Damn you, Game of Thrones.
Seriously, we could just leave it at that and be perfectly satisfied. If you haven’t seen the latest episode of Game of Thrones then you’d best be on your way. We’re heading into SPOILER country.
If you’ll recall, in Season 3 the youngest Stark, Rickon (Art Parkison), was sent to hide out with his family’s loyal bannermen, the Umbers, by his older brother Bran (Isaac Hemspstead Wright). This was after the infamous Red Wedding when all of Westeros was hunting the Stark children down as they were now the heirs to Winterfell, arguably one of the most strategic strongholds after King’s Landing. Apparently the Umbers did their job so well that we haven’t heard hide nor hair of young Rickon since. Afraid he’d gone the way of poor Gendry (Joe Dempsie), King Robert’s bastard who escaped Dragonstone in a wee boat never to be heard from again, we wondered if we’d ever hear how the poor little lad had fared without his parents and older siblings to protect him. He did have Shaggydog and Osha (Natalia Tena), the fiercely loyal Wildling with him, so that was some consolation, but she hadn’t been heard from either.
Enter Season 6. Not only have we seen Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) escape the clutches of her vile and sadistic husband, Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), who now lords over Winterfell, but we saw the return of Bran after being absent since Season 4. Additionally we saw poor Arya (Maisie Williams) finally regain her sight and Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) has been resurrected. Hallelujah! The Starks are prime for taking their lives back after years of torment and horrors.
Not so fast, said the evil, duplicitous writers.
No sooner had we cheered Sansa’s escape did Rickon return–as a prisoner exchange to Ramsay Bolton. As if that wasn’t bad enough they tossed Osha in as a bonus. The cherry on top came when Ramsay required proof that this was, in fact, the long sought-after Stark son. Smalljon Umber (Dean S. Jagger), now Lord Umber, obliged by unceremoniously heaving the head of Rickon’s direwolf, Shaggydog, on the table.
The Hollywood Reporter was lucky enough to speak with Parkinson on what we can expect now that the youngest Stark has returned and what he feels about approaching his character in a such a different way.
“It was definitely more of an independent direction. He wasn’t really with his brother anymore. It’s just him and Osha. I think it’s great. It was a very new, feral Rickon. He’s very strong-willed. After the death of his father, I think he became very independent and very angry. I think Rickon is a little bit more mature now. He’s been away for quite a long time at this point. I think he’s a bit more independent and stronger-willed.”
As for his recent turn of events as the newest prisoner of Ramsay Bolton in Winterfell, Parkinson was as tight-lipped as any true Game of Thrones cast member should be:
“At the moment, I’m not able to say too much about that. (Laughs) But it’s an intense relationship. Rickon has a lot of fight in him, so he’s someone who will stand up for himself and try as hard as he can against him. [Iwan Rheon] is brilliant. It’s great whenever you have someone you’re able to work off of, someone who’s so intimidating staring down at you. It really gets you into the mind-set of Rickon.”
Of course the biggest tragedy in all of this is poor Shaggydog, now the third direwolf to die. While we can’t say exactly how Ned Stark (Sean Bean) dispatched poor Lady in Season 1, we do know that Grey Wind was beheaded in Season 3 just like poor Shaggydog now in Season 6. Honestly, this shit has to stop. Parkinson, however, sees there may actually be some benefit to Rickon now that he doesn’t have his loyal wolf with him:
“I think he’s a lot more independent. He sort of has to step up to the mark without Shaggydog. It’s going to be a very, very different Rickon.”
It’s still horrible no matter how you slice it. And while many fans theorize that this is all just part of an elaborate plan to overthrow Ramsay, let’s be serious. Whenever Game of Thrones has the chance to torment Starks it simply cannot resist. After six seasons you’d think we’d stop getting our hopes up. Freaking eternal optimists (read: suckers), the lot of us.
Now we wait with baited breath to see just what nightmares Winterfell will hold for Rickon. Let us pray to the old gods and the new that Jon Snow has vengeance in his heart. It’s time for the Starks to take back what’s theirs.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays on HBO.
Images via HBO