Every episode of Game of Thrones so far has been filled with incredible, adrenaline-pumping action and tons of fan payoffs. There’s so much that happens that it’s literally impossible not to immediately begin talking about (and, of course, creating theories about) every little detail that’s thrown our way.
So if you’re not yet caught up on the latest GoT episode, stop reading here or you’ll be in for some major spoilers. Here’s a little Ramsay Bolton to keep you at bay.
Okay, if you’re still reading at this point then you already know… OMG Rickon Stark (aka the littlest Stark) is back! Which would be really exciting if it weren’t for the fact that he makes his appearance as a seemingly captured hostage of Smalljon Umber who’s using him as a “gift” for (the most despised character ever) Ramsay Bolton.
For most people, seeing an Umber betray House Stark by giving baby Rickon (though now notably more grown up) as a gift was absolutely awful. Not to mention showing his slain beloved direwolf, Shaggydog, was almost too much sadness to handle. Knowing what we know about what a jerk Ramsay is and thinking that now poor Rickon (and, of course, Osha) will be at his mercy is enough to lose sleep at night.
But there’s a fan theory that’s begun circulating on Reddit that’s giving a little bit of hope. The general gist of it is this: The Umbars (including Smalljon) are still very much loyal to the Starks, despite what this move seems to imply. In fact, by risking fake loyalty, Smalljon can protect Rickon by keeping a watchful eye over him at Winterfell while better monitoring exactly what Ramsay Bolton might be up to (and thereby looking for weaknesses).
And, if you think about it, there’s a lot in this theory that makes sense. First of all, Smalljon is pretty blunt (and NSFW) about his opinions on Ramsay’s father. Secondly, he’s smart enough to know that Ramsay for sure killed his father to get into his position and doesn’t at all buy the “poisoned by our enemies” alibi. Thirdly, Smalljon refuses to kneel his loyalty — a pretty surefire sign that, if he is making a major play here — he’s doing so with as much honesty as he possibly can. And fourthly, many people are commenting that the direwolf shown could have been some random direwolf and not specifically Shaggydog. Remember that direwolves are plentiful in the North and that the Stark direwolves are huge (and usually hard to kill).
As if all these weren’t enough to consider, there are some other hard truths of this world that shouldn’t be overlooked. First of all, house loyalty is major in this world and not something that is just flippantly thrown away because of leadership changes. Robb Stark lost the loyalty of fellow bannermen with Karstarks for a very good reason — he executed one of the Lords. It would likely take more than Jon Snow (who is, in their eyes, not a true Stark) opening up the gate to some wildlings for the Stark family to lose their closest ally. And besides, if you were going to pledge your loyalty to House Bolton, why not do it before, when Roose Bolton was in charge? Why wait for his slimy son to seize control? (Unless, of course, because the son is more easily manipulated than the father… Just saying.)
Not to mention, Ramsay Bolton is himself not technically a full Bolton (though his father did eventually give him the title… you know, before his son murdered him in cold blood). So it all doesn’t quite add up that the Starks suddenly lose all loyalty in the North simply because a newcomer on the scene is a bit more unpredictable than his predecessors and some wildlings might be on their way. Plus, when Sansa was around there were plenty of people who were still whispering “the North remembers” to her whenever they could.
Or, of course, Smalljon Umber could just be rolling the dice that Ramsay will be a good leader and he is truly trying to get on his good side. In which case, don’t get any more attached to sweet Rickon Stark because (given Ramsay’s track record) he may not be with us for much longer.
Of course we prefer to believe this is just a bold, sneaky move being made by the Umbers. This is, after all, one big game. And games require bold moves and major risks. (Especially games of thrones.)