By John Geluardi
The Battle of the Bastards was one of the most exhilarating set pieces ever created for television and perhaps film. The hacking violence and overwhelming confusion of horses, arrows, swords and axes was depicted in graphic medieval detail. The Stark Sigill flies again from Winterfell’s walls after Ramsey Bolton’s army was routed, and Bolton himself was set upon by his own hounds in an inglorious death that was among the most highly anticipated of all Thrones’ despised villains.
But while the loser of the Battle of the Bastards was easy to identify, the winner is a bit more vague and the uncertainty is deeply troubling. The messy victory raises many questions about who will rule Winterfell and how heightened tensions between Sansa and Jon Snow will play out in the season’s final episode this Sunday.
There has been a lot of speculation among my fellow Thrones geeks about Sansa’s important role in the battle and a good deal of celebration about her officiating over Ramsey’s gruesome death. Most of the comments I’ve read about the new, ruthlessly pro-active Sansa have been positive. After years of watching her be victimized, fans are apparently rejoicing to see her take control over her life and seemingly to assert herself as a potential worthy leader of Winterfell and possibly the North. There’s no doubt, Sansa has become a major player.
But have years of abuse may have created something dark in Sansa that we don’t want to acknowledge? Perhaps Ramsey was prophetic at the last when he said to Sansa “You can’t kill me. I’m part of you now.”
A look at Sansa’s development over the course of Season 6 raises some rather serious questions about Sansa’s motivations. Her behavior becomes questionable in episode 5 when she agrees to a secret meeting with Little Finger, the Kings Landing brothel keeper with ambitions for the Throne of Westeros. He was described by Lord Varys in Season 3 as “The most dangerous man in Westeros… He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.” Indeed, Little Finger had already arranged a marriage between Sansa and the sadistic Ramsey Bolton, which put Sansa in the hands of a brutal husband who raped and tortured her. Further more, it was Little Finger who betrayed Sansa’s father Ned Stark, which resulted in his beheading.
So why would Sansa meet with Little Finger in the burned out ruins of the Mole’s Town Brothel (the location a reminder of pimp Little Finger’s willingness to exploit women?). During the meeting Little Finger offered Sansa the use of the Knights of the Vale, which were billeted at Moat Cailin, in easy range of Winterfell. He also sowed the seed of doubt in Sansa’s mind by pointing out Jon Snow is only her “half brother.”
So why would Sansa not tell Jon about the meeting or the availability of a fresh army of knights that could help Jon reclaim Winterfee for the Stark’s? Is she possibly in love with Little Finger? She certainly has a history of making poor choices in men – the cruel Prince Joffrey and Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers who Cersei Lannister called “A notorious pillow biter.” Or does Sansa see an alliance with Little Fingers as a way to gain control of the north and possibly become Queen of Westeros through marriage to the graspy and ambitious Little Finger? Whatever the reason, she took steps to keep her meeting a secret by sending her personal protector Brienne of Tarth, the only witness to the meeting, off to deliver a letter to her uncle, The Blackfish, who was holed up in a besieged castle in the Riverlands.
Sansa also undermined Jon’s authority in front of his advisors. During a strategy meeting, Sansa pointed out, to Jon’s chagrin, that he does not have the Stark name and that he is a bastard like Ramsey. She also was adamant that her name would be more effective at rallying other northern houses to help her, and supposedly Jon, retake Winterfell and save the captive Rickon, the youngest Stark with the strongest claim to Winterfell.
Then on he night before the Battle of the Bastards, Sansa told Jon that Rickon is a lost cause and then harangued Jon about not having enough men to win the battle. But she again kept the availability of the Knights of the Vale secret. This is important because that knowledge could have resulted in different, more effective battle plans that could have saved lives and possibly freed her brother Rickon.
Instead she let Jon go into battle undermanned and ignorant of an available army of knights. Further casting doubt on Sansa’s motivations in the results of the battle. Rickon, who had a more powerful claim on Winterfell than Sansa, is dead. The Knights of the Vale rode in at the last minute to win the battle, but Jon’s army of Wildings was all but wiped out including the giant Wun Wun. Jon himself was lucky to survive the gruesome battle. But Sansa was sitting quite pretty at battle’s end. In fact, her position couldn’t have been stronger stronger if Little Finger himself had engineered it – except Little Finger would have certainly preferred his knights to have swept in after Jon had been killed.
While Jon’s position is diminished, Sansa now has a fresh army behind her and the devious, manipulative Little Finger to help install her as the ruler of the North. What all this means for Jon remains to be seen, but it was clear after winning the Battle of the Bastards that Jon was not in a mood to celebrate. He barely had a word for Sansa and the tension was palatable.
If Little Finger is true to his nature, Jon’s life is in danger because he presents a challenge to Sansa’s rule. She has already made it clear she does not value Jon’s life so will she conspire with Little Finger to eliminate her half-brother from contention?
It might be worth knowing that Sansa betrayed her sister in season 1. She lied to protect her then love, Joffrey at the expense of Arya. Sansa’s betrayal cost the life of her direwolf, Lady, who Ned killed on the insistence of Queen Cersei. The killing of the direwolf, the Stark House sigill, was the beginning of a run of bad luck that nearly wiped out the Starks. Despite being in a coma, the intuitive Bran sensed Lady’s death and awoke to stare directing into the camera with a Sibyllic and knowing gaze.
There is speculation that Jon has an unknown relative who is very powerful and may somehow come to his aide. I’m hopeful that we’ll learn more in episode #10. What do you think?
BTW, where the hell is Ghost?