Warning: Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones episode “The Last of the Starks.”
If you have been wondering how Game of Thrones could end, no episode gives you better hints than season 8's “The Last of the Starks.” Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) learns the true identity of “Jon Snow”/Aegon Targaryen (Kit Harington) and shares that information with Varys (Conleth Hill). Varys ends the episode very seriously hinting he may be considering overthrowing Daenerys, via murder, to install Jon on the Iron Throne. Even if Varys is unsuccessful, the secret it will inevitably reveal will likely split countless Thrones heroes on which remaining Targaryen actually deserves to lead Westeros (if, somehow, Team Targarystark wins in the first place).
While Tyrion and Varys are the ones running around Dragonstone spouting treason, this dark conversation isn’t of their own making. It’s Sansa Stark’s (Sophie Turner). It’s Sansa who sowed these seeds of discord by spilling the details of Jon's true parentage. Now, they are sprouting thousands of miles from Winterfell. After years of horrific adversity, that is the kind of powerful person Ned Stark’s (Sean Bean) oldest daughter has fought to become.
Yet, Thrones still refuses to give Sansa Stark the credit she deserves. With just two episodes left of GoT, the HBO drama’s Sansa Stark problem has gone from irritating to infuriating — and “Last of the Starks,” whose entire creative team is made of men, shows us exactly why.
At the beginning of the episode, Sansa sits down with Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann). It’s here Thrones reminds us these two have history. During the early seasons of the series, Sansa and the Hound were trapped in King’s Landing together. She was a political hostage amidst Robb Stark’s (Golden Globe winner Richard Madden) Northern uprising. The Hound was Joffrey Baratheon’s (Jack Gleeson) sworn sword, and he had a bit of an obsession with Sansa. During the Battle of the Blackwater, Sandor snuck into Sansa’s room in the Red Keep and offered to take Sansa, whom he called “Little Bird,” with him.
She declined and was eventually ushered out of the city of by Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) just over a season later. First Littlefinger takes Sansa to the Vale, where her aunt Lysa Arryn (Kate Dickie) rules. Petyr is now Lysa’s husband. The Lady of the Vale become increasingly jealous of Sansa and nearly throws her out of the Moon Door, to her death, before Littlefinger kills his new wife. After escaping the clutches of Lysa, Littlefinger marries Sansa off to Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), swearing this is how she takes back the North (it’s not). Ramsay is a rapist and a sadist who routinely abuses Sansa.
This terrible detour ends with Sansa feeding Ramsay to his own hounds. Eventually, Sansa and her little sister/favorite assassin Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) plot Littlefinger’s murder for his many crimes against the Starks, including the Sansa marriage debacle. Despite all the manipulations Sansa was dragged through, she not only survived — she clawed her way to true, unassailable power. That’s why a favorite Twitter fandom post is a George R.R. Martin quote about Sansa reading, “My skin has turned to porcelain, to ivory, to steel.”
Yet, Thrones chooses to take away all of Sansa’s self-built agency and give credit to the harmful men in her life. During her “Last of the Starks” conversation with The Hound (who says he heard Sansa was “broken in rough,” as an awful euphemism for her rape), she holds his hand and tells him, “Without Littlefinger, and Ramsay, and the rest, I would have stayed a little bird all my life.” With one sentence all of the hard work Sansa has done is washed away in favor of congratulating every monster in Westeros for creating the Sansa we now know and respect. It’s not only, rude, it’s wrong.
Sansa wasn’t made a master politico and manipulator because of sexual, physical, and mental abuse. Her Littlefinger-esque strengths were on full display following the death of Lysa Arryn, which came long before her trip ill-fated trip home to Winterfell.
In season 4’s “The Mountain and the Viper,” the lords and ladies of the Vale meet to discuss what really happened to Lysa and Littlefinger’s possible part in her murder. Sansa knows that if Littlefinger’s dramatic slaying of Lysa becomes public knowledge, she will lose her greatest protector and even be possibly implicated in the crime. So, she makes up a great lie about Lysa’s jealousy-fueled suicidal depression and Littlefinger’s attempt to curb in. It's subterfuge buoyed by truth. In this version of events, Littlefinger didn’t throw his wife out of the Moon Door — Lysa stepped through it due to her own instability.
Littlefinger is cleared of all charges, and Sansa is embraced by the Vale. The same Vale that would come in clutch for Sansa during more than one Northern battle occasion. It is here, Sansa debuts her Dark Sansa look — complete with darker hair and an imposing, feathery gown — as a sign of her newfound strength. A strength that wasn’t created because of Littlefinger’s grabbiness or Ramsay’s abuse. Instead, Sansa came to the place through her own know-how and drive to win the game of thrones.
That is the Sansa who now leads Winterfell and very smartly told Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) she should let the Northern army heal from the Night King battle before taking them down South to fight Cersei. The dragon queen quickly brushes Sansa off in “Last of the Starks” and splits her host in half to immediately try to take down Cersei. By the end of the episode, Jon and the allied Westerosi forces are MIA, Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) is dead, Rhaegal is dead, and the remaining boats in Dany’s fleet have been blown to bits. All because no one wanted to listen to Sansa Stark.
It’s time we change that.