The lead-up to the next season of Game of Thrones has begun in earnest, and everything we know so far tells us we could be in store for some of the goriest episodes yet.
The latest hints from the show’s creators suggest season six will give us no relief from the horrific violence and shocking deaths we’re accustomed to, although we may see fewer graphic sex scenes.
It’s difficult to forget the surprise slaughter of patriarch Ned Stark in season one, or Tyrion Lannister shooting his father with a crossbow while on the toilet. And don’t forget the soul-crushing deaths in season three’s Red Wedding episode.
Season five left viewers on the edge of their seats as Daenerys Targaryen was cornered by Dothraki soldiers, and Jon Snow was seemingly killed by his comrades.
With six weeks to go until season six premieres, the teaser trailers and leaked photos are hinting at yet more death and destruction.
Death, death and more death
A number of teaser trailers have given us insight into the sticky situations our favourite characters are about to find themselves in.
One 30-second clip doesn’t bode well for Daenerys, as a Dothraki voice tells her she is a “nobody”.
“Millionth of your name, queen of nothing,” says the voice, leading us to believe Khaleesi has been captured by the army that used to call her Queen.
Meanwhile, things are looking equally (if not more) gloomy for the Stark family, which has dwindled considerably during the series.
With their parents dead, the Stark children have been split up and are in various positions of peril, and the evil Ramsay Bolton has taken over their family home.
“Winterfell is mine,” says ruthless Bolton’s distinctive voice. “Come and see.”
Perhaps the most foreboding teaser has been a recently-released clip set in Braavos’ Hall of Faces, featuring a considerable number of GoT characters immortalised in the notorious hall of the dead.
The faces of Ned Stark, Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, Joffrey Baratheon, Stannis Borathian, Jon Snow, Ygritte, Sansa Stark, Tyrion Lannister, Dany, Cersei Lannister, Arya Stark and Jaime Lannister all feature, suggesting they’re all doomed for the same fate.
Face the music: Jon Snow might actually be dead
It’s been the most talked about plot point since season five wrapped up – could Jon Snow actually be dead?
The leader of the Night’s Watch was attacked by his own men during a coup in the final episode, and since then the internet has been obsessed with the slightest clue he may still be alive.
But although Snow actor Kit Harrington has been spotted in Northern Ireland (where the series is filmed), he did his very best to finally put the rumours to rest.
“People didn’t want me to die, but he’s dead. So there you go, everyone has to get used to it,” he told BBC Breakfast recently, explaining he’s only been spotted on set because he was filming his own funeral.
Creators promise to tone down sexual violence
While we are bracing ourselves for another 10 episodes of blood and gore, there’s a chance we won’t see as much graphic sexual violence this season.
After being accused multiple times of gratuitously portraying rape scenes throughout the series, criticism reached fever pitch when Sansa Stark was raped on her wedding night by one of GoT‘s most repulsive villains: Ramsay Bolton.
After being tortured by her first husband, egomaniac Joffrey, fans couldn’t take the image of a motionless Sansa being violated by Bolton.
Backlash against the episode made it all the way to congress in the USA, and the show was forced to publicly respond.
According to the episode’s director Jeremy Podeswa, GoT creators “were responsive to the discussion and there were a couple of things that changed as a result”.
“They did not want to be too overly influenced by that [criticism] but they did absorb and take it in and it did influence them in a way.”
That may be perhaps the only reprieve in a series destined to delight and disappoint us all at once.