In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. But there is middle ground, actually: the ever expanding cast of characters can be cut not only by killing people off, but also by having them disappear from the narrative, to never be found again. Now, here goes the question: does such a disappearance have to be permanent?
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the book contents, but nothing past the current story point of the TV show. Spoiler scope similar to the “Followup for non-readers” series.
“You’d have it too easy if I was around. So I’m going north, to never be heard from again”
First seen: Season 1, Episode 1
Last seen: Season 1, Episode 3
Last action: Went beyond the Wall and never came back
In the books: No information
For a member of such an important family, he disappeared from people’s memory fairly soon. It’s one of these “Wait, what happened to this guy?” cases. His vows to the Night’s Watch remove him from the political machinations, but if by any means he came back to Castle Black, he would have been a huge influence on Jon Snow, at the very least. The books haven’t specified when did he join the Night’s Watch, but it could have been as early as in his teens. As a third son he wasn’t expected to inherit Winterfell by any means, and Starks were known to send their sons to the Wall. Perhaps the decision has been made after his elder brothers had their marriages arranged, or even after the Robert’s Rebellion – either way, we can only speculate about his past as much as about his future.
Benjen is the prime example of a missing person enigma. Even the book readers are left with speculation about his fate, and boy, is that speculation wild. Any male character his age that has apparead in the books at a later point has been considered at some point to be an alter ego of Benjen. The three most likely candidates were Coldhands (book-only character, confirmed by GRRM to NOT be Benjen), Euron Greyjoy (Theon’s uncle, hopefully will appear in the show in season 6) and Daario Naharis (who also has been believed to be Euron). All these claims are baseless and have no solid evidence pointing towards them, but considering it’s been almost 20 years since Benjen’s last written appearance, it’s not uncanny that some people went for the craziest theories. There is even a possibility that it was Benjen who had left the obsidian daggers and arrowheads at the Fist of the First Men, as the package was wrapped in a cloak of the Night’s Watch, but that’s all the evidence there is.
In the end, Benjen might be truly lost and never mentioned again. And such is the fate of rangers trailing towards the Lands of Always Winter, full of Wights and White Walkers.
Chance of reappearance: Indefinable. Book readers have no answers here, only tinfoil hat theories.
“But… but people like me! Can’t I get a cameo like Hot Pie did?”
First seen: Season 1, Episode 4
Last seen: Season 3, Episode 10
Last action: Rowing
In the books: Safe and sound, working as a smith at the Inn at the Crossroads
Gendry’s fate actually got shaken up by the show. The books have him stay with Brotherhood without Banners as their blacksmith (and knighted by lord Beric Dondarrion), and that’s how Arya leaves him. Later on he is encountered by Brienne in the Inn at the Crossroads. She notices his resemblance to Renly and actually gets saved by him from Rorge and Biter. In the show these two thugs are killed by Arya and the Hound, and Brienne goes different way with Podrick.
How did Gendry end up on Dragonstone, then? Well, he simply took over another character’s story: the one of Edric Storm, a bastard son of Robert Baratheon officially recognized by him. That storyline actually starts in A Clash of Kings (book 2), when Melisandre gives birth to a second shadow assassin and sends it after Storm’s End castellan, who had refused to hand over Edric to Stannis. The order of events in the books is reversed: first, we see the shadow assassin killing out Renly out of nowhere, and only then we learn the origin of the shadow, as Davos witnesses the second birth underneath the walls of Storm’s End.
Edric Storm is a much different character than Gendry. Young and innocent, he makes friends with his cousin Shireen, which makes it even harder for Stannis to consider letting Melisandre burn him to “awake the stone dragons”. Of course there is no sex scene with him and Melisandre, but the leeches are there. The end effect is the same: the boy is sent away by Davos, rowing, and never heard from again. So as far as Gendry’s fate is concerned, you’re free to assume he’s alive and well, and he might either show up later on if he’s needed or not at all. It’s not very likely to happen as no major character is heading towards Riverlands any time soon and in the show continuity Brotherhood without Banners sold Gendry out (something that didn’t happen in the books), but at this point Gendry is a convenient tool for the showrunners, so anything is possible.
Chance of reappearance: Slim, but possible, given the popularity of the actor within the female audience.
Brotherhood without Banners
“I’m just an unkillable vigilante with flaming sword. I guess I was too cool for this show.”
First seen: Season 3, Episode 2
Last seen: Season 3, Episode 7
Last action: Going to attack a Lannister party in the Riverlands
In the books: Still engaged in guerilla warfare
What’s not to like in Robin Hood with a cool eye patch, flaming sword and a respawn feature? Too bad the whole group of merry men hasn’t been heard of ever since Arya left them.
Season 5 seems to have moved away from the Riverlands completely, Brotherhood included. All the major characters heading there in A Feast for Crows have been redirected elsewhere, and it’s not abundantly clear if the show will be going there in season 5, or even 6. It’s difficult to say this without spoiling, but we’re running out of the book material. Yes, the Brotherhood is present in AFFC/ADWD; no, there is no guarantee they will have any impact on the future story.
There is still a fair chance of having them in one of the future seasons. Kevan Lannister came back after not two, but three seasons of absence, so anyone in this show can return. Especially if one of the last two books has a role for them to play. Most of their book development (which is a brief snapshot, but a very memorable one) can very well occur at a later time. I’d say the most important argument against their reappearance is the supernatural element – having people come back from the dead not only disturbs the “real fantasy” theme, but also goes against the biggest selling point of the show, which is “anyone can be killed”. Resurrections are not meant to be a common occurence or we’ll see this show go full Marvel.
Chance of reappearance: Depending on the whole Riverlands situation; if we ever come back to that location, we will most likely see the Brotherhood again.
“These changes to the book story make no sense!”
First seen: Season 2, Episode 2
Last seen: Season 3, Episode 10
Last action: Writing Theon off after receiving disattached member
In the books: A busy family
It was called “War of the Five Kings” for a good reason: there were three Baratheons, one Stark, and one Greyjoy, all five of them calling themselves “kings”. While we’ve seen most of the pretendents losing the race for the Iron Throne – either by getting killed or suffering heavy military loss – the fifth sovereign, lord of the Iron Islands, hasn’t met a particularly satisfying end to his story. Is he still conquering? Is he at war with Lannisters? What is his goal, exactly?
Truth is, the plot of A Song of Ice and Fire branches uncontrollably. What was at first a story of five narrators who started their story in Winterfell, half of them still at the same place afterwards, quickly turned into a heavily complicated intrigue in a dozen different locations. And in the TV format, with only ten episodes a season, cuts have to be made. Character and scene cuts are obvious, but sometimes you have to look at locations and plotlines as well, and that’s exactly what happened with the Iron Islands in season 4 and 5. The fourth book introduces two new locations: Iron Islands (Theon’s visit was rather brief) and Dorne. It seems like the showrunners have decided to limit season 5 to only one of these two, postponing the developments on the western seas indefinitely. Season 6, then? Perhaps. Problem is, with the current amount of information in AFFC, it’s impossible to determine if the Greyjoys will have a meaningful role in the endgame, as their story is mostly tons of buildup and little payoff.
Postponing the Greyjoy storyline on a such scale resulted in the gaping plot hole when a murderous armoured raider Yara Greyjoy got intimidated by a naked psychopath with knives, and the awkward scene in which she patiently waited as he opened a cage in the kennel. This interaction felt unnatural because it was shoehorned into the show so that Yara doesn’t disappear for years from the viewer’s minds, and anyone with a map of Westeros can notice how absurdly long and pointless her journey was. Yara – however they butcher her story – is still a pat of the show; the question is only about her family.
Chance of reappearance: Fairly strong. Grejyos will come back with glory or not at all.
“I’m telling you, Magikarp is the best Pokemon ever.”
First seen: Season 3, Episode 3
Last seen: Season 3, Episode 9
Last action: Attending the Red Wedding
In the books: Alive, but not very happy about the whole ordeal
While we’re at the topic of things moving in the water, let’s think back to the Tully family. The scale armour people aren’t that politically important now, but they’re still afloat and at conflict with the people currently in power over their lands.
First goes the (un)lucky groom, Edmure Tully, who is under house arrest at the Twins after his wedding turned into a bloody massacre. His lordship over Riverrun and the Trident got revoked by the Iron Throne and granted to his new father-in-law, Walder Frey. This is not definite, however, as Edmure’s uncle Brynden “Blackfish” Tully has escaped the Red Wedding and currently holds Riverrun, besieged by the Lannister forces.
I don’t think I’m spoiling anything when I say that Jaime’s destination in the books is not Dorne, but the Riverlands; specifically, the siege of Riverrun. It’s safe to say that without Jaime there, the whole plotline is likely to be cut off, and the only way to see Blackfish again is for any of the current major characters to step into the Riverlands. The book material gives us no way to determine if Riverlands could become the theather of any events in season 5 or even 6, so revisiting that location is just as possible as not coming there at all ever again. A story without revenge on Walder Frey would be disappointing, but oddly fitting in this series.
Chance of reappearance: Mediocre. It’s possible to move on with the story without seeing them ever again.
“They’re writing me out? I can act, I swear — I even got a role in Dracula Untold!”
First seen: Season 1, Episode 1
Last seen: Season 3, Episode 9
Last action: Splitting from Bran with Osha, on their way to Last Hearth
In the books: Rumoured to be on the island of Skagos
Rickon was always such a background character that he became a walking joke, with most of the show fans unable to even remember his name. It isn’t much different in the books. In fact, the split with Bran was supposed to occur fairly earlier, but the showrunners were so impressed with Osha’s actress (Natalia Tena) that they decided to have them stay with Bran just a little while longer, and GRRM himself has decided to include her character in future chapters against his primary plans.
We haven’t seen the youngest Stark since season 3, and it feels like a long parting already. Keep in mind that the show is adapting books 4 and 5 right now (which occur more or less simultaneously), and Rickon’s departure from the screen was in the second half of book 3. So in the written narrative, it’s only been half a book of time since we’ve lost track of Rickon, and it would be unwise to cross him out just yet.
Then again, if you pay attention to details, his direwolf is named Shaggydog. In case you’re not familiar with the idiom, a “shaggy dog story” is a type of joke in which an absurdly long-winded anecdote is crowned by an utterly meaningless punchline. “The joke is that there is no joke.” Lampshading this possibility, however, might be a joke on its own – at this point we might already expect George R. R. Martin to be trolling us with the Rickon subplot, so anything can happen.
Chance of reappearance: Very strong. He’s a Stark after all. I wouldn’t rule out at least having him mentioned in season 5.
Anyone else you consider missing? Let me know in the comments! I’ll be more than happy to discuss their fate and perhaps add a new section to this article.
Tune in tomorrow for the Followup series!
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