(CNN)For years, hard-core fans awaiting new episodes of HBO’s smash hit show “Game of Thrones” have more or less known what’s coming.
Besides winter, of course.
That’s because the show’s first five seasons have mostly followed the storylines of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series of fantasy novels. But with season 6, coming April 24 in the United States, the TV series ventures into unexplored territory.
Martin is still writing the next volume in his sprawling series — although he has briefed the show’s producers on where to take the many plot threads — leaving audiences to wonder what lies in store for the saga and its characters.
Because everyone is in the dark and the Internet hates a vacuum, speculation has run rampant since season 5 ended last June. When last seen, many of “Thrones'” key characters were in dire circumstances — like, possibly dead — which has only fueled wild rumors about their fate. (Let me be the 1,837th person to tell you that Jon Snow might be alive. Possibly. Or not. Nobody really knows.)
Whatever is coming to the bloody, bawdy world of Westeros, it seems bound to be dramatic. Trailers for season 6 hint at all kinds of new bloodshed and intrigue.
“This season, there is not a weak episode,” showrunner David Benioff told Entertainment Weekly. “We’re always reluctant to say it’s ‘the best season yet’ because so much of that is in the eyes of the beholder. And Dan (Weiss, his co-creator) and I are so close to it that it’s impossible to be unbiased. But that’s my sense — watching them all together now, this is the best one we’ve done.”
Squee! To refresh your memories and help get you ready for Sunday, here’s a look at six urgent questions we’re eager to answer.
Is Jon Snow really dead?
Let’s get the big one out of the way first. The last image we saw on “Game of Thrones” was of the severely wounded Night’s Watch commander bleeding in the snow after being betrayed by his own men. He looked dead, or about to be dead. Nobody was rushing to his aid. And let’s face it: Medieval medical care is not the greatest.
So why is everyone saying that Jon Snow, brave bastard son of the late Eddard Stark, is still alive?
Well, actor Kit Harington has been spotted numerous times (in costume, even) during season 6 filming on “Thrones’ ” Belfast set. Sharp-eyed fans believe they’ve spied Snow for a split second during a battle scene in a season 6 trailer.
On the other hand, several of the show’s actors — including Harington himself — have said in interviews that Snow is dead. HBO’s own official synopsis of the season 6 premiere says he’s dead.
But … for how long? Grieving fans, possibly in denial, have a plausible theory: His corpse is resurrected by Melisandre, sex priestess of the dark arts, who has shown a predatory interest in noble blood and in Snow himself.
If that’s true, it’s not clear whether Snow will be reborn as someone resembling his former self or … something else.
Our guess: Snow returns, in some form. He’s a crucial character. And actors don’t spend months on set just to film death sequences or flashbacks.
Can Bran Stark walk?
For the queen of Meereen and the Mother of Dragons, last season was a sudden fall. One minute she was cheering gladiators from her royal box; the next, she was fleeing for her life from the Sons of the Harpy and wandering the hills alone in search of food.
Stripped of her regal trappings, separated from her biggest dragon and captured by a Dothraki clan, Daenerys is as vulnerable as we’ve ever seen her. In a new trailer, she is stripped naked and paraded before a Dothraki leader.
But she still has allies in loyal ol’ dying Jorah, who tracks her into the hills and finds the ring she dropped. And advisers like Varys and Tyrion are holding Meereen together in her absence.
Tyrion may be the key to her salvation. A new trailer appears to show him trying to free her two captive dragons from their dungeon. If he succeeds, and the scaly beasties still prove loyal to their mum, Daenerys will be back on top in no time.
Swords and spears are handy in war, but nothing trumps dragons.
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