and Roose Bolton’s bloody betrayal of the Starks, imagine how they feel about it. It’s not just Sansa, Arya, and their surviving brothers who have an axe to grind with the Red Wedding planners, though — it’s every Northern House who lost nobles and soldiers in the massacre. It may have taken place several seasons ago, but the atrocity features prominently in the trailers, and as the saying goes, the North remembers. Does that mean revenge is on the menu at long last?