Hi this is a post about Game of Thrones. Yes, it has been 4 actual years since the last post. What? I need to get this down.
The world of A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones fandom teems with theories. I have done a small amount of googling this evening and I don’t think this one is out there. OK so it is almost certainly out there somewhere, but you know.
The theory: Ramsay Bolton (nee Snow) is a hero. I’d like to posit that the long-term narrative for Ramsay is that he will have a key role to play in tackling the invasion of the White Walkers. Moreover, the manner in which he does this may force us to reappraise his character, bringing him up from his current most-hated status to a new level where he’s either liked under certain circumstances or at least held in grudging respect.
The controversy: especially in Game of Thrones (the TV series), where he gets proportionally a lot more attention than he does in the books, Ramsay is one of the most reviled characters in the whole series. With good reason: we dislike him as a character because he does objectively bad things to other characters we tend to sympathise with; and we dislike him in a more abstract way because he seems like bad storytelling. He has none of the nuance that most of the other characters on the show have: he is just bad bad bad, no ambiguity, no real rationale for his behaviour. For the former reason it would be shocking and hard to believe were he to turn out to serve a good purpose. But for the latter reason, I think he has to.
The rationale: as noted above, just about every character in this world is painted in a shade of grey. Ned Stark was noble but stubborn and short-sighted. Robb was bold but foolish and impetuous. Daenerys is dazzlingly brilliant at seizing power but kind of directionless when holding it. More interesting, if you’ve been reading and/or watching since the beginning you might recall despising Jaime and Cersei Lannister early on, but kind of warming to them later. Sure, they are still pretty unsavoury what with the incest, but George RR Martin and the TV showrunners Benioff and Weiss (along with the cast etc) have done a tremendous amount of work to bring us round to sympathising with Jaime (especially) and Cersei. The same goes for other bad-seeming characters like the Hound. You might still argue that this softening doesn’t happen with everyone: there are some pretty unredeemed characters around the place. Joffrey, Gregor Clegane… But the former was a spoilt boy who never got a chance to grow up, while the latter was a soldier, a tool that others used to harm their enemies rather than a character in his own right. Both are dead, while Ramsay lives smirkily on. Broadly speaking, this series does not invest time and effort in one-note characters; hence, I can’t believe that evil is all there is to Ramsay.
Moreover, as the Warden of the North, Ramsay is actually the nobleman who currently has the greatest responsibility of any of them to pay attention to the White Walker threat. He holds Winterfell, a castle-town that will swiftly become the safest place in the North once the Wall comes down (come on, of course it will. Just hope the TV people have the effects budget for it).
The counter-rationale: so as noted a couple of characters – especially Joffrey – seem to have been allowed to be unambiguously bad. That could be true of Ramsay as well. But more worryingly in my view, in the TV world at least, the timing doesn’t look right. Jon and Sansa are off raising an army to attack the Boltons right now, and there are still 2 and a half seasons to go on the show. Considering that the Wall probably won’t come down until the end of the penultimate season, that’s a long time for such tension to be brewing in the North without anyone major getting killed, while a proper White Walker invasion seems to be the only thing that could possibly trigger Ramsay rethinking his dastardly ways. So I’m struggling to think of how this transformation will take place. But I end up thinking it must do, because it makes so little sense for the show to invest so much time in simply establishing a bad person’s evilness.
I reckon we have a lot more to see of Ramsay and it’s gonna (eventually) be surprising in a good way, not in a goddammit I wish I looked away way.