Warning: As you probably guessed, this post contains lots of spoilers — not to mention plenty of sweet, unsubstantiated conjecture.
In the nightmarish void of time that stretches between now and April 2016 — assuming George R. R. Martin doesn’t sneak his next book out before then, that is — the only thing us Game of Thrones fans have to occupy our time is the relentless trawl for Season 6 clues.
Whether it’s an on-set photo, a seemingly innocuous interview or some lofty drone footage — no matter how apparently minor or insignificant it might seem at first — if there’s even the slimmest chance it may lead to hint about the show’s upcoming season, then it’s our right — no, scratch that, our DUTY — to analyse it to death.
With all that in mind, here are 16 important clues from 2015 that shed some light on what Season 6 might have in store for the show.
Back in the summer, Kit Harington was spotted with a lush head of hair at Wimbledon — and everyone went wild.
WHAT WE LEARNED: Harington’s uncut hair was one of the first sweet hints that Jon Snow may be making a return in Season 6, despite what happened to him at the end of Season 5.
Towards the end of July, Harington’s bobbling man-bun was spotted around Belfast, a well-known GoT filming spot.
WHAT WE LEARNED: Either Harington didn’t get his fill of Belfast-based sightseeing during his first five seasons of filming, or sightings of him around Northern Ireland’s capital were yet another clue to his continuing involvement in the show.
Game of Thrones fan site Watchers on the Wall announced in August that English actor Sebastian Croft had been cast to play a young Ned Stark. They credited “reliable sources” — and Croft’s IMDB page does credit him as playing “Young Eddard Stark” in episode one of Season 6 — but Mashable has also reached out to HBO to see if they’ll confirm.
WHAT WE LEARNED: In short, flashbacks are coming. Young Ned Stark may appear briefly in one of Bran’s visions, or — like the flashback of a young Cersei that began Season 5 — he might be used to highlight a key moment from the past.
In August, we found out that badass Brit Ian McShane would be making an appearance in Season 6 in an undisclosed role.
WHAT WE LEARNED: Not much at this point, although there’s been plenty of speculation around who McShane would play. Many people had their money on Theon’s pirate uncle Euron Greyjoy, although that turned out to be wrong.
It was announced in September that Danish actor Pilou Asbæk will be playing Euron Greyjoy in Season 6.
WHAT WE LEARNED: Apart from the obvious, the announcement also sent anyone who thought Ian McShane might be playing the Ironborn pirate firmly back to the drawing board.
A devious Irish drone pilot shared some aerial footage of Season 6 filming in September.
WHAT WE LEARNED: The drone wasn’t close enough to make out faces, sadly, but there was a scene being filmed in the water that brought the Iron Islands’ Kingsmoot to mind. It’s more evidence of a return, storyline-wise, to Theon’s homeland in the next season.
Sometimes clues come in strange places. On this occasion, it was an interview Kit Harington did with Belgian magazine Humo, in which he alluded to the length of his contract and said he’d “probably be in his thirties” by the time his involvement with GoTs was over. Harington was 28 when the interview came out in September, just a few months after Season 5 ended.
WHAT WE LEARNED: Nothing for certain. Harington may simply be under contract for a certain number of seasons; he could still appear in a future season as nothing more than a flashback or a dead body, after all. But by this point, the evidence for a Jon Snow return was definitely mounting up.
Snapped towards the end of September, this grainy Daily Mail photo appears to show a very much not-dead Jon Snow on the Game of Thrones filming set.
WHAT WE LEARNED: We can’t definitively verify the authenticity of the photos, and it’s also possible that — even if the picture does show Harington filming for Season 6 — he’s merely taking part in a flashback sequence. But if so, why is he wearing Stark clothes?
This photo has fuelled some theories that Jon Snow will be brought back to life by Melisandre. As someone put it on Twitter: “Jon Snow is dead… Jon Stark will rise.”
Just when we were getting our hopes up, Maisie Williams (a.k.a. Arya Stark) went and threw a spanner in the works in this Absolute Radio interview. When asked about Jon Snow’s fate, Williams responded: “Yeah, he’s dead”.
WHAT WE LEARNED: On the surface, it sounds like terrible news. But it’s possible that Williams was just being careful with her words. If the Melisandre theory mentioned above is true and Jon Snow is due to be resurrected, then he would technically have to be dead first, wouldn’t he? Then again, maybe our desperate need for a Jon Snow comeback is simply making us see everything through rose-tinted spectacles.
In other, non Jon Snow-related news: October came with word of a new character when British actress Melanie Liburd took to Instagram to announce her GoT filming plans.
WHAT WE LEARNED: We don’t know how big Liburd’s role will be, but we do know she’ll be playing a red priestess.
The U.S.A.’s Spanish ambassador James Costos shared this shot from the Season 6 filming set in mid-October.
WHAT WE LEARNED: It’s surprising how much information you can squeeze out of a tiny photo that’s mainly taken up by camera screens and people’s backs. It’s hard to see much, sure, but the smoke and fire suggest dragons, and the landscape could hint at someplace Dothraki-related. Possibly Daenerys’ pets coming to her rescue?
Actor Elie Haddad, who appears to be joining GoT in an as-yet-unknown role, took to Instagram in November to share a (now deleted) photo of his Season 6 script. The script page was open on his iPad, and it was far enough from the camera for Haddad to presumably think no one would be able to make any of it out. He was wrong.
WHAT WE LEARNED: After plenty of careful zooming and frantic internet discussion, some people managed to decipher bits of the dialogue. The conversation appears to be between two Dothraki discussing the fate of Daenerys (the word “Khaleesi” is clearly visible in the enlarged image).
We don’t know what part of Season 6 the page is from, but it sounds like everyone’s favourite Targaryen is in Dothraki captivity 00 implying the dialogue could take place not long after the point at which Season 5 ended.
Ian McShane added to the mystery surrounding his upcoming role in November, when he told Pop Goes the News: “I am responsible for bringing somebody back that you think you’re never going to see again.”
WHAT WE LEARNED: That was a pretty big bombshell for McShane to casually drop, but — mainly due to the number of people who met grisly ends in the show’s first five seasons — it doesn’t really narrow things down much. Here’s hoping he’s talking about one of the Starks and not Joffrey.
Dormer, who plays Margaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones, appeared on The Late Late Show with James Cordon and spoke briefly about her character’s role in Season 6.
WHAT WE LEARNED: Dormer didn’t give too much away, but she did hint that Margaery might not be getting an easy time of it in the next season. “Cersei is the least of Margaery’s problems,” she said. “She’s got bigger problems this season.”
The end of November saw HBO release a massive teaser for GoT‘s next installment in the form of a giant picture of Jon Snow’s bloodied face.
WHAT WE LEARNED: Let’s be honest. When it comes to Jon Snow — and the never-ending question of whether he’s dead or alive — we know nothing. This pictured seemed to hint that there may be life in the old bastard yet, but there have been so many mixed messages and clues that we really can’t say for sure. It is looking sort of hopeful though, isn’t it?
December came with an agonisingly short 42-second teaser video.
WHAT WE LEARNED: As many people were quick to point out on Twitter, the teaser featured pretty much no new footage. The biggest clue, however, came in the form of Bran’s narration. “They have no idea what’s going to happen,” says the now pubescent Stark boy — and despite that being a hugely frustrating reminder of how clueless we all are, it’s also surely a signifier of Bran’s upcoming importance.
Now that he’s had some serious greenseer training, is it possible that he’ll be able to impact the fates of the show’s other major characters? Fingers crossed.