There's nothing Game of Thrones fans love more than a conspiracy theory, myself included. And after the shocking death of Shaggydog, many viewers promptly got to work figuring out ways Rickon Stark's (Art Parkinson) direwolf could still be alive.
"The head's too small to be a direwolf!" fans cried.
"The Umbers would never betray the Starks," book readers bemoaned.
When asked if Shaggydog was really dead, Parkinson told The Huffington Post, "Uh, yeah, I'd say so." But we've all learned never to trust anything a Thrones actor says, so what if there really is a conspiracy going on?
Put on your tinfoil hat and keep reading for our investigation into the only Game of Thrones theory that involves human pies, elaborately staged dog deaths and some serious undercover scheming. And fair warning, minor book spoilers ahead.
Book context: The idea that the Umbers are secretly trying to take down the Boltons from the inside isn't as crazy as you might initially think. In George R.R. Martin's books, there's a character named Wyman Manderly, the Lord of White Harbor, whose son Wendel was killed during the Red Wedding. Despite this, Wyman agrees to marry one of Walder Frey's daughters as ransom for his son Wylis. He also agrees to execute Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham) as proof of his loyalty to the crown.
However, Wyman fakes Davos' death and is heavily implied to have killed three Freys and served them as pies at Ramsay's wedding at Winterfell. Afterwards, several of those loyal to the Boltons and Freys begin to be murdered; an accusation Wyman denies playing a part in while simultaneously insulting the Freys.
Evidence for the theory: If the Shaggydog conspiracy is true, that means the Umbers could be standing in for the Manderlys, and in order to win Ramsay's (Iwan Rheon) trust, Smalljon Umber (Dean Jagger) would fake Shaggydog's death and join the Bolton army. Together, the Boltons and Umbers could march North to face Jon (Kit Harington) when he inevitably heads South to win back Winterfell. But when the armies collide, it's possible the Umbers would reveal their true Stark loyalty and begin attacking the Boltons, who would then find themselves surrounded by enemies on all sides.
It's also possible this is Smalljon Umber's plan, but that he really did kill Shaggydog in order to sell the ruse. And would you blame him? The only thing we've seen Rickon do well in six seasons is crush some walnuts. He hasn't exactly proven himself as someone you'd want to entrust with a huge secret plan.
If this Grand Northern Conspiracy theory is true, it could also be setting up a major pay-off for a thread left hanging in Season 3. The lords of the North were all present when Robb Stark (Richard Madden) named Jon Snow as his heir shortly before the Red Wedding, but this proclamation hasn't been mentioned since. It's possible the Northern lords have been biding their time, pretending to live peacefully under the Boltons until they're ready to strike and name Jon as their king. The North does remember, after all.
Evidence against the theory: A casting notice for Season 6, as reported by Watchers on the Wall, sounds an awful lot like Wyman Manderly.
He is a fat nobleman in his 60's [sic]. He has distinctive rugged features, a Northern accent, and a distinguished air. Our source says he has a stirring speech during which he unexpectedly shifts political allegiances.
If the show does plan on introducing the Manderly plot, it wouldn't make sense to give away the meat of the conspiracy to the Umbers. So while the Grand Northern Conspiracy could still be true, the Umbers might truly have switched sides and joined the Boltons.
This information, combined with Parkinson's quotes and the unreliable evidence regarding the appropriate decapitated direwolf head size, doesn't bode well for Shaggydog popping up any time soon.
Verdict: The likelihood of a Grand Northern Conspiracy is high, but we seriously doubt Shaggydog is still around. However, denial is a powerful emotion and this evidence won't stop us from quietly hoping Shaggydog has somehow survived.
What do you think?