Note: This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones, Seasons 1-7.
#GameOfThrones is full of cruel ironies. Ned Stark was beheaded after he conceded to all of the Lannister's demands, Joffrey Baratheon died at his own nuptials and Theon Greyjoy lost what was most precious to him - but all of this might pale in comparison to the irony of Littlefinger’s downfall in the explosive finale of Game of Thrones Season 7.
Years of driving great Houses apart couldn't prepare Lord Baelish to face the Stark sisters, and the once Master of Coin met a fitting end in the Great Hall of Winterfell. Although Petyr Baelish fatally stumbled in Season 7, he's been pulling the strings on Game of Thrones since before the events of Episode 1. So, let's look back at the schemer's 7 greatest power plays from throughout the show.
7. Littlefinger Betrayed The Starks
"I did warn you not the trust me."
Season 1 was a violent introduction to a violent saga. The betrayal and execution of Ned Stark ruined audience’s expectations of how the narrative of Game of Thrones would unfold, with the realization that the hero doesn’t always triumph in Westeros.
After promising to lend support to Ned in a coup to seize power from Joffrey Baratheon, Littlefinger turned his Gold Cloaks on the Stark forces in front of the Iron Throne. They butchered the soldiers in a striking example of what can happen to honest men in King's Landing, and Lord Baelish held a knife to Ned's throat.
While he recently claimed that the Valyrian Steel dagger was the spark that set off the War of the Five Kings, it was arguably that knife against Ned's throat that truly set the war in motion. It was the first rung on Littlefinger's ladder of chaos to be fully realized and set a precedent for the character's conniving ways throughout the wars to come.
6. He Lied To Catelyn Stark About Her Children
Littlefinger didn't stop with Ned. He turned the tables on both Stark parents, with repercussions that even he couldn't have foreseen. During Season 2, Littlefinger was charged by Tyrion to offer Catelyn Stark a hostage exchange: Jaime Lannister for Sansa and Arya Stark. Despite harboring a twisted, romantic obsession for Cat Stark for most of his life, Littlefinger didn't shy away from manipulating Cat's overriding maternal instincts for his own gain.
"Do you want to see your girls again? Sansa, more beautiful than ever, and Arya, just as wild as ever... Both girls are healthy and safe, for now."
The lie that the Lannister had Arya in custody helped secure the clandestine release of Jaime Lannister, which corroded the trust between the Robb Stark and his mother.
If this trust hadn't have been tainted, Robb might otherwise have listened to his mother about sending Theon off to the Iron Islands. He might even have avoided the Red Wedding.
5. Littlefinger Lied About The Catspaw Dagger
The dagger Arya used to silence Littlefinger's lies for good has been something like a fatal chain letter on Game of Thrones, passing from Littlefinger to Bran to Arya Stark.
It first surfaced in the hands of the assassin that tried to finish off a comatose Brandon Stark, and quickly became one of the most important pieces of steel in the Seven Kingdoms. When Lord Baelish was asked who owned the dagger (and therefore who ordered the assassination), Tyrion Lannister was once again used as the serial scapegoat:
"There's only one dagger like this in the Seven Kingdoms—it's mine. I lost it in a bet... to Tyrion Lannister."
Sansa, Arya and Bran leveled many accusations at Littlefinger's feet, but chief amongst them was his authorship of the conflict between the Starks and the Lannisters. At the start of season 1, Ned and Cat already had a multitude of reasons to suspect the Lannisters of treason; debauchery, and general douchebaggery. So, Petyr Baelish's implication that Tyrion was involved in the attempted murder of her son was more than enough to force Catelyn into action.
4. He Mentored Sansa Stark In Deception
At one point in time, Littlefinger and Sansa Stark were a sordid power couple emerging in the Vale. After "rescuing" the eldest Stark daughter from King's Landing—effectively removing her from implication in Joffrey's assassination—Littlefinger set himself up as Sansa's protector and mentor, teaching her the ways of mistrust and deception. He initially passed her off as his niece, Alayne, referring to her in private as an eerie duology of surrogate daughter and future love interest. Despite his rather creepy interests in her however, Sansa was always learning from her captors—and Littlefinger was no exception. She picked up the tools of his trade quickly and effectively, covering for him after he murdered his wife Lysa Arryn, saving him from a short walk out of the Moon Door and cementing his newfound position as Lord Protector of the Vale.
This was one of very few moments that audiences have seen Littlefinger unbalanced. It was one of the only visible gambles of his manipulative career, and it paid off:
Littlefinger: "Better to gamble on the man you know than the ones you don't. You think you know me?
Sansa: "I know what you want.
3. Littlefinger Arranged Sansa's Marriage To Ramsay Bolton
There's been plenty of righteous fan fury at the treatment of Sansa Stark throughout the show. Her trials of abuse and manipulation began as early as Season 1, when the extent of Joffrey's petulance became common knowledge — after which, things only got worse for Sansa. However, it all paled in comparison to her marriage to Ramsay Bolton. She endured psychological torture, rape, and repeated humiliation as a result of the marriage that was arranged by none other than Petyr Baelish.
Littlefinger organised the marriage as an excuse to invade the north with Cersei's permission. He petitioned her to take the Knights of the Vale and reclaim Winterfell from the treacherous Boltons. His promised reward was the coveted position of Warden of the North. After that slipped through his grasp, he still managed to maintain some strength in Winterfell without ever drawing the ire of Queen Cersei. That's no mean feat, even for a master schemer like Lord Baelish.
2. He Manipulated Lysa Tully For Years
Littlefinger's largest (and arguably cruelest) power-play was his treatment of poor Lysa Tully. The shrill and paranoid widow of Jon Arryn had a thing for Littlefinger from childhood, and he never failed to use this for his own gain. His influence on her was arguably the first rung on that chaotic ladder of his, using it to cozy up to Jon and land a place on King Robert's Small Council.
It was his sway with Lysa that led to the War of the Five Kings, after she poisoned her own husband and allowed the blame to fall on the Lannisters. Petyr Baelish's first started to climb the ladder of chaos when he was under the protection of House Tully, and the first casualty of his campaign towards power was Lysa.
1. Littlefinger Betrayed House Tyrell
"Chaos isn't a pit. Chaos is a ladder."
Littlefinger was the arbiter of the Lannister-Tyrell alliance, setting the wheels in motion for Margaery's wedding to Joffrey as early as Season 2 — but Littlefinger knows no such thing as loyalty. Just like he did with the Starks, Lord Baelish fueled the growing rivalry between Highgarden and Casterly Rock by becoming instrumental in either side's schemes. He helped Olenna Tyrell to assassinate Joffrey, and in return he helped Cersei to destroy Olenna's heirs by providing a key witness for the trial against Loras Tyrell.
In many ways, this is history repeating itself, with two great houses tearing each other apart while Littlefinger pulls the strings. This time, however, we visibly see how the resulting chaos has affected Lord Baelish's interests. He stands in the wreckage of his old establishment, looking for a moment as if he's experiencing genuine regret. It's not merely a building, it seems as if Littlefinger left that seedy part of his past behind. Later, he meets Sansa Stark in Mole's Town, a village known primarily for its whores. He's pictured once more in a ruin of a place, confronting Sansa Stark after taking part in a full-tilt battle.
The moment his betrayal of House Tyrell becomes apparent is also the moment Littlefinger becomes a power contender outside of the shadows. He's offered legitimate strength beyond what money can buy, and he takes it gratefully.
"Isn't It Ironic?" How Did Littlefinger Fall Off The Ladder?
Despite all of those clever schemes, however, Littlefinger still ended up facing the righteous justice of the Stark children. Fans who were concerned that Baelish had successfully driven a wedge between Sansa and Arya had nothing to fear, as the two Stark girls pulled off a power-play worthy of the Mockingbird himself. The irony of it all is how the imagery during his downfall neatly paralleled each of his greatest schemes.
Littlefinger neatly outlined his overlying strategy to Sansa this season, boasting of his genius-level strategic mind:
“Don’t fight in the north, or the south. Fight every battle, everywhere, always in your mind. Everyone is your enemy. Everyone is your friend. Every possible series of events is happening all at once. Live that way and nothing will surprise you. Everything that happens will be something that you see before.”
Littlefinger claimed this prior to the return of Brandon Stark, a Greenseer who genuinely was prescient, to the point that he was well aware of how far back Petyr Baelish's treacheries ran. The new Three-Eyed Raven took the time to goad Lord Baelish with his knowledge, throwing Littlefinger's own words back at him from the moment they met to the moment his throat was cut. He was murdered in a great hall, believing the guards surrounding him were on his side, only to have them turned against him just like Ned Stark.
Littlefinger was sentenced to death by the woman that he consigned to a sadistic marriage, and executed by the girl he lied about having any knowledge of. He was outplayed by Sansa, offering a stunning moment of poetic justice when she went so far as to thank him for all of his lessons. He was even denied any assistance from those that he had come to rule, with Lord Royce denying him any assistance from the Knights of the Vale. And of course, his throat was cut by the very knife that set House Lannister and Stark against each other.
What did you think of Littlefinger's bloody end at the hands of the Starks? Sound off below!