Game of Thrones heads into uncharted terrain in season 6
Vengeance, violence, death and resurrection expected as cable TV hit returns
Being buried under a thousand years of ice and snow might be the only way you'd have escaped the Game of Thrones "Is Jon Snow dead or alive?" cliffhanger.
Fans of the massively popular fantasy series — returning Sunday — have been beside themselves anticipating the show's sixth season, especially since screeners were denied to pretty well everyone except the leader of the free world.
With the upcoming season officially moving beyond George R.R. Martin's as-yet-unfinished book series, this season is a watershed moment: marking the first time fans of the HBO series and devotees of the original novels will be on equal footing.
Plus, with showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss mulling shortened runs for the expected final two seasons (season seven and eight), our time in TV's Game of Thrones universe may be waning.
Everything considered, appetite is fierce for the controversial show's return Sunday, with every teaser, trailer, behind-the-scenes tidbit, interview and rumour pored over and debated by the fandom.
Here's a rundown of where things stand as fans return to Westeros and the battle for the Iron Throne.
SPOILER ALERT: this piece contains details from the Game of Thrones season five finale.
A Lannister Always Pays His Debts
Following the fates felling their second flaxen-haired child Myrcella (or more specifically a vengeful Ellaria Sand in Dorne), sibling lovers Jamie and Cersei Lannister will undoubtedly be more protective of their remaining offspring Tommen, the kind-hearted and easily manipulated young king of the increasingly unruly Westeros.
Couple the queen regent's heartbreaking loss with last season's humiliating walk of shame — courtesy of the High Sparrow and his dangerous and growing religious band of Sparrows — and Cersei is understandably seething and seemingly plotting vengeance anew, protected by her zombified new Kingsguard giant (the beast formerly known as Gregor The Mountain Clegane).
Fiery Character? I can guarantee that no one's anger level reaches mine right now. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GameofThrones?src=hash">#GameofThrones</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoTSeason6?src=hash">#GoTSeason6</a> <a href="https://t.co/IrhO7pk20g">pic.twitter.com/IrhO7pk20g</a>—@NiceQueenCersei
Moored in Meereen
As the lovestruck Ser Jorah Mormont and Daario Naharis set off to search for the silver-maned apple of their eyes Daenerys Targaryen — last seen spirited away from a swarm of creepy, gold-masked insurgents by her headstrong dragon Drogon — Tyrion Lannister is left to govern in unruly Meereen alongside the queen's stoic Unsullied general Grey Worm and trusted translator Missandei.
"That's what I do. I drink." <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GameOfThrones?src=hash">#GameOfThrones</a> <a href="https://t.co/0Pn1a11e2Q">pic.twitter.com/0Pn1a11e2Q</a>—@LordSnow
Happily, Varys (aka the Spider of King's Landing) reappears to offer aid and counsel in combating that pesky Sons of the Harpy rebellion. But Tyrion, the former Hand of the King, is wary — especially concerning Dany's two remaining (and imprisoned) dragons.
Daenerys in danger
Meanwhile, the mother of dragons herself may have simply exchanged one dangerous situation for another. Though Drogon rescued her from assassination in Meereen, the exhausted beast has dropped her off in parts unknown, where she is promptly surrounded and taken prisoner by a menacing Dothraki khalasar.
If Young Drogon don't trust you Im gon scorch you <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GameofThrones?src=hash">#GameofThrones</a> <a href="https://t.co/gEfe0i3TsT">pic.twitter.com/gEfe0i3TsT</a>—@KofieSpeaks
It's been a while since Dany has been considered a khaleesi by the Dothraki: can she persuade this new hoard of warrior riders to join her bid for the Iron Throne?
A second chance in Braavos
Things looked dire for the dwindling Stark clan as season five ended, with Arya derailing her assassin training with a personal mission of vengeance and punished for her actions by magic that robs her of sight. Though teaser footage shows Arya brutally knocked down by the waif from the House of Black and White, we also see the mysterious Jaqen H'ghar offer her a second chance and the determined young Stark kip up like a badass.
A leap of faith in the North
As for the abused and much-maligned Sansa Stark-Bolton, things were cautiously looking up: the newlywed is seen escaping her sadistic husband Ramsay and her ancestral home Winterfell with former childhood companion Reek/Theon Greyjoy.
"It's all I think about, what was taken from me." - Sansa Stark <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GameOfThrones?src=hash">#GameOfThrones</a> <a href="https://t.co/AMxweB4hKj">pic.twitter.com/AMxweB4hKj</a>—@LordSnow
However, the bloodthirsty Bolton — fresh from defeating Stannis Baratheon's army — will assuredly be on their tracks. Can Brienne of Tarth and Podrick, or perhaps Petyr Baelish or Asha Greyjoy, find the pair in time?
Winter is here
So, Jon Snow is (apparently) dead… but what does that really mean in the Game of Thrones world?
Do any of these power plays for the Iron Throne really matter when The Night's King is determinedly headed southbound with his army of undead White Walkers? What part will vision-plagued Bran Stark (welcome back!) play in the great battle to come?
"The real war is between the living and the dead, and make no mistake, the dead are coming." <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GameOfThrones?src=hash">#GameOfThrones</a> <a href="https://t.co/7wvzjwF7gG">pic.twitter.com/7wvzjwF7gG</a>—@LordSnow
The sixth season of Game of Thrones premieres Sunday, April 24 at 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO Canada.