Game of Skepticism: Cliffhangers That Should Not Be Cliffhangers

I saw this Tweet earlier today, from Sue at Watchers, reminding us that there are still Game of Thrones fans who believe Stannis Baratheon didn’t really die in the finale:

And just today, Joanna Robinson has a new article on the matter:

This isn’t the first time HBO has put their official stamp on Stannis’s death. When the finale first aired, the episode’s director David Nutter said the only reason they cut away from showing Stannis losing his head was that “it would have been gratuitous. You really got a sense that Stannis had nothing else to live for. Brienne’s lifelong mission had come to an end. It’s a situation in which Stannis was ready to die and prepared to die.” Yes, O.K., but coming from a show that doesn’t exactly have a history of being delicate when it comes to, well, anything, this “gratuitous” argument didn’t necessarily stick.

But Game of Thrones made their position clear again when they commissioned this “Beautiful Death” artwork from digital marketing agency 360i and artist Robert Ball for the Season 5 finale. Billed as “the official episode-by-episode guide to the most iconic deaths in the realm,” this tableau focused on the end of the legitimate Baratheon blood line. (Not a drop in Tommen, is there? It’s up to you, Gendry!)

Some of you might remember that I was not convinced, initially, of King Stannis’s death. I thought they’d cut away from him at the last second for a reason other than blah blah something something “gratuitous” whatever. But when David Nutter told us the Rightful King was really dead, I took his word for it.

And now there’s a book coming out, which Sue the Fury is reading for review, that says in very clear terms that King Stannis was killed by Brienne of Tarth outside of Winterfell. So this should answer the question, yes?

Except I don’t think it will. If some fans didn’t believe the episode (*raises hand*), AND didn’t believe the director, AND didn’t believe it from the artwork, they probably won’t believe it from a new book.

Put in context, I can see why some still aren’t convinced. There have been other deaths on the show that we’re not taking seriously, and some of them with better reason than others. The obvious one is Jon Snow; he seemed very dead in the last frame of the finale, and yet many of us were quite sure, before the first sighting of Kit Harington in Belfast this summer, that he wouldn’t stay dead. This is because some of us have read the books, and we know things about Jon Snow that have yet to be confirmed in the TV version. And we’ve heard interesting things from GRRM. Jon can’t stay dead; he has business to take care of. Another highly uncertain death is the Hound; we’ve been unconvinced of Sandor Clegane’s death because there are clues to his survival in the fourth book. By that logic, one could make a similar case for Stannis having survived the finale.

And then there’s Myrcella, whose death is also considered by some to be a cliffhanger. That’s another one where I say: uh, folks, there’s no question mark on this one. That girl is well and truly dead. This image didn’t make it into the episode, but it got online:

That's a very dead Myrcella slumped on the floor in Jaime's arms.

That’s a very dead Myrcella slumped on the floor in Jaime’s arms. Jaime wouldn’t look so upset if she still had a pulse.

Anyway. We have book-based reasons to think Jon Snow will come back (and now we have filming evidence), and we also have book-based reasons to think Sandor Clegane didn’t really die, so perhaps there’s also a case to be made that Stannis can’t be done just yet?

I never felt that way, though. I said during early-S5 that “I won’t shed any tears when he dies, but…” back when I was telling myself Brienne wouldn’t really be the one to kill him. Surely that shit was beneath her? (*sad sigh*) But I knew it was a matter of when and how he died, not if. And I’m also aware that Stannis is still alive as of the beginning of Book 6, but there’s no way he’ll live to see the end of Book 7. He is playing the game of thrones, and he is not winning. If the Northern winter doesn’t destroy him, and the White Walkers don’t finish him off, Dany and her dragons will. He’s not among the characters who’ll make it to the end. Shireen and Selyse are still alive in the books, too, but they won’t stay that way. The Baratheons are fucking screwed. By the end there’ll be nothing left of them except a few of Robert’s bastards, and they will not be interested in playing the game.

But, seriously, I think this is the difference between those of us who accept Stannis is dead, and those who keep finding ways to argue he still lives: it’s a confusion of ought with is. Whereas I was never invested in Stannis and never assumed he’d be among the survivors at the end.

And it should be noted that they’ve been filming S6 for months, and so far there’s been no sign of Stephen Dillane anywhere near the production.