For many characters and storylines, the end of Game of Thrones Season 5 marked the end of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire roadmap. With the 10 new episodes comprising Season 6—one of the series' most fast-paced and significant—we received a ton of all-original developments courtesy of showrunners/writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Here's what Game of Thrones Season 6 added to the lore—and what it completely changes.
**Spoilers for both Martin's novels and HBO's series abound!**
1. Every single thing with Daenerys' dragons.
The last dragon scenes in the books are Dany suddenly flying Drogon out of the arena in Meereen (possibly the best scene in A Song of Ice and Fire so far) and Drogon refusing to help Dany get back to her city once they're way out in the middle of nowhere. So all the fire-spraying, Khalasar-intimidating, armada-leading dragon action this season—which by Episode 9 included an escaped Rhaegal and Viserion—was brand new. After 4,000 pages of waiting, it was extraordinary.
2. Cersei detonated the Great Sept of Baelor and everyone in it.
Book Four, A Feast for Crows, offers one of the series' chilliest moments when Cersei uses wildfire to torch the Tower of the Hand—which is inside the Red Keep, not across King's Landing—presuming Tyrion and Varys are hiding within. Reading it, the level of destruction is staggering. But on the show, wildfire can look like the equivalent of a medieval nuke, and its target was a far more populated, sacred place. With its detonation, we lost the horrible High Sparrow, the questionable Margaery Tyrell and her blundering father, as well as a bunch of trial-attendees and the entirety (or majority) of the also horrible Faith Militant.
3. Jon Snow came back to life, retired from the Night's Watch and took back Winterfell.
Since 2011, the sum of Reddit writing on this topic could equal the length of A Storm of Swords. But the show handled it swiftly, killing the new Lord Commander in Season 5, Episode 10 and getting him gasping for air by Season 6, Episode 2. The only explanation we got is, "Melisandre actually can access unearthly powers, don't forget." Jon Snow knows nothing of an afterlife, due to his testament that it's nonexistent, but his after-being-murdered life is going pretty legendarily thus far.
4. Sansa and Jon reunite.
Awhile back, in his quest to go north of the Wall, Bran saw his brother Jon from a distance. They never came face to face, and Jon never see Bran. That's the closest we've come to any kind of Stark reunion since the clan dispersed in the first season. Sansa and Jon reuniting after all these years gave us visceral joy.
5. Rickon died.
Rickon could be dead in the books, and Rickon may never accomplish any more in the books than he did in the show. But he hasn't yet gotten a long-distance arrow through the heart via Ramsay Bolton!
6. Melisandre is ancient.
Out of the blue in A Dance with Dragons, the Red Woman gets her own point-of-view chapter. She witnesses convincing otherworldly visions in a fire in her chambers, giving a great reminder that this woman has enough true magic to have birthed a shadow-baby assassin a few books back. On the show, we learned that she's in fact ancient, maintaining the illusion of youth and beauty seemingly through a necklace.
7. Arya ditched the House of Black and White, finally did something fantastically meaningful by killing Walder Frey.
Last we saw Arya in the books, she had just imbibed a solution that blinded her. So we haven't yet been put out of our House of Black and White misery, much less seen her avenge the Red Wedding. (An act the Northmen funnily ascribed to Jon Snow in the finale, not knowing Arya was taking out one of the two biggest orchestrators of the tragic event.)
8. King Tommen jumped out a window to his death.
In the books, he's got no reason to get even close to this fate yet. In the show, it's the only way to escape his mom's Mad King-like power plays.
9. The Hound's alive.
A popular fan theory from the books, as there's a guy still bopping around the Seven Kingdoms in a familiar hound helm. In the show, it's come true, no matter how fan-servicey it feels.
10. Lyanna Stark is Jon Snow's mom. R+L=J is more or less confirmed.
The Season 6 finale gave us the second part of a flashback to the Tower of Joy, with Eddard Stark rushing upstairs to his bleeding, dying-in-childbirth sister. Her baby? Jon Snow. His daddy? Not sure, because Lyanna had to whisper it like some kind of cliffhanger-creating TV character. We do hear her tell Ned that Robert Baratheon, her betrothed, would murder the father (or the baby, or both?) if he found out—and that's exactly what he did to Rhaegar Targaryen. It seems Jon Snow, the new King in the North, in fact has a claim to the Iron Throne.
11. Theon got back to the Iron Islands and joined Team Yara.
Yara's name is Asha in the books, by the way.
12. The monster on the Kingsguard is Gregor Clegane/you see his face.
Ser Robert Strong, as he's called in the books, shows up at the end of Cersei's walk of shame in A Dance with Dragons. While it's easy to conclude that it's the resurrected Mountain, it's not confirmed. The show ran with it.
13. Slaver's Bay became the Bay of Dragons.
Benioff and Weiss are straight-up remaking the map. Major move.
14. The Children of the Forest created the White Walkers.
Brief but significant: We learned that the native residents of Westeros birthed the Night King by pushing a dragonglass dagger into his then-human heart. We're dying to know more, but this is already a lot.
15. Tyrion ruled in Meereen.
The most talented Lannister is still on the brink of coming face-to-face with Daenerys when A Dance with Dragons wraps. To have a full season of him confidently, intricately ruling in Meereen—and to see him receive an official Hand of the King pin from the one true queen by the end—was deeply satisfying.
16. Hodor's monosyllable vocabulary was explained. Also, he died.
"The Door" is already being hailed as one of the best Game of Thrones episodes ever, and its inventions—like Bran time-travel-warging into his loyal squad-mate/piggyback-giver—were bold and powerful.
17. Coldhands was revealed to be Benjyn Stark.
Even though he seems, against all odds, to not be Benjyn Stark in the books!
18. Wun Wun wrote himself into Westerosi legend.
The last living giant was an MVP of the Battle of the Bastards, but he truly landed his place in the tales of all the future Old Nans by busting down the door to Winterfell, ensuring the end of the Bolton Era and the reinstitution of House Stark.
19. Alliser Thorne got murked. Ramsay Bolton got murked.
When they befall the right targets, vile murders can be satisfying. Like these two.
20. Daenerys killed the Khals.
A Dance With Dragons' final chapter, discounting the epilogue, sees Daenerys getting discovered by Khal Jhaqo and his riders. We still don't know what comes next on the page, but Game of Thrones figured it out. She headed back to Vaes Dothrak, eschewed Jorah and Daario's rescue, then torched all (most?) of the Khals in a jump-on-the-couch-worthy conflagration. She reminded us why The Unburnt is among her many titles—and reminded us she's no less than a superhero.
21. The Sand Snakes took over Dorne.
The show gave a satisfying little button to the long season it spent roving insignificantly around Dorne: "Weak men will never rule Dorne again." But the end result—Dorne supporting Daenerys—is identical to the books, although far more expedient and minus multiple eventually useless subplots.
22. People traveled long distances super fast.
In the books it takes frivolous, time-wasting chunks of time for Sam, Gilly and Baby Sam to get from the Wall to Oldtown, and for the Iron Islanders to get to Meereen, just to name a couple of the vast journeys. Fortunately Benioff and Weiss have gotten very happy with yadda-yadda–ing all that. Theon and Yara got to Meereen, Arya got to Walder Frey's table, Varys got to Dorne and back, all in minimal time.
Next, listen to the Back of the Class podcast talk Game of Thrones Season 6: