Game of Thrones season 7 dodged a bulled by having Arya and Sansa (spoiler) in the final episode. But it could have easily gone the other way…
In an otherwise great season of Game of Thrones, many viewers were unnerved (if not outright angry) at how the series was handling the recently reunited Stark sisters.
Hypable’s own Michal Schick called the development “maddening,” noting, “almost without warning, this sense of sorority [between Sansa and Arya] unraveled into a swamp of suspicion and intimidation” in the season’s penultimate episode.
Although the season 7 finale pulled a last-minute twist that many of us were expecting and/or desperately hoping for by revealing that Arya, Sansa and Bran had unraveled Littlefinger’s lies together and brought him to justice, Arya and Sansa’s journey for the latter half of the season is still somewhat baffling.
Just when did they figure out Littlefinger’s plan? How many of their painful scenes in episodes 5 and 6 were for show, and how many were an expression of a genuine lingering resentment and mistrust (particularly on Arya’s part)?
A Variety interview with Isaac Hempstead-Wright, who plays Bran, has given us another piece of the puzzle — which won’t exactly satisfy frustrated fans.
Hempstead-Wright details a cut scene from the finale, in which Sansa approaches Bran to ask for his help:
“Basically, as far as I know, the story was that it suddenly occurred to Sansa that she had a huge CCTV department at her discretion and it might be a good idea to check with him first before she guts her own sister. So she goes to Bran, and Bran tells her everything she needs to know, and she’s like, ‘Oh, shit’.”
It would have been nice to see this scene, of course, although it wasn’t totally necessary (and the producers probably cut it because it made that final moment even more ambiguous).
The fact that such a scene exists on the cutting-room floor, however, tells us two things: For one, Three-Eyed Bran likely wasn’t going to lift a finger to help his sisters if Sansa hadn’t specifically come to him and asked the right questions.
And, more importantly, Littlefinger’s schemes had been working, which means that if Sansa hadn’t had the presence of mind to check with her convenient brother-turned-magic-8-ball before accusing Arya of treason, the season would have ended very differently for the Stark sisters.
While we might all have different perspectives on this, I tend to be more forgiving towards Sansa in this situation. Not only did she not antagonize Arya (in fact, she asked all the right questions, even if Arya didn’t answer any of them), but she also stopped to get the facts before jumping to conclusions.
As she was self-aware enough to realize, “I’m a slow learner, but I learn.” She may have let Littlefinger manipulate her a little too much, and may have fought back a little too drastically against Arya’s provocations, but in the end she kept a clear head — which is truly Sansa’s superpower, and what is going to help her survive the long winter.
It is much more grating to see Arya, a fan-favorite and someone we generally want to be cheering for, so easily revert back to a more childish, impulsive version of herself.
It’s true to Arya, in some ways, to be driven by anger and revenge. But it is not true to who she’s become after training with the Faceless Men that she would be so quick to jump to judgement, nor does it make much sense to have her turn all of her murderous emotions on one of the only family members she has left.
Luckily the mess got cleaned up and Littlefinger won’t be scheming against them anymore, and Arya and Sansa’s make-up scene as they reminisced about Ned should be taken as a sign that in the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, the two Stark sisters will be truly united.
Still, I feel like the writers played on old audience expectations of Sansa and Arya, reverting them backwards rather than pushing them forward in order to set up a much too complicated misdirect that, on its own, was a great moment — but, viewed in the context of the full season, really wasn’t worth it.
Even though they ended the season burying their childhood grudges and looking ahead, Sansa and Arya essentially spent most of what is going to be their final hours on the show in a stagnant, child-like state; in Michal’s words, the writers showed us a version of Sansa and Arya who were “playing old shadows of themselves,” rather than letting them be the women we’ve seen them fight so hard to become.