Warning: This article contains a lot of spoilers for the seventh season of Game of Thrones.
We’re already past the midway point of this year’s season of Game of Thrones, so it makes sense that producers packed as much action as possible into episode five.
And… yeah, we mean a lot of action. A lot. Let’s recap, shall we?
Cersei Lannister is pregnant - by her brother Jaime, obviously. The lucky father-to-be is alive and well (as is Bronn). Gendry (aka the sole surviving heir of Robert Baratheon) is back in Westeros and hanging out with his old buddy Jon Snow. Randall and Dickon Tarly have been roasted alive by Drogon. And See Jorah and Daenerys are finally back together… albeit in an entirely platonic way, of course.
Elsewhere, Gilly has stumbled across news of Rhaegar Targaryen’s secret marriage (most likely to Jon Snow’s mother, Lyanna Stark – which would mean that, in the eyes of history, Jon’s claim to the Iron Throne is stronger than anyone else’s). Sam has left Oldtown and a life of scrubbing bedpans behind him. And Tyrion, oh he of “I have a cunning plan” fame, has come up with the undoubtedly brilliant idea of kidnapping a White Walker and sending it to King’s Landing. What could go wrong, eh?
But, with so much going on in Westeros, one of the episode’s most important plot points was easily missed in and amongst it all.
And by this we mean the Stark sisters’ crumbling relationship.
It goes without saying that Arya (Maisie Williams) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) aren’t getting along. We suspected this might be the case, to be honest: the sisters were never the best of friends back in the show’s first season, and they’ve been through a lot since they last saw each other.
Most pertinent, though, is the fact that they are essentially strangers after so many long years apart: Arya is now a faceless assassin, hell-bent on exacting revenge upon anyone and everyone who betrayed her family. Sansa, meanwhile, has taken lessons from the likes of political schemers Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) – and seems keen to adopt their softly-softly approach so that she might rise up through the ranks and take control over Winterfell.
When the heads of the northern households grow antsy and pledge their fealty to Sansa over Jon, the red-haired Stark listens to their complaints. However, having learned all too well that patience is a virtue, she gently informs them that Jon is still the rightful King in the North.
Arya, though, sees straight through her sister’s scheme – and points out, quite rightly, that Sansa is being far too soft on people that are seeking to betray Jon. it’s not long before the two women are squabbling, and, when Arya accuses her sister of plotting to seize power, Sansa is caught off guard.
Her failure to deny the accusations sends a mistrustful Arya on a little journey around Winterfell, where she trails Littlefinger and learns that he has been holding secret meetings with the northern generals. Before retiring briefly to his room, he has the maester fetch him the only copy of some scroll in the archives. When Arya breaks into his room to find out what it is, she discovers that he’s hiding a letter from Sansa.
And, boy, is it a damning one.
Stalwart fans of the show will no doubt remember that Sansa penned this letter many moons ago, shortly after Ned Stark’s shock beheading.
It only appeared on screen briefly at the time, but the letter encouraged the Starks to bend the knee to King Joffrey and claimed that Ned was a usurper to the throne.
Sansa was obviously under extreme duress when she wrote it, but that might not be enough of an excuse for Arya – particularly as she was there to witness the murder of Robb and their mother, Catelyn, at the hands of Walder Frey and the Lannisters.
After all, the event was enough to set the wheels in motion for young girl to transform into a stone-cold killing machine.
But will Sansa’s letter earn her a place on her sister’s kill list?
Almost everyone on Arya’s list betrayed her family and friends in some way – and a fair few of them are dead already.
So who’s still on it? And why?
1. Cersei Lannister – for her role in the deaths of Ned Stark and others (ALIVE)
2. Joffrey Baratheon – for ordering the deaths of her father and Mycah the butcher's boy (DEAD)
3. Ser Ilyn Payne – the man who executed her father (ALIVE)
4. The Mountain – for leading the brutal tortures at Harrenhal (ALIVE/UNDEAD)
5. The Hound – for killing Mycah on Joffrey's orders (ALIVE)
6. Melisandre – for taking Gendry away (ALIVE)
7. Beric Dondarrion – for taking Gendry away (ALIVE/UNDEAD)
8. Thoros of Myr – for taking Gendry away (ALIVE)
9. Tywin Lannister – for leading the Lannisters against her brother Robb (DEAD)
10. Ser Meryn Trant – for killing her master Syrio Forel and helping Cersei's coup (DEAD)
11. Walder Frey – for his role in the deaths of her mother and brother (DEAD)
It’s worth remembering that just last week, Sansa asked her sister who was on the list – and that Arya failed to reply.
Could that have been extreme foreshadowing on the behalf of HBO bosses? Or has this all been included to throw us off the scent?
Bran, Arya and Sansa are all at Winterfell, and they’re all waiting for Littlefinger to trip up and make a mistake: hell, Bran can literally see into the past, present, and future, which means that he’s more clued up to Littlefinger’s ways than anyone. Surely he can sit down with his sisters and tell them that planting seeds of mistrust is all part of Littlefinger’s devious little plan.
We have our fingers (and toes) all tightly crossed. Roll on episode six, already.