We already knew that next week’s Game of Thrones would see the return of a few Starks, with Kit Harington’s newly-resurrected Jon Snow back in action and a flashback to a young Ned Stark as he battles for his sister’s honour.
But now eagle-eyed fans have spotted a few hints in the next episode trailer (below) that might suggest that ANOTHER missing Stark could be rejoining the action after an absence of over three years – Art Parkinson’s Rickon Stark, the youngest of the family.
Confused? Well basically it all comes down to banners.
To fully pick this idea apart we have to backtrack a little and talk about House Umber. A proud northern family who supported Robb Stark in the War of the Five Kings, the Umbers appeared a few times early in the TV series (especially patriarch the Greatjon, played by Clive Mantle) until the Red Wedding put paid to Robb’s campaign.
In the books, the Wedding ended with the Greatjon as a hostage of the evil Frey family and the Umbers reluctant allies of the Boltons. However, in the TV show the Greatjon remained free (if offscreen) and his family largely disappeared from the action bar the odd reference.
So why are we bringing them up now? Well, the trailer for next week’s episode seems to suggest that the Umbers are coming back in a big way, with their chain link banner (below) streaming over a band of men visiting Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) at Winterfell after he offhandedly named them as allies in the latest episode.
Now, this is where Rickon comes in. Upon entering Winterfell in the trailer, the leader of the group (probably the Greatjon’s son Smalljon) says to Ramsay: “I've got a gift for you.” So what do you get the murderous Bolton who has everything? Socks? A world’s best son mug?
No – what Ramsay needs is a human trophy to keep the Stark-loyal northern lords in line now that his wife Sansa (Sophie Turner) has fled the coop, and the Umbers might have just the thing. You see, for the past three years they’ve probably been looking after Rickon offscreen after Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) sent him to them for safekeeping in season three (assuming Rickon made it there in one piece), and now the trailer seems to be suggesting that they’re handing him over to Ramsay.
While a little out of left field, when we think about this idea it totally makes sense – with Rickon as his captive Ramsay’s hold over the northern lords would be stronger than ever, a hostage to ensure good behavior from all including other possible foes like Sansa and Jon Snow.
In addition, Rickon’s return could tie in to other hints this year that the Starks may try and reclaim their place in society by destroying the Boltons in battle, either acting as a catalyst for Jon to leave the Night’s Watch and rescue his brother or for Sansa to finally try and reclaim Winterfell.
Then again, this could all be wishful thinking (we just want a Stark family reunion to be honest), and next week will just see the Umbers give Ramsay a lovely fruit basket. Maybe Rickon won't return, and he'll just carry on sailing on the SS Abandoned Plotlines alongside Joe Miles' Gendry and the Brotherhood Without Banners.
Whatever the truth, it’s going to be a long wait until episode three…
Game of Thrones continues on Sky Atlantic next Monday at 2am and 9.00pm