SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS Since we heard something about Sophie Turner filming scenes at the Winterfell set for S6, an idea’s been circulating among my fellow Throners: that Sansa and Theon might hide from Ramsay by going back inside Winterfell, like Bran and Rickon went back into the castle to hide from Theon back in S2. That’s the theory I’m choosing to talk about now.
First off, I’ll get this much out of the way: I don’t like this idea. I think it would be emotionally unsatisfying and structurally weird to have them sneak back into the castle after that emotionally wrenching image of them jumping off the wall, possibly to their deaths, to escape the castle. They were desperate enough to attempt suicide to get away from Ramsay, and then they go sneaking back into the castle that has Ramsay in it? The castle where Ramsay has people following his orders? I’m not saying it can’t happen, I’m just saying it’s a tough sell.
With that out of the way, I want to talk about the differences between Bran and Rickon’s predicament with Theon, and Sansa and Theon’s predicament with Ramsay.
The first difference is that Theon did not run the castle the way the Boltons do. He wasn’t exactly known for being merciful or gentle with his new subjects, but he didn’t flay anyone. He gave quick deaths. He was on a power trip, but he was not a sadist. Whereas, we’ve seen what Ramsay does to servants who displease him, especially who displease him by interfering with his access to his pretty Stark: remember the kindly old servant woman who told Sansa to light the candle in the Broken Tower? We can safely assume the other servants saw what he did to her, and they don’t want to end up the same way.
Speaking of which: servants. Most of the people who live in a castle are not lords and ladies and their noble children, or knights and advisors. Most of the people filling up the castle are servants. Lords and ladies are able to enjoy such a comfortable way of life because they have lots of common-born people around them, taking care of their lords and ladies’ every need and generally keeping the place running smoothly.
Sansa isn’t used to living without servants. She has always had people to do nice things like bring her meals (and, out of sight, to prepare the food), change her bed linens, run her bath, brush her hair, wash her clothes, trim her nails, and so forth. She’s never lived independently, but having servants isn’t always a privilege. They can also be part of the system that keeps her prisoner. When she lived at the Red Keep, Shae was her friend, but she also had another handmaid who informed on her to Cersei, which is exactly what the maid was hired to do. Sansa has a tricky relationship with servants: she doesn’t know how to live without them, but she can’t entirely trust them, and she’s recently seen one of them flayed for being too loyal to her. Most of the servants at Winterfell have been there all their lives, they prefer the Starks to the Boltons, and they want Sansa to be okay, but they don’t want to help her nearly as much as they want to avoid Ramsay’s knives. I’ll bet she understands this dynamic, and she has to be very careful about asking Winterfell’s servants to hide her from Ramsay. Theon may be somewhat less conspicuous, but still, I suspect most of the servants know who he is, and they know Ramsay wants to keep him under control. So, partly the difference is that the balance of pressures on Sansa and Theon right now is very different from the pressures on Bran and Rickon and their peeps when Theon was in charge.
Remember how the little lords weren’t alone? The boys had Hodor, Osha, and the direwolves. When they snuck back into Winterfell, Osha was in charge of going to the kitchens to make sure the little lords didn’t go hungry. She knew her way around the kitchens, she was acquainted with the other servants, and she knew how to evade the Ironborn. Osha is the one who makes all the difference. Bran and Rickon were able to stay alive in Winterfell as long as they did because they had Osha looking after them.
Sansa and Theon don’t have an Osha with them. They’re on their own. It would be a lot more difficult for them to secure sufficient food per day, and a safe place to sleep, without attracting the notice of someone who would give them back to Ramsay. It doesn’t have to be impossible for them to do so. But if they do hide out in Winterfell, these are the factors the show will need to explain.