Davos’ Secret: What did GRRM tell Liam Cunningham?

In my post last week, I had mentioned that I wanted to cover two things from the last season of Game of Thrones – one which irritated me, and one which honestly, has me feeling a little hopeful. Last week’s post was something that irritated me; now we’re onto something that makes me feel hopeful.

In multiple interviews prior to the final season, Liam Cunningham, who played Davos Seaworth mentioned that George R.R. Martin told him a secret… Now obviously, Cunningham didn’t share the secret in either interview, but the mere existence of such a secret has me feeling hopeful.

On Conan, Cunningham said this:

Conan: “George R.R. Martin… has told you a secret that no one else knows.”

Liam: “Yes, he has. This was a couple of years ago, and this was the first time I’d met him, and I was kind of awestruck. … First time, he said, ‘I’ve got something to tell ye,’ and he leaned in, and he told me this secret, and he said ‘Don’t tell anybody,’ so I’m not… telling anybody!

And Conan tries to get the secret out of him, but Liam insists that HBO placed someone in the audience with a sniper rifle to shoot him if he speaks out.

Similarly, he referenced the secret again in a video with Rolling Stone:

Liam: “I haven’t read a page of the books. In fact, there’s been more than one occasion Mr. George R.R. Martin has pulled me over to one side and gone, ‘have you read them?’ and I go, ‘No, George.’ And he said, ‘I’ve got to tell you a secret,’ and I said, ‘What is it?'” [Nervously] “I nearly said it!” [Laughs] “I ain’t going to! But he told me, and I went, ‘That’s pretty cool.'”

This reminds me of what we heard about J.K. Rowling and Alan Rickman during the production of the Harry Potter movies. [Spoilers for the final Harry Potter start now] Rickman first played Professor Snape in the adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 2001. Since the movies were in production while the book series they were being adapted from was still on-going, the films started without knowing everything that would happen in the series. After the films came to an end, Rowling mentioned that Alan Rickman was the only person she had told about one of the series’ most amazing chapters, in which we learn that Snape had been in love with Harry’s mother and a double-agent for the good guys the whole time. If that’s what J.K. Rowling shared with Alan Rickman, what did GRRM share with Liam Cunningham?

Davos 2

Let’s quickly establish what we know:

  • Since this was when Liam and George first met, it must have been at least in 2012 when Liam first got involved in the show, but must have been “a couple of years” before 2016, when the interviews took place
  • There seems to be some kind of connection to this secret and the events in the books
  • It’s something significant enough to be a secret worth alluding to, but which does not appear to have made it into the show
  • Liam called the revelation “cool”

One would likely assume that the secret was relevant to Davos’ character, and that’s why GRRM told Liam and presumably no one else. Perhaps not, and who knows – maybe GRRM just really liked Liam and just told him because they’re friends. But I can’t believe that – in the Conan interview, Liam mentions that GRRM informed him of this secret the first time they met.

Season 8 doesn’t really leave any clues as to what this secret could be. In the final season, Davos  ultimately ends up as King Bran’s Master of Ships, a Small Council title that has so little bearing on the show that Stannis was the Master of Ships in Season 1 and did not appear until Season 2 and it made zero difference. One of the commenters on the Conan video seems to indicate that Jon will become King and Davos will be the Hand of the King, which seems to make more sense.

Davos 3

This amazing Reddit theory from u/FollowTheBeard suggests that Davos is the series’ chosen one; Azor Ahai, the Prince Who Was Promised. U/FollowTheBeard certainly makes quite a convincing case, and that would definitely make the most sense for GRRM to tell Liam Cunningham.

The one issue is that there was so little in the show about Azor Ahai; Melisandre first introduces it in Season 2, in regards to Stannis, and it’s mentioned now and again during his tenure on the show. The last mention of the prophecy is when Melisandre informs Daenerys in Season 7… and then that plot line gets totally abandoned in the final season. That ends up being around the time that Davos loses a fair amount of individual agency.

Davos 4

Davos is a POV character in the books, who gets relatively little to do in the final season. He’s more important while Stannis is a significant player in the series, but he’s just as important in reviving Jon and guiding him through the reconquest of Winterfell. In Season 6, he doesn’t quite get the thanks and appreciation from Jon for pulling him out of his apathy and into his leadership role. While Jon doesn’t become King in the North in ten episodes with Davos’ support alone, he couldn’t have done it without Davos. As they go into Season 7, Jon brings one advisor to Dragonstone to meet with Daenerys – it’s Davos.

And as Liam Cunningham points out in this other interview, Davos is kind of a moral center on the show, fittingly introduced one episode after Ned Stark, the show’s first moral center, dies. He lives in Stannis’ camp, alongside more sinister characters like Stannis, Melissandre, and Selyse. He’s humble, kind, and always tries his best to do the right thing. He holds true to what he believes in. He seems to be the only person who gives a shit about Shireen, who’s easily the most wholesome character in the entire series (R.I.P.). Not to mention, despite being raised to knighthood after Robert’s Rebellion, he’s one of the series’ few lowborn characters.

In the later seasons, he doesn’t have many particular dynamic character moments. In the Season 6 finale, he accuses Melissandre of killing Shireen and demands to execute her, that’s about his last moment of agency. After that, the biggest thing he does is accompany Tyrion to King’s Landing and make a detour to check up on Gendry. After that, just about everything he does serves other characters. He doesn’t partake in any of the scheming with Jon and Daenerys (and I thank the showrunners for not making a silly decision to make Davos a political schemer). 

Also, if I can share another takeaway from this post, gosh, I love Liam Cunningham. He seems like such a swell guy.

Davos 1

So why does this make me hopeful?

It means that the mastermind behind the series, George R.R. Martin, clearly had things planned which did not make it into the series. It means there’s something in the books to look forward to, whenever we get the books. Someday, in some capacity, we will get Winds of Winter and hopefully A Dream of Spring; and when those finally come, we will hopefully get answers for Davos. In all likelihood, the ending we got was not the ending GRRM planned for us.

Someday, we’ll get the true ending.

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