10 Burning Questions For 'Game Of Thrones' Season 6

Game of Thrones season 6 premieres this Sunday and as far as I'm concerned, it's the pop culture event of 2016. Sorry, everything else. Westeros and its collection of scoundrels and soldiers and politicians and kings trumps all. But with so much of this new season cloaked in mystery (critics aren't even being sent screeners this year), I have more desperate, burning questions than ever before. Consider this a preview piece of sorts – here are the queries dancing on the edge of my brain as I count down the hours until the next episode.

Please note that this article expects that you've seen up through season five of Game of Thrones and that SPOILERS from every season of the show, and all of the books published so far, lurk below. Also, these questions are divided into three clearly labeled sections: questions for everyone, questions for people who have read the books, and questions for people who like to indulge wacky theories that may have no actual grounding in the narrative. You know you, so you'll know when to pull back.

The Obvious Questions (For Everyone)

When Will Jon Snow Rise From the Dead?

Season five concluded with Jon Snow being repeatedly stabbed by mutineers at the Wall and nobody involved in the series, from showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss to Kit Harington himself, has lied to us when they said the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch is dead. Yes, the bastard Stark is dead. He's deader than dead. He has ceased to be, shuffled off his mortal coil, etc.

But he's coming back and everyone knows he's coming back. It's really just a question of when. And maybe how. After all, Harington has yet to shed his contractually obligated locks and he spent far too much time on the show's Irish sets last year to just be playing a corpse. And that's before you get to the fact that this season looks to delve into a flashback that is pertinent to Jon (more on that in a bit), which would be a truly pointless endeavor if he was actually dead forever and had nothing to offer the show. Plus, the season five finale carefully maneuvered Melisandre, the Red Priestess whose "one true god" has resurrected characters on the show before, back to Castle Black just in time for his assassination. That's most likely the "how" in this situation.

So that brings us back to the "when." It's easy to imagine the season premiere ending with the dead Jon Snow opening his eyes and the screen cutting to black. That's a water cooler moment if there ever was one. However, this is Game of Thrones, a show that has never shied away from toying with the audience is cruel and unexpected ways. I wouldn't be surprised at all if they wait until episode four to bring Jon Snow back just to rile up all of the fans who know he'll be returning.

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Who Will Davos Fight For?

Season five didn't quite match season four on the patented George R.R. Martin Bloodbath Index, but it picked off its fair share of major characters. Most notably, the season finale marked the end of Stannis Baratheon's campaign to rule Westeros. His army decimated by the forces of Ramsay Bolton, Robert Baratheon's stern and uncharismatic young brother stumbled into the woods and happened upon a vengeful Brienne of Tarth, who slew him right then and there. And like that, Game of Thrones ended one of its major storylines...while leaving one of the series' most beloved characters without a leader or a plot.

Yep, I'm taking about Ser Davos the "onion knight," Stannis' right-hand man whose entire role in the series so far has been to act as his king's Jiminy Cricket. Davos' backstory tied him directly to Stannis – he was a smuggler who offered assistance during a siege and was elevated for his efforts (though only after Stannis chopped off a few of his fingers to make him pay for his criminal background). Every decision Davos has made on this show has revolved around helping Stannis reach his goals. He's been defined by his loyalty. And yet, the show made sure he got left behind at Castle Black as Stannis marched to his doom. Davos lives, even as his mission dies.

Clips released from season six show Davos defending the dead body of Jon Snow alongside other members of the Night's Watch against the mutineers. Other shots, glimpsed in trailers, reveal him to be present at major battle scenes that will presumably occur much later in the season. So, who is Ser Davos serving now that "rightful" king has been struck down? I'd wager that he finds a new man worthy of his respect in a resurrected Jon Snow, one of the few leaders in Westeros who can match Stannis' strict code of justice.

How Soon Does Jorah Kick the Bucket?

Last season took the already tragic storyline of Jorah Mormont down a new miserable new road. After being exiled by the woman he respects/cherishes/loves, the Daenerys' former chief advisor found himself in a battle against a few "Stone Men," people who were infected with a disease called greyscale that disfigures the skin before driving the inflicted mad. While his traveling companion, Tyrion Lannister, escaped unharmed, Jorah himself walked away from the encounter infected with the disease. He's still the only one who knows that he's a walking contagion, but we should all consider his ticket punched. There is no way Jorah lives much longer.

It probably won't be the greyscale that kills him, either. It takes years for this disease to claim a life. Jorah technically has some time before his skin dies and the disease turns its attention to his organs. However, it's hard to imagine a Mormont of Bear Island isolating himself and waiting for the disease to kill him. This development feels like an excuse to give Jorah a death wish. From here on out, Jorah is a walking dead man whose every moment will be devoted to serving Daenerys...but he has to rescue her from a Dothraki horde first. Naturally, Daario probably won't take kindly to the news that his road trip buddy is carrying an incredibly infectious disease. If Daario doesn't kill him, Jorah will find something else that will.

Where is Rickon? Does Anyone Care?

At the end of season three, Osha took Rickon Stark south while Bran and his companions traveled north of the Wall. That path was too dangerous for the youngest heir to Winterfell. His family still had allies around the seven kingdoms. He could maybe, possibly, find refuge with another House.

And then nobody every spoke of Rickon again. Technically, a tortured Theon confessed to Ramsay Bolton that he was alive, but nothing ever came of that...yet. With season six looking to place new emphasis on the war in the north, with Bolton forces struggling to hold on to their newfound power, could Rickon make his grand return as a rallying point for northern houses who are still loyal to the Starks? It would certainly make sense and it would help bring this seemingly abandoned storyline back into the fold.

But let's be honest with ourselves here: does anyone care about Rickon? Anyone? Let's see a show of hands. Thought so.

The Intensive Questions (For the Book Readers)

How Many Flashbacks Can We Expect?

One of the most intriguing aspects of season six is the flashbacks we're being promised. Now that Bran Stark is training under the Three-Eyed Raven and can use his magical abilities to do more than occasionally warg into Hodor, the history of Westeros has become a giant buffet of information and exposition. All Bran has to do is approach the psychic spread and fill his plate.

One major flashback has already been confirmed by brief snippets in the trailers: we're going to see what went down at the Tower of Joy in Dorne, a sequence that is at the center of the biggest mysteries and conspiracy theories in George R.R. Martin's novels. We know for sure that Ned Stark and a group of his allies fought members of the Targaryen Kingsguard at this location during the tail end of Robert's Rebellion. We know for sure that Lyanna Stark was held captive in the tower and that she made Ned promise something before she passed away. What fans have long speculated is that she died in childbirth, leaving Ned to take care of her newborn son, the child of her abductor, Rhaegar Targaryen. And to keep this half Targaryen, half Stark kid safe from a vengeful King Robert, Ned claimed the kid was his bastard son. Enter Jon Snow.

The existence of this flashback only adds further evidence to the "Jon Snow is definitely alive" column, but there's more to chew on here. If the show takes us to the Tower of Joy, where else could it take us? How many flashbacks could occur in season six and what could they cover? I wouldn't be surprised if Bran's psychic exploration of the Game of Thrones timeline ultimately explored the secret history of the White Walkers themselves...and we can get to that momentarily.

Where's Victarion?

At this point in the books, Balon Greyjoy is dead and his family is fighting over his throne and control of the Iron Islands. The trailers for this season feature a few shots of Gemma Whelan's Yara Greyjoy (making his first appearance since season four) and Pilou Asbæk has joined the cast as Euron Greyjoy, Balon's deeply unpleasant younger brother. The trailers also feature shots of the Pyke (seat of House Greyjoy) in a a torrential rainstorm, which is when and where Balon is struck down in the novels. There even appears to be a brief shot of Euron himself on one of the castle bridges during this storm, which adds fuel to the theory that he's the one who offed his brother.

The Greyjoys are back and for the first time since season two, the entire family will have an actual role to play in the proceedings.

But this is where I have to start grumbling about how Victarion Greyjoy, Balon's other younger brother, has been seemingly cut from the show. As much as I appreciate Benioff and Weiss trying to keep the already massive cast from spiraling out of control, it's a shame that this brutish, slightly dim, and wholly entertaining character didn't make the cut. It also makes me wonder if his current book plot line (an expedition to Essos to win the hand of Daenerys Targaryen) will ultimately matter at all since the show won't bring him into the fold. Does this mean Euron will pick up the slack for both brothers? Or maybe Yara will take on beats previously assigned to these guys?

Will Sansa Become Lady Stoneheart?

One of the most controversial choices in all of Game of Thrones was to cut Lady Stoneheart out entirely. As you surely know (and you're in book-reader land right now), Catelyn Stark was resurrected by Thoros of Myr following her murder at the Red Wedding. With a new lease on life, she became a force of icy vengeance, leading the Brotherhood Without Banners across the Riverlands and executing as many members of and allies to House Frey as humanly possible. Although it was a tragic turn for Catelyn, it was a salve on the gaping wounds left in fans' psyches after the massacre at the Twins. Something was being done about that treacherous Walder Frey.

I have my own theory about why Lady Stoneheart was cut from the show and why the showrunners have dodged the question so many times: they knew they were going to resurrect Jon Snow through similar means and wanted to save the full impact of that development for him. If Catelyn had already come back to life, Jon's resurrection would reek of "been there, done that." It wouldn't feel monumental. But that doesn't change the fact that someone has to make the Freys pay for their crimes. Someone has to take them out.

Enter Sansa Stark, who spent most of the last season being brutalized in a controversial storyline that spawned more thinkpieces than anyone could have possibly imagined. While her scenes last season were deeply unpleasant in a vacuum, there could be a grand plan at work here. What if Game of Thrones set out to bring Sansa to her lowest possible point (as close to death as possible), just so it could give her the proper motivation to let her take on the mantel of Lady Stoneheart? After all, trailers for this season feature her swearing revenge against those who harmed her and a few shots of the dining hall at the Twins, filled with loathsome Freys and the even more loathsome Walder. It makes sense.

How Soon Until We Meet Ian McShane's Character?

Ian McShane joined the cast of Game of Thrones for a single episode and while his role was supposed to remain a secret, the Deadwood veteran offered enough hints to allow super-fans to put the puzzle pieces together. While not officially confirmed, it's become increasingly obvious that he's playing the Elder Brother, a former knight who is left for dead after a battle, finds religion and forms a community of monks on the Quiet Isle. He's an interesting character who lends a blast of flavor to Brienne and Podrick's hunt for the Stark girls, but he serves two real purposes: he claims that he came across the dead body of Sandor "The Hound" Clegane and gave him a proper burial...and his scenes also provide plenty of evidence that Sandor is actually alive and living as a monk under his care.

This is technically another fan theory that has yet to be confirmed but it backed up by all kinds of evidence in the text, namely a massive, hooded monk who spits when knights are mentioned and walked with a pronounced limp. Considering the changes that have been made to the narrative over the past few seasons, there is only one reason for the show to keep this storyline intact – to bring Sandor back into the fold and explain how he survived his battle with Brienne.

Which brings me to the question proposed at the top of this section. How long will it take to meet the Elder Brother? Because the sooner he shows up, the sooner the Hound can return and that will be a joyous day indeed.

The Absurd Questions (For Crazy People)

Will the Still-Living Clegane Brothers Face Off?

Welcome to my all-time favorite wacko Game of Thrones theory. You may need to put on a tinfoil hat for this one.

Season five concluded with Cersei's brutal walk of shame, which ended with her being met by Qyburn and a mysterious new knight named "Ser Robert Strong" at the Red Keep. Since Qyburn has been tinkering with the body of Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane in his laboratory since the end of season four, the identity of this mute, masked knight was obvious enough. After all, he towers over everyone else in the room and our brief glimpse of his face revealed something akin to corpse. The former maester managed to save the Mountain from the Red Viper's poison, but he's a changed man.

Meanwhile, across Westeros, the other Clegane brother has come back from the beyond the grave, albeit in a very different way (see above). These two have unfinished business, a lifelong rivalry that led to them crossing swords back in season one, and it seems a shame to not take advantage of that. With Cersei about to go on trial for her crimes, will she follow in her younger brother's footsteps and demand a trial by combat? If so, she'd obviously send in "Robert Strong" to represent her. And what if a mysterious monk shows up to represent the High Sparrow and the gods in this battle...and that monk turns out to be Sandor Clegane, fresh from the Quiet Isle and ready to finish off the man who burnt his face so many years ago?

In many ways, it's almost too clean and elegant for Game of Thrones, which has thrived as a messy and unconventional show that sidesteps all of the most obvious beats. At the same time, how fantastic would this be? Season six certainly seems to be setting this up, whether by accident or design.

Is the Night's King an Ancient Stark?

When HBO revealed that the leader of the White Walkers was called the Night's King, alarm bells went off in the heads of fans all over the world. Although this name isn't mentioned too often in Martin's novels, it is mentioned. Here's the short version of the legend: the Night's King was the thirteenth Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, who fell in love with a supernatural being, started making sacrifices to the creatures of the north, and declared himself a King, brutalizing many people under his rule for over a decade. He was only brought down after Brandon Stark and Joramun, the "King beyond the Wall" joined forces to stop him. After that, true name of the Night's King was stripped out of the history books.

And this is where things get a little nutty. What if the Night's King was a Stark? After all, the proximity is right. It would make sense that a Stark would command the Night's Watch. Plus, House Stark would certainly have an interest in keeping their dirtiest secret hidden forever. With this season set to showcase a flashback or two, it feels likely that the tale of Night's King could be told...and that the secret shame of the Stark family could be revealed. In the eyes of history, the Starks could be the true villains of Game of Thrones, a family of "traitors" who also had a hand in leading an army of ice zombies to attack Westeros.