Much has been made of the fact that HBO’s massive hit show Game of Thrones has outpaced the George R.R. Martin book series on which it’s based. Season six is set to be the first season where the writers are working largely without source material, something that has many fans both excited and anxious in equal measure.
But it won’t all be brand new content. Certain plotlines from the books remain unused, and spoilers gleaned from leaked set photos and casting calls suggest they’re going to show up this year. Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities. WARNING: This post contains book spoilers!
Arya The Assassin
When last we left Arya, she was in the House of Black and White being trained in the ways of the Faceless Men. But after using her skills to murder Ser Meryn Trant in one of the goriest scenes the show has ever featured, she is blinded by Jaqen H’ghar (or someone wearing Jaqen H’ghar’s face).
The writers have mixed up Arya’s timeline a bit. She is struck blind at the end of A Feast For Crows, not for killing Ser Meryn but rather a deserter from the Night’s Watch. In A Dance With Dragons, she learns to compensate for her lack of sight and continues to train with the Faceless Men. She learns to play the lying game and successfully defend herself while blind, and is given her sight back.
In a preview chapter for The Winds Of Winter, Arya is placed with a troupe of mummers performing a play based on the war between the Lannisters and Starks. During a performance she notices Raff the Sweetling, the man who stabbed her friend Lommy Greenhands through the throat. In the show, Arya kills Raff in season four while traveling with Ser Gregor Clegane. But in The Winds Of Winter, she kills him in a scene that bears several similarities to the Ser Meryn scene that closed out season five.
So we can expect more murders from Arya, but her overall path with The Faceless Men continues to be shrouded in secrecy. To learn more about what their goals are, check out our breakdown of the secretive death cult and what their end game may be.
The Return Of The Greyjoys
After playing a larger role in earlier seasons of the show, the Greyjoys largely disappeared but for a quick subplot involving Yara Greyjoy attempting to rescue her brother from the Boltons. That never happened in the books. Instead, Yara (known as Asha in the books) spends her time in A Feast For Crows vying for the Seastone Chair after her father King Balon falls from a tower bridge under suspicious circumstances.
A kingsmoot is called and all potential successors for Balon’s driftwood crown attend. Balon’s brother Euron Crow’s Eye emerges as the new king, promising to return the Iron Isles to glory by pillaging the green lands to the south. His first act as ruler was to send his brother Victarion east to ally with Daenerys Targaryen. Victarion has his own secret plan to marry Daenerys and usurp his brother’s rule.
Meanwhile, Asha Greyjoy fled back to the mainland following the kingsmoot and is captured in battle by Stannis Baratheon, who is still very much alive and still in control of a formidable army at the end of A Dance With Dragons. She is reunited with Theon, who survived the jump from the walls of Winterfell and is now Stannis’ captive as well.
It will be interesting to see what parts of the Greyjoy story are included in season six of the show. Euron Crow’s Eye is set up in the books to play a major role, and he comes with a magical horn that is said to control dragons. Meanwhile, Yara / Asha is unlikely to follow the same path, leading some to wonder if she will take Victarion’s place and journey east to team up with Daenerys Targaryen.
Meet The Tarlys
Season six will see the introduction of Samwell Tarly’s family — his stern father Randyll and his warrior of a brother Dickon. In the books, it is Brienne of Tarth who encounters the Tarlys in Maidenpool as she travels across Westeros looking for Sansa Stark. Randyll is introduced while executing criminals and tries to order Brienne back to her father, but she is allowed to leave after presenting her letter from King Tommen.
There’s a good chance Brienne’s encounter with the Tarlys will be replaced with a homecoming for Samwell instead, which should lead to several scenes pitting the once craven boy against his imposing father and brother. We could be seeing much more of Randyll Tarly in the future as well. In A Dance With Dragons, Randyll Tarly returns to King’s Landing and secures the freedom of Margaery Tyrell, swearing a holy vow to return her to the Faith for her trial.
Jaime In The Riverlands
That whole Jaime Lannister Dornish adventure featured in season five of the show was a complete fabrication by the writers. In the books, Jaime spends A Feast For Crows struggling to live up to the notions of honor re-instilled in him by Brienne of Tarth. He is sent to the Riverlands by his sister to conquer Riverrun and finish off the Tullys — a feat he accomplishes using some Tywin-style diplomacy.
Casting notes from season six of the show imply that Jaime will be running into several of the Tullys during his time in the Riverlands. Brynden the Blackfish is set to return, as is Edmure Tully, last seen being led to his wedding bed just before the Red Wedding.
In the books, it’s Ser Ilyn Payne rather than Bronn that helps him relearn how to fight with his bad hand, under the reasoning that Payne has no tongue and therefore can’t spread tales about how helpless Jaime is. But we expect Bronn to remain as Jaime’s sidekick in the shows.
At the end of A Dance With Dragons, Jaime is reunited with Brienne as part of a trap set by the Brotherhood Without Banners to capture and execute the Kingslayer. The show’s Brotherhood may or may not be lead by the undead corpse of Catelyn Stark as in the book. But with Gwendoline Christie promising a big season for Brienne, there’s still a good chance the Brotherhood trap will still come into play.
The North Remembers
While season five of Game of Thrones leaves us with the Boltons firmly in control of the North, things are less secure in the books. At the end of A Dance With Dragons, Stannis Baratheon’s army continues to slog through a blizzard on the way to Winterfell. Stannis sends Ser Davos Seaworth to White Harbor, where he uncovers a plot led by Wyman Manderly to betray the Boltons and return the Starks to power.
To keep this plot a secret, Manderly pretends to have Ser Davos killed but instead makes a deal with the Onion Knight: If Davos can retrieve Rickon Stark from Skagos, the Manderlys will join with Stannis against the Boltons. In the show, Rickon is at the Last Hearth in the Umber lands, not Skagos.
Wyman Manderly also has a serious hate on for the Freys, who killed one of his sons during the Red Wedding. During Ramsay Bolton’s wedding to Sansa Stark (who is actually her friend Jeyne Poole in the books, another major difference between the two), he has three Freys baked into pies for the feast.
The Manderly plot to reseat the Starks in the North may ultimately be for naught as Wyman Manderly’s throat is slit by Frey soldiers as they wait for Stannis’s army to arrive in Winterfell. To alleviate tensions between the forces, Roose Bolton sends the Manderly army forth to meet Stannis first, unaware that they plan to switch sides and betray him. How this will play out on the show with Stannis defeated remains to be seen.
So there are still several threads of George R.R. Martin’s web set to unweave in the next season of Game of Thrones. How they will turn out, though, is unknown to everyone except Martin and the people working on show. Game of Thrones season six starts on April 24.