Sansa Will Definitely Die on 'Game of Thrones' This Season (Right?)
We're inching toward that moment. Game of Thrones fans know it well: one minute, your favorite Game of Thrones characters are basking in a victory, and remembering that love and hope and dreams still exist in their cold, cruel world, and then boom -- the sword of George R.R. Martin slashes their necks. Or gouges out their eyes. Or stabs them through the heart a few dozen times.
Many beloved Thrones characters have died in a grisly manner, so that the game changes quickly and with a jolt. It happens every season, from the beheading of Ned Stark to the knifing of Jon Snow. That's just how Martin, and his showrunning disciples David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, roll.
Rebirth is Game of Thrones' thematic current in Season 6. Daenerys Targaryen fell hard into Dothraki servitude and torched her way back to Iron Throne candidacy. A zombified Gregor Clegane is expected to lend Cersei Lannister a hand in trial by combat, with her accuser, the High Sparrow, potentially tapping another seemingly fallen character as his champion for the fight. Melisandre resurrected Jon Snow, a GRRM victim last season, just two episodes in. No one can keep our favorites down this season!
Hodor was a major exception, but he wasn't that moment. And yes, we're still creeping toward it. We always are. And if there's one major demise lurking in the foreshadows, it's the matured, redeemed Sansa Stark.
In a sense, Sansa has been reborn this season, too. When her journey first started, she was a naïve, elitist little girl who couldn't wait to pass the days as Joffrey's queen. Oh, how quickly dreams become nightmares in the hands of Martin, Weiss, and Benioff. Sansa spent three seasons trudging through the mucky hell of life in King's Landing: Joffrey's torturous misogyny, the beheading of her father, Cersei's wicked stepmother act, and Tywin's shrewd decision to marry her to Tyrion the very month he has Catelyn and Robb Stark murdered.
But remarkably, things got even worse for her once she fled King's Landing. Littlefinger helped her escape Lannister rule and hid her away at her aunt's sky castle in the Vale, and promptly used her as a pawn in his own piece-by-piece upheaval. Sansa, perpetually imprisoned by men and women who see girls as bargaining chips, begins to bloom at the Eyrie. She conjures memories of Winterfell in the garden. She pegs and interrogates Littlefinger about his hand in Joffrey's assassination. She dons a wickedly glamorous new costume.
But a Sansa with free will may have been a red flag for Littlefinger, who can't have his stepping stones drifting out of place. The conspirer tricks Sansa into returning to Winterfell and a marriage to Ramsay Bolton, conveniently leaving out that Roose Bolton's bastard son is a known psychopath throughout the North. Littlefinger's rationale for the betrothal -- it would combine two families who could avenge the fallen Starks and retake the North -- is total bull poo. He knew that Ramsay would treat Sansa like a rag doll, regardless of how pleadingly he may have denied it in "The Door."
Season 6 picks up with her escape from Ramsay's vile, rape-y clutches, and even stakes her with a crew of unblemished allies in Brienne and Pod. She then journeys to Castle Black and reunites with Jon Snow. Sansa's bear hug is one of Game of Thrones' most fulfilling moments -- finally, this young woman can make human contact that doesn't end to defilement of her body. Happiness is real! Vengeance is close! And from the macro perspective, Sansa's arc looks nearly complete.
Ever since the Red Wedding, book readers have speculated about the fantastical character Lady Stoneheart, a resurrected, bloodthirsty version of Catelyn Stark from Martin's novels. Beric Dondarrion -- whom we have seen die and return to life on the show -- sacrifices himself to yank Catelyn back from the other side, and Lady Stoneheart, as she comes to be called, leads the Brotherhood Without Banners in his place. Only hers are more malicious, and focused on people who've done her wrong (the Freys, the Lannisters, etc.).
The character's worth bringing up because it appears that Sansa may essentially be taking Lady Stoneheart's place in the show's streamlined narrative. With the fiery makeover and a warrior's vitality that erupted out of her battle wounds, Sansa doesn't arrive at Castle Black just content to cozy up in the corner; she rallies Jon, rallies the troops, and plans a march back on Winterfell. When Littlefinger sneaks back on to her radar, offering Sansa the Vale's troops, she both takes advantage of and eviscerates her casual oppressor. What happened with Ramsay haunts Sansa, and in her big scene, she sharpens the pain into a spear to plunge into Littlefinger's heart.
"What do you think he did to me?"
Littlefinger replies that he "underestimated" Ramsay.
"The other things he did, ladies aren't supposed to talk about those things," she says. "But I imagine brothel keepers talk about them all the time."
Diss, Sansa. Diss.
“I can still feel what he did in my body, standing here right now.”
There's a theory floating around, derived entirely from this line, speculating that Ramsay impregnated Sansa. People, ever heard of figurative language? Nuanced emotions? Leading Sansa down this path would open a Pandora's box of victimhood that Game of Thrones isn't ready to reckon with. More likely, Sansa's internalized her pain, and is completely motivated by sticking it to the men who've given her this emotional ulcer. Ramsay is clearly in her crosshairs. So is Littlefinger.
But Sansa's grappling with revenge and reclamation. Slaying the men who've crossed her isn't enough. She knows she was "awful" as a kid -- her words! -- and she wants to put the Stark legacy back together. To her, that won't happen until Rickon is saved, the Boltons are wiped off the face of the planet, and the Direwolf flag flies atop the Winterfell keep. Sansa isn't eying the Iron Throne. She doesn't share Arya's kill list. Her first home is an end destination. But what happens after she successfully leads her Northern allies into battle? The end.
The biggest deaths on Game of Thrones are telegraphed. Sometimes through subtle, hinting imagery (e.g., Ned was as good as dead when he discovered that stag-killed direwolf early in Season 1), and sometimes through straight-up in-world predictions (the surest way to die on Game of Thrones is to have Melisandre throw a leech in a fire and shout out your name). After Sansa chews and spits out Littlefinger in "The Door," her next appearance is overcast with gloom. The misstep: she lies to Jon. The Vale's armies are in for the big battle, but Sansa keeps her backroom wheeling and dealing hush-hush. With Brienne out on a mission to the Riverlands, Lady Stark is the only one aware that Littlefinger is involved and has the ability to pop out of nowhere whenever the hell he wants.
This wouldn't be punishment. Everyone's rooting for Sansa -- Martin and the showrunners included. She'll see victory. She'll flay Ramsay, avenging Theon, Osha, and anyone damaged by his rabid behavior. Winterfell will be a Stark establishment once again. That's Sansa's arc. But there's also the series' arc. And if the showrunners stick to their mean streak, Littlefinger will come up behind the redeemed young woman, in a way that will make it look like Ramsay's dirty work, and take her out of the game.
On the show, Sansa is too strong, too pure, and too respected to live. She's not a politician. She's stepping into the show's political arena now. And so Littlefinger will be forced to act -- after that standoff in "The Door," he knows that Sansa has no value to him -- even if it means killing off the daughter of his beloved Catelyn.
As Baelish himself once said, "A man with no motive is a man no one suspects. Always keep your foes confused, if you don't know who you are or what you want, they won't know what you plan to do next."
Game of Thrones is setting up a major battle that will connect Jon Snow, Daenerys, the Lannisters, the Tyrells, the Ironborn, and whatever cards Bran pulls out of his sleeves. It's hard to see where Sansa factors into that, even as the women of Westeros rise up in glorious fashion. Consider this: Arya will circle back into the big Westeros picture, and it's easy to imagine her breaking away from the Faceless Men when she discovers her only sister is dead.
Now, Sophie Turner let a possible spoiler slip on the red carpet, suggesting she'd be back for Season 7. Believable? Never forget Kit Harington swearing Jon Snow was done for good. Or maybe Weiss and Benioff pull off another resurrection and turn Sansa into the literal Lady Stoneheart? A hard card to play twice.
If Season 6 concludes Sansa's story, it'll be totally satisfying. She's been to hell and back. She enacted monumental change. She's too good for this world. Case in point, another bit of dialogue from Sansa and Littlefinger's first frank discussion:
"So many men risk so little," Baelish tells her. "They spend their lives avoiding danger, and then they die. I'd risk everything to get what I want."
"What do you want?" Sansa asks.
Sansa wants Winterfell. She'll get it. And I think that'll be enough.