Glass Candle Dialogue: the Rise and Fall of Littlefinger

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This week, Luka and I start down our long list of dead Game of Thrones characters we want to analyze, starting with Mr. Goatee himself, Petyr Baelish! We delve into the gender politics of his storyline, the tropes he thought he embodied, and the delicate balance between enjoying a problematic character and pitying or, worse, admiring them.

Petra: There’s something very pleasantly anticlimactic about Littlefinger’s story. He was a foil to Varys in a lot of ways, he was this master puppeteer who orchestrated all these elaborate machinations, and the big question on all our minds was “what does he want?” And it turned out that what he wanted was to get the girl. It was this very complex journey to a very human, emotional and quite petty objective. And I enjoyed that.

Luka: Though I’m sure the mechanics of his downfall in the books will be far more complex, I hope it’s thematically similar to what we got on the show. Fans sometimes get attached to certain characters because they see themselves reflected in them, which is fine and good … most of the time, but it can have a dark side. I’m going to get a bit political here. In modern terms, Littlefinger was the nerd revenge fantasy gone wrong; he was this very intelligent outcast while the Starks were the jocks —

Petra: The Loki to Brandon Stark’s Thor.

Luka: Yeah. So I think some fans were attracted to that aspect of him, and that’s why in their eyes he could do no wrong and always had an answer for every eventuality. As his story neared its end, whenever he failed his fanatics got quite angry — “Littlefinger wouldn’t have fallen for that!” Of course, he fell for his rather evident emotional blind spots, but they can’t see that. He’s essentially a Mary Sue of their own creation.

Petra: I wouldn’t say he’s framed in a positive light, though.

Luka: No, I wouldn’t say the books or the show themselves are at fault, but nevertheless some fans see him that way. When Sansa got ahead of him I don’t think that sat well with them. Even those who expected him to die at her hand wanted it to be epic; they wanted him to remain cool until the very end. But he didn’t. Because he never was cool.

Ned Littlefinger

Petra: To be honest, I’ve only met one Littlefinger fan in my life. It was at my very first Comic Con. We had an interesting conversation. Have you met more?

Luka: You should explore the darker corners of the internet. Or perhaps you shouldn’t. A friend of mine is in love with the character. She’s also a big fan of Snape. You know the archetype — the “misunderstood” (big quotes) emo creeps. It can get disturbing.

Petra: Littlefinger falls into that archetype perfectly. He uses brains instead of brawn. And he’s using it to get the girl, which is normally considered a good thing to do.

Luka: Hardcore fans love to see the characters’ stories from their perspectives, to really get in their shoes. This is a wonderful thing we all should do, but there is a big difference between gaining an appreciation for a character by comprehending their point of view and actually agreeing with them. Sadly, the worldview that Littlefinger purports has become a real problem online, especially with new, tech-savvy yet retrograde, misogynistic organizations. It permeates everything from the obvious sphere of politics to gaming and film criticism. Unlike some of us, these particular nerds who were bullied in school learned the wrong lesson from the experience. They can’t see now they are the oppressors rather than the victims. They were wronged, so now any reprisal is justified.

Petra: They can’t see they’re not entitled to the girl as a reward. Baelish is an interesting deconstruction of the self-proclaimed nice guy … though he’s never really nice.

Luka: To be fair, he’s more superficially nice in the first few seasons, and in the books overall, though every character who knows him a little bit knows not to trust him.

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Petra: His arc feels reminiscent of the typical wish-fulfillment ‘80’s movie in which the weak yet likable every-man goes up against the big bully and is rewarded with the girl in the end, but instead it’s this dark villain origin story in which, in the end, he failed.

Luka: It’s just as Baelish told Ros in season one: “The little hero always beats the big villain in all the stories.” But he didn’t. That was such a telling scene: he insists he “used to be Catelyn’s confidant,” that she could tell him “anything at all.” If Baelish lived today, he would whine about being “friendzoned” — an abhorrent concept perpetuated by the Littlefingers of the world who believe they deserve sex or romance for being nice. Or, worse, there are those who believe they don’t even need to be nice to anyone because of how smart they are — the kind of people who watch Breaking Bad or Rick and Morty oblivious to the fact that Walter White and Rick are the villains of their own sad lives.

Petra: I guess I’m surprised so few people find his love for Catelyn endearing because that’s usually what fans go for. It’s very similar to Severus Snape’s love for Lily Evans in Harry Potter. I’m not saying this to demean Snape fans but there are some serious points of comparison between those two unrequited love stories, yet one is considered romantic by a large portion of the fandom, while the other is creepy for most people.

Luka: I think a lot of it comes down to a difference in framing.

Petra: Now that I’m thinking about it, though, love informed their characters very differently: for love of Lily, Snape became a double agent and sacrificed himself to save the wizarding world; for love of Cat, Baelish became a conniving, pedophilic creeper. So it’s really not the same thing. Again, there’s nothing wrong with finding a character who does bad things engaging but there’s a difference between that and woobifyingthem. There are other people who don’t fit the gender roles of Westeros who have chosen to react to their predicament differently. Sam, for example, was also bullied relentlessly for excelling in brains instead of brawn but he chose a different path than Baelish.

Luka: Sam is the nerd that we should all aspire to be, the kind of person who is empathetic because of their suffering, rather than vindictive. Sam values emotion, as we all should. Littlefinger believed emotion to be worthless. Littlefinger was dead wrong.

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Petra: The comparison to Sam is apt, but I usually see Littlefinger as a foil to Varys, especially in the show, in which he’s completely detached from passion. Yet, I love Varys!

Luka: Yeah, me too.

Petra: But it’s curious, isn’t it? They are framed as diametric opposites, explicitly early on, but they have a lot in common. They’re similar yet we like one but not the other.

Luka: I wouldn’t say they’re truly similar. The tools they wield are often almost identical, but that’s very much taking them out of context. Baelish’s endgame was always self-serving. Whether we agree with Varys’ ends or not, he isn’t nearly as egotistic.

Petra: They’re similar insofar as they’re inverse reflections of each other. They’re master manipulators and for much of the show we didn’t know what their motivation was.

Luka: I do want to point out that there’s this cool air of mystery surrounding them both, mostly because of how they act, but if we think back, in the very first season you can see Varys talking to Illyrio and laying his plans for Targaryen restoration, and Littlefinger was quite explicit about what he wanted in that infamous brothel scene.

Petra: True! Varys and Littlefinger came from similar backgrounds but the former chose to help others, in his way, while the latter chose to serve only himself. To be honest, I was expecting a twist in regards to Littlefinger’s motivations. I thought it couldn’t be that his endgame was merely to rule and get Catelyn, or Sansa as a Plan B.

Luka: But it had to be just that. Baelish was a sad, clever man with the cold calculations of a sociopath and the emotional intelligence of a particularly clueless child.

Petra: Ooh, I like that. I should put that in bold!

Luka: [Laughs] Baelish never got past that duel with Brandon Stark. His motivations and stunted emotional development may have all stemmed from that defeat. His clever machinations grew more complex but his emotions never grew past that moment.

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Petra: Is it realistic for someone to remain fixated on the same person from childhood? That’s a very common occurrence in fiction but I’ve never encountered that myself, nor do I care for the concept. “I’ve loved you since we were five years old.” Is that a thing?

Luka: I’d say it definitely is. It may rarely be healthy, but it’s still a thing, especially in a situation in which both children grow and develop together, so there’s fuel to stoke the fire over time, if you will. But that’s not the kind of “love” Petyr felt for Catelyn. That’s why he could so easily transpose his so-called love for Catelyn onto Sansa.

Petra: His love for Catelyn was never for her as a person. It wasn’t based on common values or shared tastes in ice cream flavors or whatever. It was an object-oriented love, not only in the sexual sense but in terms of achievement: his inadequacy had been framed around his love for Catelyn. Brandon humiliated him and their power dynamic was established in reference to how they related to her. So Catelyn became his goal.

Luka: For me, Petyr’s character was always all about his inadequacy, which is why I was very happy when he resorted to pleading for his life and reverting back to a pile of mud before his death. I was a bit apprehensive about that moment as the scene began, because I wasn’t sure what his emotional response would be. The showrunners get enough shit already, but it’s true they sometimes resort to the “cool” option rather than the one that’s truest for the character, so I was a bit worried. But I was so happy they didn’t fall for that trap! I saw a reaction video with a guy who was a big fan of Littlefinger precisely because of how much of an “alpha” Machiavelli he was (or rather wanted to be,) and his ending was such a shock: “No! Don’t go out like a loser!” He was empathizing with Littlefinger, seeing himself in him, so he didn’t want to see the truth: that Baelish was always a loser. He was never a brilliant, cool-guy badass. He was a clever yet affectively vacant sociopath. Lacking feelings is not “cool.” Incidentally, this fan had been a gung-ho “Stannis the Mannis” proponent too, with similar results, but that’s a story for another time, when we get into Stannis, who I appreciate even more as a character, yet I also consider him to be disturbingly glorified by some fans — men, mostly.

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Petra: I’ve been thinking about Petyr’s death a lot in preparation for this dialogue. It felt similar to Roose Bolton’s death, in they were both men who always seemed to be one step ahead of everyone else, but got blindsided. But I like how it fit thematically. The moment Baelish finally overplayed his hand was when he tried to split up the Starks.

Luka: He never felt anything as deep as sisterly love, so he never realized his mistake. When he tried to lead Sansa to the conclusion that Arya was trying to overthrow her, that was the moment Sansa knew he was deceiving her, because Sansa knew that Arya would never aspire to rule Winterfell. He could have realized his mistake if he’d been capable of understanding that kind of love. See, I usually hate how media portrays mental illness. Sociopathy, for example, is often portrayed as an evil superpower, which it isn’t. For starters, sociopaths aren’t necessarily smart, or evil. Their ethics are based on consequences instead of morality, by necessity, because they lack empathy, but that isn’t a superpower. It’s a mental handicap. Littlefinger appears to be a “cool” movie sociopath when he plots and spies on people, which is in character for him, but it’s also in character for him to be completely bereft of empathy and to fall because of it.

Petra: The topic of love is so strange to discuss in relation to Game of Thrones because Westeros is such a cruel world, but I like that love was Littlefinger’s undoing. His love for Catelyn wasn’t a warm and giving love, but it was the closest thing he had. That “love” was Littlefinger’s motivation for the entire story. Yet, his underestimation of actual love was what caused his downfall. I like how damn sad that is, how pathetic.

Luka: Pathetic! I love that his end was pathetic. He didn’t die with a smile on his face.

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Petra: I’m not happy about the death of his foil, though. We know Varys is going to die…

Luka: Unless Melisandre was just taking the piss, yes, we do.

Petra: I have hope that he at least gets a dignified death.

Luka: It’s difficult for me to picture Varys in any kind of undignified position, to be honest. Then again, it was difficult for me to imagine Littlefinger pleading for his life, even though that was exactly what I wanted. Or what I didn’t know I wanted. Anyway, it was difficult for me to picture and I think Aidan Gillen did a wonderful job. It felt real. I don’t want to get into seriously diagnosing fictional characters, because that’s a problematic road, but I do see him as sociopathic; I think he was being sincere and heartfelt with his pleading, but only as much as he ever could … which isn’t much.

Petra: I don’t know if I bought his crying.

Luka: Let me rephrase that. I didn’t buy it but I bought that he bought it. Just as he thought he loved Catelyn and Sansa. When he said “I loved your mother” and “I loved you” and Sansa came back with “Yet you betrayed her” and “Yet you betrayed me,” I could see in his face that he was trying and failing to wrestle with the contradiction. He genuinely believed that he loved them … he just didn’t know what love actually is.

Petra: It felt like he was playing his last card: “Well … guess I’ll drop to my knees now.”

Luka: He tried to use his position as Protector of the Vale and to undermine Bran, and when all of that failed he tried use his personal connection to Catelyn and Sansa, but that’s the problem: he doesn’t have any. There’s this mix of feelings. When he dropped to his knees and pleaded it felt choreographed until Sansa retorted with “Yet you betrayed her” and “Yet you betrayed me.” From that moment onward it felt completely real.

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Petra: The fact that he got his throat cut felt appropriate. It’s one of the gorier ways to go and it was the same way that Catelyn was killed. I think her death was somewhat dignified, in the show at least, but his … well, that wasn’t a dignified way to go. In the audio commentary for “The Lion and the Rose”, Martin said Joffrey’s death was so horrifying because he had time to know he was dying. The same was true of Littlefinger.

Luka: He lived long enough to realize that he was dead, that he had failed — definitively.

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116 responses

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    1. I love how LF thought that his great strength was the fact that has no loyalty to his family, he is solo player. Many mistakes that “players” in GoT made were because of their family and love or pride for family. The downfall of many characters in this story was connected to that.

      It felt like LF was unstoppable, because he didn’t have that kind of loyalty to family or some greater idea. So I love how loyalty to family was something that defeated him at the end, it made perfect sense.

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    2. Great discussion, and it brought in a range of things I hadn’t thought much about: misogyny, current politics, etc. But I have to disagree a little about the “love” issue. I think, through most of it, Littlefinger’s prime ambition was to hurt other people, to cause maximum damage. Inflaming the already cool feelings between Lannister and Stark: That had a big payoff: the war of the 5 kings and all the death and destruction that caused (and continues to cause, in the books). That Sansa (Tully) Stark suddenly turned up and was the spitting image of Catelyn (who was now old and gaunt-looking) was just the icing on the cake – now he could (as you say) conquer and take possession of his “great love”, and put a stick in the eye of Eddard (brother of that nasty Brandon) Stark, AND old Cat, who was so ungrateful as to marry Ned instead of running away with Petyr to the barren, desolate Fingers. As you noted, Sansa was “beloved” as a prize, which Baelish thought he had “earned” by being … a conniving weasel.

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    3. mau,

      That’s a great observation! At this point, one can’t help but wonder if Varys will be overthrown by his strength – not being ruled by testosterone, like all the other male characters in the story?

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    4. As Sansa said the Lone Wolf died, Baelish played alone, it almost feels as if he felt he could walk on water. He’d caused the death and downfall of Ned, and also Lysa Arrans, he’d helped kill Joffrey and spirited away Sansa isolating her so who else could she turn to? He’d had a hand in causing the war of the 5 kings. Plus he was fiddling the Kingdoms finances why because he could. He got rulership of theVales. The more “successes” he racked up the more he felt he had no equal in manipulation so he missed the signs as Sansa said she a slow learner.

      In the beginning of his story he started with nothing and at the end of his story he had nothing that was worth anything to those around him in the great hall at Winterfell and he knew it. That was the right way for his story to end.

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    5. Petra & Luka:

      I so look forward to your Glass Candle dialogues! They are always a great read, without the usual blather and cliches in most GoT discussions.

      And a big thanks for the gif of Arya nonchalantly slicing LF’s neck and walking away.

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    6. I think the comparison to troll-mysoginists of today is an intriguing one. Littlefinger thrived because he created and then took advantage of chaos. In some ways, I feel this isn’t a “brilliant strategy” but rather an easy way out. Fact is, that it’s easy to create chaos. It’s much simpler to knock things over than it is to build something new. This is exactly what’s going on (and wrong) with political discourse today. People are tearing each other down, trying to get a rise out of each other rather than coming up with solutions. And why? Because it’s so much easier… Instant personal gratification, at great cost to basically everyone else.

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    7. My goodness, you two have done it again. You’ve covered almost every aspect of LF, the lonest wolf on Planetos. And the nerd analogy–Luka, that was brilliant!

      IMO, LF was always condemned to lose for three reasons: 1) He had no allies, except temporarily, and those didn’t trust him anyway. 2) Compared to Varys, a meticulous, long-term planner with a deeply hidden agenda and the ability to turn on a dime when necessary, Baelish was a high-stakes gambler. He stirred up Chaos by throwing the cards up in the air and taking advantage of however they fell. But every chancer knows that if you play long enough, eventually they won’t fall they way they must. And in the Game of Highest-stakes gambling, you win or you die. Winterfell, Arya (and Bran) turned his Ace of Hearts into the Ace of Spades! 3) His drivers were greed, ambition, and most of all, vindictiveness. When in S1 he first told about the mark Brandon Stark left on him, it pointed to a still-festering inner scar as well. He concluded, “I’m not going to fight them. I’m going to fuck them!” ‘Them’ was primarily the Starks, but also the powerful highborns, all dumber than him but irrevocably above him due to the System, which he also wanted to overturn. He tried to kill Bran and I conjecture that he hired a FM to kill Ned and Arya in KL. Joffrey took care of Ned, probably at LF’s suggestion, and the FM followed Arya, who saved his life. Baelish was incapable of love for another because his heart had been consumed with love (and pity) for himself. Zandru sums it up perfectly:

      zandru,

      That Sansa (Tully) Stark suddenly turned up and was the spitting image of Catelyn (who was now old and gaunt-looking) was just the icing on the cake – now he could (as you say) conquer and take possession of his “great love”, and put a stick in the eye of Eddard (brother of that nasty Brandon) Stark, AND old Cat, who was so ungrateful as to marry Ned instead of running away with Petyr to the barren, desolate Fingers. As you noted, Sansa was “beloved” as a prize, which Baelish thought he had “earned”

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    8. Great dialogue. Thank you Luka and Petra.

      That idea of LF not knowing what true emotion is and thus getting tripped up by it is a brilliant read and helps explain a lot of his slip ups.

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    9. Luka: He never felt anything as deep as sisterly love, so he never realized his mistake. When he tried to lead Sansa to the conclusion that Arya was trying to overthrow her, that was the moment Sansa knew he was deceiving her, because Sansa knew that Arya would never aspire to rule Winterfell. He could have realized his mistake if he’d been capable of understanding that kind of love.

      That realization doesn’t have anything to do with love, it’s purely about motive. For Littlefinger to have been undone by the sisters’ underlying love for each other, that would have involved them refusing to see each other as the enemy. But that didn’t happen; both were immediately willing to believe the worst about each other. Sansa didn’t see through that based on love for Arya, or Arya’s love for her, she just can’t square the suggested motivation with what she knows about Arya — i.e., that Arya isn’t interested in power. Had Littlefinger simply ran with the thread that he had already developed, that Arya was dangerous and willing to kill her out of a zealous belief that Sansa was a traitor, that wouldn’t have come up, and both girls were entirely caught up in that ploy up until that point.

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    10. zandru,

      Good point. Varys is a scheemer just like Littlefinger was, but his motives are much more obscure. In a way Varys may believe that he is doing everyhing for the sake of the realm but there are so many contradictions in his choices that it becomes highly questionable. Just like Dany noted: how could anyone think that Viseirys would have been a better ruler than Robert (who was careless but still able to choose pretty good Hands)? Moreover, Littlefinger implied that Varys was a liar (and Varys admitted that he was affraid to abandon the lies), so now I kind of think that it could be Varys who built the foundation of lies for the Robert’s rebellion. That may lead to his demise.
      And as for passion/love Varys thinks to be so destructive, IMO it will turn out to be the only thing that will save the world, because it’s the only thing that may prevent Jon and Dany from going against each other.

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    11. Inga:
      zandru,

      Just like Dany noted: how could anyone think that Viseirys would have been a better ruler than Robert

      Because when D&D wrote S1 they didn’t think that GRRM will fail to finish the story and that he will include that strange soup opera storyline in Book 5 with Young Griff that he clearly doesn’t know what do to with.

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    12. Sean C.,

      Okay… and Sansa knows Arya that well because… they’re neighbors? Acquaintances? Yeah, that was it.

      Littlefinger’s inability to form real relationships precludes him from actually knowing people well. Mind you, he’s a manipulator, so he can find out about their weak points in other ways that make him appear clever (instead of what it is; that he has to use these cold, alternative paths because of his emotional handicap), but that’s not the same thing. He thought his made-up interpretation of Arya’s character and actions would be able to supersede the one Sansa had formed as Arya’s sister. He was wrong.

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    13. Luka Nieto,

      I don’t think you have to know Arya particularly well to know that. If Littlefinger suggested that Sansa wanted to kill Arya because she wanted Needle for herself, you wouldn’t need to know Sansa very well to know that wasn’t true. “Sisterly love” doesn’t enter into it, as the sisters’ relationship up until that moment was pretty toxic, and never worse than it was in Season 7 until that point.

      The core mistake was his rather amateurish misread of what would be a plausible motivation for Arya (even though he’d already hit on a plausible one earlier, one that both sisters played into readily).

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    14. Sean C.: Had Littlefinger simply ran with the thread that he had already developed, that Arya was dangerous and willing to kill her out of a zealous belief that Sansa was a traitor, that wouldn’t have come up, and both girls were entirely caught up in that ploy up until that point.

      Sean C.: The core mistake was his rather amateurish misread of what would be a plausible motivation for Arya (even though he’d already hit on a plausible one earlier, one that both sisters played into readily).

      For some reason, you’re framing Littlefinger’s “Arya believes you’re betraying Jon” argument as a distinct one from the “She wants to overthrow you as Lady of Winterfell”, instead of it being the logical extension of it, which is how Littlefinger presented it. He didn’t change tactics; he just went further, too far in fact, by suggesting Arya would be willing to murder Sansa to deal with her supposed betrayal, which would make Arya Lady of Winterfell. He was lying (and/or wrong) about Arya’s motivations and how far she’d go, of course, and Sansa got that, but the two ideas were presented together, one as an extension of the other; not one as an alternative motivation to the other.

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    15. Luka Nieto: Littlefinger’s inability to form real relationships precludes him from actually knowing people well. Mind you, he’s a manipulator, so he can find out about their weak points in other ways that make him appear clever (instead of what it is; that he has to use these cold, alternative paths because of his emotional handicap), but that’s not the same thing.

      Am I the only one who had difficulty crediting book Littlefinger as a great mastermind? It seemed to me that nearly all the small council must have been a bit dim – even Tyrion didn’t rumble Littlefinger in the books. I did like Aiden Gillan as show Littlefinger though. I don’t have much sympathy for either version of Littlefinger – I mean I know he didn’t love Lysa but she loved him, poor deluded woman, and he could have made the best of a bad job. I suppose he gains a few brownie points for helping Sansa escape Kings Landing but that was for his own ends – but I never thought the book “Vale” plot was that wonderful either. I won’t say anymore in case anyone wants to read the books later and I don’t want to spoil things. Anyhow, thanks to Petra and Luka for sharing their thoughts.

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    16. Luka Nieto,

      “Arya thinks I’m going to betray Jon and would kill me for/to prevent that” is about Arya’s ferocious loyalty to her loved ones (a group in which, as Arya herself demonstrates in episodes 5-6, Sansa’s membership is decidedly doubtful, and Jon’s is unquestioned). “And after she murders you, what does she become?” is an insinuation that that office is part of her motivation.

      Sansa never has any trouble with the idea that Arya might kill her for suspicion of treason (and Arya gives her every reason to think that’s true, whatever Arya’s inscrutable actual motivation was). She accepts that.

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    17. Sean C.: That realization doesn’t have anything to do with love, it’s purely about motive.For Littlefinger to have been undone by the sisters’ underlying love for each other, that would have involved them refusing to see each other as the enemy.But that didn’t happen; both were immediately willing to believe the worst about each other.Sansa didn’t see through that based on love for Arya, or Arya’s love for her, she just can’t square the suggested motivation with what she knows about Arya — i.e., that Arya isn’t interested in power.Had Littlefinger simply ran with the thread that he had already developed, that Arya was dangerous and willing to kill her out of a zealous belief that Sansa was a traitor, that wouldn’t have come up, and both girls were entirely caught up in that ploy up until that point.

      I don’t think Sansa was caught up in his ploy at that point, at that point I think she used and played him for the confirmation on what Bran, she and maybe Arya knew ( not sure when all three would talk together )I think once Bran told her of KL, and jogged her memories of the Eyrie stuff that she buried ( in book at least ) I think she wanted and needed confirmation and we get the last lesson game from Baleish for her proof.
      Then she and her siblings came up with the trial ( which to me would have been more effective if Arya was dressed in a woolen smock and no weapons ).
      I liked how it ended for him, knowing that Lysa was right; Sansa like Cat didn’t love him.

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    18. Luka Nieto,

      Sean C.,

      It’s hard to say exactly what moment Sansa started to suspect Littlefinger and trust Arya. I’m not as confident that the “lady of Winterfell” argument that LF made was necessarily the straw that broke the camel’s back there. Like Sean C says, there are still other, more believable reasons for Sansa being suspicious of Arya, reasons that Sansa articulated before, and which probably didn’t vanish from her mind. Sansa had plenty of available rationales for at least arresting Arya, but she didn’t rely on any of them in her final decision.

      But that’s why I agree with Luka’s overall point, which is that the love that Sansa still had for Arya is what foiled Littlefinger’s plan ultimately. The tension for Sansa this season, which really started in the S6 finale, was that Sansa’s ambition for power was in conflict with her love for her family, and S7 would be about which would ultimately win out. “Love is the death of duty,” yes, but it is also the death of political power/ambition. We’ve been reminded throughout the series that characters who choose love or honor or some other virtue over power are vulnerable to losing in the “game of thrones.” Arresting Arya, an assassin who has communicated suspicions about Sansa and has the ability to frustrate Sansa’s ability to govern the North, would be the coldly practical thing to do from a Machiavellian perspective, which LF is counting on in his scheme. But despite how practical that might be concerning Sansa’s interest in playing the game, she cannot bring herself to do that to someone she loves. No matter how irrational it is to trust anyone in the show – especially a shape-shifting assassin and potential competitor for your title- Sansa chooses to trust Arya because of that sisterly bond.

      So, in my mind, Sansa’s decision to ally with Arya was not based on her seeing the flaw in Littlefinger’s logic. She had plenty of other reasons to think Arya should be restrained, that would have fit with Arya’s character better. I think it was instead part of a larger decision to put the “game of thrones” she plays inside her head aside and act towards Arya in a loving way instead. Littlefinger didn’t anticipate that choice, and I agree with Luka that his sociopathy played a big part in that mistake. (Although I don’t think it was a terrible miscalculation; he had turned sister against sister before, as the finale reminded us in his trial. And there’s not much on the surface to suggest that Sansa’s love for Arya would be stronger than Lysa’s love for Catelyn).

      If we imagine that, in that game LF and Sansa play in their last one-on-one scene, Sansa instead said “Arya came to kill me and to help Jon,” then I’m sure Littlefinger would have rolled with that and suggested action against her. Remember, it wasn’t him directly saying that Arya wanted to be Lady of Winterfell, it was Sansa expressing her fear that she would. So I don’t think Littlefinger chose that rationale over the one that makes more sense to Sean C (that Arya thought Sansa was a traitor to Jon), he would have rolled with whatever motivation Sansa herself articulated. But even if Sansa articulated a more believable motivation for Arya killing her, Sansa would have made a similar decision in the end, which was to turn away from the Machiavellian response to Arya that Littelfinger represented and instead choose love. That’s my take, anyway.

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    19. mau,

      It’s hard to figure out what GRRM intended, but it looks like Varys (both book and show) intended to put Dany on the IT from the very beginning. Everything he and his friend Illyrio did was to empower her, not Viseirys: they gave her dragon egs and the Dothraki army. No way, Khal Drogo would have fought for the IT just to allow Viseirys to sit on that which means that Viseirys was a dead man walking and that Varys planned to get rid of him one way or another. But Khal Drogo wasn’t the king of his dreams as well, so IMO Varys planned to get rid of him too. But what’s next? In the books Varys is most probably planning to marry Dany had to a perfect king of his own creation – FAegon. In the show, there might be a shortcut directly to the true Aegon Targarian Jon Snow, if Varys is aware of his true lineage and status (which is a legit assumption). However, if Dany learns that he knew and lied to her all those years, she will consider that as a treason and Varys will be burned into a crisp. IMO, that’s the best prediction we could make from what we saw and learned, though I agree that there may be simple writing inconsistencies making things totally unpredictable.
      PS. Sorry for deviating from Littlefinger.

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    20. Hodor Targaryen,

      I like your take. Feels spot on. I also think by the last scenewith LF she had decided since her outfit was different.

      In some ways it sets the stage for Dany next season. She will also be in a love/ family vs. political ambition dilema when she finds out Jon has the better claim than her.

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    21. Hodor Targaryen,

      A very good take, but IMO it should be extended. Sansa not only chose her loyalty to Arya – she aslo chose her loyalty to Jon, just like in the Winds of Winter. She was tempted by Littlefinger then, she was tempted again in S7 and that temptation became stronger, because she and Jon had disagreements and then he left her alone and made a crucial decision on his own without informing Sansa or at least giving her a full context. To say the truth I’m getting a bit annoyed about these miscommunication and withholding vital information for the sake of conflict issues, but let it be. Sansa had legit reasons to feel neglected by Jon and be unhappy about that and that stemmed her conflict with Arya who sensed that. So, her final decision to stay in a pack concerned Jon as much as Arya.
      However, that leaves the question about Sansa’s arch next season, because as for now her overall arch of comming back home seems pretty much finished.

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    22. Inga,

      Great points. It does feel like Sansa out of all the characters we were introduced to in episode 1 has had her main character emotional arc resolved. She was the little girl that always dreamed of life beyond Winterfell and wanted to be a Queen and now she is at peace with her family and her place in it back home at Winterfell.

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    23. mau,

      Yea. I guess she is one of many characters who has scores to settle with Cersei.

      How active of a role do you see her playing in that fight? Do you see her leaving winterfell?

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    24. Interesting discussion. A couple of things about Littlefinger always tagged him as a villain for me. First, he is from a minor noble family, most likely somewhat accomplished bannermen who had a little piece of a manor and some modest amounts of autonomy. Second, he was totally envious of everyone. It is not clear to me whether Baelish was every a knight. That would have at least implied some military training and an opportunity to learn to fight as part of a group rather than as a random agent of change.
      Third, not only was Baelish a pimp, he was also a murderer at least two times over on GOT the series, and three times if you consider his involvement in Ned’s death.
      Baelish’s final battle, from my perspective, failed because the character has no understanding of women other than something to lust after and profit from. The fact that two young women (and their brother) trapped him in the lies that finally killed him is just too rich (and perfect).

      Aiden Gillen has played a lot of interesting and manipulative characters. Someone needs to give him a shot at Iago. His performance would be something to die for.

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    25. Luka Nieto,

      Forgive me if this was asked and answered elsewhere…

      Did I miss something?

      Sansa started off the reading of the charges by announcing: “You stand accused of murder, you stand accused of treason.”

      At that juncture, I asked myself – and thought LF might ask himself: “Huh? Who’s Arya accused of killing? Where’d the murder charge come from?”

      Even if somehow word got out that Arya had exterminated House Frey and taken out Meryn F. Trant, Polliver, and a few other miscreants, she wouldn’t be accused of “murder” in the North. A big old party would be held in her honor, with Lord Manderly popping by to announce in a booming voice: “I was wrong! Arya Stark avenged the Red Wedding! She is the She-Wolf of Winterfell!”

      Sansa started out by proclaiming that honor demands that she defend her family from those who would harm it and defend the North from those who would betray it. Obviously, nobody who’s a Stark and nobody in the North is going to shed a tear for Walder Frey and his damn moron sons. If anything, Arya did what honor demands: took retribution against the traitors who slaughtered her family and hundreds (thousands?) of other Northerners.

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    26. mau,

      Yes, IMO Sansa will send Arya to KL to take out Cersei. But will that be a character development? Probably, because such a move wouldn’t be exactly Starkish.

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    27. Inga:
      mau,

      Yes, IMO Sansa will send Arya to KL to take out Cersei. But will that be a character development? Probably, because such a move wouldn’t be exactly Starkish.

      Well, yes and no. E7 established a new dynamic (or a new Dynamic Duo): Sansa passes the sentence, and Arya swings the sword.

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    28. House Monty:
      mau,

      How active of a role do you see her playing in that fight? Do you see her leaving winterfell?

      I think she will leave WF with Tyrion, Varys, Hound and the army of the Vale to deal with Cersei and Euron in the south, while Dany, Jon and the rest fight with the WW in the North.

      The WW will push Jon and Dany south and everything will culminate at KL at the end of the season.

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    29. Sean C.,

      The core mistake was his rather amateurish misread of what would be a plausible motivation for Arya (even though he’d already hit on a plausible one earlier, one that both sisters played into readily).

      Arya didn’t, but Sansa did. However, I think Littlefinger’s core mistake was thinking he could persuade Sansa of his version of the truth, as he had so many times before. To be honest, I don’t think LF ever thought Sansa was smart, but instead easily manipulable. He repeatedly complimented her intelligence to flatter and disarm her. Since Season 2 he had played her like a fiddle; he was ‘grooming’ her in the modern sense to be his perfect tool. And until Ramsay backfired on him, it had worked.

      What has changed? Well, by now Sansa had gotten smarter and knew many of Littlefinger’s tricks and secrets. But most important, after revealing to Sansa her most intimate secrets and her power, Arya handed her that dagger. This wasn’t just the dagger as an assassin’s most iconic weapon; it was THE dagger meant to take Bran’s life and which Bran, with all his knowledge, decided to gift to Arya. I truly believe Arya’s silent handover was a signal: Bran trusts me; you can trust me; I won’t hurt you; someone else will and you must act. How much of that Sansa understood we’ll never know, but surely it made her ponder, it made her wary, and it made her empowered. Forewarned is forearmed. Littlefinger was playing his old game, but finally Sansa uses her mind as a weapon. Literally, the dagger won.

      Footnote: Clearly, the Catspaw dagger is a mystical weapon, not just a historic, precious bauble featuring Valyrian steel. That Citadel tome Sam was reading associated it with the Targaryens, and its components include dragonbone, gold, VS, and either ruby or red obsidian, both of which have powers. Several GoT YT pundits have posited that it belonged to Rhaegar. If so, I suspect it was a spoil of war Robert took from Rhaegar (it even showed up in the Spoils of War episode!). What I find fascinating is that in the show it has touched every Stark except Robb and Rickon. It should have shed Bran’s blood; it did shed Catelyn’s (and now Littlefinger’s). I’ve said elsewhere that I think Arya will give it to Jon, probably when she learns he’s a Targ. This disappoints me, because I want her to fight White Walkers with it, but it’s the sort of thing she would and IMO should do. And while it’s probably not Lightbringer, in JOn’s hands it will help bring down the Night KIng. IMO it’s the Dagger of Ice and Fire.

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    30. Inga:
      mau,

      Yes, IMO Sansa will send Arya to KL to take out Cersei. But will that be a character development? Probably, because such a move wouldn’t be exactly Starkish.

      I don’t think so. Arya’s dagger for me is a clue that she will be involved with war against the WW, not with Cersei.

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    31. mau: I think she will leave WF with Tyrion, Varys, Hound and the army of the Vale to deal with Cersei and Euron in the south, while Dany, Jon and the rest fight with the WW in the North.

      The WW will push Jon and Dany south and everything will culminate at KL at the end of the season.

      You sold me on the everything climaxing in KL idea a couple weeks back.

      Only problem I have with that specific sequence you outlined there is why would Dany and Jon agree to split up their forces in the face of the AOTD versus dealing with Cersei later if they survive.

      The only reason I can think of is that Cersei begins to threaten their rear. But that doesn’t make sense for Cersei since she needs Jon and Dany to win.

      How do you see the why of the split playing out?

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    32. Thank you for yet another great Glass Candle dialog. Lord Peytr Baelish was one of my favorite characters (more so in the show than the books, thank you very much Mr. Gillen) precisely because of his shady past and shadowy motivations. Early on, he’s the counterpart to Varys and the foil for Ned. Where Ned was earnest, dutiful, honest, and stupid, Baelish was earnest, self-serving, duplicitous, and smart. Baelish repeatedly attempted to warn Ned of the trouble all around in King’s Landing, but Ned was a dutiful Hand to Robert, and thus believed himself invulnerable. Baelish knew any person could be killed in King’s Landing, and prepared accordingly.

      Later in the series, Baelish becomes counterpart to Ned. Just as Ned died from going to a place of treason, lies, and deceit, Baelish died from going to the honest and dutiful North. The difference was that Baelish had nowhere else to go; being the best player in King’s Landing means nothing when Cersei simply kills every (other) m—–f–ker in the room (or city). Winterfell was the only game left in Westeros, and Baelish almost won there, too. His one advantage over others was his superior knowledge, but he knew all about the South, not the North. He didn’t know the Bastard of Bolton very well, and he didn’t know Arya Stark at all. The former ignorance severely weakened his position, and the last was enough to get him killed.

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    33. House Monty,

      I think Jaime will tell them about Cersei’s plans and Tyrion will be like “this is the mess I created, I will clean it”. They will say you don’t have an army to go against Cersei and Sansa will say “I have the army of the Vale and I will gather riverlords since I’m Tully as well”. And Brienne will ask to go with her and Sansa will say that she has to stay in the North for Bran and Arya. And Sandor will then say that he will be Sansa’s sword in the south.

      They can’t let Cersei consolidate her position in the south, because they will be surrounded by powerful enemies on both sides.

      But defense in the North will fail and Dany and Jon will be forced to move to south as well. Maybe Sansa and Tyrion will have some victories against Cersei, maybe they will destroy the Golden Company since it seems they will be in only 2 episodes. Maybe they will team up with Theon and defeat Euron as well, but Cersei will still be in KL when the North falls.

      Then Jaime will come to the south with Jon and Dany and he will kill Cersei somehow.

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    34. Inga,

      I agree completely with your extension. Sansa’s choice was not only a choice not to harm Arya, but to also not undermine Jon, which she had a good opportunity to do in the finale.

      I’m sure they’ll find something for Sansa to actually do in the last season, especially in her interactions with characters like Dany and Tyrion, but I don’t know if she’ll have much of a character arc. I mean, if you look at this last season, Sansa was one of the few main characters who had much of an arc at all. Most seasons give some characters strong arcs while others take more of a backseat. With six episodes, I’m okay with providing arcs to some characters that didn’t get theirs resolved in S7 and letting Sansa be the same Sansa we saw at the end of this last season.

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    35. Hodor Targaryen,

      I agree that Sansa is in her “final form” at the end of S7. I don’t think that we will see some major character development from her in the last season. I would even say that for Arya as well. This is her “final form”.

      I think Dany and Jon will be the main focus when it comes to character development in the last season.

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    36. Inga,

      mau,

      I agree with both of you: Arya will go to KL to kill Cersei, and she will play a critical role in the WW fight.

      Arya has to have an arc. Her dehumanizing thirst for vengeance has not been resolved, and I don’t think simply deciding to stay in Winterfell would resolve it very dramatically.

      Prediction: Arya will head to KL to kill Cersei, and maybe the Hound will tag along since his hated enemy will be in KL as well. But the plan won’t go well, and Arya will not be able to kill Cersei. Perhaps she becomes disillusioned with her quest for vengeance, perhaps after seeing Sandor die fighting the Mountain. At some point, Melisandre will purposefully bump into Arya and give her information involving the WW conflict that will be critical to saving the world, and Arya must choose which conflict she wants to be a part of. (Remember that Mel said she would meet with Arya again). Then Arya will choose to fight the WW and do something critical to defeating them (perhaps she will be the one to kill the Night King).

      I’m probably wrong somewhere in there but I don’t imagine Arya just staying put somewhere, and I don’t imagine her putting aside her desire to see Cersei killed to fight the Wight Walkers so easily.

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    37. Hodor Targaryen,

      But she already put aside her desire to kill Cersei in S7. Cersei is not Arya’s to kill, I don’t think she will go to KL to kill her.

      Her rehumanizing arc will continue in S8. She will be with Jon and Gendry in the North. Going after Cersei makes no sense for her character development. That would be just unnecessary regression for her arc.

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    38. Great article, you two!

      What I enjoyed the most about Littlefinger’s character was less about him or Aidan Gillen’s performance and more about how he represented a reality of political machinations that stories far too often treat as being too dull and or difficult to manifest into compelling storytelling.

      One of the reason’s Littlefinger’s death works for me even if the ‘conflict’ that gets there doesn’t is that it tapped into two significant themes: the quiet human moments that power political machinations and another facet of humanity that is often deemed as being dull and insignificant: love.

      I find Littlefinger to be a fairly fascinating character study of where the intersection of politics and love fail, regardless of whether or not that was part of the intention behind the character. When a plethora of individuals, primarily male it seems, see a “cool” and “badass” character, I see instead a man who has replaced love with a cold and remarkably thin calculus of how power works without love.

      Littlefinger sees power without love as being a pathway to success that is free of the limitations and weaknesses of love and to a certain extent that is true. Yet at a certain point one simply cannot continue forth with such a mindset because you become thoroughly blindsided.

      I believe Littlefinger in many ways to be a powerful indictment of how men often like to view themselves, which can be considered ironic in a sense because he saw his lack of traditional masculinity as being the reason behind his defeat by Brandon Stark. But he displays a lot of the traits such men have: a fastidious belief in his complete superiority, a lack of awareness on seeing women as beings who have their own independent agency, and an inferiority complex where he sees all criticisms of his positions as being attacks coming from envious and inferior people.

      Littlefinger’s arguably unexpected portrayal of toxic masculinity is one that is incredibly prevalent in the world. I find that people in several instances lack the understanding that toxic masculinity and white supremacy don’t have to be obvious and over the type in order to fulfill the goals of those paradigms of oppression, if that makes sense.

      Littlefinger’s behavior is enshrined in an emotional detachment that is critical to toxic masculinity. He believes that eschewing emotions is the key to his success because emotions are weakening, make him effeminate, and are what caused his defeat to Brandon that marked his psyche forevermore.

      Littlefinger’s toxic masculinity in part can be seen as being a marriage of contradictions. A significant part of him is thoroughly convinced that he has no emotional cruxes that would render him in any capacity “weak.” Yet arguably an equivalent part of his is convinced of an emotionally irrational belief that the world is out to get him.

      Emotions are messy and complicated and men are often reinforced with the idea that they are cumbersome and emasculating. I believe that a definitive part of the positive-minded obsession with Littlefinger’s character to be the result of the obsessor’s desire to be detached from emotions but nevertheless succeed and critically through manipulation (for remember, they think the world is dead set against them).

      When they root for Littlefinger to succeed, there’s a subconscious endorsement of their own desire to be emotionally detached but come up victorious against a society that is becoming “soft” and “politically correct.” If Littlefinger could never feel and just think, he would come out on top. It’s a desire to see one’s toxic masculinity rewarded. If Littlefinger could do it, so could they. A part of the anger at Littlefinger’s demise is the series’s rebuttal of that frame of thought and I am sure that another part of that anger is that Littlefinger was brought down by two women.

      To add to the “Harry Potter” connection, I’m reminded heavily of when Dumbledore reveals to Harry towards the end of “Order of the Phoenix” that his great power against Voldemort was love. Harry is agitated and thoroughly disappointed by that suggestion and while he grew to understand the strength behind his capacity to care for others, I don’t think Littlefinger ever did.

      I think he doubled down on the rejection and became an embodiment of the emasculated male who believes that “getting the girl” is the only way for him to regain that masculinity and the validation that his toxic masculinity and paranoia was correct all along. That he had time to realize how utterly he had lost is critical to the legacy his character leaves behind. When I see some folks bemoaning that Littlefinger’s death was sloppy because he was such a boss, I sense a desire to see him succeed because if Littlefinger didn’t emotionally mature, then they wouldn’t have to, either.

      A critical correction to the narrative of his legacy is that I don’t think he lost because of a sudden ability to have emotions, which I find to be a troubling read of the character’s end. I find that his loss and end is a result of his inability to understand that one simply cannot detach one’s self from emotions without significant consequences. In this case the realization came far too late and the result was fatal.

      (Had a lot of thoughts about this, haha)

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    39. Stark Raven’ Rad:
      Arya didn’t, but Sansa did.

      Arya absolutely did. The whole scheme would never even have gotten off the ground if she hadn’t.

      Hodor Targaryen:
      I’m probably wrong somewhere in there but I don’t imagine Arya just staying put somewhere, and I don’t imagine her putting aside her desire to see Cersei killed to fight the Wight Walkers so easily.

      She already did that this season, though.

      Now, at this point, it’s not about Arya’s personal desire. Cersei’s a clear and present danger, so it’s ultimately a matter of (to quote Michael Corleone) settling all the family business.

      However, I don’t think Arya will have anything to do with Cersei in Season 8, for the simple reason that she’s too powerful. She would be able to resolve that whole plot inside of one episode; there’s no possible way Cersei could defend against her, particularly since she doesn’t even know she’s dealing with a Faceless Woman.

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    40. Stark Raven’ Rad:
      Sean C.,

      .

      Footnote: Clearly, the Catspaw dagger is a mystical weapon, not just a historic, precious bauble featuring Valyrian steel. That Citadel tome Sam was reading associated it with the Targaryens, and its components include dragonbone, gold, VS, and either ruby or red obsidian, both of which have powers. Several GoT YT pundits have posited that it belonged to Rhaegar. If so, I suspect it was a spoil of war Robert took from Rhaegar (it even showed up in the Spoils of War episode!). What I find fascinating is that in the show it has touched every Stark except Robb and Rickon. It should have shed Bran’s blood; it did shed Catelyn’s (and now Littlefinger’s). I’ve said elsewhere that I think Arya will give it to Jon, probably when she learns he’s a Targ.This disappoints me, because I want her to fight White Walkers with it, but it’s the sort of thing she would and IMO should do. And while it’s probably not Lightbringer, in JOn’s hands it will help bring down the Night KIng.IMO it’s the Dagger of Ice and Fire.

      Loved what you’ve pointed out about that dagger. My thought (hope) is that once Jorah declined to take back Longclaw from Jon, that meant the dagger was destined to be Arya’s weapon. They sure showcased Arya with the dagger once Bran gave it to her, especially right before and during her sparring match with Brienne. (I was thrilled with the dagger flip during the fight, but the twirl she did when she first unsheathed it to show to Brienne was almost as good. )
      If Wimsey were around, he might say that dagger was first hung in S1 and has reappeared, so it must be “fired” in the last act. Arya’s got it for a reason. She’s got mad skills with it for a reason. It’s VS for a reason. She’s adept at targeting throats with it for a reason.

      Bye bye Night King?
      Surgical removal of Dragonglass shard?

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    41. Sean C.,

      Yeah, Arya pretty much single-handedly wiped out House Frey with her face-peeling trick. (There ought to be a “Rains of Castamere”-type song to commemorate her feats.)

      They can’t have her running all over the continent taking out villains and removing all threats next season.

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    42. Sean C.,

      Arya absolutely did. The whole scheme would never even have gotten off the ground if she hadn’t.

      Generalised statements are easy. As you know, I try to explain my reasoning. It would help me if you can explain how ‘the whole scheme’ went down: the timing, what Sansa and Arya were doing and what might lie behind it, how their actions reflect the characters, their backgrounds, and experiences. Hints in their dialogue and that of others, music, etc are helpful. And it’s necessary for anyone analysing Winterfell to address what Isaac said about the deleted scene. It’s not even certain LF tricked Arya about the letter, but she made good use of it in her ruse anyway. Brienne and Sandor didn’t know about the Faceless Men, Trant, the Freys, or the Waif, but they agreed that “The only one who needs protecting is the one who gets in her way.” Littlefinger got in her way.

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    43. Stark Raven’ Rad,

      The whole scheme went down pretty much as it appeared. Arya swallowed the bait hook, line and sinker, and went after Sansa in exactly the manner Littlefinger predicted she would. None of her actions make any sense if you try to interpret them as primarily an anti-Littlefinger strategy where she is onto him, because all she does (acting belligerent and then outright crazy) furthers the chance of this strategy succeeding.

      Moreover, Maisie Williams in interviews has said that Arya wasn’t pretending, and that the arc involves her making mistakes in how she interprets the situation.

      It’s not a very satisfying arc because (among other things) the writers parked the resolution to all the character drama offscreen, but that’s what it is.

      Ten Bears,

      I’ve never personally been a big fan of the Faceless Men as an element of ASOIAF’s worldbuilding because they’re an example of a trope that tends to bug me, namely, a really powerful entity that the writer then comes up with a bunch of self-imposed, rather arbitrary rules for to keep them from being too useful to the plot (in this case, a guild of invincible, unthwartible assassins saddled with a payment scheme so counterproductive that hardly anybody can afford to use them). Show Arya, though, is now a Faceless Man without any of those arbitrary restrictions, which makes her capable of resolving, with a minimum of fuss, any human political challenge that House Stark could ever face.

      Juggling character powersets is a writing challenge that any superhero comics fan is well familiar with, and in this case, I expect the writers will deal with it by keeping Arya well away from Cersei et al. and immersed in the supernatural plotline where her shapeshifting powers don’t confer unbeatable advantages.

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    44. Gods I wish he’d won the throne (sans Sansa as a nice twist). I wish his character wasn’t so reduced to standing around on the goddamn balcony for most of this season. I didn’t mind how his end itself was carried out (and I loved that Arya was just like “yoink, bye”), but damn, dude was smarter than that. Without the convenience of Bran’s database, which is a pretty major advantage, well….I think he could have been some use.

      Looking forward to Aidan in Peaky Blinders!

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    45. mau,

      Sean C.,

      There is no way that the series-long character arc with Arya’s thirst for violent vengeance on her enemies concluded two episodes into the seventh season in a conversation with Hot Pie. Yes, she went to Winterfell when she learned Jon Snow was there. But it is possible to want to reunite with a favorite brother and still hold onto that desire to kill your enemies. The speed with which she decided to go to Winterfell suggests that there wasn’t some internal obstacle, like her list of names, keeping her from finding her family, it just never seemed practical to go North when the Boltons were in charge. The idea that she resolved her desire to kill Cersei sometime in between slaughtering House Frey and threatening Sansa makes no sense to me. Wanting to see Jon does not mean she does not want to kill Cersei, it just means that she wants at least two things at the same time.

      From a character standpoint, I just cannot imagine Arya deciding not to take a chance at killing Cersei, especially when she learns that she is an active threat against her family. Not only would it be a jarring and abrupt about-face for the character to not want to do the deed herself, but her assassinating Cersei would be the most practical thing to do, rather than sending an army. I don’t think it will end with Arya actually managing to kill Cersei, but I think she must begin that venture before she abandons it. It’s just anticlimactic if she is already over her desire to kill Cersei at the beginning of the season.

      As for whether Arya is too powerful for her attempt to kill Cersei to have any stakes, I disagree. Cersei is one of the most heavily guarded people in the country. The Mountain is almost always near her. Extremely few people are ever alone with her, and even those people may prove difficult to kill (so that she can take their face). I also get the sense that Arya is not willing to kill anyone in order to sneak into the Red Keep; she didn’t kill Walder Frey’s wife, for instance. So there are ethical guidelines she might follow when it comes to who she’s willing to kill in order to have a private moment with Cersei.

      And, really, I’m fine with Arya abandoning her quest to kill Cersei before she gets to the capitol, as long as there is something dramatic enough that occurs before that point to justify such a character change, and that the circumstances suggest to her that she would be abandoning her quest pretty much for good. Maybe that dramatic moment will happen at Winterfell, but I highly doubt it.

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    46. Just so you know, I also know a girl who likes Littlefinger and Snape, and I’m literally marrying her in a week. Creepy can be a little hot some times and I don’t appreciate it being implied that there’s something wrong with her for that, or with me for being with her.

      The corner of the Internet that gets her off is no darker than any other consenting adult corner. If it’s not your thing, fine. But don’t assume that people whose tastes are different are somehow disordered, or rightly ashamed, or not reading .

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    47. Hodor Targaryen,

      Arya will be involved with the WW’s plot. Her dagger is clue for that. The NK is bigger danger for her family than Cersei.

      Her arc of rehumanization will continue in S8. She was struggling to get along with Sansa, but that was resolved. With Gendry and Jon there her human side will be stronger than ever.

      Reducing her to only killer again makes no sense.

      Her revenge arc wasn’t over in E2. She killed LF at the end of S7, but she slowly did change her focus during S7.

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    48. If Littlefinger was truly smart, he’d have got out of town as soon as he realised what Bran was. His downfall really is his obsession with Sansa, which I agree, is an unhealthy vengeance thing. She’s a goal and a tool, not a person he loves – or else he’d never have used her as a pawn in Joffrey’s assassination, or a bargaining chip with the Boltons. You hit the nail on the head when you said, he couldn’t anticipate that real sisterly love would win out, because it’s beyond his conception.

      Meanwhile, I am perplexed how Arya still sucks so much at the Game of Faces. The House of Black and White has clearly got nothing on King’s Landing (we miss you, Maester Aemon). Maybe that’s why Jaquen was in that cage. Faceless Assassins stay the heck out of KL!

      As others have said, I fear that an overpowered Arya is indeed going to be problematic rather than awesome. Here’s hoping the writers manage to pull it off.

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    49. mau:
      Em,

      The WW are also overpowered. Having Arya battle with them will be fine.

      Wait. Who overpowered the White Walkers? Last I saw they were ambling through the breach in the Wall unimpeded.

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    50. Em,

      “As others have said, I fear that an overpowered Arya is indeed going to be problematic rather than awesome. Here’s hoping the writers manage to pull it off.”
      ———————

      Well of course if Arya is overpowered she’ll have problems and won’t be “awesome.”
      But why would you want Arya to be defeated?

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    51. mau,

      Good description of Arya’s “rehumanization.”
      I also think (hope) Sandor is part of the process, because his casual approach to killing as a sport sort of rubbed off on Arya. In particular, I was struck by the Sandor-Arya conversation in S4 just before they reached the Bloody Gate. They were casually discussing killing methods as if talking about their golf games.

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    52. Indignant Pervert,

      “Just so you know, I also know a girl who likes Littlefinger and Snape, and I’m literally marrying her in a week.”
      ——————–
      What do you mean, “literally” marrying her? Could you figuratively marry her?

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    53. Pigeon,

      “Yoink, bye.”
      😄😄 Ha ha!

      Yeah, at first I was hoping for a slow agonizing death for DouchebagFinger. Like a season-long Theonization.

      Upon further reflection, I realized it was better that Arya nonchalantly walked over, slashed his throat, and turned around and walked away – like she was swiping a credit card at the check-out line, or turning on the trash compacter.

      To be continued (?) with revisionist ending for LF…

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    54. Pigeon,

      Well yes, “dude was smarter than that.” That’d be a minor quarrel I had with his demise, but I understand that there simply wasn’t enough time remaining to set up an intricate LF-WF scheme and show how it unraveled because of a tiny blind spot. That’s why I’ve overlooked the soap-operish devices like sneaking into rooms and rummaging through private papers; arguments over misunderstandings that could’ve been cleared up with a simple exchange of information, or responding to a simple question with a straightforward answer instead of another question or an ambiguous generality; and lurking behind corners and in shadows to eavesdrop.

      As much as I despised the character, I do wish he had put up more of a fight. When he said to Sansa [something like] “Give me the chance to defend myself; I deserve that much”, I was hoping he would try to talk his way out of trouble. I was somewhat dissppointed that he blew the opportunity by turning around and trying to “command” Lord Royce to escort him safely to the Vale.

      (I had outlined what I expected him to say to weasel his way out of it. Not sure I can transfer and post it from an old phone…)

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    55. Stark Raven’ Rad,

      Absolutely agree with your footnote. I too was convinced the Dagger belonged to Rheagar, in fact I scoured the wedding photos to find it, without success. There was a reason it was shown so obviously in the book Sam was reading; as we have seen before they don’t put something out there for it not to mean something later on. Whilst I agree it won’t be Lightbringer IMO, it may mean more to the story than killing Littlefinger, to me it feels more important 🤔

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    56. Ten Bears,

      I was thinking far more in terms that Arya can just go to KL and murder Cercei without so much as a locked door in her way. Which rather sucks all the tension out of it.

      Interesting though that everyone else is placing their bets on Arya going up against the WW instead. Face-changing won’t help her against the WW, which is why I assume she’d be deployed in the south, where it actually gives her an edge. However, since she did already pass up going to KL, I guess that’s a strong pointer she’s staying North.

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    57. Hodor Targaryen,
      mau,
      Hodor Targaryen,

      It’s true that the hints about Arya’s future are contradictive: the VS dagger points to some WW encounter, whereas her new role as Sansa’s executioner points to KL and Cersei. However, this contradiction can be easily resolved, if Arya goes to KL to kill Cersei and runs into the Night King who lands there after an unsuccessfult siege of WF. And here is how I imagine the whole scenario.

      First, there is no time for anyone to leave WF. Bran should be telling Sansa that the Wall was breached in the very beginning of the next episode. She will prepare for the siege, Jon and Dany will arrive at the last minute, and then the siege will start.
      However, I don’t see WF falling, mainly because in such case there wouldn’t be any way for the protagonists to retreat anywhere.
      Therefore, the siege will be lifted by someone and my bet is on Jaime, because he is too far behind to make it to WF before the siege, but exatly in the position to come and save the day with whatever forces he will manage to muster in the Riverlands.
      Afterwards the NK will fly away and simultaneously Cersei’s treason will be revealed. So, there will be a dilemma: to go north after the Nigh King (assuming that he fled to his lair) or to go south to deal with Cersei. Jon will be fixed on the NK, Sansa will be more concerned about Cersei and she will take acitions to deal with her in a smart way. So, she will send Arya to KL (the Hound will go too). She also may send Davos to the Iron Bank to talk it out of funding Cersei’s endevours: if you won’t cut the cash flow you will be having your due from the NK – something tike that. Jorah could also be used to establish the contact with the leaders of the Golden Company, etc. The whole point is that there is no need to waste armed forces on deeling with Cersei: all she needs is a few targeted prods with a needle and Sansa should see that.
      However, as Arya is overpowered and Cersei’s demise can’t be too easy, the Night King will show to mess things up.
      As for Jaime and Tyrion, they may come to KL with the intent to save Cersei from Arya or from the Night King but end up killing her after learning that she is willing to ally herself with the dead.
      IMO, that would be the most plausible scenario, though I have to admit that I was wrong about most of the things that happened last season and that the showrunners may twist the plot some other way. However, I do agree that the final confrontation with the Night Kings should happen in KL, rather than in WF and, as I don’t see any realistic way how the protagonists like Jon, Dany or Sansa could survive after losing the castle, I have no other solution than to send the NK to KL after making him fail at WF.

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    58. mau,

      I agree with you that Arya will fight the WW at some point, for the same reason, that dagger she got. All I am predicting is that her role in defeating the White Walkers will be in conflict with her desire to kill Cersei, and that the writers will dramatize that conflict.

      You are right, she clearly did not stop being a killer in “Stormborn” since she killed Littlefinger later. But that makes your argument that she has already moved on from her list of names even less plausible. It shows instead that she can desire family and dead enemies at the same time – which in turn means she has not really resolved her thirst for vengeance.

      Look at how they handled Dany this year. She put aside her war with Cersei (or put it on hold) to fight the White Walkers. But she didn’t just do it willy nilly, they built up to it over a season. She had to lose a dragon before her priorities changed. I predict that Arya will similarly have an arc in Season 8 where she will be conflicted about what she should do, but some dramatic event – more dramatic than a private conversation with Jon Snow – will shake her out of her current mindset. She is not out of that mindset now; she clearly still wants to kill people, as evidenced by her killing LF.

      If we just come into Season 8 and Arya is already over her list of names, not only does that raise logical problems with deciding to send armies south instead of one assassin, it would be an incredible disservice to her series long character arc if it resolved offscreen. There is plenty of time for her to start a trip and then turn back to fight the WW. Look how much travelling happened this last season in roughly the same number of episodes!

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    59. Em:
      Ten Bears,

      Interesting though that everyone else is placing their bets on Arya going up against the WW instead. Face-changing won’t help her against the WW, which is why I assume she’d be deployed in the south, where it actually gives her an edge. However, since she did already pass up going to KL, I guess that’s a strong pointer she’s staying North.

      If I may follow up your observation by spouting a little tinfoil – and apologizing in advance if my memory fails me…

      • I thought I recalled a scene from S2 (?) in which a terrified Sam was huddled under a rock as the Army of the Dead was marching by; a WW on a horse stared right at him, but then just kept going – sort of like how The Borg on Star Trek: the Next Generation ignored individual humans who weren’t perceived as a threat.

      • Arya would not need to use her face-changing trick against the WW.

      • Rather, she could use her diminutive size and the harmless little girl persona (“But I’m hungry…”) that enabled her to sneak up on the Frey doofus and stab him in the neck (in S3e10, I helieve).

      • If the Night King discounts Arya as an immediate threat, or is distracted by somthing or someone else (say, for example, Sandor Clegane with a flaming sword calling him a “dumb c*nt”, or barking “F*ck the Night King”), Arya could jam that VS dagger into the NK’s neck in a millisecond.

      • After all, between Walder Frey, Meryn F*cking Trant, Littlefinger, Polliver, the stupid Frey soldier in S3, and Brienne (in practice), she’s gotten pretty good at throat-slashing and neck-stabbing.

      • Arya + VS points to Arya vs. NK. No need for a VS dagger to take out Cersei: Arya could use Needle or some of that Arbor Gold wine she used in the S7e1 cold open. 🍷🍷🍷 Wine would make a better weapon against Cersei anyway…

      • As an aside, I had thought her time with Lady Crane had made Arya reconsider her anger towards Cersei. If Arya learns that Cersei had made a deal with Ned to send him to the Wall in exchange for his false confession, but PsychoJoffrey unexpectedly had him executed instead, might that change anything? Was there anything else Cersei did that earned her a place on Arya’s List?

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    60. Hodor Targaryen:
      mau,

      If we just come into Season 8 and Arya is already over her list of names, not only does that raise logical problems with deciding to send armies south instead of one assassin, it would be an incredible disservice to her series long character arc if it resolved offscreen.

      I don’t think that plan to send one person to kill the Queen is very logical, even if she succeeded in destroying the Freys. Cersei is not Walder Frey.

      She killed LF, but she moved on from her list, since LF was not on her list. And she didn’t kill him before Sansa gave the order. Her revenge was there because she was angry, she was the lone wolf, but she is not anymore. She has family now, reason to live, going after Cersei makes no sense.

      I don’t know what is her mindset that she has to change in your opinion, but since she arrived in WF she didn’t show any intention of going after Cersei or Gregor or anything similar.

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    61. mau,
      Ten Bears,

      Arya maybe more or less over her revenge, but Cersei has just did something that threatens Arya’s family and the North and the living as a whole: she tricked Jon, she broke her promise to commit her banners to the common cause, and now she’s plotting to backstab everyone who stands as the last bulwark in the way of the dead. So, it’s no longer about revenge – it’s about the survival, even if someone like Jon won’t be able to see that due to the lack of imagination.

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    62. This interview from Maise Williams is interesting in light of this discussion:

      Now that things are more settled in Winterfell, can we expect that dagger to cross Cersei Lanniser’s neck next season?

      “[I think] Cersei is still very much on her list,” Williams said. “I think they’re all still very much on her list. But at the moment she’s sidetracked. She’ll always have that list, though. That’s what keeps her ticking”

      Who knows if Williams knows what she is talking about, but that is interesting.

        Quote  Reply

    63. mau,

      Yes, Sansa should be the decision-maker, but Arya should be the executioner. She is the best person for the job Sansa has and she would be much more efficient than any army.

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    64. Hodor Targaryen:
      As for whether Arya is too powerful for her attempt to kill Cersei to have any stakes, I disagree. Cersei is one of the most heavily guarded people in the country. The Mountain is almost always near her. Extremely few people are ever alone with her, and even those people may prove difficult to kill (so that she can take their face). I also get the sense that Arya is not willing to kill anyone in order to sneak into the Red Keep; she didn’t kill Walder Frey’s wife, for instance. So there are ethical guidelines she might follow when it comes to who she’s willing to kill in order to have a private moment with Cersei.

      Arya was able to infiltrate the Twins so easily that the writers didn’t even feel the need to give the details of how. And while we don’t know whether she killed a pre-existing serving girl or brought a face from elsewhere, it clearly wasn’t hard either way. It would be no issue at all to kill a Lannister soldier and take their place guarding the queen. Even if the Mountain is there, he’s slow and cumbersome; it doesn’t take long. Particularly since we’ve also been shown her making ready use of poisons.

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    65. Sean C.,

      I think the Twins and the Red Keep are a bit different. And Cersei and Walder Frey are different. And their circumstances are different! Cersei is cleverer than Walder, is more well-guarded, and will be far more aware of the possibility of an attempt on her life than Walder was. For example, if Cersei were to see a servant girl who she didn’t recognize, alarm bells would probably be ringing, whereas Walder was like “hmm is that a daughter of mine? Hope not, she looks great.” And I disagree about the Mountain; that fight with Oberyn aside, he’s been discussed as pretty much the most fearsome warrior in the country, with Bronn saying he’s quicker than he looks. I doubt Arya would get so close to Cersei that she would kill her before the Mountain intervened, unless she looked like someone Cersei either trusted or wasn’t threatened by – like Jaime or Qyburn.

      I think you’re right that a Faceless assassin would have a much easier time killing Cersei than just about anyone else. If I were in that world, betting on whether Arya would be able to do it, I would bet on Arya. But it’s not a slam dunk. Even the best laid plans by the best assassins can go wrong somewhere down the line. Someone sees her where she’s not supposed to be, Cersei is not where she’s expected, someone finds the body of the person whose face she removed…if one thing in what would have to be a pretty elaborate plan to kill Cersei goes wrong, then Arya has failed. I don’t think the writers will have a problem coming up with something to go wrong.

      Since you think it would be so easy for her to kill Cersei, though, would you agree that it would be practical for Arya to make the attempt? From a character perspective, can you think of a reason why Arya would choose to stay at Winterfell, rather than kill Cersei? It seems to me your prediction is based more on what the writers will want, not what circumstances or the mindsets of the characters would suggest.

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    66. Sean C.,

      With six episodes left not sure being over powered is that big of a problem.

      Lets assume that they fight the NK for the first 4 or 5 episodes. Arya goes in the final episode and kills her. Not a big deal. I think the problem with being overpowered is a bigger deal earlier in the story where there are so many plot points that could be easily resolved with it that the story would degenerate into just that or a great set of elaborate ruses to keep the overpowered player from doing what should be so easy.

      We saw that play out this year. Dany overpowered so they had to slow her down, sometimes inelegantly. Arya so they had her go to Winterfell. Bran they just had him off screen and hope you don’t notice.

      But in the final episodes i think its less of an issue.

      That being said I still think Cersei and Jaime are going down together and like Mau said ultimatley Cersei is not Arya’s to kill.

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    67. Ten Bears:
      Pigeon,

      As much as I despised the character, I do wish he had put up more of a fight. When he said to Sansa [something like] “Give me the chance to defend myself; I deserve that much”, I was hoping he would try to talk his way out of trouble.

      Well there simply wasn’t time for that. 😜
      It’s one disadvantage of a tv show, in that certain backgrounds or narratives can’t be shown due to time. Which makes it the more maddening when some things are included that eat time and end up moot. *coughDornecough*

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    68. Sean C.,

      Also, I assume she brought the face she used to kill Walder from Braavos. But that won’t work on Cersei. I imagine Cersei only has a couple loyal servants she lets near her to give messages and help her dress. Again, she’s more cautious and aware than Walder was.

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    69. Inga:
      mau,

      Yes, Sansa should be the decision-maker, but Arya should be the executioner.She is the best person for the job Sansa has and she would be much more efficient than any army.

      IMO in this case neither Sansa nor Arya should be the decision-maker, though they are both capable of making an ordinary decision like this themselves. This however is a vital military and politcal matter that affects all Westeros and the future of mankind. Even the Iron Bank blokes literally have a fortune riding on the outcome. So Jon and Dany should decide, probably with input from their inner circle, who would of course include the Sisters.

      Not only that, we all think/assume it should be Arya who goes because of her experience, the Faces, the List, and narrative necessity. I’ve always envisioned an Arya/Sandor team going alone and taking care of business. BUT because everything is riding on this being successful, despite Arya’s perfect track record (which thus far only Bran may know about), they could decide to send someone else… or a team. One example: Jaime knows Cersei, the Red Keep, Qyburn and guard routines. Sandor knows ZombieMountain and can beat him. Varys knows secret RK passsages, KL safe houses; perhaps he can ‘turn’ the Little Birds. And of course, Arya is the stealth queen and brilliant at stalking quarry. And before going they must debrief Bran. With such a team, if one falls, another can step in. I loathe Avenger/A-Team/Justice League-type units, but mostly because they’re too cartoonish. A GoT mediaeval SWAT team of our heroes could be riveting–it would certainly ratchet up the suspense and provide several potential Valonqars.

      BTW, IMO Arya is not an executioner, but a warrior/assassin/vigilante. In Winterfell, her natural inclinations and training led to her investigating and pushing Littlefinger into showing his evil hand. Once the Pack combined, naturally Bran was the evidence room, Sansa the presiding judge, and Arya the executioner. It could not have been otherwise. And speaking of Littlefinger, I came across this today and was gobsmacked at how well it literally embodies the key characters in A Certain Scene. The artist, Jin, even catches essential qualities of the participants. Cheers!
      https://i.redd.it/f7j3slzus4pz.jpg

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    70. Stark Raven' Rad,

      I agree that they may send a team rather, than Arya alone. I just wonder, if Cersei is still pregnant (or thought to be pregnant) at that point. Because if yes, no way Jon will sigh on her assassination. Same for Dany, Tyrion and Jaime. Meanwhile, Sansa might be more pragmatic. On the other hand, I hope that this dilemma won’t occur.

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    71. Pigeon,

      Well, there may have been time for his defense. I’ll try to excavate it from my old phone and post it later.

      And as for valuable time used elsewhere: *coughHighSparrowcough* 😕

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    72. Inga,

      The team idea is potentially a good one.

      The main reason why I can’t fully discount the Arya/ Cersei theory is this quote:

      “I used to dream that one day I’d be rich enough to send a Faceless Man after my sweet sister.” Tyrion to Varys ACOK

      Would be pretty prophetic if Tyrion ends up using Arya to at least attempt to kill Cersei.

      Although maybe George just moved away from this idea when he zeroed in on the Valonqar prophecy in AFFC.

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    73. Stark Raven' Rad,

      “So Jon and Dany should decide, probably with input from their inner circle, who would of course include the sisters.”
      ——————

      Yes, please! There’s no time left for manufactured internal strife. The show has always been more interesting when people work together – especially those who start off loathing each other, or have been sworn enemies for generations. Jon + Dany + Arya + Davos + Sansa + Sandor + ? = Dream Team.
      With a mere six episodes left, there’s no time for Sansa or Arya to get bent out of shape over Jon’s smoking hot new girlfriend, or anything like that. They each bring unique talents to the table. I’d like to see them help and complement each other.

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    74. Hi Luka and Petra,

      Thanks for an enjoyable read.

      Could you discuss what role wildcards like the Maesters may play in the wars to come – didn’t they say to Sam they could call all the houses to battle if the wall fell? Would that over rule the orders of lords and monarchs ?

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    75. Ten Bears,

      Yes!

      And Jamie and Brienne and Tyrion on the same side at last. I hope Jamie apologises to Bran and Bran tells everyone about the Mad King and the wildfire under KL.

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    76. Ten Bears: As an aside, I had thought her time with Lady Crane had made Arya reconsider her anger towards Cersei. If Arya learns that Cersei had made a deal with Ned to send him to the Wall in exchange for his false confession, but PsychoJoffrey unexpectedly had him executed instead, might that change anything? Was there anything else Cersei did that earned her a place on Arya’s List?

      This is a really intriguing thought! But the execution of Ned came after Cersei had been put on the list. It was the kangaroo trial that condemned Nymeria to death – and actually caused the killing of poor Mycah and Lady- that put Cersei and Joffrey (and the Hound) on The List. Everything else is just add-ons. Cersei has not done one thing since Ned’s execution that would exonerate or redeem her. Her latest treachery is pretty much beyond forgiveness.

      Lots of y’all are talking about Arya “being sent” or Sansa “ordering” Arya. Look – nobody orders Arya around, not even Jon. If she goes somewhere on a mission, it’s because she wanted to and/or had been convinced.

      Good catch with Tyrion having dreamed of “hiring a Faceless Man” re: Arya! Little did Tyrion realize that the “fee” wasn’t some large amount of gold – it was basically all you had. He’d have been able to hire the Faceless Men even if he were a pauper. The thing is, the richer a man gets, the less money he feels he can part with. Moreover, much of Tyrion’s character is based on having the wealth of Casterly Rock behind him. Without out it, he’s just a smartmouthed dwarf.

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    77. Northstar:
      Ten Bears,

      “….I hope….Bran tells everyone about the Mad King and the wildfire under KL.”

      I almost forgot about the wildfire the Mad King stashed all over KL! Not only that, but in S2 Cersei had commisioned the Alchemists Guild to mass produce wildfire before Acting Hand Tyrion commandeered it for his Blackwater ghost ship trick. Now that Cersei’s back in power, wouldn’t she resume production, in addition to retrieving wildfire from the Mad King’s caches assuming Qyburn located them along with the stash under the Sept?

      Which brings us to a potential cataclysmic event in S8 if Cersei tries to use wildfire against the WWs or any army attacking KL: Might she resort to what Bronn explained was a “sh*t idea” of catapulting jars of wildfire from the city walls, and unintentionally burn down the city?

      Here’s Bronn’s assessment of Cersei’s plan in when he and Tyrion visited Pyromancer Hallyne* in S2e5:

      ***
      Pyromancer Hallyne: The jars are put in catapults and flung at the enemy.

      Tyrion: How much do you have?
      (Hallyne shows them roomful of 7,811 wildfire pots)

      Bronn: If you could get real soldiers to man the catapults, then maybe you’d hit your target one time in ten, but all the real soldiers are in the Riverlands with your father.
      ***
      Bronn: I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a battle, old man, but things can get a bit messy. ‘Cause when we’re flinging things at Stannis, he’s flinging them right back at us. Men die, men shit themselves, men run, which means pots falling, which means fire inside the walls, which means the poor cunts trying to defend the city end up burning it down.
      ***
      Bronn: This is a sh*t idea.

      Tyrion: I’m afraid I have to concur with my advisor, Wisdom Hallyne. The contents of this room could lay King’s Landing low…

      * Shout-out to Roy Dotrice, a great voice actor (eg ASOIAF audiobooks) and character actor (including Russian figure skating coach in “The Cutting Edge”; Father in Beauty and The Beast TV show working with writer-producer GRRM; Mozart’s father in “Amadeus”; and of course Wisdom Hallyne on GoT.)
      He’s 94 years old now, and, I suspect, the oldest living GoT cast member.

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    78. Inga,

      You’re right–if Jaime or Tyrion reveals she’s pregnant, they’ll all hesitate, probably including pragmatic Sansa. The Pack surely knows how Ned would feel. But if the pregnancy fails or she gives birth, then it’s open season. Pursuing ethical questions, if a team goes, I hope Jaime does not kill Cersei, even if it’s a poetically tragic ending for them. He’d surely kill himself too. To commit regicide, sororicide, and suicide–he doesn’t deserve that. I hope Sandor or Arya kill Cersei and Arya kills Gregor, so that Sandor won’t commit fratricide. Kinslaying was a serious matter then and rather shocking even now.

      zandru,

      This is a really intriguing thought! But the execution of Ned came after Cersei had been put on the list. It was the kangaroo trial that condemned Nymeria to death – and actually caused the killing of poor Mycah and Lady- that put Cersei and Joffrey (and the Hound) on The List.

      Lots of y’all are talking about Arya “being sent” or Sansa “ordering” Arya. Look – nobody orders Arya around, not even Jon. If she goes somewhere on a mission, it’s because she wanted to and/or had been convinced.

      Totally agree on both counts. Though Arya didn’t create a List until later when Yoren told her about his ‘prayer’, the look she gave Cersei after it became clear Lady would die said she’d make her pay for it. I wonder if she scared Cersei, because after Ned died she always called Arya a wild animal and was rather frantic to lock her up. (In the books, she even wanted Robert to cut Arya’s hand off.) And Arya is very punctilious about justice. She wouldn’t take a life merely on someone’s order, because that’s murder, not justice.

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    79. zandru,

      I don’t think anyone implied that Arya will be just an executioner fulfilling orders blindly. She is a decision-maker and a character in her own right. It’s just that Sansa is better primed to realize how dangerous Cersei might be, whereas Arya has a bit of conflicting information. She feels that Cersei is bad (namely, unreasonable and earger to create a conflict where non is required), but as for the moment she knows that Jon has somehow persuaded Cersei to commit her forces to the war agains the dead. Therefore, Arya would need Sansa’s intel and/or big revelation of Cersei’s treason to go with anger against her again. It may happen in different ways: Sansa may simply share her concerns with her little sister, and the little sister will make the decision herself.

      Stark Raven’ Rad,

      The tricky thing about Cersei’s pregnancy is that she may and probaly will use it as a shield. Even in case of miscarriage or abortion, she will hardly brag about that throughout the Seven Kingdoms. So, it’s legit to assume that Tyrion, Jaime and the rest in Winterfell will have to make their decisions based on the assumption that she is still with a child. And that means problems, because Cersei will have some 7 months to make shit.
      As for who kills Cersei, I can imagine Jaime killing her if he learns that she somehow harms their unborn child; I can imagine Tyrion killing her, if she somehow harms Jaime; I can imagine many other things, but the killer of my preference would be the Night King. Not happening though.

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    80. Inga,

      I can imagine one more person to kill Cersei – herself. If it was obvious she had lost and she would be humiliated, she might take poison… or blow the place up.

      Ten Bears – that’s interesting, thanks!

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    81. Stark Raven’ Rad,

      “I hope Sandor or Arya kill Cersei…”
      ________
      Although this thread isn’t the place for it, at some point during the interminable wait between now and S8 I may don my full-body double-layer tinfoil hazmat suit 👨‍🚀to propose that if Stannis the Grammarian parsed the Valonqar prophecy, he’d conclude that the likeliest candidate to choke the life out of Cersei is…
      Sandor Clegane.

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    82. Northstar,

      Would fit with how Olenna poised her son and was poisoned and how Elaria killed her daughter so Cersei killed Elaria’s.

      A suicide would be fitting since she caused Tommen to commit suicide.

      But I think if she decides to commit suicide she is taking Jaime with her in a double murder suicide.

      “jaime and I are more than brother and sister. We shared a womb. We came into this world together, we belong
      together”….

      “We’ve always been together. We”ll always be together. We’re the only two people in the world.”

      no way she decides to exit stage right without Jaime

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    83. House Monty,

      Yeah…. and it’s so Shakespearean, the doomed ‘lovers’ dying together. And of course there was Jamie’s comment about ‘dying in the arms of the woman he loves’ (he may not love her by the end, but she has been the love of his life).

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    84. Northstar,

      Yes. Great quote. And the very next quote was Bronn asking if she wants the same thing. The irony is in this scenario she would want exactly the same thing.

      Also we have Olenna’s quote of Cersei being the end of him. Literally it would be true.

      Very Shakesperian and big enough that it could really be the centerpiece of the first part of the final episode and the final of the three major twists revealed along with Shireen burning and Hold the Door.

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    85. Ten Bears:
      Stark Raven’ Rad,

      Too late to edit above comment. I wanted to thank you for the word “sororocide” (to kill one’s own sister). I’d never heard of it before.

      I’ve never used it. And I also misspelled it. Sorry! It’s “sororIcide”. BTW, there’s a thread on reddit right now asking for “favourite duo”. I thought of you immediately because guess who seems to be mentioned by the most people.

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    86. Hey guys, great job with this! I am really glad you chose this topic because, not to sound like a crazy person but, Littlefinger’s death has been haunting me since it happened, it just doesn’t sit right with me for some reason. I liked your analysis, and Petra I do consider myself a Littlefinger fan, so there’s another one! (Although clearly Jaime is my main man..). I loved the way Aidan portrayed him on the show and that allowed me to see the character more from his point of view, as you said the brains vs brawn, nerd vs jock, and cut him some slack. Also like it or not he did get Sansa out of KL. I started to have doubts once the books and show diverged a lot and Petyr ‘gave’ Sansa to Ramsay to be treated horribly. I felt like Book Petyr would not have done that, but we’ll see in TWOW if he gets nastier and how he meets his end. I agree with Luka’s sociopath diagnosis as I think we all do. I am very curious how GRRM will write his end. The scene in the show was masterfully played so no complaints there, but it’s just so hard to understand his motivations, so mysterious, I won’t be 100% satisfied until we have his book death (or not!). I was a longtime believer that Petyr was based on/similar to Henry Tudor who won the throne at the end of the Wars of the Roses (physically unimposing, extremely intelligent, great with money/bookkeeping, in love with Elizabeth of York (Catelyn/Sansa?) but I guess that theory is shattered 😉 Thanks for a great analysis and keep up the Glass Candle Dialogue series, I love these!! 🙂

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    87. You know the archetype — the “misunderstood” (big quotes) emo creeps. It can get disturbing.

      Yes, it certainly can. I am so glad I finally got here before this thread was retired. I’ve come to really enjoy your Glass Candle columns, Luka and Petra. They always offer thorough and unusual insight to whatever you choose as your subject, yet are still full of wit and humor. You two work well together.

      Luka, I was especially intrigued by your view on what can be found on the “dark internet” regarding Littlefinger. The dark net is something I don’t need to ponder on too much, there are enough foul and nefarious doings right before our faces, if what happened this weekend in Las Vegas is any indication. Yet, I do appreciate the point of view you offered.

      It was interesting to read that not only are there many fans sympathetic to Lord Petyr Baelish and his devious doings, but that many might agree with what he was doing or uphold it as something admirable. As you said, Luka, He was never cool.

      The guy was a pimp, pure and simple. He had no love, respect or regard for women at all, except when they could aid his plans or line his pockets, as Olenna did. His love for Catelyn may have been pure and true when he was a boy, but after he was manhandled by the Stark boys, and she ended up marrying Ned, that love disintegrated into some mean, writhing thing inside him. It was no longer love. You don’t kill the sister of the woman you love, you don’t kill the woman that loves you (poor crazy Lysa) nor do you set into action plans that ultimately endanger her entire family and get her husband killed.

      He didn’t want Sansa for the lovely girl Sansa was, he wanted Sansa to sell, as a pimp would, to the Boltons, to further his own nasty plans. Which is exactly what he did. No matter what was left of her, physically, mentally, emotionally, she would still carry the Stark name, and THAT’S what he wanted. Not the girl herself. A loving man doesn’t pimp out a girl he loves, or put her in precarious, degrading situations for his own profit or amusement.

      Nor does a decent man sell a girl to a psycho, as he did with Ros to Joffrey, to have her end up as a pincushion. “She was a bad investment.” If he were angry with her, there were other things he might have done. What he did was heinous. And it shows completely what his true goal was Revenge: a nerd/bully’s revenge, just as you said.
      Varys: Do all the lords and ladies simper and bow, the ones who sneered at you for years?
      LF: It’s hard for them to simper and bow without heads

      Varys had it correctly, that LF saw women as a collection of profitable holes. At least Varys tried to help Ros. I loved that you two compared the two, LF and Varys, and discussed what might have caused each of them to turn out the way they did. LF’s beatings at the Stark hands were nothing compared to what happened to Varys, yet Varys ended up being the “better” of the two, trying to do good, make good. Not that he was completely above revenge, as the Wizard in the box proved, but his treatment of people was generally without malice. Whereas, LF thrived on malice, adored chaos, when the chaos was at everyone else’s expense.

      Is it that every human carries a predisposition one way or another? The older I get, the more I think so. Some are wired to get enraged at the smallest slight, and carry that rage with them as fuel. Some are aghast at the hatred that might boil up inside them, and do everything to reroute it, to make something positive of it. Sadly, this world, as also the world of GoT, generally sees the ones filled with rage as the more effective, therefor more worthy. I don’t happen to believe that way, thank goodness. Doing the right thing, the thing beneficial to mankind, is much harder than giving in to ones lower emotions. Many times you don’t reach that goal. The thing that says the most about about one’s personality is what you do after you fall off the fence. Do you get back up and continue to try to do something beneficial, or at least something that shies away from hatred, or do you give in to hate? The question is pertinent for Varys and Littlefinger, it’s pertinent now.

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    88. House Monty: A suicide would be fitting since she caused Tommen to commit suicide.

      I like your equation of karmic results that match a specific outcome to specific ill deeds. There was a really great discussion of that a couple of months ago. Though, I kind of thought Tommen going out the window was payback for Bran going out the window. There is a good precedent for Cersei commiting suicide thought – she was ready to do it, and take Tommen with her, at the end of the Battle of Blackwater. She would have, if Tywin hadn’t marched in just in time.

      But that was before she became Queen. She might have changed her mind that something such as suicide would be beneath her, no matter what happens. We will see, sigh, in about a year. ARRRGGH

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    89. Ten Bears: during the interminable wait between now and S8 I may don my full-body double-layer tinfoil hazmat suit 👨‍🚀to propose that if Stannis the Grammarian parsed the Valonqar prophecy, he’d conclude that the likeliest candidate to choke the life out of Cersei is…
      Sandor Clegane.

      Oh, my dear, I would love to read such a thing from you. I do hope you get a chance to don that tinfoil suit and tell us how you reached such a thing. I generally like reading just about anything you write. 🙂

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    90. Again, there’s nothing wrong with finding a character who does bad things engaging but there’s a difference between that and “woobifying” them. There are other people who don’t fit the gender roles of Westeros who have chosen to react to their predicament differently. Sam, for example, was also bullied relentlessly for excelling in brains instead of brawn but he chose a different path than Baelish

      Petra, I liked what you said, and that’s one of the points I was trying to make, based on what you had written. If I had tried to address all the excellent points you and Luka made, the thing would have been two feet long. It also made me laugh. wtf is “woobifying”? I need to have that word in my vocabulary. And I agree about Sam. He’s another who chose to use brains and heart to overcome his rage, instead of feeding on the rage.

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    91. Stark Raven' Rad,

      Mea culpa:
      It was I who misspelled “sororicide.” You had it right. (I disabled SpellCheck because it transforms real words into gibberish and too often insists on overriding my commands.)

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    92. Thronetender,

      About LF and Sansa, you wrote:

      “A loving man doesn’t pimp out a girl he loves, or put her in precarious, degrading situations for his own profit or amusement.”
      ——————————-

      Right. That’s the biggest problem I had with the adaptation decision to shoehorn Sansa into the Jeyne Poole-Bolton-Theon book story line (aside from the inherent silliness of LF’s proposal to Sansa to “avenge” murdered Stark family members by … marrying into the family that murdered them (WTF?), and Sansa’s inexplicable, arc-regressing “decision” to go along with it.

      As I think Sansa told Arya in their concluding scene on the battlements in S7e7: “In his own horrible way, I believe he loved me.” However:

      • As you observed, a “loving” man doesn’t pimp out a girl he loves, or put her in precarious, degrading situations for his own profit” – no matter what the payoff is.

      •An obsessive or covetous sicko like LF would never give up or give away the virtue of the girl he (thinks he) loves “in his own horrible way” – for any price. He would “keep” it for himself.

      • Men like LF are pathologically jealous and possessive, and would isolate the girl, virtually imprison her, and never let her have any contact with another man.

      • Whether LF was motivated by a desire to “f*ck the Starks” (S1 brothel sexposition), or saw Sansa as a means of reliving and “revising” his past childhood disappointment via Catelyn 2.0, taking Sansa’s virtue would be the ultimate prize. A supposed master game player would never trade that away.*
      An in-character LF would either marry Sansa himself, or defile her before “selling” her off.

      • GoT has been intriguing because even when male characters do stupid things, they’re consistent with human nature: Anyone who was ever in love as a young man can understand how Robb could foolishly blow off his oaths and responsibilities and marry Talisa; I felt it was an instinctive protectiveness that impelled Jaime to turn around, return (to Harrenhall?), and jump into the bear pit with no sword and only one hand to rescue Brienne; though it’s being played for laughs, Tormund’s fascination with Brienne after a few glances that has him daydreaming about his (imaginary) future with her, is the kind of embarrassing self-delusion that turns even the most “masculine” man into an lovesick idiot when he’s under the influence of a serious crush.
      However, I just can’t envision any man, normal or pathological, behaving as LF did. Men just aren’t hardwired that way.

      *(I understand that in the books, LF is conniving to have Sansa matched up with “Harry the Heir” (?), so maybe Book!LF will “sell” her innocence to arrogate more power. I don’t know how that’s been set up, or how it will play out. Maybe no one ever will.)

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    93. Thronetender,

      Why thanks!
      My tinfoil Stannis interpretation of the Valonqar prophecy is in my old cellphone that kept freezing or reloading the page. I’ll try to post it in a few days, maybe in the Forum section, along with some other crackpot theories that I put on the backburner until S7 concluded. (I had assumed many of them would be debunked by then. They weren’t. 😎)

      Disclaimers: (1) The Valonqar prophecy wasn’t included in the show, but I’m assuming Cersei’s fate in the books and show will be the same.
      (2) In general, it gets confusing when trying to transplant book! prophecies onto show! events.
      Also, I’ve had to account for differences in the timeline of events and characters’ ages in the books vs. the show.
      (3) I confess to “confirmation bias.” I’m an admitted Houndophile.
      I’m still hanging onto my tinfoil Sandor = Warrior of Light theory.
      My ears could easily deceive me so that when I listen to Bran’s voiceover at the end of S7e7, I hear:

      “He’s never been a canid. He’s the heir to the Iron Throne. He needs to know. We need to tell him.”

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    94. Pigeon,

      If you’re still interested, tomorrow I’m going to try to post my rendition of an in-character LF defending against the charges of treason and murder. (I typed it on an old cellphone that’s prone to freezing and page-reloading. I’ll have to retype what I wrote.)

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    95. Ten Bears,

      Indeed, everything what Littlefinger did to Sansa simply screems that all his “love” was just a cover story for a naive damsel. However, I can see why Sansa bought it: Littlefinger was creepy but he was the only “suitor” Sansa ever had. It was pleasing for her to think that he loved her and it still is: it makes her feel powerful as a woman, it makes her believe that she is almost as good at playing men as Cersei, though in reality neither of them is femme fatale. In short, the show implies that Sansa is still naive when it comes to men and though that will hardly lead to any plot twist, her naivety may be an interesting parallel to Cersei’s naivety expressed in “no-one walks away from me”, when in reality everyone walks away from her.

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    96. Ten Bears: marrying into the family that murdered them (WTF?), and Sansa’s inexplicable, arc-regressing “decision” to go along with it.

      Her decision didn’t seem so inexplicable to me – she had just witness him murder her aunt. She thought she had him under some sort of control (Darth Sansa), yet he caught her totally off-guard by stopping on an empty road in the wilderness to reveal his monstrous plan.

      He proved to her that she had no control by not telling her beforehand, yet when he did tell her, it was under the most precarious circumstance, leaving her no choice. She could have refused, but then what? Be left in the middle of nowhere, or killed at his hand? After seeing him push Lysa out the Moon Door, she couldn’t be sure of anything, except to cling to a last shred of trust or hope that he did “love” her and all would be well, somehow.

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    97. Ten Bears: I’ll try to post it in a few days, maybe in the Forum section,

      If you do, post on one of these threads that you have, so we know to look at the Forum pages. I looked there regularly before the season ended, but haven’t been back since.

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    98. Ten Bears:
      Pigeon,

      If you’re still interested, tomorrow I’m going to try to post my rendition of an in-character LF defending against the charges of treason and murder. (I typed it on an old cellphone that’s prone to freezing and page-reloading. I’ll have to retype what I wrote.)

      For sure! We don’t agree on LF, but I’m always interested in what you have to say. 😊

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    99. Pigeon,

      Well, I just thought LF could’ve had some zinger comebacks to some of Sansa’s “do you deny it?” accusations – using her own words to refute the charges.
      Anyway, I’ll see if I can excavate the text from my old phone and post it this afternoon.

        Quote  Reply

    100. Ten Bears:
      Pigeon,

      Well, I just thought LF could’ve had some zinger comebacks to some of Sansa’s “do you deny it?” accusations – using her own words to refute the charges. Anyway, I’ll see if I can excavate the text from my old phone and post it this afternoon.

      I agree, and I think it would have been a nod to the character’s past speeches (and a good sendoff for Aidan.) It seemed a bit truncated when he basically went “Allow me to defend myself!…..yo Royce, get me outta here man…” Le sigh.

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    101. Thronetender,

      I don’t think that Sansa agreed to marry Ramsay out of fear: it really looked like she wanted to become an active player, she believed that she will take control over Ramsay and turn him againts his father, etc. The plan could have worked, if Ramsay wasn’t who he was. (As for Littlefinger, IMO he wanted Sansa out of the Vale before she decided to confide the truth to the local lords and also to turn the Boltons agains the crown; Sansa was just an instrument).

        Quote  Reply

    102. Luka: You should explore the darker corners of the internet. Or perhaps you shouldn’t.
      Luka, I came back to see if any new opinions re LF had been posted, because this character has always intrigued me. I re-read my post and thought that maybe my comments about the dark internet might be taken by you as a casual, disinterested dismissal of what you had written. Just in case that’s true, I wanted to tell you that it was not my intent at all to dismiss your ideas about the “darker corners of the internet,” as you put it.

      In my wee-hours-of-the-morning post, what I wanted to convey was that I was very interested in what you had gleaned from there, but that not only was I not sophisticated enough to even know where or how to look, it would probably be better if I didn’t. This is still an inelegant way to put what I mean, but I think it would be akin to following up on your caveat “or perhaps you shouldn’t.”

      What I also wanted to say was that even though I hadn’t personally tracked down a lot of the material to which you referred, I was interested in reading your theories because they explain the undertone of so much of the negative attitude that has leached out into the mainstream. I was thinking that seeing an underlying negativism and misogynistic entitlement was in my imagination. What you wrote proves that it was not. It’s coming from somewhere.

      This is also a wee-hours-of-the-morning,(your time-stamp shows as Eastern Standard Time. Where I am, it’s around 5 am.) half-asleep post, but I hope I conveyed that I was very interested in what both you and Petra posted, and didn’t mean to come across as dismissive in any way. I look forward to more Glass Candle insights.

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    103. Inga: The plan could have worked, if Ramsay wasn’t who he was.

      True words. If Ramsay hadn’t been a sicko, the tactics that LF encouraged Sansa to use, her female wiles, probably would have been effective. Yet, I still say that if LF had told Sansa of the plan in a place of safety, where Sansa could have disagreed and stalked away in disapproval and disgust, that’s exactly what she would have done. Out on the road, she had no choice but to agree to give the crazy plan a try.

      I hate to say it, but watching the three Stark children condemn him and carry out the execution was very satisfying. I didn’t expect to be as happy about it as I came to be. For villains like Joff and Ramsay, I actively rooted for their deaths. I just wanted LF gone away from Sansa, one way or another, and fully expected him to make it to the end. But watching Arya do her handiwork, I found myself saying Good. That surprised me.

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    104. Pigeon: I agree, and I think it would have been a nod to the character’s past speeches (and a good sendoff for Aidan.) It seemed a bit truncated when he basically went “Allow me to defend myself!…..yo Royce, get me outta here man…” Le sigh.

      I wanted LF gone, but I wanted him to go down swinging: twisting the truth, accusing his accuser, and making up new lies to explain his old ones.
      For example, when Sansa started with “the simplest” charge, accusing LF of murdering Lysa by pushing her out the Moon Door, he responded: “I did it to protect you.”
      I expected him to turn the tables…

      [sorry. to be cont. keyboard’s crashing. Thanks Vlad.]

        Quote  Reply

    105. 4:28 pm comment, cont….

      ….When Sansa accused LF of murdering Lysa Arryn, and demanded “Do you deny it!”,
      I expected LF to turn the tables by replying:

      “YOU denied it! in your “unadulterated testimony” at the Vale, YOU swore that Lysa was a nut job and committed suicide!”

      PS I’m still trying to post my complete “alternative LF defense scene” from my old phone. I’ve gotta wait until ad traffic doesn’t crash the page.

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    106. Ten Bears:
      4:28 pm comment, cont….

      PS I’m still trying to post my complete “alternative LF defense scene” from my old phone. I’ve gotta wait until ad traffic doesn’t crash the page.

      You would come up with a great list; I’d like to see that. A few weeks ago someone on r/freefolk published a list of defenses LF could have made against the charges. They were plausible. I wish I’d kept a copy. If GoT were real life, someone like LF with a glib tongue, brazen attitude, and sufficiently deep pockets to hire the best QC would have pursued a prolonged appeals process that would have required a sequence in all six S8 episodes. So, as interesting as that might have been, I’m relieved the three Wolves cut the Gordian Not and got rid of him. 🙂

        Quote  Reply

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