While the North’s primary conflict will be setting up in preparation for the highly anticipated eventual confrontation with the White Walkers, the second probable confrontation will be an internal one that is festering between Jon Snow and Sansa Stark. Re-watching a few key scenes with Sansa Stark and Jon Snow’s interactions as well as off-screen material, I want to provide some possible insight into how things may play out.
In recent interviews, Sophie Turner has pointed out that she doesn’t believe Sansa Stark has much time left in the series. While I cannot fathom at this very moment how Sansa’s demise might turn out, there is a write up featuring an old draft of George RR Martin’s original plot for the series. In the draft, George RR Martin mentions that between the major houses, only a few key characters will survive until the end, including Bran Stark, Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Arya Stark and Daenerys Targaryen. For House Lannister and Stark, George RR Martin also pointed out that they would have internal strife from a “traitor” type of character. Clearly, Tyrion has revolted against his own house when he slew his father Tywin. In the Stark’s case, Sansa was mentioned as an eventual antagonist and you can see in her long story arc how she is slowly developing into a villain.
When she started out, Sansa represented the archetype princess character, where she herself imagined marrying Joffrey who was her own handsome prince. However, her entire story has turned in on itself as her hopes and dreams were shattered from the murder of her father, to the dismantling of her family, through her abuses in the capitol by the people she once respected and even the horrors of marriage from her treatment by Ramsay Bolton. Although she does seem to have a sense of morals, justice and honor imparted from her family, she has slowly become divided as her life has sliced apart her integrity.
In one scene, the Blackfish Brendon Tully describes Sansa Stark as being “exactly as her mother.” Unfortunately, in many ways that does not bold well for her because of how Catelyn demise partly was wrought through her uncontrollable lust for revenge and her hate for Jon Snow. The Sansa we are slowly seeing is a young mirror image of Catelyn from her auburn colored hair to her growing turmoil with Jon, which supposedly has been imparted by Catelyn.
Also, prior to Ramsay’s death, he admits to Sansa how she can never remove his presence from her life in that “he’s part of her.” Obviously, this isn’t just a literal statement but a figurative one in that his influence has corrupted a part of Sansa’s soul. She’s able to murder Ramsay mercilessly and with content as indicated by her small at the end of the scene. It’s as if all the frustrations of her past few years were exonerated in a moment of catharsis through this act.
And it’s interesting too to note that while Jon Snow halted his vengeful beating of Ramsay, Sansa did not and in fact relished the moment. That goes to show how Jon’s moral center is still intact after all that he’s been through compared to Sansa, which again permeates the spirit of her mother.
Yet the thing the question I have to ask about that scene is just how aware Sansa is about herself. While Ramsay directly does point out Sansa’s character flaw, does Sansa herself see it about her? Is the smile one of self-awareness of uncontrollable lust for violence?
The importance of self-awareness is a remarkable trait that few characters in the story actually possess. The thing is that Sansa does not seem truly self-aware of her real strengths and weaknesses, which puts her at a tremendous disadvantage. For instance, I just re-watched one of the first war council meetings for the Starks where Sansa attempted to point out to Ser Davos that the Karstarks joined the Boltons “without knowing that they had a choice.” Ser Davos contests that the Karstarks’ head was beheaded by her brother and declared for the Boltons partly due to fear of the Boltons. In turn, Sansa appears doubtful as Ser Davos shows more experience with men than Sansa’s own knowledge of the general North.
But that scene bothers me in that it shows how Sansa believes that she knows the game now. Her knowledge of politics has improved due to living in King’s Landing. I think one of her latest interviews even shows Sophie Turner talking about how Sansa is one of the few that know how the major houses operate. Even if that part is true, Sansa is too inexperienced and plays knowledge as if she’s an expert. Her only move at that point in the show was saving Littlefinger from the Royces during his trial and being able to fake her way to survive in King’s Landing. But her plays never have been great ones outside of using Littlefinger to gather the Knights of the Vale to save her brother.
In part, I feel that Sansa not only mirrors her mother but Cersei Lannister as well. If you look at both Cersei and Sansa, their lives aren’t that much different. In some ways, Cersei has “mentored” Sansa on politics but that mentoring is more along the lines of corruption since Cersei isn’t considered respectable. Both the thing about Cersei is that she, like Sansa, lacks self-awareness and is overconfident and petty, which allows others to manipulate her.
Right now, Sansa’s new arc seems to be heading towards rekindling her past squabbles with Jon Snow. And certainly Littlefinger will be the one stoking that flame into a conflagration. Sansa still very much has a little girl’s mentality and we can see some of her pettiness arise in feeling jealous towards her brother’s success. Even if Jon does provide Sansa credit in their talk as Melisandre leaves, it’s evident that Littlefinger’s planted notions of desires in Sansa have taken root. With all the other corruption she has experienced, Sansa may fall into Cersei’s trap of doing things because “it feels good.”
Yet Cersei never had a moral compass in her life the way Sansa possesses with her father. Also, while Catelyn had her negative sides, she still was in essence a caring woman with the right abstract ideals. Ultimately, Sansa is being torn apart by her ideals of obligation versus selfish desire.
The way season 7 will boil down for Sansa’s fate is how she is treated (or mistreated) by Jon. I see Ser Davos doing more to serve Jon in a very faithful, honorable yet street smart manner, something that Sansa cannot provide. And as the love for Jon grows in the North, Sansa may feel her own worth diminishing where only Littlefinger’s solution of making a bold claim for herself to be her way of salvation.
In addition, one major question that has popped up for me is whether or not Sansa even cares about the true perceived enemy of man, which is the White Walkers. Thus far, she has made no allegiance in attitude towards them. We do not know if she even believes in them and that she may even still attribute them to “Old Nan’s stories,” even with people like Jon Snow, Tormund and members of the Night Watch having first hand witnessing their existence. Littlefinger could possibly convince Sansa that everyone is delusional about the White Walkers just to gain Sansa’s confidence in his own master plan.
Next we have to re-examine Arya’s scenes too when she sees the play. When she helps Lady Crane to improve her performance by suggesting playing Cersei as someone motivated by the love of her children, Arya essentially cuts through the heart of what makes Cersei tick. At the same time, she sees Sansa’s attempt to murder Cersei as a trick by a jealous, incompetent actress. This very likely is foreshadowing Arya’s own eventual encounters with Cersei and Sansa as well as what each truly are.
The description of Sansa’s actress in particular is interesting in that she’s seen by Arya as a jealous, lesser actress. We can see the jealousy manifest towards Jon Snow. But the aspect of being a “lesser actress” might imply Sansa as a player in the real play, which is the world of Game of Thrones. She’s someone who wants to think of herself as a major force but her lack of experience and misguided jealousy will eventually lead to her own demise/failure.
On top of that, we have to recall Sansa and Arya’s conflicts from the start of the series. Both sisters fight a lot due to their differing opinions on what is important. Sansa has always been about the petty and grandiose things in life, which is what blinds her all the time to the true problems in the world. Arya though is capable of seeing, which is why she went from blinded to gaining her eyesight back to understand the underpinnings of the play. From the start, Arya is able to see past Joffrey’s fakeness and the Lannister’s corrupt claims, but no one listens to her.
Of course, the important thing in the end is the lesson Ned taught Arya about the importance of family. Sansa only partly sees it at this point. But Arya still ought to carry that notion with her and may be able to turn Sansa back. If anything I see Arya and Sansa being the ones to fight over Jon’s survival behind the scenes so to speak. Sansa might be able to acquire power to dethrone Jon but Arya with the help of Bran (and perhaps Samwell Tarly) might have the information and method to restore him when the time is right.