Game of Thrones Almost Gave Stannis a Much More Remorseful Death Scene

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

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.

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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:

BRIENNE

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.]

BRIENNE

You murdered him? With blood magic?

[Stannis nods.]

STANNIS

I did.

BRIENNE

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.]

BRIENNE

Do you have any last words?

[Stannis considers.]

STANNIS: Do you believe in the life to come?

[Brienne nods]

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.

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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?

[Watchers on the Wall]

Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.

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DISCUSSION

I think it works much better for him to just say “Go on, do your duty,” if you think about who Stannis is - resolute a lawful-neutral character.

First and foremost, Stannis, in book and tv show, is a cold stickler for the rules. He acknowledges that Davos saved the day at the seige of Storm’s End by smuggling supplies into the beseiged castle, and so Stannis spares him and raises him to a knighthood. But Davos was also an outlaw and must be punished not matter how much good he may have done. Those are the rules, no matter how distasteful they may be.

So, coldly, pragmatically, dutifully, Stannis takes Davos’ fingers.

He raises an army against Renly not because of personal desire for the throne, but because the law and tradition state that he, Stannis, is the rightful heir. Those are the rules, no matter how inconvenient they may be.

So he coldly, pragmatically, dutifully, wages war on his brother.

This characteristic is shown again and again, even when killing his daughter. Here we see just how much Stannis is bound by whichever set of laws he perceives to be right and correct, regardless of convenience or even personal loss. Having accepted The Red God, one must accept his rules, and if the Red God demands sacrifice then coldly, pragmatically.... you get the picture.

The struggle for Stannis to go on like this, and perform as a lawful leader despite the inner torture it causes is brilliantly portrayed by Stephen Dillane.

So at the end, when faced with a chance to perhaps mitigate some of his actions with flowery words or apologies he does neither. Nor does he curse or rail against his executioner.

He coldly, pragmatically acknowledges and owns his actions, and he acknowledges that Brienne is acting in accordance with the law.

Those five words are so powerful because they mean so many things - they are acknowledging Brienne’s right to take action, they are the proud last words of a defeated king and they are the mantra by which Stannis has lived his entire life.