Big shocker: turns out Stannis Baratheon felt really bad about slaughtering a bunch of his family members on Game of Thrones and was certain he would go to hell for it, as shown in some recently excised dialogue from his season five death scene. Good, because sacrificing a child to a fire god is a pretty awful thing.
A recent Reddit post shared some interesting tidbits from the original script for the episode “Mother’s Mercy.” The script, first revealed before the Emmys about two years ago, included some unused dialogue between King Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie). It’s the moment when Brienne finds Stannis after his humiliating defeat at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. As he’s slowly bleeding out, Brienne prepares to fulfill her sworn oath to avenge Renly Baratheon’s death.
In the televised version, when Brienne asks if Stannis has any final words, he simply responds, “Go on, do your duty.” It’s a powerful moment that, largely thanks to the actor, manages to convey his final regrets as he consents to his fate. However, that’s not how it was set to go down. In the script version, he was a lot more remorseful, apologetic, and resigned to his shitty afterlife. Here’s the original dialogue:
I was Kingsguard to Renly Baratheon. I was there when he was murdered by a shadow with your face.
[Stannis was not expecting this confrontation today, but fuck it, why not.]
You murdered him? With blood magic?
In the name of Renly of the House Baratheon, first of his name, rightful King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and protector of the realm, I, Brienne of Tarth, sentence you to die.
[Stannis nods. He’s ready.]
Do you have any last words?
STANNIS: Do you believe in the life to come?
STANNIS: I don’t. But if I’m wrong, and you’re right… tell Renly I’m sorry when you get there. I don’t imagine I’ll see him wherever I’m going. (beat) And my daughter. Tell her… tell her…
[‘Sorry’ doesn’t even begin to cover what he feels about Shireen. The thought of it brings tears to his eyes, and he’s not going to die weeping in front of a woman he doesn’t know.
Stannis stares up at her.]
STANNIS: Go on, do your duty.
[Brienne raises her sword and brings it down with a mighty swing.]
It’s kind of interesting, because there’s really never been a clear portrait of heaven or hell in HBO’s Game of Thrones, particularly for R’hllor, i.e. the Red Faith that Stannis Baratheon and Melisandre worship. In the books, there’s a bit more explanation of the afterlife. For example, the Faith of the Seven preaches the existence of seven heavens and seven hells, and the Drowned Faith has a Valhalla-like realm where its fighters can drink and reminisce about the good old days of pillaging.
As of now, R’hllor is the only ASOIAF religion that’s vague on discussions of the afterlife. Author George R.R. Martin previously said the Red Faith is a dualistic faith, like Zoroastrianism, centered around an eternal fight between the Lord of Light and the Great Other, who could drag people into an eternal night. Is that R’hllor’s allegory for hell? Possibly, but it’s still pretty unclear. Either way, Stannis makes it clear that he doesn’t believe in any of it.
All of that said, the showrunners definitely made the right choice taking out Stannis’ final apologies. They weren’t necessary. The actor did an amazing job at conveying his final regrets through his expression and mannerisms alone. We didn’t need a reminder that he felt bad about sacrificing his daughter to the Lord of Light. Although, I will say, it was nice to hear him say “sorry” about having Melisandre assassinate his brother via vagina smoke monster. Seriously, what the hell, man?