House Stark (or, Forge Sex/Love Sounds)
What a time to be Sansa Stark and Daenerys Targaryen, two powerful women who finally get to sit down and talk as equals. It turns out that Sansa’s concern about Jon bending the knee to Daenerys because of love has to do with concern for House Stark -- she is the Lady of Winterfell, after all. Sansa and Dany look like they’ve reached an understanding when Daenerys outlines how in love with Jon she is. Sansa isn’t unreasonable in questioning it, especially since Daenerys hadn’t exactly been forthcoming with Sansa, and she’s very accepting once she understands all sides of the situation. Then, she holds the damn line when it comes to what's important to her: What happens to the North after the Long Night is over?
Sansa Stark is all the best parts of Littlefinger and Cersei now. She’s fighting all the battles in her mind at all times. She won’t be surprised. The entire conversation with Daenerys isn’t something Sansa hadn’t thought about before, she just was unaware of the Dragon Queen's political style. Once Sansa actually gets to judge her character (and her love for Jon), she knows exactly when to stand up to Dany and the plain language to do it with. If we’re judging who should win the Game of Thrones based just on this season, the answer is Sansa, the woman with all the correct answers and Lyanna-Mormont-like propensity to put people in their place. Last week, Sansa’s perspective might have been a bit more murky when it looked like she’d have to make angry eyes at Dany from afar. While Bran is unsure if there’s going to be anything after the battle with the dead, Sansa already seems to have a dozen plans for keeping the North free from the throne. Now that we see the Lady of Winterfell in political action, and she’s not giving up Winterfell for a silly notion like two young leaders in love with each other.
Speaking of love, of all the couples who might get a “we might die tomorrow” bone session, Arya and Gendry were not at the top of the list. Let’s take a moment before debating if that means they’re both going to die to enjoy the frank foreplay talk about dick-leeching from Melisandre. Arya’s Essos street smarts has stripped her of basically all the innocence she had left, so she comes in hard with intent once Gendry has delivered her dual-dragonglass dagger staff. They’re two consenting adults about to fight an army of zombies, so everything about it is fan service... right?
It would be a real gut punch to play up Arya’s super skill in battle, plus her dragonglass throwing accuracy, PLUS her new fancy weapon, then to have her die three episodes from the series finale. The kind of gut punch that a show might not be able to recover from. So much of Game of Thrones has followed Arya as she reacts to the death around her, reversing that story to have the events of the show react to Arya’s death would be... rough. All the Arya scenes this week are fitting final notes for her relationships, but not good final notes for the character overall. Arya might simply interact this week with the most people who will be dead next week.
For instance, Gendry might have just served his final purpose on the show. In season one, Robert Baratheon tried to lure Ned Stark to be Hand of the King by saying “I have a son, you have a daughter, we’ll join our Houses.” Joffrey and Sansa didn’t work out, but Gendry and Arya found each other. It’s still possible that whoever takes the throne at the end legitimizes Gendry and we can have a true Stark/Baratheon bond, but it’s unlikely.
Arya also has a relatively nice moment with two other characters she used to hate: The Hound and Beric Dondarrion. Arya and The Hound already had a tiny showdown last week, and that could have been it, except... why? It’s the curse of this type of episode structure: the odds of The Hound making it south for Cleganebowl go down every time we get a humanizing scene. Beric seems to show up simply to remind us about where Arya left Gendry, which isn’t important enough on its own, so Beric’s chances of living also drastically plunge when Arya talks to him.