Regular readers and/or friends and/or family and/or random people I meet on the street (haha, j/k, I never strike up conversations with people I don’t know) will know that I am something of a hardcore megafan of Game of Thrones’ Stannis Baratheon. He’s a grumpy asshole trying his best to operate within a fucked up system, AND I LOVE HIM.
Naturally, I have some thoughts about last Sunday’s episode. HOLD ONTO YOUR BUTTS. Spoilers follow.
First, a confession: I am not caught up on this season of Game of Thrones, like, at all. In fact, before last night, I had only watched the season premiere. I used to have to watch each episode as they aired so I could write about them the next day, but now I do not. I have discovered that I am physically incapable of staying caught up on shows if I am not in some way being paid for doing so.
But during and shortly after “The Dance of Dragons,” I got no fewer than three texts from people who know of my Stannis love asking if I’d seen “the episode.” I knew some sort of major shit had gone down. I went through life on Monday feeling like everyone knew my dog had died except me. So episode order be damned—after I got home, I mentally and emotionally fortified myself, logged into my parents’ HBO Go account, and watched the episode.
WHAT THE FUCK. STANNIS SACRIFICES HIS DAUGHTER. HE BURNS HIS DAUGHTER ALIVE. WHAT THE FUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK. SHIREEN NOOOOOOOOOO.
I suspected that this would happen. 95% sure. I’d read some speculation. And the way the show, which has a (necessary) habit of curtailing characters and plotlines, was giving Shireen extra prominence was suspicious to say the least. And the episode wasn’t exactly subtle, what with the way Stannis jumped at the chance to get Davos out of town so he could burn his own daughter alive without opposition, oh holy shit, what the fuck?
And Davos knew, too. He knew something was up. To use the parlance of the times:
Davos: Hoe don’t do it.
Stannis: *burns his daughter at the stake*
Davos: OH MY GOD.
I’m usually pretty liberal when it comes to book-to-show changes—TV is its own medium with its own requirements—but fuck this to Mars and back. You come into my house. YOU RUIN MY FAVORITE CHARACTER. BY HAVING HIM SACRIFICE HIS DAUGHTER. How can he possibly come back from that? He can’t. It’s not even the same fucking character anymore. Via Forbes (SEE GAME OF THRONES, FUCKING FORBES IS INTO YOUR SHIT):
All I can say, to HBO and to the showrunners, is good grief what a monstrosity of a writing decision. What a horrible, no-good, very bad, infuriating way to ruin Stannis as a character and to twist the events of these stories beyond recognition in such a grotesque manner. It’s one thing to get rid of Jeyne Poole and place Sansa in her plight instead—at least it furthers the story of Sansa and saves a bit character from a horrible fate.
But killing off Shireen this way absolutely decimates Stannis as a character (the show already ruined Barristan Selmy, and now it’s ruined Stannis, too.) It renders his passionate, moving speech to his daughter meaningless. It makes him not so much a hard-to-like good guy struggling against the villains, but a villain himself and one of the worst we’ve seen. Even the ever-deplorable Cersei would never stoop so low. Even Roose Bolton treats his horrible, sadistic son better than this.
It’s also a bait-and-switch. We finally see Stannis’s softer side, we finally warm a bit to his character, and then he kills his daughter. It’s terrible storytelling. Surprisingly bad.
Book!Stannis loves his daughter. He makes sure she’s educated, because she’s his fucking heir. He never mindlessly guzzled Melisandre’s Kool-Aid to the point that he’d just sacrifice his only child and heir, oh sure, worth a shot, I guess that might work, LOLOL I’m a fucking idiot. Shireen dies, and fucking Jorah gets to live?
The only positive thing I’m willing to say is God bless Stephen Dillane and his acting choices, because he killed it here. The whole Stannis-decides-to-sacrifice-his-daughter thing is stupid and I hate it (in case you couldn’t tell), but Dillane sold Stannis’ restrained inner turmoil. This is a man who is never going to forgive himself, just as we won’t forgive him.
Fuck everything else. This didn’t happen. Shireen and Sansa are chilling in the Vale eating lemon cakes. I WILL HEAR NOTHING TO THE CONTRARY.
To sum up: