In Sunday’s ‘Game of Thrones’ episode, season five continued with religious warfare, a first look at the Dornish Sand Snakes, and an epic concluding scene in Meeren.
But one of the best scenes came from a tender father-daughter moment between Stannis Baratheon and his daughter, Shireen, which didn’t occur in the books.
Though her face is disfigured with greyscale, a normally deadly and highly contagious disease, Shireen manages to be one of the sweetest and most likeable characters on the show.
In a world where everyone seems to have enemies, Shireen stays in the sweet land of neutrality. She sees the Wildlings as just another group of people, and even teaches Gilly how to read.
Stannis is a hardened man, one who views his claim to the throne as the only just and fair outcome of this war. He rarely displays emotions other than annoyance and anger.
In this episode, we see Shireen wander into his chambers and, after some small talk, ask a heartbreaking question.
“Are you ashamed of me, father?”
Stannis pauses, and then tells her the story of how she came to have greyscale. A Dornish trader brought goods to the castle to sell, and among them was a small wooden doll dressed in Baratheon colours. Stannis, a new father, gave it to his only child — Shireen. But it was diseased, and by the time they realised what the doll carried, it was too late.
“I was told you would die, or worse, the Greyscale would go slow and you’d grow just enough to know the world before taking it away from you. Everyone advised me to send you to the ruins of Valyria to live out your short life with the stone men before the sickness spread through the castle. I told them all to go to hell.”
You can hear the bitterness in his voice, the regret of ever handing that small doll to his daughter. Shireen listens with rapt attention, smiling gently at hearing how her father defended her.
“I called in every maester on this side of the world. Every healer, every apothecary. They stopped the disease and saved your life. Because you did not belong across the world with the bloody stonemen. You were the Princess Shireen of House Baratheon. And you are my daughter.”
Shireen, her eyes brimming with tears, runs to Stannis, and hugs him fiercely. After hesitating, he wraps his arms around her in return.
This is one of the better scenes we’ve had so far this season, and it is also one that was not sourced from the books, which could be significant. Why did the show writers decide that an emotional scene between Stannis and Shireen was necessary character development?
It could mean bad news for Shireen.
Fans of “Game of Thrones” should be well-accustomed to untimely deaths of their favourite characters by now. Generally speaking, emotionally uplifting moments are far and few between in the series.
Here’s the evidence that we have so far that Shireen may be in danger:
Back in season four, when Stannis was preparing to leave Dragonstone and head for The Wall, there was contention between Stannis and his wife, Selyse, on whether or not Shireen should come with them. In episode seven, titled “Mockingbird,” there is a significant scene between Selyse and Lady Melisandre.
Selyse expresses her doubt to Melisandre about Shireen joining them, stating that her daughter doubts the existence of the Lord of the Light. Melisandre says that she must come, and elaborates when Selyse seems confused.
“You are strong enough to look into the Lords light and see his truth for yourself. However harsh it is, however hard it is for us to understand. You don’t need my help, but I will need yours soon. When we set sail, your daughter must be with us. The Lord needs her.”
Now, that can’t be good. What would the Lord of Light, and therefore Melisandre, need from Shireen?
Flash forward to Sunday’s episode, and there is a scene when Selyse is apologizing to Stannis for never birthing him a son, and only giving him a disfigured daughter. Melisandre overhears, and interjects by saying that the Lord of Light does not care about Shireen’s affliction.
“Her father is the lord’s chosen King, and her father’s blood runs through her veins,” Melisandre said to Selyse, and they exchange a loaded look.
The last time king’s blood was a hot topic with Melisandre was during season three, when she tracked down Gendry (Robert Baratheon’s bastard) and brought him to Stannis. Her plan was to sacrifice him, since he has Baratheon blood, in order to bring favour from the Lord of Light.
She tied him down, and used leeches to draw his blood. Stannis then threw the three leeches into a fire, stating the name of each of his enemies as he did – “The usurper Robb Stark, the usurper Balon Greyjoy, the usurper Joffrey Baratheon.”
Two of those three “kings” are now dead – and Melisandre attributes this to her blood-magic leech spell. Stannis agreed to have Gendry sacrificed for the sake of a more powerful spell, but Davos helped him escape before their execution could be carried out.
So now we have Shireen, chalk full of her father’s blood, and Melisandre has emphasised to Selyse that the Lord of Light “needs” her daughter. Selyse is a fanatic of the religion, and seems to completely rely on Melisandre for guidance.
It’s very possible that the touching scene where Stannis emphasises his love and defensive nature towards Shireen is hinting at a larger conflict to come.
We can only hope that if the time comes when Melisandre and Selyse believe it is necessary to sacrifice Shireen, or harm her in the name of their Lord, that Stannis will be able to protect her.
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