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Is there any hope for the adaptation of Stannis in Season 4? (TV and Book Spoilers)


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#1 Thelastactionhero

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Posted 04 July 2013 - 03:23 AM

So before I get into this, let me just say that unlike some fans of the character, I don’t think that he is some paragon of morality or anything like that. I think that Stannis is very complex and endearing precisely because some of his actions contradict his moral ideology and legal code. That being said, Stannis Baratheon has many redemptive qualities, and those are highlighted by much of the dialogue that was snipped from the Season 3 adaptation. This has resulted in a portrayal that I find very unlikeable, and far removed from the spirit of what makes A Song of Ice and Fire such a compelling human story.

At the moment, we've been given a very vulgar Faustian narrative, which I feel is a grave disservice to the source material and its figures. It has been said by Bryan Cogman, and those who obviously hate the character, that "Stan Stans" have a super-imposed romanticized image of Stannis, and that the show has merely made the subtextual elements explicit. I feel this is faulty logic, and a simplification of many problems that have emerged regarding the Dragonstone arc.
While there were a couple scenes that seem to indicate Stannis is more than just a villain, (Episode 5 and 8), for the most part, I feel it was quite clear that the producers have more or less stripped him of any autonomy in order to further position him as an antagonist.

While I don't expect the show to adapt the source material scene for scene, there were several moments in the Dragonstone arc that seemed tailor made for television (Stannis wielding Lightbringer while Davos kneels with the Nightwatch letter for instance), and could have served to really highlight Stannis' internal torment over whether or not to sacrifice an innocent to the flames for the greater good. In the book series, Stannis actually weighs the life of Edric Storm against the lives of all the children and future children of Westeros, including his own daughter. It doesn't justify killing his nephew by any means, but his motivations are more understandable, especially considering that the leeches had killed all three kings instead of just Robb. The power of the Red God had been proven to him, and thus burning his nephew to save the realm from "the Night that Never Ends" becomes a legitimate moral conflict. Yet even still, he doesn't want to commit this mortal sin, and he even threatens to murder Melisandre if she is wrong about the effects of the ritual.

You don't need to be a trained film critic to see that the Dragonstone Arc was rushed, and that the scenes that were present brought out the worst qualities of Stannis Baratheon. Even those who dislike the character or have no stake in him shouldn't be satisfied with this type of storytelling, because it shows they’re potentially willing to allow certain biases to cloud their aesthetic judgments. Many have said that fans of the character are overreacting in the same way fans of Jaime overreacted to his portrayal in Season 2, but I think it’s clear that the problems within the Dragonstone arc are much more deeply rooted and long lasting, especially when you consider the fact that there were plenty of scenes alongside the murder of Jaime's cousin which gave us the space to empathize with his situation, whereas in the case of Stannis, these scenes are either sparse or non-existent. One actually has to wonder how it makes sense thematically for Davos to be loyal to such a character when we’ve really only been subject to his selfishness and malevolence, at least in the last season. (I didn’t mind the Season 2’s take on him nearly as much. In fact, there were several moments of brilliance there.)

For those who are satisfied with the adaptation so far, I ask why the vast majority of quotes which reveal the better angels of Stannis' nature are absent, and replaced with misogynist one liners? I also ask, since we're in the business now of making the subtextual elements of the book series opaque, why Melisandre is the one who convinces Stannis to go to the Wall and spare Davos' life, when the latter half of SoS has Stannis explicitly state that the only reason he saved the Wall was because of his Onion Knight, who reminded him of his duty when all he could think about was his rights? How does stripping Stannis of his agency and complexity make for better television?

I am open to the possibility that Stannis is being set up for a massive redemption, and I'd love to this, but the larger part of me feels that the damage has been done, and that its only going to get worse from here on out. So with all that said I pose the question, can Stannis' character arc be salvaged, or are we going to see more bastardization in the coming years?

(PS: I still love the show, and I still believe it is easily one of the most successful adaptations of all time. I’m just think some great opportunities were missed, and it sucks when those opportunities happen to be within your favorite character arc.)

#2 aware_of_thrones

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 05:59 AM

Your explanation is right on the money. Personally, when I finished reading up until DwD and the second season premiered, I thouht they would give a great emphasis on Stannis, seeing that he has lasted up until now and the great deapth of the character itself would require a considerable a good slice of screentime.
If I was to guess, the already mediocre and small consideration given to the character looks more like a mere formality, since more material and screentime is given to characters that are clearly one-dimensional in the books (Shae i.e) or downright unneccesary (Ros, thank good that's gone) and more emphasis is given to a more complete (although in some cases more one-dimensional) portrayal of the three ''main'' characters (Dany, Jon and Tyrion).
Just seems to me that the focus is just given to, what I suppose are, the audience's favorite characters and houses (basically House Stark, Lannister and, to some extent, Tyrell) and Stannis is just an inconvinient point of conflic in the fanbase (in the forums a simple thread on Stannis is a enough to spark a debate) and to much of a complicated character for the majority of the audience (many of whom are not used to such character and story complexity on screen) to handle.
I've been on Stannis' side since a CoK, because he is just plain awesome as a character and a marvel to read but but putting my bias aside, the main issue is that the series is clearly giving greater emphasis on the three ''greats'', a richer character development on the KL story arc (if you've got the actors, why not milk it) and downplaying and downgrading the Dragonstone story arc to achive this (they could have at least included the scene where Davo's was raised to lord and Hand, that was an absolutely amazing exchange and whenever I tell my friends, who only see the series, about it they imediately start to question their idea about Stannis).

#3 zaphodbrx

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 06:39 AM

Well I had been hoping the TV show would fix Stannis but after seeing the episode 'Mhysa' I lost all hope..

#4 Joyful Union

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 07:01 AM

I ask why the vast majority of quotes which reveal the better angels of Stannis' nature are absent, and replaced with misogynist one liners?

Wait, what? I can only think of one line that was misogynistic.

Otherwise, I see your point. However, I do think there is hope, as the Battle for The Wall is the kind of big event that can signal a big change in character for Stannis. If not then, I think the show has been playing up the hold that Melisandre has over Stannis, almost like an addiction. Once he marches of South to fight the Boltons in Season 5, their will be time to show the better sides of him, outside of her influence.

#5 Lannister Hamster

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 07:05 AM

Yes - I think Stannis really comes into his own after arriving at the wall.
I personally only started liking him then and I think the portrayal will gain more fans as he moves into the parts of the book where readers begin to like him.

#6 Mr Fixit

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 07:34 AM

Skimmed the opening post, noticed this

It has been said by Bryan Cogman, and those who obviously hate the character (...)


and stopped reading.

#7 King Tommen

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 08:45 AM

Skimmed the opening post, noticed this



and stopped reading.


Yeah, in fact Bryan Cogman has stated emphatically that he loves Stannis as a character. This is purely a case of Jaime-itis where book fans were impatiently wanting the show to depict the character they had been thinking of by the end of ADwD and weren't remembering what they thought of that same character at this point in the story when they read the books.

I actually really like what they've done with Stannis on the show, as a conflicted, principled man who is extremely lonely and has little to hold on to (which is why it was so important for him to cling to Melisandre and her prophecies in order to justify his past actions and current convictions). It's a slightly different characterization from the books but to me more interesting and it certainly isn't some kind of "character assassination" as some have said.

I love the scenes he had with Selyse and Shireen in S3 and his interaction with Davos has been spot-on as well. I think there are just always going to be fans who have decided to make him their main focus when reading the books and will look at any slight deviation the show takes as some kind of slight on the character.

How is Stannis getting the short end of the stick when there are a total of only six Davos chapters in ASoS (1 of which is simply Davos hanging out on a rock after Blackwater)? It's all been proportionate to what the story has dictated in the source material.

#8 Mr Fixit

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 08:49 AM

Yeah, in fact Bryan Cogman has stated emphatically that he loves Stannis as a character. This is purely a case of Jaime-itis where book fans were impatiently wanting the show to depict the character they had been thinking of by the end of ADwD and weren't remembering what they thought of that same character at this point in the story when they read the books.

I actually really like what they've done with Stannis on the show, as a conflicted, principled man who is extremely lonely and has little to hold on to (which is why it was so important for him to cling to Melisandre and her prophecies in order to justify his past actions and current convictions). It's a slightly different characterization from the books but to me more interesting and it certainly isn't some kind of "character assassination" as some have said.

I love the scenes he had with Selyse and Shireen in S3 and his interaction with Davos has been spot-on as well. I think there are just always going to be fans who have decided to make him their main focus when reading the books and will look at any slight deviation the show takes as some kind of slight on the character.

How is Stannis getting the short end of the stick when there are a total of only six Davos chapters in ASoS (1 of which is simply Davos hanging out on a rock after Blackwater)? It's all been proportionate to what the story has dictated in the source material.


And let's not forget it's Bryan (he has quite a ASoIaF-sounding name, doesn't he?) who was responsible for S3 Dragonstone material.

#9 Ser Luke.

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 09:23 AM

Well I had been hoping the TV show would fix Stannis but after seeing the episode 'Mhysa' I lost all hope..


/frown5.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':frown5:' /> Unfortunately, I agree.

#10 jons nissa

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 09:37 AM

I believe we see stannis at his best when he is fighting and he is particularly spectacular in the battle at winterfell so i would hold off saying there is no hope for the character in season 4.

#11 James Sucellus

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 09:41 AM

Yeah, in fact Bryan Cogman has stated emphatically that he loves Stannis as a character. This is purely a case of Jaime-itis where book fans were impatiently wanting the show to depict the character they had been thinking of by the end of ADwD and weren't remembering what they thought of that same character at this point in the story when they read the books.


Ludicrous assertion. Stannis never underwent a redemptive arc. He is portrayed consistently throughout the books and doesn't evolve at all. He'll break before he bends, that is the point of the character and why we love him. If you think show Stannis is an accurate reflection of book Stannis then you have frankly, completely misinterpreted the character on a worrying level and should re-read the entire series.

The show Stannis is an idiot's interpretation. A gruff villain in a show full of them in abundance already. If show Stannis DOES improve then that in of itself is a betrayal of the character as Stannis is so set in his ways, whether that leads him to commit acts we like or dislike at different points in the story.

Then again, I also suffer from said Jaime-itis I suppose as I think his random kinslaying and subsequent jape about it was the single most retarded moment in the whole series.

Edited by Direwolf_Dragon, 07 July 2013 - 09:48 AM.


#12 Vympel

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 09:48 AM

How is Stannis getting the short end of the stick when there are a total of only six Davos chapters in ASoS (1 of which is simply Davos hanging out on a rock after Blackwater)? It's all been proportionate to what the story has dictated in the source material.


Its not a question of how many chapters there are, its how well the time they devote follows the character arc that we know. Chief example - the scene where Davos shows Stannis the note from the Night's Watch is not in accordance with what we know from ASOS. In the book - as we know from when Stannis talks to Jon - Davos' showing Stannis the letter from the Night's Watch was Davos convincing him that - and this is one of the best lines Stannis has -

"Lord Seaworth is a man of humble birth, but he reminded me of my duty, when all I could think of was my rights. I had the cart before the horse, Davos said. I was trying to win the throne to save the kingdom, when I
should have been trying to save the kingdom to win the throne.”

Where is that discussion Davos had with Stannis? The book doesn't have it, since it cuts away to serve the cliffhanger of Stannis' arrival - but it should've been right there in Mhysa. And it wasn't. Instead, Stannis is robbed of much of his agency and the decision to save Davos goes to ... Melisandre.

This does violence to Stannis as a character, make no mistake about it. If Stannis tells Jon this in Season 4, it will make no sense unless they pick up this thread early in Season 4. I really hope they do.

#13 King Tommen

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 09:49 AM

Ludicrous assertion. Stannis never underwent a redemtive arc. He is portrayed consistently throughout the books and doesn't evolve at all. He'll break before he bends, that is the point of the character and why we love him.

The show Stannis is an idiot's interpretation. A gruff villain in a show full of them in abundance already.


Stannis has displayed a number of traits on the show that would subvert the theory that he is simply a "gruff villain". He lifts Davos up to Hand because he knows Davos will advise him truthfully and trusts him to command his fleet in the Battle of Blackwater. He also heeds Davos' advice to leave Melisandre behind. He leads his men into battle and fights from the front when it's contrasted with Joffrey's cowardice in not doing the same on the other side of the battle. He displays remorse over having Renly killed. He shows compassion for both his daughter and for Davos after Davos is locked away. He confesses to his wife that he's been unfaithful. None of these actions are in line with what a villain would do. He's a complex, morally conflicted character.

And if you want to hang on to the "he's rigid and never changes one iota from the start of the books to where he is now" I suggest you go back and re-read them because there is definitely a fair amount of conflict that's going on within him and he is in a different place emotionally and philosophically at the end of ADwD than he was when first introduced. People are taking the "breaks before he bends" far too literally.

#14 jons nissa

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 10:26 AM

If show Stannis DOES improve then that in of itself is a betrayal of the character as Stannis is so set in his ways, whether that leads him to commit acts we like or dislike at different points in the story.


actually stannis says he must change at the very start of his story. that is the whole point of the proudwing tale - trying something new since the old isn't working. he also changed his stance on doing whatever it takes to survive since he was ready to eat the dead as he held storm's end but burned his men alive for doing that at winterfell. stannis is not set in his ways and changes when it suits him.

as for breaking before bending, i believe that is meant to show he would rather die than give up the throne and bend the knee.

#15 Toxspecific

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 01:51 PM

They're exaggerated the brutal side of Stannis, they're exaggerating the fuck out of it. He certainly has some capacity for ruthlessness, quite a bit of it, in him, but the show is making him a bit too brutal.

They removed some really good dialogues and... I'm just so pissed at them.

Edited by Toxspecific, 07 July 2013 - 01:52 PM.


#16 King Tommen

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 02:16 PM

They're exaggerated the brutal side of Stannis, they're exaggerating the fuck out of it. He certainly has some capacity for ruthlessness, quite a bit of it, in him, but the show is making him a bit too brutal.

They removed some really good dialogues and... I'm just so pissed at them.


Can you provide specific examples of how they've exaggerated the "brutal" side of Stannis? I'm drawing a complete blank...

#17 Khal-a-bunga

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 02:30 PM

Stannis has displayed a number of traits on the show that would subvert the theory that he is simply a "gruff villain". He lifts Davos up to Hand because he knows Davos will advise him truthfully and trusts him to command his fleet in the Battle of Blackwater. He also heeds Davos' advice to leave Melisandre behind. He leads his men into battle and fights from the front when it's contrasted with Joffrey's cowardice in not doing the same on the other side of the battle. He displays remorse over having Renly killed. He shows compassion for both his daughter and for Davos after Davos is locked away. He confesses to his wife that he's been unfaithful. None of these actions are in line with what a villain would do. He's a complex, morally conflicted character.

And if you want to hang on to the "he's rigid and never changes one iota from the start of the books to where he is now" I suggest you go back and re-read them because there is definitely a fair amount of conflict that's going on within him and he is in a different place emotionally and philosophically at the end of ADwD than he was when first introduced. People are taking the "breaks before he bends" far too literally.


This. I just don't see how he's this 'radically different' character, though it's obvious they've played up his relationship with Melisandre, and that she has more of a corrosive effect on him (he always seems more capable when not in her company, which is played deliberately).

Ludicrous assertion. Stannis never underwent a redemptive arc. He is portrayed consistently throughout the books and doesn't evolve at all. He'll break before he bends, that is the point of the character and why we love him. If you think show Stannis is an accurate reflection of book Stannis then you have frankly, completely misinterpreted the character on a worrying level and should re-read the entire series.

The show Stannis is an idiot's interpretation. A gruff villain in a show full of them in abundance already. If show Stannis DOES improve then that in of itself is a betrayal of the character as Stannis is so set in his ways, whether that leads him to commit acts we like or dislike at different points in the story.


Furthermore, does that sound like it makes for good television? Beyond the fact that it's simply not true, it isn't good screen-writing to have a character remain static for the entire length of a series.

It's funny how all of these declarations about Cersei being too sympathetic (though I think empathetic is more appropriate), or Tyrion being made into too good of a person, and even Stannis being portrayed as a villain are all likely to be subverted by the end of next season. We'll see how Cersei handles losing Joffrey right in front of her eyes; how Tyrion kills both his lover and his father; and we'll see Stannis come to the aid of the Night's Watch and save them from the brink. These are developments that are obviously coming, and nothing they've done with any of these characters suggests that we won't see their darker and lighter sides, respectively (or simultaneously), throughout the course of the series.

#18 Mr Fixit

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 02:58 PM

He is portrayed consistently throughout the books and doesn't evolve at all. He'll break before he bends, that is the point of the character and why we love him. If you think show Stannis is an accurate reflection of book Stannis then you have frankly, completely misinterpreted the character on a worrying level and should re-read the entire series.


I am simply stunned at:
  • all the one-sided interpretations of Martin's characters
  • the people guilty of the above then proceeding to elevate their interpretation as The One True Way All Things Must Be Understood
Saying that Stannis doesn't evolve through the books is an enormous oversimplification of his character; it's so one-note that it borders on being willfully blind. One of the most important and most telling quotes by book-Stannis in ASoS is:

Lord Seaworth is a man of humble birth, but he reminded me of my duty, when all I could think of was my rights. I had the cart before the horse, Davos said. I was trying to win the throne to save the kingdom, when I should have been trying to save the kingdom to win the throne.

Edited by Mr Fixit, 07 July 2013 - 03:01 PM.


#19 GREYJOY4LYFE

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 04:54 PM

Its not a question of how many chapters there are, its how well the time they devote follows the character arc that we know. Chief example - the scene where Davos shows Stannis the note from the Night's Watch is not in accordance with what we know from ASOS. In the book - as we know from when Stannis talks to Jon - Davos' showing Stannis the letter from the Night's Watch was Davos convincing him that - and this is one of the best lines Stannis has -

"Lord Seaworth is a man of humble birth, but he reminded me of my duty, when all I could think of was my rights. I had the cart before the horse, Davos said. I was trying to win the throne to save the kingdom, when I
should have been trying to save the kingdom to win the throne.”


Where is that discussion Davos had with Stannis? The book doesn't have it, since it cuts away to serve the cliffhanger of Stannis' arrival - but it should've been right there in Mhysa. And it wasn't. Instead, Stannis is robbed of much of his agency and the decision to save Davos goes to ... Melisandre.

This does violence to Stannis as a character, make no mistake about it. If Stannis tells Jon this in Season 4, it will make no sense unless they pick up this thread early in Season 4. I really hope they do.


I really hope they work that line in somewhere. It's one of the better lines and definitely a defining feature of Stannis's character. In the show he seems reduced to a mere "derp derp, what should i do next melissandre?"

#20 jons nissa

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 04:58 PM

Saying that Stannis doesn't evolve through the books is an enormous oversimplification of his character


you are being very kind as it is not an oversimplification, it is incorrect. stannis is changing and evolving.