It’s been almost half a year since the end of Game of Thrones— always a traumatic time in which we often part with well-loved characters. However, some fans of a major character from Season Five of the award winning show are only experiencing a sense of bereavement now, thanks to a great deal of ambiguity on the part of the usually brutally forth-with show. For members the rabid Stannis Baratheon fan-base, the summer has been turgid with a strong sense of denial built on the crumbling foundation of a fantasy series long awaiting its last installment, and a quick cut of the camera. For others, the summer was simply a long, miserable season awaiting what they already knew to be the truth. (To be fair, some people were so hot and bothered by the death of Jon Snow that the demise of another king was a small matter, by the time the credits rolled). In the end, however, HBO’s Game of Thrones has continued it’s tradition of breaking hearts, with it’s recent confirmation that Stannis Baratheon is indeed dead, at the hands of Brienne of Tarth.
Game of Thrones is not really a fan of subtlely– in fact the show rarely leaves anything to the imagination, whether it be a lascivious moment of passion set in a brothel, an extended moment of agonizing torture in some bastard’s basement, a nauseatingly non consensual rape scene (but which one to choose from?), the brutal murder of a king, his pregnant wife and his mother at a wedding… or, well you get the idea. At any rate, after upsetting sensitive viewers everywhere for years with it’s R-rated content, many were confused when HBO opted not to depict the death of Stannis Baratheon onscreen. Writers of the show stated after the release of the season finale which showed Brienne of Tarth swinging her sword at a defeated Stannis, but never actually delivering her blow, that they simply did not show Stannis’ death because it would be “gratuitous.” Gratuitous? Honestly, we had just recovered from watching Sans Stark get raped, and Stannis burn his own daughter alive…needless to say not everyone took the “gratuitous” argument too seriously. For goodness’s sake, the scene in question cut directly from Brienne supposedly killing Stannis to Ramsay Bolton savagely stabbing Baratheon bannermen as they lay dying in the bloody snow. It was a little difficult to truly believe that Game of Thrones was too concerned about being overly violent.
The season ended, Stannis’ death remained unsure, and quite often ignored in favor of Jon Snow’s bloody demise. Fans of Stannis (of which there are a great quantity) remained surprisingly hopeful. Afterall, Stannis remains very much alive in George R.R. Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire upon which the show is based. Moreover, it just seemed wrong– strange that a character we had followed for so many season would simply be offed in such a trivial manner. After all, Stannis was one of the main contestants for the Iron Throne. Surely, if he were to die, his demise would take a far more central role in the narrative, similar to the Red Wedding, or Joffrey’s death. Brienne must have had second thoughts! Perhaps Podrick Payne intervened! Perhaps even Stannis’ very own Lord of Light, R’hllor stepped in and saved Stannis from his untimely fate! As long as Stannis’ death remained conveniently off screen and ambiguous, hopeful fan theories flourished.
Sadly, for those who spent the summer looking forward to Stephen Dillane reprising his role as the “one true king of Westeros,” it was not to be. Earlier this week, one of the main editors for the Game of Thrones news site, “Watchers on the Wall” posted a picture of an official HBO booklet entitled Game of Thrones: The Noble Houses of Westeros to Twitter. The pictured quote laid Stannis’ fate to rest once and for all: “Stannis was killed outside of Winterfell by Brienne of Tarth who wished to avenge Renly’s death.” So, it appears from official HBO merchandise that Stannis is officially dead. After months of mystery, for better or for worse, we know know for certain that another king has learned all too well the meaning of “Valar Morghulis.” It is Game of Thrones, after all– did we really expect a happy ending?