I’ve been hella suspicious about what the North has been up to and after this episode with Ramsay, Karstark, and Smalljon, I’m even more hella suspicious and convinced now more than ever there is something more than meets the eye
1. Ramsay and Karstark both mention House Umber as famously loyal, or specifically famously loyal to the Starks. So clearly the show didn’t forget this, and Smalljon’s answer about “times change” sound more like trying to be vague and not give specific answers.
2. Is it not coincidental that House Umber just so happens to arrive AFTER Roose Bolton is dead? It is specifically mentioned that House Umber refused to pledge their loyalty to Roose Bolton but has apparently just now changed their mind - the timing is incredibly suspect - Smalljon says it’s because Roose Bolton is “a cunt” but I think otherwise. I think they know Roose Bolton is smart, they can’t play the game against him, they don’t have a chance, he is too shrewed but with Roose out of the way, well, Ramsay is like a mad dog, and a mad dog can be manipulated when you know what it desires, hence bringing in Rickon. I mean really, they shelter him for 2 seasons only to give him to Ramsay? That just seems odd.
3. Ramsay asks for swearing of an oath of fealty and Smalljon doesn’t do kissing the hand nor kneeling, instead brings in Rickon as a gift and that seems to seal the deal. He breaks with tradition but gives something Ramsay madly desires, a Stark heir. I’m not saying he managed to dodge swearing any real oaths of fealty by upstaging that with Rickon’s arrival but he totally did manage to dodge it. Smalljon Umber has NOT swore loyalty to Ramsay Bolton.
4. He brings in a wolf’s head, but it’s already dead, how do we know it is Shaggydog? Neither Karstark or Ramsay knows what the wolf looks like, any dead large wolf could have been passed off as Shaggydog. But this clearly satisfies Ramsay, again, a mad dog is easy to manipulate when you blind it with what it wants - people see what they want to see, all Smalljon had to do was supply the “evidence” to something that Ramsay already wants to happen.
Obviously this is all just speculation and conjecture (and maybe a bit of wishful thinking) but there just seems too many convenient moments in that scene which adding them all together paints an entirely different picture to what the Umbers are really trying to do.
And as I said before, they aged up Tommen so they could give him more to do (to the point that his actor is even a series regular with his name in the opening credits) so why couldn’t Rickon, now that he’s older and grown up, have far more to do than what happens in the books. 2 seasons he’s supposedly with House Umber, maybe they have finally taught him how to swing that sword, right into Ramsay Bolton’s face.