In the latest Game of Thrones episode, you probably greeted the dramatic Rickon Stark reveal — in which [Smalljon Umber](http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/JonUmber(Smalljon) presented the boy to Ramsay Bolton with a flourish — not with an “Oh shit, say it isn’t so!” but instead with a “Wait, who is that?” Even if Rickon hadn’t apparently aged about ten years between seasons; even if he didn’t helpfully have the head of a direwolf to cement his identity as a Stark, you probably still took a moment to remember that another Stark exists. But although he might be in a dire situation right now, that’s exactly why Rickon will emerge from the story as the ultimate winner: Because we all forgot about him.
Game of Thrones thrives on subverting the typical fantasy genre tropes. The stalwart hero Ned loses his head. In the David and Goliath narrative of Oberyn and The Mountain, Goliath wins. Jon’s prophetic resurrection is quiet and sad instead of epic.
If the guy we all forgot about was the ultimate winner, it would be consistent with the show’s established model. It would also fit George R.R. Martin’s goal of a “bittersweet” ending like Lord of The Rings, because while having a Stark on top is sweet, the Starks we’re most invested in would be resigned to unknown fates. Rickon would help put Westeros back together while Jon, Arya, and Sansa would be like Frodo, unable to resume normal lives.
Lest you think Rickon will suffer a quick death now that he’s in Ramsay’s hands, its entirely likely. But in the books, Rickon is the most feral Stark kid. He’s got Arya’s penchant for lashing out, without having benefitted from her mentors like The Hound or her Faceless Man training to channel her anger.
So even if Ramsay does his Ramsay thing, Rickon is not going down without a fight. There’s also the development that Jon is now setting off in the vague direction of Winterfell with no plan and no idea what to do. Rickon as Ramsay’s hostage can be his cause, and he will probably succeed in defeating Ramsay.
Rickon might seem like he’s in danger, but the tides are turning against Ramsay and his ilk. The scene itself was suspicious: Smalljon Umber’s father was the first one to call Robb Stark “King of the North.” Though he claims there’s no love lost there, he’s not afraid to sass Ramsay, and refuses to bend the knee. And yet, he’s willing to hand over an invaluable hostage all too easily. Fans are already theorizing that the Umbers are still loyal to the Starks and this is all part of a master plan to take back The North. Umber Conspiracy truthers are even pointing out that the wolf’s head looked a bit small to truly belong to a direwolf.
While some Game of Thrones theories are more dubious than others, this one rings true: Ramsay is being conned, and his fragile power-grab will not last.
We already know Season 6 will culminate in a battle for the North that makes “Hardhome” look like your eight grade play. But by introducing Rickon back into the story, the writers aren’t just using him as Jon-bait. Rickon is going to be the last one standing among the ashes when the whole story settles. We’d bet the Iron Bank on it.