Game Of Thrones is over for Season Six, culminating in fire, death and triumph with the finale (read our review of The Winds Of Winter here). But in the immortal words of President Josiah Bartlet, what's next? We decided to take a look at the potential future for the main surviving characters.
After an eventful season in which he came back from the dead, quit the Night's Watch and successfully – albeit with a lot of help – reclaimed Winterfell for the Stark family, Jon (Kit Harington) could be forgiven for desiring a little breather. Maybe a few days throwing sticks around for Ghost? But he won't get much respite, as he's now been proclaimed the latest King In The North. Sounds like everything he could have desired given his troubled upbringing, but that title has proven to bring with it more trouble than it's worth. This could end up being Jon's inner monologue.
Yet he's proven himself to be a noble warrior, even if he's not always the smartest or most level-headed tactician. He'll need his skills and the support of those around him to face what's coming, including challenges from the Lannisters, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and all her forces.
And, as he points out in the finale, there is a much bigger threat coming than anyone around has ever faced before: The Night King and his White Walkers. "The true enemy won't wait out the storm... he brings the storm," Jon says ominously. He's seen what these creatures can do, and everyone is going to have to fight them, so he may have to team up with Dany. Wonder what that battle will cost? Finally, there's the freshly revealed answer to his parentage. It's lurking like an emotional timebomb to detonate when he least expects it.
As played by Sophie Turner, Sansa has had her own redemptive arc this year, escaping Ramsay's clutches and seeing his own horrible methods turned against him. She's also entangled once again with Petyr “Littlefinger" Baelish (Aidan Quinn) after securing his help with Ramsay's forces. But while she doesn't seem open to his romantic and tactical advances, there was that look she shared with him during the closing moments of the Stark story in The Winds Of Winter... Might he still hold some sway over her? Could that cause problems between her and Jon going forward? (That is explored here) And what is her big plan, besides apparently supporting Snow as the new King In The North? We'll find out next year.
Cersei and Jaime Lannister
Cersei (Lena Headey) pulled off the coup to end all coups during The Winds Of Winter, blowing up all the primary opposition in King's Landing with one well-placed batch of Wildfire. She also saw to it that the farty thorn in her side Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover) perished at the hands of Qyburn's (Anton Lesser) child spies. It was a masterful plot and has landed Cersei squarely on the Iron Throne.
But is that really what she wants? She's always been shown as the masterful manipulator, working behind the scenes or to the side of whoever sits on the throne itself. Cersei may find that she was much happier as the puppet master, instead of the one with the strings of the crown in her arms. Sure, she has the power she craves, but with the throne comes big, big challenges. The North is rallying around Jon Snow, Daenerys is on her way across the ocean with an army of spies, liars, eunuchs, former slaves, horse-loving warriors and dragons, and has the counsel of Cersei's own smart younger brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). There's no love lost there. Add to that the pain of losing all her children thanks to Tommen's suicide in the hours after the big explosion.
And what of Jaime? He's back, but has also lost his son (since Tommen is his child by Cersei) and is, in the words of the man who plays him, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, in "shock". “He does not understand what the game plan is. No one will accept Cersei as queen willingly. I'm not sure he understands or knows who that person is now. And that’s scary.” The Lannister twins could embrace their newfound rule, or they could implode. Whatever happens, the time of Queen Cersei might be a little short...
Dany has also had an interesting season, one she started in the hands of the Dothraki and has ended commander of a massive force she's slowly been building all these seasons. Winter might be coming, but so is Dany, and while others have an army, she has a dragon. Or three.
With Tyrion and Varys (Conleth Hill) providing information and advice, Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) for support, Dany's in great shape, even if she has just cut boy toy Daario (Michiel Huisman) loose (probably for the best: less distracting).
The best part of her new alliance? Thanks to Varys, she has also recruited both Lady Olenna Tyrell (Dianna Rigg) and the Sand Snakes of Dorne. Olenna was always entertaining, but the Snakes have been largely a chore, so it'll be good to find some real use for them instead of arguing and assassination. Of course, they'll probably still do both, but they'll feel connected to the main story through Dany.
Challenges? Well, hers is a big, loose gathering of disparate forces that might not always agree. And, as she addressed with Yara in Battle Of The Bastards, what happens when people ask to run their own kingdoms? That's a bridge she'll have to cross (or burn) when she comes to it. She certainly appears to have an advantage over the Lannisters, but what of the White Walkers?
Maisie Williams' plucky Arya has been through the wringer this year as she tried to train to become an assassin. There were tests, strains, in-fighting and a bout with blindness. Yet she has also pulled through, reclaiming her name and starting to cross more of her enemies off her list – including Walder Frey (and his sons) in the season finale. What's next for her? We'd guess more targets and hopefully a reunion with her surviving family members.
The core of Arya's development is exactly what she'll become. She's no longer the girl we knew: she's a stone cold killer. What will that do to her emotional state? And can anyone truly trust her?
Bran Stark and Meera Reed
Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) has largely been Captain Exposition this year, our way in to more backstory on Jon and the White Walkers. But he's also a big magical help for the future of everyone south of the wall. With great power comes great responsibility, and he'll have to shoulder that. Could he also be a liability? He unwittingly helped the Night King break the security enchantments around the Three-Eyed Raven's cave and that could also be a problem for the wall. As for Meera, she's mostly still along for the ride as Bran's loyal (and besides Uncle Benjen, who's gone again), one remaining ally. Don't make us think about Hodor!
Brienne Of Tarth (and Pod)
Last seen escaping the fall of Riverrun in a boat, we'd expect these two to show up to help Jon and the rest at Winterfell. Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) will probably be feeling guilty that she couldn't convince the Blackfish to help (before he, you know, died and all), and there's the small matter of keeping her oath to Sansa. Could season seven give us the Brienne/Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) romantic comedy subplot we've all been craving? Maybe!
Podrick (Daniel Portman), meanwhile, is still Brienne's faithful squire and likely, thanks to her tuition, turning into a better warrior.
The Red Woman (Carice van Houten) has had a rotten ol' season, aside from her bringing Jon back to life. She's mostly been on the sidelines and the finale found Davos (Liam Cunningham) confronting her about Princess Shireen's death in season five. Banished from Winterfell, she's headed south, which means she may end up encountering the Brotherhood Without Banners again and even The Hound, Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann). Plus, don't forget she's still on Arya's hit list...
We mentioned Sandor just now, but he's worthy of his own section. Having been rescued from near death by Ian McShane's Brother Ray, he was on a short-lived quest for vengeance. Now? He's joined up with the Brotherhood to go and help fight the coming White Walkers. He could be quite useful in that regard, but there are likely to be some uncomfortable reunions, particularly if he crosses paths with either Brienne or Arya again.
Samwell Tarly and Gilly
As he has in years past, Sam was largely comic relief while also acting as one of the emotional cores of the series. In this season, we saw him mostly travelling, with a quick stop at his family home. There's a chance he'll spend all of the next season in the Citadel's library, but that does provide the chance to research ways to help Jon in the coming conflict. And don't forget he also has the Valyrian steel sword he pinched from his father's wall. That will surely come into play. And Gilly? She's right there by his side. Well, except in the library, which has a strict no women and children policy. Rude.
Season 6 - Episode review guide