Sunday’s episode of “Game of Thrones” set up quite a lot of plot for the rest of the season, but one revelation stood out from the rest in Season 6, episode 3, “Oathkeeper.” After having a minimal impact on the show and disappearing for the entirety of Seasons 4 and 5, one character returned as perhaps the most significant chess piece on the board.
When fans think of the Stark family, characters like Arya (Maisie Williams), Sansa (Sophie Turner), Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and even Jon Snow (Kit Harington) jump to mind. However, the youngest of Ned Stark’s (Sean Bean) children, Rickon Stark (Art Parkinson), is often an afterthought, which has allowed him to fly under the radar until he was thrust headlong back into relevance on Sunday. Rickon was brought to the maniac Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) by Smalljon Umber (Dean S. Jagger) as a pledge of loyalty to the Bolton banner. With Rickon’s story now at the forefront of the events on “Game of Thrones,” it’s time for a look back on what we know about him thus far.
The last time Rickon was seen was in Season 3, where he, Bran, Osha (Natalia Tena), Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) and Hodor (Kristian Nairn) took shelter from a storm. Realizing that his journey will take him over the wall, where it’s not safe for Osha and Rickon, Bran asked them to go to Last Hearth, the home of House Umber in the North. Previously, the Umber family were loyal to Robb Stark. Fans may remember the lord of the Umbers, Greatjon (Clive Mantle) laughing with Robb after his dire wolf bit off a few of his fingers.
Rickon and Osha made it to Last Hearth, but when Greatjon died, his son Smalljon took over the family’s affairs. He tells Ramsay that he no longer wants to keep the Umbers loyal to the crippled Stark family now that Jon Snow has allowed the Wildlings to live so close to his home. He brings a captured Rickon and Osha to Ramsay, who has been on the lookout for Starks as they’re the only ones left that can challenge his claim to the North. Smalljon also went as far as to present the Boltons with the head of Rickon’s trusty dire wolf, Shaggydog. Just like that, it looks like Rickon has been betrayed and delivered to the one man that has cause to kill him … or was he?
As previously mentioned, the Umbers were loyal to House Stark for years, but with Ramsay taking bold steps to gain power recently, it's possible that the family hasn’t lost its way at all. Other than Shaggydog’s head, which Vulture notes looks a little small for a dire wolf, the only evidence that the Umbers have changed sides is Smalljon’s word. It’s entirely possible that Rickon’s presence in Winterfell is part of an elaborate ruse.
A popular theory that’s developed is that the plan is to trick Ramsay into vacating Winterfell to go deal with Jon Snow and the Wildlings. When that happens, the Umbers are in a position to vanquish the remaining Bolton forces, and just like that a Stark would sit where Starks sit, Winterfell. Is Greatjon really gone? Is Shaggydog really dead? Are the Umbers redeemable after all? Sadly only time will tell as “Game of Thrones” Season 6 continues toward some kind of climactic event in the North.