Plus, three important details to remember as Game of Thrones goes forward.
Game of Thrones season 7 has us trapped in a struggle and we can’t break free. Sure, there’s a great war coming between the living and the dead. But for now, that’s just a smattering of terrible ideas (like “let’s go catch a zombie!”) The struggle in which we, the audience, are being held captive is the one that’s breaking apart sisterly bonds in Winterfell. Sisterly bonds that, from what we could tell previously, really weren’t there.
Yes, everyone is traumatized by what happened up North in “Beyond the Wall,” but I’ve already covered that. So I’d like to use this week’s column to talk about Sansa, Arya, and their befuddling war of words. As we’ve seen over the course of the season, their reunion was first tense, then warm, and now it’s become the show’s only viable political maneuvering plot. Littlefinger led Arya right to evidence that Sansa was once coerced into writing nice things about Joffrey, which means the two sisters must now be at odds. Or do they?
In their two conversations this week, Arya succeeded in creating leverage over Sansa by threatening to show all the northern lords her raven scroll, then deflected the fact that she has a literal bag of faces in her room by threatening to kill her sister. She didn’t ultimately cut Sansa’s face off, but she wanted her to know that she could if she wanted to. What’s the purpose of Arya turning on her sister like this? Especially at the behest of Littlefinger. Are we to assume that Arya, the ruthless, worldly super-assassin, is being played like a fiddle by the future Mayor of Baltimore? This is infuriating. I know I’m not alone because these were the responses I saw on Twitter when I suggested that this is all confusing/frustrating:
I was giving the show way to much credit when I thought the preview was a misdirect and Arya was on to Littlefinger's plan. Now I'm annoyed.
— Todd Stark (@ToddRobertStark) August 21, 2017
In 2 eps, Arya went from "must watch" to "when will it end?"
— Michael (@msabella82) August 21, 2017
Arya's been an asshole for a while. I guess it was just wishful thinking that she'd get back to Winterfell and become tolerable.
— Margot Critter (@kidder_critter) August 21, 2017
The people are upset. This isn’t the Arya we know. Sure, she’s a ruthless killer now, but she was quick-witted enough to lure The Waif to her death and successfully quit the world’s most dangerous internship. She’s no spring chicken, as Sandor Clegane might say. The larger problem is not that the show is allowing Arya to look dumb, it’s that they’ve spent all season making Littlefinger look weak and this is the only way to show that he’s still in the game. He’s playing Sansa and Arya against each other and by the way it looks, he’s winning. Arya is angry with her sister, Sansa is on the defense, Brienne is headed for King’s Landing, and the Northern Lords are restless in the absence of their king. This is the right kind of budding chaos that would normally provide him a ladder.
All this does is stretch thin the believability of Arya and Sansa truly being at odds. Arya’s big message to Sansa is that she betrayed her family. Would Arya then betray her family’s best interest in killing her sister? Not a chance. She’s Team Jon in whatever manufactured power struggle the show wants to play in The North this year, but she has to know that harming Sansa only plays into the hands of anyone — Littlefinger, Cersei — who wants to see the Starks destroyed. And what happened to her ability to read people? Is she not reading that Sansa is terrified but resolved to hold things together until Jon returns? Let’s give the pint-sized murderer some credit.
This all shakes out one of two ways, is my guess:
1. Arya and Sansa are smart and only appear to be playing Littlefinger’s game. Before it’s too late, they’ll pull back the curtain and show that they’ve been on the same side the whole time, creating a bit of poetic justice for the end of Lord Baelish.
Keen observers are already starting to sniff this out:
Think Sansa/Arya are just acting for the benefit of Littlefinger?
— Sam Coffey (@SamCoffey72) August 21, 2017
2. Arya and Sansa are stupid and maybe they’ll realize that they’re being stupid before it’s too late. If they don’t, it’s goodbye Sansa’s face.
Bran disconnects from taking hits of Weirwood and does something helpful.
In the end, these Stark kids need to get their shit together before Jon comes home with his new girlfriend.
And now, three details from “Beyond the Wall” that will become very important as the show moves forward. But first, a spoiler warning.
1. Dany and Jon and Children.
Did you notice how much talk there was about children around Dany and Jon this week? Daenerys lost one of her children and was quick to point out to her soon-to-be-nephew-lover Jon that those were the only children she’ll ever have. But is that really the case? Daenerys thinks that she’s infertile and we only assume that Jon’s resurrected body is shooting blanks. But we don’t really know. In fact, this deep dive from the inimitable Kim Renfro at Insider talks about how the books left the question of Dany’s fertility wide open. Plus, Jorah Mormont doesn’t waste dialog. Telling Jon to keep Longclaw and pass it onto his children isn’t some throwaway platitude, not in a season that can’t be bothered to slow down for one goddamn second.
2. Beric might be right about The Night King.
The show may have given us some insight into the ultimate endgame for defeating the army of the dead. If you kill the one who brought them all back, it’s over. Which means at some point someone is going to have to square off against The Night King. Beric believes that it’s his purpose, but it could also be Jon’s. Heck, it could even be Daenerys’ purpose. Think about it this way: George R.R. Martin has promised a “bittersweet” ending. Which one is more bittersweet? Jon saving humanity and dying in the process, Beric doing the same, or Daenerys conquering Westeros, falling in love with Jon, having a baby, and being forced to sacrifice herself for the realm? That last option sounds very bittersweet.
3. Clegane Bowl is lit.
Fans have been in love with the idea that at some point, we’re going to see Sandor and Gregor Clegane fight to the death. And with The Hound on his way back to King’s Landing with Jon and the gang, there’s renewed hope. In fact, the blessed Terri Schwartz wrote about this over at IGN this week, keeping this very important torch lit. I don’t think it’s going to happen in the next episode, but I like where the momentum is headed. At worst, we may end the season with him on Dragonstone. That’s close enough to keep me holding onto dreams of a glorious single combat between Zombie Mountain and His Brother Azor Ahai.