'Game of Thrones' Season 6 is FINALLY upon us, bringing huge relief to the millions of fans waiting to discover the fates of Tyrion and Cersei Lannister, Arya Stark, Daenerys and a certain Jon Snow.
It's been ten long months since the stunning conclusion of Season 5, meaning there's been plenty of time for fans to ponder over the actors' anecdotes in interviews, pore over location photos, scrutinise the trailers for the forthcoming episodes, and - if in doubt - return to the books by GRR Martin, for any clues regarding the story lines of their favourite characters.
The good news is that the wait is over. The brand new season is finally here, showing at 9pm exclusively on Sky Atlantic.
In the meantime, though, let's catch up on some of the most outlandish rumours and theories the show's most keen-eyed viewers have come up with…
Well, for a start, for many fans there is a whole handful of characters they’d love to rise again, despite seeing them killed, and this is a constant theme through online discussions. These are not limited to but often include:
Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) - yes, we saw her pretty much written off during the Red Wedding, but the books see her brought back to life as Lady Stoneheart.
The Hound (Rory McCann) - left for dead by Arya Stark, but we didn't actually see him expire, and fans have been quick to refer to the Cleganebowl theory, i.e. that the Hound will be healed by an unknown priest and survive to take on his brother The Mountain in an epic duel. Fans of this potential storyline have pounced on the books but, more optimistically, Ian McShane's casting for Season 6… as a priest.
For a lot, it’s all about the Starks. Because we met them first and they've had so much trouble, millions of fans are still rooting for Ned Stark's offspring. The 'Great Northern Conspiracy' points to a pro-Stark uprising, biding its time following the betrayal of the Red Wedding and Ned's execution. The soldiers of this sleeping army have, so the theory goes, been embedded with other rivals for the Throne, but really they lie in wait.
Advocates of all this point to Bran Stark's appearance in the new trailer, and cross fingers he'll inspire a fresh uprising against the Lannisters. They're also wondering about the true identify of his sidekick Walder. And others are relying on Arya to come good, to desert the Faceless, and reunite with the rest of her family, with the continuing support of the much-missed Jaqen H'ghar, who might or might not be working under the alias of sword-fighting instructor Syrio.
The fate of Jon Snow seemingly warrants his own sub-section of fan-theorising, with viewers seemingly willing to go along with any plot-twist, however bizarre, if it means their favourite bastard son isn't dead. What have they come up with?
Well, a lot of devoted care has been put to the ways in which he could have feasibly avoided death. These include: his warging into his wolf, Ghost; being reborn in fire when his assailants try to burn his corpse; alternatively, turning into a White Walker, after all he knows them well. Most worryingly, he may be brought back to life by Stannis' dark magician Melisandre, which would be a shame as then she would presumably have power over him, as she did over Stannis. Frankly, we prefer Samwell Tarly’s prediction about Jon Snow's ability to make it through. "I've been worrying about Jon for years," he said at the end of last season. "He always comes back." Well, that's that, then.
If he is alive… then, according to some, he might be the next leader of Winterfell, legitimised by his late brother Robb Stark (did he actually die? some say no), and so fit to rule. Just because we didn't see it on screen, doesn't mean it didn't happen.
Or… are you ready for this one?… he could well be a Targaryen, more specifically Rhaegar's son, which means Daenerys's nephew. This idea and that of the fire rebirth are mutually supportive, ie both or neither could be true. If both this AND the Great Northern Conspiracy do fly, then that's quite an empire he'll have… as well as a twin sister. What?? Well, other fans are convinced Jon has another sibling, now better known as Meera Reed.
The Three Headed Dragon Theory
This all leads us to the… Three-Headed Dragon Theory, i.e. that three Targareyn descendants will rule the dragons. We've had Daenerys. According to the theory above, we could have Jon Snow. Who's the third?
Some say… Tyrion. How so? Because he could be the bastard off-spring of Tywin Lannister's wife Joanna and The Mad King. This could explain his physical difference from the rest of his family, plus the antipathy between him and Tywin. And it could have huge, far-reaching consequences for the rest of the story.
Meanwhile, the softer-hearted viewers are crossing fingers Jamie Lannister will find a love to finally replace Cersei, and all fingers are pointing at Margaery Tyrell. Other fingers are crossing that he'll actually murder Cersei, and rule alongside Margaery and his son Tommen.
How did we get to Tommen? Well, the non-Jon Snow fan base are all calling out for Jamie's son, the anti-Joffrey physical proof that not all Lannister family actions are self-seeking. Could the show finish with a resounding nod to goodness, with Jaime Lannister helping bring his son to rule, and Tommen proving that, even in 'Game of Thrones', goodness will ultimately triumph? In this epic saga where so treachery has triumphed on every corner and many good deeds gone unrewarded, that would surely prove the ultimate twist…