'Game of Thrones': 10 Rivalries to Watch in Season 6

Game of Thrones Cersei Finale - H 2015
Macall B. Polay/HBO

Batman and Superman aren't the only rivals destined to do battle this spring.

Indeed, on HBO's Game of Thrones, conflict is the name of the game, and season six is expected to ratchet tension up to all-time heights when it debuts in April. Considering how so many stories ended in season five, and what characters were enduring when last we left them, the sixth year of Thrones could be its bloodiest and most contentious yet.

Before the show returns, it's worth mentally preparing for a few specific season six showdowns, such as the following:

1. The Faith Militant versus the crown

Countless characters could wind up sitting on the Iron Throne by the end of Game of Thrones … then again, it's possible there won't be a throne to sit on. One possibility is the High Sparrow and his armed followers overtake the royal court of King's Landing, and completely upend everything we know about the political structure of Westeros. At best, the situation between the faith and the crown will be tenser than ever.

2. Cersei versus Margaery

Drilling down even deeper into King's Landing, it's time for these two powerful women to take their decisive swings at each other. The niceties and subtle tension boiled over in season five, landing them both behind bars, and now their lives are on the line. As Optimus Prime once said: "One shall stand, one shall fall." The odds suggest one of these two characters will die this season — if not both of them.

3. The Hound vs. the Mountain

Is the so-called Cleganebowl actually happening? The hype factor is at an all-time high thanks to some recent revelations from Ian McShane, who strongly suggested fans will see Sandor Clegane again this season. If he's back in the mix, it's all but guaranteed that he'll wind up facing off against "Robert Strong," the alias of the zombified Mountain. Prep yourself accordingly.

4. Greyjoy vs. Greyjoy

After spending seasons on the sidelines, the lords of the Iron Islands is expected to have an important impact in the coming episodes of Thrones. Season six sees the arrival of Euron Greyjoy, a pirate with his Crow's Eye on ruling the Iron Islands and beyond — but not if others in his family have anything to say about it. 

5. Tarly vs. Tarly

Samwell and Gilly escaped the North at the end of season five, but that doesn't mean they're free from adversity. In fact, Sam is poised to reunite with his toughest foe yet … his father Randyll Tarly, a man so cruel he once threatened to kill his very own craven son. But Sam is more of a slayer and less of a coward these days, making this father-son duo one of the most interesting rivalries to watch.

6. The Night's Watch vs. the wildlings

Jon Snow is dead — at least for now. Depending on how long it takes to get him back into the mix — if he gets back in at all — things could get very dire between the Watchers on the Wall and the free folk beyond very fast. Several wildlings are already through the Wall; how will they react when they learn their ally Jon was murdered by his own people? It won't be pretty.

7. Melisandre vs. Davos

As if their relationship wasn't already heated enough, imagine how Davos Seaworth will react when he learns that Melisandre literally burned Shireen Baratheon alive — and led Stannis and his army to a figurative fire to boot? It's possible they can find common ground, depending on how dire the situation is on the Wall, but even then, expect the conflict between the late Stannis' closest advisors to boil over this season.

8. The White Walkers vs. everyone

"Winter is coming." It's the great promise of Game of Thrones, and six seasons into the show, it's bound to finally boil over — or freeze over, as it were. The Night's King and his army already decimated Hardhome in one of the most stunning scenes of the entire series, and smart money suggests it's just the tip of the iceberg for the greater Seven Kingdoms.

9. Your patience vs. Jon Snow

Will Jon return from the dead? Almost certainly. Will it happen in the first episode of the new season? Certainly possible, but far from definite. It could take two or three episodes before Kit Harington's hero rises from the grave, if not weeks and weeks. Depending on how Jon's return plays out, the pace of Thrones and the patience of fans could go to war with one another while season six airs.

10. Book-first fans vs. Game of Thrones

The most meta rivalry heading into season six exists between the viewers who consider themselves fans of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels first, and the show itself. For the first time ever, Game of Thrones outpaces the storytelling of the books this season, creating friction with book-first loyalists who aren't exactly eager to see the show reveal plot twists before Martin gets to them in the books. Will Thrones win these fans over as season six rolls along, or will the tension only intensify? It's one of the most compelling stories to track surrounding Thrones, and it will likely stay that way in the weeks ahead.

Game of Thrones returns on April 24.