On 8th March, HBO released the first trailer for season six of Game of Thrones and it has since garnered over 24 million views on YouTube. The new season is set to be released in April, and for the first time those who’ve read the books are no better informed than those who watch the show. This is partially due to the creative choices of showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who have been deviating further and further from the source material with each passing season. But mostly it is down to what is probably an unprecedented state of affairs: for the first time in television history*, a TV adaptation has overtaken the book series on which it is based.
A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin is a slow writer, something his legions of fans lament louder each month that passes without a hint of his sixth book, The Winds of Winter, appearing on the shelves. Combine that with the swift pace of Game of Thrones production and it becomes inevitable that this situation would come about. What this means for the fans, however, is far less clear-cut.
As a bona fide ‘have read the books’ snob, I can inform readers that up until recently the more optimistic Song of Ice and Fire fans were holding out for an early 2016 Winds of Winter release, which would allow us to finish the book before season six started airing and thus avoid potential spoilers and retain our air of superiority. Sadly for us this has not occurred, and George Martin got himself in hot water recently when he revealed that he originally planned to have The Winds of Winter finished by Halloween last year to allow for an early 2016 release, but blew through that deadline and a follow-up deadline on 31st December. Curse you, you slow typing serial killer. Curse you to the seven hells!
Thankfully for show fans, George Martin’s snail-paced fingers have saved them from yet another season of teasing hints and gloating from book readers. For the first time in Game of Thrones history, book and show fans are diving into a new season on level ground, and this is why the season six trailer is so important. For those who haven’t watched it, it does what all trailers do: gives us a few hints of what is to come without revealing anything truly important. We see soldiers in battle, arrows firing, windows breaking in, Drogon flying and women kissing: all the hallmarks of what makes Game of Thrones great. But there is also a mournful tone to this trailer; it opens with an image of Jon Snow’s bloody corpse and the words ‘he’s gone’, and as we see each of our surviving favourites in turn they all seem to be suffering: Jaime and Cersei are mourning their daughter, a careworn Jorah searches for Daenerys, Melisandre is confronting failure, Arya gets hit, Daenerys is a ragged slave amidst a Dothraki horde, and Tyrion looks unshaven and afraid. There’s a real sense even in one minute and forty-one seconds of everything that’s been lost, exacerbated by the sorrowful melody of James Vincent McMorrow’s ‘Wicked Game’. Whatever this season is, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be happy. But by now that’s what we expect.
But it’s not all doom and gloom; with a new season comes new possibilities. Rumours have been swirling ever since season five ended that Jon Snow is not really dead, and high profile actors Max von Sydow and Ian McShane are joining the crew. On top of this Isaac Hempstead-Wright is returning as Bran after his character’s one-season hiatus, looking older and more capable though faced with more deadly foes. I’m quite looking forward to not knowing what will come next, safe in knowledge that thanks to the show’s independence any and all revelations will only be confirmed as spoilers by reading The Winds of Winter when it is released. And book readers do have something exclusive to look forward to; after some humming and harring George Martin has decided to go ahead with a twist for book six that the show cannot do as they have already killed one of the characters involved. That’s what you get for ignoring the source material, fools! I kid. Game of Thrones is an excellent show, and everyone who watches season six is in for a treat, as (blink and you’ll miss it) the trailer shows part of a flashback sequence featuring Ned Stark in battle against the Kingsguard. As for where the fight is and what they’re fighting over, well, us book readers know, but giving any hints would just be spoiling it.
Happy viewing everyone!
WORDLY’s resident medieval fantasy correspondent,
*Probably. I didn’t check or anything. (Editor’s note: definitely not!)