Season 6 premiere set April 24 for Game of Thrones (Video)

Winter isn’t too far away. HBO confirms premiere date for the upcoming season.

With Jon Snow at the center of HBO's promotional campaign, can he possibly remain dead? Photo: Courtesy HBO
With Jon Snow at the center of HBO's promotional campaign, can he possibly remain dead? Photo: Courtesy HBO

SAN DIEGO, January 9, 2016 – “Game of Thrones” fans can now exhale and start counting down the days to April 24. HBO executives confirmed the debut date for Season 6 of the award-winning series based on the novels by George R.R. Martin at the Television Critics Association meeting this week.

It’s somewhat good news, as it appeared HBO might not start Season 6 until sometime in May. This is the latest season start date so far; Season 1 began on April 17.

Can we still claim the series is based on the novels? Season 6 will be the first season for the series without any published novels determining the plotline. Martin confirmed on his blog last week he would not have the sixth novel finished before the season debut, not really news to anyone at this point with the series debut just weeks away.

Martin apologized to the fans, writing “Believe me, it gave me no pleasure to type those words. You’re disappointed, and you’re not alone. My editors and publishers are disappointed, HBO is disappointed, my agents and foreign publishers and translators are disappointed… but no one could possibly be more disappointed than me.”

The cover for the sixth novel in the series, "The Winds of Winter."
The cover for the sixth novel in the series, “The Winds of Winter.”

Martin said the sixth novel is not likely to be finished anytime soon, estimating it’s “months away still” if the writing goes well. “Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t.” He confirmed “hundreds of pages” and “dozens of chapters” are written but there is a lot still left to write.

Martin said no one should blame it on his sudden immense fame and busy schedule, or his age. “Look, I have always had problems with deadlines. For whatever reason, I don’t respond well to them,” wrote Martin. Martin said there are no excuses and no one else is to blame. Martin could only say the hardcover will appear three months after he delivers the manuscript to his publisher. “But when delivery will be, I can’t say. I am not going to set another deadline for myself to trip over. The deadlines just stress me out,” wrote Martin.

How much will this matter? With the HBO version veering away more than ever before from the plotlines in the novels, now having outrun the five existing books of the proposed seven book series, series only fans (called the “Unsullied”) will be on an even playing field now with the longtime readers (who call themselves the “Sullied”).

Readers will have a dilemma on their hands. Do they try and wait until the next novel is the series is published? Will the show “spoil” the novels.

Martin has this answer for both sets of fans and everyone in between. “Maybe. Yes and no. Look, I never thought the series could possibly catch up with the books, but it has. The show moved faster than I anticipated and I moved more slowly. There were other factors too, but that was the main one. Given where we are, inevitably, there will be certain plot twists and reveals in season six of “Game of Thrones” that have not yet happened in the books. For years my readers have been ahead of the viewers. This year, for some things, the reverse will be true. How you want to handle that… hey, that’s up to you,” said Martin. Martin said he’s been in the position of reading a novel and then seeing the film or seeing the film and then reading the novel. “In both cases, I loved the book and I loved the adaptation. It does not need to be one or the other. You might prefer one over the other, but you can still enjoy the hell out of both,” offered Martin.

Readers may have a general idea how the unresolved questions of the novels may be answered. But the plot lines are far from assured despite clues from leaked production photos and videos, and comments made by cast members in interviews.

All we really want to know is this: Is Jon Snow really dead? It seems likely he WAS killed but will somehow come back to life. First, actor Kit Harrington has been spotted on location in Ireland. Then HBO made images of Jon Snow with blood on his face the central focus of its promotional campaign, including the first promotional video. See it below.

The leading theory is that Melisandre resurrects a dead Jon Snow, just as she saw Thoros the Red Priest resurrect Beric Dondarion in Season 3. So no one was lying when they reported Snow’s death in the series, even if he still returns.

Also returning after a year away from the show is Bran Stark, played by actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright. Our little Bran has grown up. The paraplegic prince is now six feet tall and very much a man instead of a boy. Most of Westeros believes Bran is dead, but they will learn he survived an attack by the White Walkers’ wights, and has been presumably developing his talents as a warg, with the ability to enter the minds of animals and other people. Bran also have the gift of “greensight,” prophetic visions he hasn’t been able to understand in the past. Bran’s reappearance could change alliances as the battle for control of the Iron Throne continues in Season 6.

Bran Stark is all grown up from the angelic little boy we last saw in "Game of Thrones." Photo: HBO
Bran Stark is all grown up from the angelic little boy we last saw in “Game of Thrones.” Photo: HBO

Fans have a big wish list once we get past the Jon Snow Dead or Alive discussion: Danaerys and her dragons kill all the White Walkers. Sansa Stark (or someone, anyone) kills Ramsay Bolton. Arya Stark kills Meryn Trant. Tyrion gets out of Meereen alive. Jon Snow kills a whole lot of bad guys. Bran Stark uses his powers for something really extraordinary – maybe he’s the one who defeats the White Walkers. Something worth watching finally happens in Dorne. Cersei’s humiliation is complete. Jaime and Brienne finally get together.

Devout novel reading fans have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the character “Lady Stoneheart,” who gets no additional description here to avoid spoilers. So far the HBO series has rolled on without her showing up. She provides a significant plotline. We won’t give up on the good Lady yet. We can only hope this character has not been entirely abandoned, whatever role she eventually plays.

There will be more time to play all these things out. Also coming out of last week’s TV Critics meeting was confirmation by HBO programming president Michael Lombardi discussions are underway to lock in not just Season 7 but also a Season 8. Does this mean three seasons will be needed to cover the sixth novel? There is supposed to be a seventh novel; at this rate it’s 10 years away.

One thing we can always count on is the unexpected. Red Wedding. We know no one and nothing is safe in the “Game of Thrones” universe. Heroes and children die. Villains prevail. Plots thicken and schemes succeed. Bring on Season 6.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Media Migraine in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +

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