One of the most interesting upcoming story arcs in Game of Thrones is Sansa Stark’s transformation that will be playing out in Season 5. Thus far, we’ve only seen a single glimpse of the physically darker version of her as Alayne Stone with the first moment where she finally engages in the actual Game of Thrones in episode 8 of season 4. This mostly lines up with her ending chapter where she hears about the plot from Petyr Baelish in reclaiming Winterfell. From Sophie Turner herself, she has revealed that her character will undergo a massive transformation from the innocent, naive little girl to a far more politically savvy manipulator in the upcoming season. But what does this mean?
To answer this question, we need to delve into Sansa’s motives. Thus far, her primary motive was to survive and somehow get out of King’s Landing. When she arrives at the Eyrie, Sansa receives a very cold welcome from her own aunt, whose mind had become twisted with paranoia. Quickly, she realizes that in order to defend herself, she has to depend partly on Petyr Baelish’s aid. In the TV series, we see this reflected through her deflection of blame of Lysa’s demise away from Petyr. When Petyr goes to question Sansa’s reasons for helping him, she remarks that these relatives could thwart her as well.
While Petyr accepts her rationale for her succor, we have to wonder to what degree is Sansa being truthful here. Why is it that she ends up deceiving her own relatives and keeping Petyr alive? Currently, as far as we know, Sansa has not discovered Petyr’s ultimate motives nor his part in creating the chaos that has taken many of her family and friend’s lives. Without a doubt we can guess though that she more than likely suspects Petyr of corruption and hence maintains some healthy distance. If anything though, I think she does recognize that she needs Petyr at this very time to somehow get back home as she really doesn’t have any allies.
For Sansa, she already knows that her mother, father and eldest brother are all dead. There’s a very good chance that she has learned of Bran and Rickon’s “death” (as only a very select few know the truth). That only leaves Jon Snow as someone she might attempt to ally herself with except that the story never really depicts her relationship with Jon Snow as someone she’s close to (unlike Arya). Finally, we have Arya, whom despite her training, really offers nothing at this point as someone Sansa can rely on for support (not to mention Arya being too distant at this point and rumored to be possibly dead).
Given this situation, Sansa appears quite isolated in supporters. It’s quite clear that remaining in King’s Landing after Joffrey’s assassination will only spell her own doom. Thus, the north remains her only sanctuary. Unfortunately though, even in that situation, her options seem limited as Lysa’s threats against Sansa’s life proves that even family members might not be trustworthy.
What is clear though is that as the current, eldest, known, living family member of the Starks, Sansa does have proper ties back to Winterfell as the heir. It seems that in her current state, she only has the option to assume that responsibility or remain hunted. My guess is that deep within her, she has her mother’s heart and father’s sense of duty, thus pointing her to eventually accept the duty as the possible rightful heir to Winterfell.
In the little season 5 preview, we did hear Littlefinger insinuate to Sansa that she could avenge her family. The only way she can do such an act is to assume control over Winterfell and rally the north as the queen. Littlefinger’s plan thus far in A Feast for Crows is for her to continue under the guise of her alternate identity and marry Harrold Hardyng so that the Vale and the rest of the North will rally behind her. In this manner, she can use these forces to take revenge.
Yet something to ask is whether Sansa will remain naive in blindly accepting Petyr’s proposal or will she suspect an ulterior motive from him, especially after he blatantly told her that he desires “Everything.” When Petyr murders Lysa through shoving her out the Moon Door, Petyr admits aloud that he loved Catelyn while Lysa mentions that he has an unhealthy fondness for Sansa. Also, we do know that Sansa has learned from Cersei that “Tears aren’t a woman’s only weapon. The best one’s between your legs.” We have also seen her employ the first weapon against Lord Yohn Royce, Lady Anya Waynwood, and Ser Vance Corbray in defending Petyr. And one can argue that by allowing Petyr to (creepily) kiss her, she uses Cersei’s advice to assure Petyr’s trust.
Given these things, we have to assume that at the very least Sansa is suspicious. The only thing she’s missing is the connection to the events resulting from Petyr’s chicanery. I think what she will do is use Petyr to gain her own outfit of power and eventually expose Petyr’s machinations and have him executed. I do not know how the character of Harrold Hardyng will play into the storyline; it feels at this stage he’s too late in the game (pun partly intended) to make a huge difference and that somehow Petyr will concoct his demise so that Petyr can eventually wed Sansa himself, thus becoming lord of the North.
If somehow Petyr meets an untimely demise (which I predict if he, indeed, is not some supernatural entity), then what will happen to Sansa’s reign? The main thing is that Tyrion remains alive and legally is still married to Sansa. Petyr more than likely was attempting to kill Tyrion in having him framed so that Petyr could free up that claim for himself. Since Tyrion is missing though, Petyr will try to have their marriage annulled. My feeling is that Petyr will be too late in his deeds and that Tyrion will emerge with Dany to restore order to the kingdom.
In turn, because of his marriage to Sansa, Tyrion will assume co-rulership with Sansa in the north if Dany succeeds in reclaiming the Iron Throne. Now, here’s where the plot can become very intriguing with regards to Sansa’s continued character development. We have seen this darker image of Sansa and the master manipulator beginning to emerge. Will Sansa gradually become a more obsessive and tyrannical version of Cersei given the abuse and manipulation she has received at the hands of everyone? Or will she remember her lineage and her father’s sense of duty and honor in collaborating with Dany in attempting to unify a fair and just kingdom?
I mentioned in a previous blog post how one of the key things people have not talked about is how the war will most likely impact the coming of winter and White Walkers. All signs lead to Sansa having the ability to determine a huge portion of that outcome in condemning or elevating the North through a campaign of vengeance if and when she is able to reclaim her birthright. It’s an interesting development that makes her such a hugely pivotal character in the series with the possibility of a monstrous burden to save or damn a kingdom.