'Game of Thrones' fans, still recovering from the revival of Jon Snow, have now set themselves a new challenge - working out what’s behind the Umbers’ apparent betrayal of the Starks.
The most recent episode found the unthinkable happening - the Umbers deceiving their closest allies, the Starks, handing over their youngest child Rickon to their darkest enemy Ramsay Bolton.
The youngest Stark's fate last week was a black moment for supporters of the Starks, coming so soon after the rapture of Jon Snow’s return, the relief of Sansa’s escape and their continuing faith in Bran’s superpowers but, according to some wise superfine on the internet, it could point to a bigger conspiracy afoot.
What are they saying? That this is the first move in a long game by the Umbers to betray the Boltons and return power to the Starks, what they’re calling ‘The Northern Conspiracy’, the alliance of all of the northern houses behind young Rickon.
The ‘Great Northern Conspiracy’ points to a pro-Stark uprising, biding its time following the betrayal of the Red Wedding and Ned’s execution. The soldiers of this sleeping army have, so the theory goes, been embedded with other rivals for the Throne, but really they lie in wait.
Advocates of all this point to Bran Stark’s reappearance, and cross fingers he’ll inspire a fresh uprising against the Lannisters. They’re also wondering about the true identify of his sidekick Walder. And others are relying on Arya to come good, with or without the continuing support of the much-missed Jaqen H’ghar.
Supporters of this conspiracy refer any doubters to the ultimate source, George RR Martin’s novels, which highlight the Umbers' deeply embedded connections to the Starks, which viewers first saw back in Season 1.
They also point out the looming presence of the Manderlys, another family who appeared to betray the Starks but have more recently been uncovered as remaining loyal. And, just as with the Umbers, The Boltons are convinced they’ve properly turned.
Of course, this could all be wishful thinking. Next week could see that Rickon’s actually had his chips, with ever more power going to the Boltons. But nobody wants to see the Starks go down without a fight.
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