More thoughts on Stannis Baratheon and the future of the North

After I wrote my earlier commentary on Stannis, I found that I am not alone in feeling that Stannis has gotten the short end of the stick.  Both Anna Silman at Salon and Thomas Fichtenmayer at Esquire also have not only a soft spot for the unappreciated Baratheon brother, but possibly think even more highly of him than I do, and I think pretty damn highly of him indeed.

It’s true, Stannis has survived when so many others have failed and/or died.  In the books he is the last of the five kings, whereas on the show we still have not seen anything happen to Balon Greyjoy.

Tonight on Episode Three of Season Five, “High Sparrow”, we see that awesome scene from Book Five, in which newly-elected Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch Jon Snow has to turn down King Stannis’ offer to make him a) legitimate, giving him the last name of Stark, and b) making him the new Lord of Winterfell.  It is, of course, what Jon has always wanted, and he never imagined that he would be in a place where it may become reality.  But Jon has to turn him down, because his duty is to the Night’s Watch.  Of course, Stannis is disappointed, as he is hoping to take back the North from the Boltons.  On the show, this is tempered somewhat by Ser Davos Seaworth staying after Stannis has left, to talk with him a while.  He basically tells Lord Snow that Stannis thinks highly of him.

The unspoken part is how Stannis needs a Stark to rally the North around, and as far as he knows there aren’t any Starks left.  Thus the importance of the three Starks left in Westeros: Sansa, Bran and Rickon.  Bran of course is not coming back to the Seven Kingdoms anytime soon and almost no one knows he is still alive.  Unlike the books, in the show Sansa has reappeared, and as a Stark.  I cannot emphasize how stunned I was to realize that this was the direction the story was going on the TV show.  But having now processed this information, I am thinking I may understand where it is going.

Jeyne Poole is nowhere to be found in the TV show.  And Mance Rayder is dead, and I am pretty sure it was the real him, unlike the books.  So there will be no rescue mission to Winterfell to rescue the supposed “Arya”, and there is no need for one.  But there are other things that have to happen to propel the story forward, such as the dissent amongst the Bolton’s allies in Winterfell as Stannis is approaching with his army.  In the books, this happens when Mance and the women that accompany him begin to kill various people around Winterfell and leave the bodies to be found.  The Bolton’s allies all suspect each other of committing the murders, and even begin to fight with each other.  I am wondering how this will happen now with no Mance and no wildling women pretending to be bards.  Wouldn’t it be nuts if it is Sansa herself who takes over the role of bumping off a few Bolton allies on the show?  After all, Baelish keeps telling her that she needs to avenge her family, and in light of where the story needs to go I can see how such a transformation might be necessary.  That way it will be her that escapes with Theon, rather than Jeyne/fake Arya.

And I am also wondering how they will deal with getting Rickon back, as in the books this was done by Ser Davos going to White Harbor to parley with the Manderlys.  This is absolutely my favorite part of Book Five, because it is when it is revealed that the lords of the North are basically only tolerating the Boltons until they can rally against them.  Lord Manderly tells Ser Davos that they will rally behind Stannis if Ser Davos will rescue Rickon Stark from the isle of Skagos in the far north, where Osha has taken Rickon to hide.  This is also in the books where the phrase “the North remembers” appears, whereas it popped up in tonight’s episode with a servant speaking to Sansa when she arrives back in Winterfell.  I desperately want the Manderly speech to happen in the TV show, but I am beginning to think it won’t happen, especially since we have yet to see Lord Manderly, unless they cast him for Season Six.  I want to see Rickon, Osha and Shaggydog return to the North, and if Shaggydog can turn a few Bolton men into hamburger that would be icing on the cake.  Direwolves for the win.

Even if we have not seen the Manderlys or White Harbor, we have seen Rickon and Osha and Shaggydog, and of course Ser Davos.  So it may be someone else telling Ser Davos to fetch Rickon, but I think that will still happen, just not sure when, since it happens so late in Book Five and in White Harbor.  The actual rescue will be in Winds of Winter, so it will also most likely happen in Season Six. But that scene, in my mind, is critical, especially for this part from Lord Manderly’s speech in Book Five:

Roose Bolton has Lord Eddard’s daughter. To thwart him White Harbor must have Ned’s son … and the direwolf. The wolf will prove the boy is who we say he is, should the Dreadfort attempt to deny him. That is my price, Lord Davos. Smuggle me back my liege lord, and I will take Stannis Baratheon as my king.

Wouldn’t it be cool if they introduced the Manderlys then, as new characters on the show?

I can dream, anyway.

-Geoff

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