WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the first three episodes of Game of Thrones Season 6.
As Game of Thrones Season 6 approached its highly anticipated premiere, many fans of the show and books pondered how exactly the showrunners would toy with being separated (or some might say liberated) from the source material. Without the option of directly invoking George R.R. Martin’s genius, would David Benioff and D.B. Weiss prove capable of catapulting the show into new, promising territory? Or would the show’s notoriously abundant storylines slowly devolve into narrative chaos?
Fortunately, Benioff and Weiss have so far competently handled their new responsibilities, balancing more predictable developments—like Jon Snow’s and Brandon Stark’s returns—with more surprising ones, particularly the treachery of Ramsay Bolton and the troubling appearance of Rickon and Osha in Winterfell. Where exactly these incidents might lead us is, of course, anyone’s guess, and I’ve been more wrong than right in predicting this unforgiving show. But seeing as it’s way much too fun to make predictions—no matter how baseless they typically end up being—I’ll dish out a few of my own.
Let’s start with the obvious: Jon Snow is alive, pissed off, and no longer a sworn brother of the Night’s Watch. (He did die, so I guess he gets off on a technicality.) This new state-of-affairs is significant, especially since Jon was brought back to lead a joint Wildling/Night’s Watch force. Now, I don’t doubt for a second that he’s going to remain the leader of this alliance. Sure, he’s huffy because his brothers betrayed him. But once he gets laid and bored, he’ll be back and ready to solve the real issue at hand: defeating the White Walkers. Without Jon Snow, the story at the Wall becomes too disinteresting. So, then, all he’ll need is a little persuasion from his friends to saddle up and get back in the fight.
Working our way southwards, we find everyone’s favorite sadist and traitor, Ramsay Bolton. Anticipating an attack from Jon Snow and the wildlings, he’s been reaching out to the other Northern families in an attempt to forge new partnerships, expand his influence, and ensure that nobody can resist his rule. The people I’ve talked to seem frightened by this new Ramsay. He’s more powerful. He doesn’t operate according to the same rules as his father. And (worst of all) he’s recently obtained another Stark, Rickon, who I imagine he’ll somehow use to cement his claims over Winterfell. Honestly though, I think Ramsay’s days are numbered. He could kill Rickon (the least important Stark) for all I care. Once he does that, what more can he really hope to accomplish? Ramsay is rogue and unrestrained, and if Game of Thrones has taught me one thing, it’s that Westeros does operate according to some rules. They may be cruel and often unfair, but if you break the wrong ones, you die, and for the sake of happiness-starved viewers, Ramsay most certainly needs to die.
Next, there’s Cersei, Jaime, the “king” Tommen, and the High Sparrow and his merry band of religious fanatics. To be frank, I really hate the High Sparrow. Originally, I thought I hated Cersei more, but now I’ve decided I actually don’t. I mean, at least Cersei’s fun. “Oh, you’re going to mock me in the streets? Let me get my human tank to bash your head into the wall.” “You’re going to kill my children? I’m going to kill your entire country.” (Granted, war hasn’t actually broken out with Dorne, but I know she wants it to.) With the High Sparrow, not only has he avoided ordering many open acts of violence, he also gives you extended lectures on purity and morality. In the context of the harsh and decidedly impure world of Westeros, it sounds like an interesting message. But in terms of on-screen spectacle, it’s also just really, really boring. He needs to get his head crushed in, and Tommen gets bonus points if he’s the one that orders it.
Moving on to the least interesting part of the show, we travel beyond Westeros to Braavos and Vaes Dothrak, where Arya Stark and Daenerys Targaryen continue to remain completely detached from everything else going on. Daenerys, having recently been captured by the Dothraki, has been put into a retirement community specially prepared for the widows of dead Khals. Luckily, Jorah Mormont and Daario Naharis are in hot pursuit, so they’ll inevitably rescue her and deliver her safely to Meereen. There, she can ride her dragons again and engage in some delightful repartee with Tyrion before remaining both lame and not in Westeros where everything that is actually cool happens.
As for Arya: Though the montage of her training got me unreasonably hyped up (making me think, verbatim, that “she’s going to kill many a deserving hooligan”) she is, for all intents and purposes, no longer the Arya Stark. She is instead “no one,” and that means she has no stake whatsoever in the rest of the world. She’s just an assassin, and though that may entitle her to wield massive influence over other storylines, she seems lose all personal connection to the story. I think that lessens her impact as a character, and unless she’s just playing the House of Black and White to become more skilled (which would be sick) I can’t see myself rooting for her anymore than I already have.
Wrapping up, we have Sansa, Brienne, Podrick, Theon, and my boy Brandon. Sansa, Brienne, and Podrick are heading north to Castle Black, though in the absence of Jon Snow I can’t anticipate anything too beneficial happening to them there. Theon is heading to the Iron Islands, where he is likely to experience an incredibly awkward but fascinating homecoming with his sister and uncle Euron, the mysterious newcomer from last episode. And Brandon continues to hone his abilities beyond the wall, serving as an important conduit into Westeros’ past–a narrative tool that has so far proven remarkably effective. As the most explicitly magical character other than perhaps Melisandre, I expect he’ll play an increasingly central role this season and maybe even return south to reunite with what remains of his family.
Oh yeah, and I almost forgot about Gilly and Sam. I don’t mean to be overly dismissive, but for as lovable a couple as they are, I don’t much care what happens to them unless they connect with some other characters.
Here’s to another season of the best show in television. Good luck to everyone’s favorite characters—they’re going to need it.
Photos courtesy of here.