I know no queen but the Queen in the North whose name is Stark — and who has been right for much of these last two seasons of Game of Thrones.
I’ve spent all eight seasons of Game of Thrones on Team Sansa.
Granted, it was easy to do so as a book reader, where I’d seen her arc in the capable and careful hands of George R.R. Martin and therefore knew where she was headed.
Like Sansa of the early seasons, I live for a romantic subplot (or main plot) in all my storytelling. Like her, I’d like life to be a song — though similarly to her, I’ve learned that it isn’t. As someone with terrible hand-eye coordination and a deep-rooted hate of cardio, I’d never survive as Arya, but I like to think I could have the kind of strength Sansa exhibits throughout the series — one which relies on cunning, patience and a clear-eyed look at the long game.
It hasn’t been an easy road for Sansa or for those of us who are fans of hers. She’s spent much of her time on the show maligned for not being a traditional fighter, mocked for her innocence and naiveté, and hated for the way in which she was forced to play the game to stay alive.
But all that began to change in season 7, when she was freed from her abuser and captor, took back ownership of her own story while also taking back her home in the process.
So, despite my misgivings with certain choices in both seasons 7 and 8 of Game of Thrones, one of my constant sources of delight has been seeing Sansa prove herself as one of the best players of the game and the smartest person in any given room she’s in.
Sansa’s arc, among other things, has been about highlighting the fact that there are different strengths valuable outside of physical strength. No, Sansa could not have defeated The Night King as Arya had, but it is largely because of her that they even had a Winterfell in which to make their last stand along with the food and the provisions to provide their support.
After all, armies don’t exist out of nowhere — they must be led, bred and fed. It is because of Sansa that the latter of these three — having soldiers and feeding these soldiers — was even possible.
In fact, there have been five episodes of Game of Thrones this season, and so far I feel like each of them could be a variation on the title — “The one where Sansa was right,” and then fill in the blank of what she was right about.
The first two episodes could’ve been combined into one (probably should’ve been combined into one), with both of them titled — “The One Where Sansa was Right about Cersei.”
Jon embarked on a long and dangerous journey to the North to find a Wight and bring it South, losing one of Daenerys’ dragons in the process — and for what? For Cersei to renege on her promise of her armies. Had anyone even thought to consider Sansa’s opinion and listen it, they could’ve perhaps been up a dragon and without any misplaced hope.
Game of Thrones 8×03 and 8×04, “The Long Night” and “The Last of the Starks,” should’ve actually been called “Sansa Was Right About Resting the Army.”
After the battle at Winterfell, Sansa’s thoughts were on the everyday soldiers responsible for waging the wars of the highborn lords and ladies. She pushed for rest for the armies, rest for the wounded and weary — Dany’s dragons among them.
When asked how much time the soldiers might need, Sansa’s first thought was to ask the officers. She wasn’t prepared to make unilateral decisions on behalf of those who actually did the fighting — she actually wanted to consult them first. It’s a smart, measured approach to war, one that considers the needs of the people as well as the wisdom of long-term planning.
Daenerys, in her lust for the throne, rejects it, and Jon goes along with her and against Sansa. The armies rush South with little rest and even less planning and are met with a surprise attack from Euron’s fleet — an attack which costs the life of Missandei and another one of Daenerys’ dragons.
Now, of course, it’s entirely possible that the rest wouldn’t have made a difference, but it’s also equally as likely that taking more time to rest the soldiers and draw up a proper attack plan could’ve saved both lives and time overall. After all, a well-rested fleet and a well-rested dragon might’ve had an easier time evading Euron’s ships and those Scorpions mounted atop them, like they were easily able to do in the most recent episode, “The Bells.”
And finally, the drum beat which Sansa has been hitting this entire season — and for which she has been heavily criticized — has been her inherent distrust of Daenerys.
Sansa witnessed up close the corrosive nature of the lust for power. Her distrust of Daenerys is then not rooted in the petty jealousies of her youth, but in the intuition and foresight she gained through her experiences in King’s Landing and in The Vale.
Early on, she recognizes that overwhelming desire within Daenerys that she once saw in Cersei — a desire for power and a sense of entitlement that festers and grows until it is the only thing that matters.
Sansa has spent almost the entirety of her storyline attempting to go home and, once there, working to both maintain and preserve that home. She isn’t driven by a desire for power — a desire that she has seen corrupt over and over again and that she recognizes in Daenerys — but in a desire to protect her home and keep it safe.
Whoever Daenerys thinks she is, Sansa sees her for what she actually is — another ruler in a long line of rulers who believe they’re entitled to rule and will do so with violence and cruelty.
And in this, as with everything else this season, she is right.
I’m not saying that everything would’ve been resolved had everyone listened to Sansa this season — this is Game of Thrones, after all. Still, it’s also hard to argue against the feeling that all the characters would’ve faced more favorable odds had her words been taken more seriously.
Sansa survived Kings Landing and the Red Keep. She learned from the most cunning, cutthroat and ambitious players in the game of thrones — Cersei Lannister, Margaery and Olenna Tyrell, and Petyr Baelish. And while she has been a self-described slow learner, it is also true that she has learned — better than anyone else currently on the proverbial table.
Those lessons came at a high cost — one that she never should’ve had to pay, and one that she desperately does not want anyone else to pay. If only everyone felt as Arya did when she proclaimed Sansa to be the smartest person she’s ever met, then this season could’ve gone in an entirely different and more sensible direction.
But instead, here we are with a decimated army, a burned out King’s Landing, and another Mad Targaryen on the Iron Throne.
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