But for whatever reason, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators of the HBO adaptation of GRRM's opus, just cannot do Stannis right. When they struggled to properly portray Jon Snow, it was slightly forgiveable as most of Jon's development in the novels is through his own inner monologue as a POV character. But Stannis is not. The Mannis is only ever seen through the eyes of others, initially Ser Davos Seaworth, the most loyal and honorable man in the 7 Kingdoms, and later Catelyn Tully, Samwell Tarly, Jon Snow and Melisandre. So that should make it easier to portray the man. Stannis is honorable and dutiful. Stannis is stubborn, uncaring, and unemotional, except for anger. Stannis does not want to be King, yet he is, by all the laws of gods and men. It is his right, and therefore his duty to take the throne, for his brother's memory and his daughter's future, and more importantly, for the good of the realm. When the war of the Five Kings begins, before there even are five kings in the realm, Tywin Lannister, arguably one of the most intelligent and dangerous men in the world, tells his son that Stannis is the most dangerous enemy they face, despite both Renly and Robb Stark possessing larger armies.
But above all, there is one reason that so many book readers love the One True King. When the Night's Watch called for help, and revealed that the greatest threat to ever face the realm, The Others, had returned, only one of the great lords of westeros turned his banners northward. Only one of the then three Kings came to aid the Watchers on the Wall. Stannis the Mannis. (Thanks in part go to his hand, the Great Lord Davos Seaworth).
There are few issues that those who read and those who watch are so divided upon as King Stannis. And honestly, if you've only ever watched the show, I can't blame you for not liking Stannis. I don't like the show version at all. And its not Stephen Dillane, who is doing an excellent job. Its the writing. Its Benioff and Weiss' faulty interpretation. Here they are talking about Stannis. They're saying other things, but what I hear is "oh my god we don't understand the guy who's probably the most straightforward character in the whole damn series":
One of them says "well, he always wanted to be king." WHAT THE ABSOLUTE FUCK? Have you even read the books?
Anyone remember earlier this season when Melisandre left to go find Genndry (which, on its own, WTF, why?) Stannis groping at her on the beach, like a fucking lovesick high-schooler who's cool older girlfriend is going off to college, where you just know she's gonna bang frat guys. That's not Stannis. And then this week, the finale. Jeebus, wtf was that. Now, unlike many fellow Stannis supporters, I didn't need to her the quote about fighting to save the kingdom instead of fighting for it. I like that it in its original context of Stannis to Jon. But I didn't need to see Stannis only agreeing to go because of religion. Stannis is an atheist. Stannis never believes the Melisandre's leeches killed Robb Stark or Balon Greyjoy. He only later comes to embrace his role as the supposed Azor Azai, even if some such as myself and Maester Aemon believe it to be another. (Though I disagree with the great Maester on whom).
Here's a quote from my fellow reddit.com/r/asoiaf user /u/stauncho about how they've gotten Stannis so very, very wrong:
One of the major themes of ASOIAF is that of identity. Discovering ones identity, losing ones identity , rediscovery of ones identity. We saw it with Jaime, a man who once had this admirable view of knights and "the system" and then was jaded by how he was treated by Aerys and then later Ned and the whole realm for branding him as dishonorable for the most honorable act he believes he did. We saw it with Arya, as who she was slowly fades away into someone else, desperately trying to hold on to the last thing that makes her Arya Stark. We see it with Jon as he tries to make his own identity as a man of the Night's Watch and not just some bastard. We see it with Sansa, we see it with Tyrion, we see it Dany.
We also see it with Stannis. After the Blackwater, he's filled with self doubt. He agonizes about whether to sacrifice Edric Storm. He knows its wrong, but he's desperate. He's desperate for anything that can get him back in the game and give him the opportunity to get what he believes is his, the Iron Throne. He doubts Melisandre actually caused Robbs death or Balon's death. He's doesn't believe 100% in Melisandre but he's cornered an isn't sure if he has another choice.
But then, with the help of Davos (and we all know the quote), he rediscovers his identity. He's realizes he's the King, whether he has King's Landing or not. And as King, he has his duty. He doesn't wait to get confirmation of Rhllors power after Joff dies. No. He goes to the Wall because he is King and its his duty to protect the realm.
It has nothing to do with Rhllor or Melisandre. It has to do with him and his rediscovery of himself and what he lost at the Blackwater. Doing his duty.
Now, he's going to the Wall because Melisandre told him to go. Because Rhllor commands it. Stannis can go to the Wall and save it next season, but its tainted and its different now. Stannis' decision to go to the Wall was crucial to his own character growth and sadly, the show took that away from him. Even if he does rediscover himself later, his impetus to go to the Wall now appears to be forced and now show Stannis cannot be the Mannis." - /u/Stauncho
Well said ser.
One last thing from me. This show is really, really, pushing the powers of R'hllor's followers over those of the other gods. (Hopefully as Bran progresses north next season we'll see the power of the Old gods followers start to show a bit as well.) I'm not sure if thats their choice or something they're acting on as a hint from GRRM himself. But with the change in the Brotherhood without Banners from a Robin Hood gang to R'hllor's Holy Heroes, and the emergence of Stannis the Fanatic, its a little weird. But whatever they're doing, I want my Stannis back. I want the King who cared. I want to see the man that Ser Davos sees.
That said, I do not believe that Stannis will sit the Iron Throne at shows end, nor do I ever believe he will. But the chair does not make the King. Nor do I believe that Stannis is the Prince that was Promised (Jon Snow). I've even briefly entertained the idea that Stannis will be the 1000th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch at series end. But for now, for the next several seasons of television and at least one more book, if not two, I want to see the King Stannis we've read about.