This article contains a lot of spoilers for the seventh season of Game of Thrones. A LOT. With that in mind, don't even think about reading on unless you're up to date with the HBO show. You've been warned…
The finale for the seventh season of Game of Thrones was a total humdinger. Daenerys and Jon Snow fulfilled all of our sexual fantasies and got down and dirty – on a boat. Samwell Tarly and Bran Stark confirmed that the R + L = J theory is 100% true. The Wall literally came down. The Night King rode an actual zombie dragon. Tormund probably died. Brienne and The Hound bonded over Arya’s badassery. Jaime Lannister finally walked away from his emotionally abusive sister. Cersei and Tyrion came face-to-face. The latter gave us cause to doubt his loyalties to Team Targaryen.
But the most compelling scenes of all, though, were based in Winterfell – and they revolved entirely around Sansa and Arya Stark's masterful manipulation of Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish. And one particular plot twist was something of a feminist win.
For a very long time, now, it seemed as if Littlefinger’s plot to drive a wedge between Arya and Sansa was working.
We saw the former accuse her sister of trying to seize power in a fiery confrontation, before being led to the damning letter which Cersei forced Sansa to send to their late brother, Robb. And we saw Sansa team up with Littlefinger to perform a thoroughly sneaky search of Arya’s bedroom, stumbling upon her little sister’s creepy bag of faces.
And, in the season finale, worried viewers watched as the sisters’ notoriously fraught relationship grew even more strained.
At first, it seemed as if Sansa’s growing fury was directed solely at Jon. And no wonder, considering her wayward brother had casually informed her that he’d bent the knee to Daenerys. Y’know, without consulting the Lady of Winterfell first. Cue Littlefinger silkily suggesting that Jon has designs on marrying the dragon queen and gifting her the Northern Realms as part of her dowry.
Noting Sansa’s aghast expression, Littlefinger added softly: “He was named King in the North. He can be unnamed.”
Sansa seemed on board with this idea, although she pointed out a flaw in the scheme: Arya wouldn’t be. “She loves Jon,” she reminded Littlefinger, before pointing out that Arya is a Faceless Man now. Aka one of the deadliest assassins ever to set foot in Westeros. Littlefinger, though, was not perturbed. Instead, he made it his mission to convince Sansa that Arya is there to kill her and that everything – including finding the letter in Littlefinger’s room – was a way for her to justify her bloody actions to the people of Winterfell.
“And after she murders you, what does she become?" he asked quietly.
“Lady of Winterfell,” replied Sansa, apparently shocked by the revelation.
It wasn't long before Arya was summoned to appear before her sister and a room filled with Northern lords.
“Do you really want to do this?” she asked, seemingly bored by the idea.
Sansa, looking uncomfortable, allowed that she didn't want to do anything. “It’s a question of honour,” she said firmly, adding that she would do whatever she had to do to protect her family.
“Get on with it then,” said Arya, with just the merest hint of a smile playing on her lips.
What happened next was... well, it was truly breathtaking. Sansa listed off the wrongs that had been committed against the Stark and Arryn families: murder, treason, conspiracy, and plenty more. But, instead of waiting for Arya to defend herself, Sansa turned to Littlefinger and asked him how *he* pleaded to the charges made against him. And, just like that, all of Lord Baelish's Machiavellian plots were exposed, and his world tumbled down around him.
Littlefinger begged, he pleaded, he professed his love for Sansa. And, all the while, the eldest of Ned Stark’s daughters remained unmoved. “You sold me to Ramsey Bolton,” she reminded him, before pointing out that his schemes had resulted in the death of her father, her mother, and her aunt. That he had tried to murder Bran in his bed. That he had turned the Lannisters and the Starks against one another. That he had started the Great War that still ravages the Seven Kingdoms.
What was potentially Littlefinger’s worst crime of all, though, in her eyes? One which is regularly committed by so many fully paid-up members of the patriarchy: a desire to turn “sister against sister.”
For as long as we can remember, women have been told that they just can’t get along. Indeed, a study found that when a conflict took place between two women coworkers, people expected the consequences to be both negative and long-lasting. That the women would want revenge. That any chance of peaceful compromise or resolution was... well, was utterly hopeless.
In contrast, when the identical conflict was between two men or a man and a woman, people thought that the relationship would hardly be affected. That a more reasonable solution could be reached. That friendship and cooperation would prevail, no matter what. Thus, despite studies showing that men are every bit as likely to engage in gossiping, social exclusion, and other forms of indirect aggression, it is still widely believed that women are meaner to one another. Such beliefs are so pervasive that even very young children think that girls are more likely to put them down than boys, despite evidence to the contrary.
Which is why, sadly, it is never feels all that shocking when films and TV shows present a female character who’s intent on holding back another woman. A woman who refuses to let her fellow woman shine. A woman who bows down to the patriarchy’s skewed views and helps them – however distasteful she finds it, however much she may feel forced by the bounds of the society in which she lives – to discriminate and bully her fellow females into submission.
And that’s why Game of Thrones’ Littlefinger plot twist was such a big fat perfect “f**k you” to the patriarchy at large.
Not only did Sansa refuse to turn on her sister, but she and Arya worked together to bring down Littlefinger. They lay false trails, ignored his poisonous whispers and lulled him into a false sense of security. They designed a way to bring him before the Northern Lords and mete justice upon him, without him wriggling out of it. And they divided up their duties perfectly: Sansa listed off Littlefinger’s crimes and passed judgment, while Arya used the criminal’s very own dagger to deliver swift vengeance upon him.
And, rather than behead him in the traditional Stark manner, the two sisters decided upon a more poetic end for their tormentor: they slit his throat. Yes, this mirrored the death of their mother, Catelyn – and it mirrored the moment that Littlefinger betrayed Ned and pressed a knife against his throat. More importantly, though, it silenced Littlefinger’s lies once and for all; by slicing through his throat and vocal chords, they destroyed the rumour mill and put an end to his poisonously anti-feminist narrative, too.
To further underline their cooperative and sisterly stance, Sansa and Arya met on the ramparts of Winterfell to address their differences, and their similarities, too. We watched as Sansa called Arya “the strongest person I know". We smiled as Arya admitted, “I never could’ve survived what you survived.” And we full-on cheered when the duo remembered their late father’s most enduring life lesson: “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.”
Arya and Sansa have chosen to rise above the gossips, the naysayers, and the misogynists – and they have chosen to ignore all those who tell them that cooperation between women is wrong. Most importantly, though, they have ignored Littlefinger’s claims that there is only room for one successful woman in Winterfell.
Instead, they have been generous and made room for one another. They have recognised that there is more than one seat at the table. And they have helped illustrate that every single woman benefits when they help one another to get higher up on the ladder: the only people demanding that we “fight our way to the top” are the men seeking to hold us down.
The Stark sisters, aka the bona-fide sisterhood, are now, at last, the loyal pack that their mother and father dreamed they might be some day. Together, these young wolves have silenced the patriarchy’s poisonous whisperings once and for all. And, in doing so, they have cemented Game of Thrones’ status as one of the most important and feminist shows on television today.
We can't wait to see what these incredible women will do next. Because, together, we have no doubt that they can take on all the armies of the dead and restore the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, once and for all.