MANDATORY SPOILER WARNING
Before we begin, in case the title didn’t warn you already: SPOILERS AHEAD. This article discusses a theory pertaining to the faith of the One True King of Westeros, Stannis Baratheon following the Season 5 Finale.
The Battle Of Winterfell
When we last saw Stannis, he had lost many of his followers, both in the show and in real life, following the sacrifice of his daughter Shireen to the Red God.
His army had been crushed by the Bolton Forces in the Battle of Winterfell (A Battle that has yet to happen in “The Winds Of Winter”, the long awaited 6th book in the series).
One look below and it’s clear that one does not need to be an expert military strategist to understand that Stannis’ Army was doomed from this point on
With his army defeated, Stannis somehow survives, but is left injured at the leg before finishing two wandering Bolton soldiers himself. He then chooses to rest by a tree, only to be faced by Brienne of Tarth, which he mistakes at first for a Bolton soldier
Brienne is quick to let him know she doesn’t fight for the Boltons, but rather, used to be Kingsguard for his younger brother Renly during the War of Five Kings (Season and Book 2).
She accuses him of murdering his brother, her King; crimes for which he confesses to. Brienne then releases her Valyrian Steel Sword Oathkeeper from its sheath, only to sentence Stannis:
At this point, Stannis speaks and acts the way only Stannis would. True to his duty, something that always defined the character, he does not plea for forgiveness nor mercy. He is aware that each man (or woman in this case) has a duty and Brienne’s to his younger brother Renly is no different. His response is one worthy of Stannis the Mannis himself:
But What Is Brienne’s Duty?
Now THIS is where things get interesting: Stannis tells Brienne to “Do Her Duty!”, followed by a cut straight to Brienne’s reaction here:
This doesn’t look like the face of a Kingsguard that finally gets to avenge her fallen king. It rather looks like someone is realizing she may have made a (yet another) mistake.
“Do Your Duty” Stannis tells her. This is where she probably realizes, by the reaction she gives, that her “Duty” was no longer to Avenge Renly, but rather to watch over and protect Sansa Stark, held captive at Winterfell.
Remember, she had crossed paths with Sansa Stark earlier in the season, and she was accompanied by Petr Baelish at the Inn at the Crossroads. Littlefinger didn’t hold his tongue when it came to remind Brienne of her poor record as a Knight. “She swore to protect Renly. She Failed! She swore to protect your mother. She Failed”
How must Brienne feel at this exact moment, when she realizes that her thirst for vengeance got her distracted from her actual duty. Sansa is now left unguarded and unwatched in Winterfell (at least from her perspective). Littlefinger reminded her of her first 2 failures, and here lies, injured and bloodied, Stannis Baratheon unconsciously informing her of yet another failure to add to her record as a knight.
In follows this shot of her angrily swinging Oathkeeper at the One True King.
Which then cuts to Ramsey Snow finishing off any remaining soldiers loyal to Stannis Baratheon. Now if one thing was always clear in Game of Thrones, is that we always get to see the Body, the corpse if you will, of any major character that gets killed. The director of the episode himself, David Nutter, even mentioned that he was instructed to shoot and have this particular death scene as is. “Showing it would have felt gratuitous” he even officially revealed.
Yeah, But Why Leave Stannis Alive Then?
What if, instead, Brienne, after realizing yet another mistake she made, were to have left Stannis alive? Maybe even use him for a potential prisoner’s exchange with the Boltons at the gates of Winterfell? (Wait till her and Ramsey find out what happened to Sansa during the Battle)
Again, this is just a theory. Fans of the One True King can only hope at this point…..
Holding out hope!
Could be leaving Stannis alive because he’s going to help Brienne kill Roose and Ramsay. Maybe the Wildlings will head south to take care of that nasty Bolton fellow in loving memory of Jon Snow, and Stannis and Brienne can team up with them to take Winterfell anyway.