Things are about to change between the Stark sisters, and it does not bode well for Jon Snow…
Arya and Sansa Stark have, famously, not always been the closest of sisters. In the very first episode of Game of Thrones, the distance between them was merely hinted at in their incessant squabbling (remember when Arya threw food at her sister during dinner with King Robert Baratheon and his royal family? Good times. Simpler times!). Later, though, the pair fell out dramatically over Sansa’s relationship with Joffrey Lannister, and were physically separated following the death of their father, Ned Stark.
According to Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner, though, things are going to be very different between the Stark sisters in the upcoming eighth and final season.
“It’s not often you see a character siding with Sansa who’s not manipulating her,” Williams explained to EW.
“Last season it was really tough for Sansa because Jon was thinking with his penis and it kind of made Sansa look bitter. This season you see Arya teaming with Sansa and sometimes calling out Jon. It felt nice and powerful to stand next to Sophie. Sophie and I are the tightest of friends when sitting across from anyone, so no acting required.”
Speaking to Rolling Stone in a joint interview, Williams and Turner (who have been best friends ever since they began filming the show) have dropped a few loaded hints about the upcoming final fates of their characters.
“After I read Season Eight, I watched Season One — there’s a lot of similarities,” insisted Williams.
And Turner added: “I feel very satisfied with the ending of the entire show… every story arc came to a really good close.”
Whatever happens, at least we get to see Sansa and Arya Stark together again, safe at home — however briefly. “Sansa, this whole show, the only reason she has willed herself to survive is for her family,” said Turner, who has a ‘The Pack Survives’ tattoo, quoting the show. “The power of family and unity is so strong that it can keep people alive. That’s the biggest thing I’ve taken away from the show: Family is everything.”
She added: “I think Papa Stark would be very proud of us.”
However, this doesn’t necessarily bode well for Sansa and Arya’s one-time half-brother, now cousin, Jon Snow (Kit Harington).
At the end of season seven, Jon famously sent a letter to Sansa after his meeting with Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) in Queen’s Landing.
Without referencing any of Sansa’s titles, or asking her advice, it read:
Cersei Lannister has pledged her forces to our cause, as has Daenerys Targaryen. And if we survive this war, I have pledged our forces to Daenerys at the rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. We are both coming to organise the defence of the realm.
Jon Snow, Warden of the North.
Naturally, fans can’t help but wonder if Jon’s letter will cause some issues between him and Sansa. After all, he did bend the knee to Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) without seeking advice – and we imagine this issue will be compounded further when he arrives at Winterfell with the Dragon Queen on his arm… particularly if the truth about his lineage comes out, too.
Similarly, the letter reveals that Jon genuinely did believe Cersei when she promised to send her forces north and assist in the fight against the White Walkers (far too honourable for his own good, bless him). And his allying with the woman whom Arya blames for the death of her father probably won’t go down a treat, either.
So what will happen?
Well, hopefully Arya and Sansa will show Jon more mercy than they did Littlefinger.
In season seven, Aidan Gillen’s character did his best to drive a wedge between the Stark sisters, making it his mission to convince Sansa that Arya had only come to Winterfell in order to kill her.
“And after she murders you, what does she become?” he asked quietly.
“Lady of Winterfell,” replied Sansa, seemingly 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.
We just… well, we just hope they don’t bump off Jon and Daenerys while they do it, is all.