(Spoiler alert: This contains a major spoiler for the June 19 “Game of Thrones” episode, “Battle of the Bastards.” So, you know.)
Poor Rickon Stark. The youngest member of House Stark has never had anything to do except stand in the background of shots and occasionally say something whiny.
And while all the other Stark children had seemingly important parts to play in the story of “Game of Thrones” — the Starks have been at the center of the show since day one — Rickon never had any kind of cool destiny. He was just the youngest one, whom you’d generally forget existed when he wasn’t on screen.
It was always a bummer when he popped up, too, because you’d think, “Maybe this time Rickon will matter.” But, no, Rickon never mattered. The closest he came to being significant was in season 2, when Theon pretended to murder him and Bran and everybody got real sad. But we knew the sadness was mostly about Bran, who was an Important Character. Even back then we kinda knew Rickon would never be important.
Before his fake murder, Rickon had barely ever even spoken. He got to talk a bit more after he and Bran went on the run with Osha and Hodor. When Bran decided to go beyond the Wall with Jojen and Meera Reed in season 3, Rickon even got to give a little speech about how he wanted to go with them because he wanted to protect his brother Bran. It was cute, but we all knew that Rickon’s place was far away from any meaningful plot developments.
After Bran headed north, Rickon and Osha took refuge with House Umber, where they were both out of sight and out of mind for more than two seasons. They popped up again in season 6, when the new lord of House Umber decided to throw in with Ramsay Bolton, and offered up Osha and Rickon as hostages.
We got that one scene with Rickon, before he was hidden away again until this week’s “Battle of the Bastards.” Rickon was finally at the center of events, but even then they talked about him more than we saw him. Rickon is the last legitimate male heir to House Stark within reach, Sansa says, and that makes him a threat to Ramsay’s control of the North.
Finally, Rickon makes a physical appearance as Jon’s wildling army stares down Bolton forces outside Winterfell. Ramsay trotted him out like cattle, cut him free, and told him to run.
This was poor Rickon’s last moment, being used as a ploy to draw out Jon’s army and force them to abandon their battle plan. Jon went racing out to try to get Rickon before Ramsay could put an arrow through him, but of course he failed. Rickon took an arrow through the heart right as Jon reached him, and both sides charged.
If not for the late arrival of the knights of the Vale, Ramsay’s gambit with Rickon would have cost Jon’s forces the battle. It cost a lot of lives even so. Enough that Rickon’s death felt like an afterthought even though it was probably the most important according to the class system of Westeros.
In the aftermath of the battle, with Sansa and Jon in control of Winterfell and the Boltons wiped out, some men brought in Rickon’s arrow-ridden body on a wooden stretcher. Jon said he’d be buried in the family crypt with their father, Ned.
In death, Rickon is finally treated like a member of the family. He deserved better in life.
There may be some good news for Rickon in the “Song of Ice and Fire” novels, however. The last word we had of Rickon in the books was that he and Osha fled not to House Umber, but to the island of Skagos, home of the primitive and isolationist Skagosi people — Davos is tasked with bringing him back. Skagos is no peaceful paradise — but it’s probably out of Ramsay’s reach, for whatever that’s worth. We should learn his fate when “The Winds of Winter” is released.
Thanks to, well, everything we describe above, Rickon doesn’t fare all that well in our ranking of “Game of Thrones” characters. You should check out the list below anyway.