“Game of Thrones” Season 6 will feature the return of Bran Stark, and (hopefully) the long-awaited return of his younger brother Rickon. There’s just a chance it might take viewers a while to even recognize them.
Though Bran and Rickon are far from the only characters to fade out of the “Game of Thrones” storyline only to reappear later, the two actors who play them — Isaac Hempstead-Wright and Art Parkinson, respectively — happen to have gone through a magical period called “puberty” while they were offscreen. Hempstead-Wright is now 16, and Parkinson is 13, and that time away has made a difference.
Take Parkinson, who last appeared in Season 3’s ninth episode when Bran sent him away with Osha (Natalia Tena) for safekeeping. At the time, Rickon looked like this.
That was in 2013. Meanwhile, here’s Parkinson at the May 2015 UK premiere of his film “San Andreas.”
Hemstead-Wright’s real-life growth spurt has been something of a secret on “Game of Thrones,” as his height has been hidden when he’s either being dragged on a sled beneath furs or being carried by Hodor.
But he’s grown into a tall, lanky teenager, and though his aging isn’t going to be as drastic as Parkinson’s when he returns, Hempstead-Wright definitely looks like more of an adult now than when he last was on the show in 2014’s Season 4 finale.
This is him meeting the Three-Eyed Raven face-to-face.
And here he is at the Jameson Empire Awards in late March 2015.
Fans who missed Bran during Season 5 can rest easy knowing he is definitely returning in 2016. When it was announced he wouldn’t appear this past season, showrunner David Benioff explained away the absence by saying, “He’s now entering a training period which is going to take quite some time, much of which isn’t particularly cinematic. So rather that being stuck in a cave for a year, we figured it would be interesting to leave him out for a little bit.”
So when Bran comes back in Season 6, expect some big changes for him. The showruners have compared the off screen transformation of the character to when Luke Skywalker went off to train to be a Jedi in “The Empire Strikes Back,” and then returned as a full-fledged Force-wielder in “The Return of the Jedi.” Don’t take that “Star Wars” simile lightly.
As for Rickon, there’s been no news about whether or not the youngest Stark will in fact return next year. But considering what a bloodbath the Season 5 finale was, there’s at least some room in “Game of Thrones'” stuffed ensemble for a familiar face like his to pop back up. Until then, keep asking “where is Rickon?”
“Game of Thrones” Season 6 is slated for a 2016 premiere date, and begins filming in July.