I’ve spent the last week and a bit positively melting every day, so I’m really hoping that Ned Stark’s meteorological promises turns out to be true soon. Alas, it seems that it will be some time still before winter comes again, but it will be much less time before the next season of Game of Thrones hits our screens. The award-winning HBO fantasy drama is scheduled to resume in April, where it will set out to answer a couple of major lingering questions. The biggest more than likely concerns the fate of Jon Snow, but there’s another concerning another of Ned Stark’s progeny: Whatever happened to Bran Stark?
Last time we saw Bran – played by then actor 14-year old actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright – was way back in season 4, when he had found the mystical Three-Eyed Raven north of the Wall along with the assistance of the Jojens and Hodor, and the Raven informed him that he would fly.
And it appears he has ascended… at least as far as height is concerned, as EW revealed the first pic of of a now older – and much taller, nearing six feet – Bran Stark in season 6, confirming that the character would indeed be returning.
While it seemed fairly obvious that Bran would be back, based on the show’s tendency to kill off its characters in the most unexpected ways, it should probably not come as much of a surprise to learn that Hempstead-Wright was pretty apprehensive when he first got the call from showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss about the fate of his character post-season 4.
“When I first heard the news Dan and David wanted to have a chat with me, I was like, ‘Oh no!’. Usually that’s to tell you [your character is] dead. So comparatively, missing a season was like, ‘phew!’ “
Benioff and Weiss also revealed the logic behind pushing Bran’s arc off screen for an entire season, as having him being trained by the Raven in some mystical arts just wouldn’t be all that exciting, as Hempsted-Wright explains.
“I would have just been sitting in a cave going, ‘Oh, I can nearly do it now.’ “
The showrunners compare it to how Luke Skywalker also went from newbie Jedi to a full Jedi Knight between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, with the young actor feeling that their approach was “exactly right.”
Another Star Wars connection is of course the Raven himself/itself, portrayed by screen veteran Max Von Sydow, who has just had a small but pivotal role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And having an acting legend like Von Sydow playing the role brings a whole new level to it as Hempstead-Wright explains:
“There are certain lines that you think are almost fillers, like, ‘He’s over there,’ but when Max von Sydow says them, he can make it sound like it’s the most important news you’ve ever heard.”
Season 6 of Game of Thrones will have more than just acting veterans in its bag of tricks as well, as this season will now see the narrative jumping around in time thanks to Bran’s burgeoning mystical gifts.
“Previously Bran’s seen tiny glimpses of future or past but never has he been very much in control in the situation. Now we’re given looks into very important events in the past, present and future of this world and Bran is beginning to piece them together like a detective, almost as if he’s watching the show. Equally, he’s now discovering how crucial he could be in the Great War. It’s quite Inception-y.”
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news on the Game of Thrones front though. In a blog post that reads as completely defeated and deflated, author George R.R. Martin has revealed that “Winds of Winter”, the long anticipated sixth novel in the series upon which GoT is based, will not in in fact be ready for publication before the sixth season of the show debuts. Martin is an infamously slow writer, and the show has been rapidly catching up to the books, but it seemed that he was on track with his latest book so as to prevent the weird situation where an adaptation is potentially spoiling details of the source material it is based on. Alas, that is not going to be the case.
…I won’t make excuses. There are no excuses. No one else is to blame. Not my editors and publishers, not HBO, not David & Dan. It’s on me. I tried, and I am still trying. I worked on the book a couple of days ago, revising a Theon chapter and adding some new material, and I will writing on it again tomorrow. But no, I can’t tell you when it will be done, or when it will be published. Best guess, based on our previous conversations, is that Bantam (and presumably my British publisher as well) can have the hardcover out within three months of delivery, if their schedules permit. 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.
I am going back to my stance from last March, before all this. It will be done when it’s done. And it will be as good as I can possibly make it.
Having said all that, I know what the next question will be, because hundreds of you have already asked it of me. Will the show ‘spoil’ the novels?
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. Look, I read Andy Weir’s novel THE MARTIAN before I saw the movie. But I saw the BBC production of JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL before I finally got around to reading Susanna Clarke’s 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.
Of course, there’s an aspect to our situation that did not apply to either the Weir or Clarke cases. Those novels were finished before they were optioned, adapted, and filmed. The case of GAME OF THRONES and A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE is perhaps unique. I can’t think of any other instance where the movie or TV show came out as the source material was still being written. So when you ask me, “will the show spoil the books,” all I can do is say, “yes and no,” and mumble once again about the butterfly effect. Those pretty little butterflies have grown into mighty dragons. Some of the ‘spoilers’ you may encounter in season six may not be spoilers at all… because the show and the books have diverged, and will continue to do so.
Personally, I can’t help but feel sorry for Martin after seeing just how dejected he is in that post. But on the other hand, I also don’t have much sympathy for him. He keeps mentioning that other commitments got in the way, when really there shouldn’t have been other commitments. This was a big deal, and he should have locked himself away in a room if needs be to have finished this book. Plus, there’s also the questionably approach of him seemingly not having worked out the major narrative beats beforehand. I completely understand that stories are living things that change over time, but the way Martin describes it, he was scratching and rewriting major sections repeatedly, all adding to the delay.
All in all, it’s a very odd situation that fans now find themselves in. I have not read any of the books since the second one, so this doesn’t bother me as much, but for the true die hard fans this is obviously not how they wanted this to play out.
Last Updated: January 4, 2016