Since we've met him, Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish has proven himself to be a master manipulator in the world of Westeros, constantly creating chaos that he can climb like a ladder, all the way up to the Iron Throne. The only glimmer of humanity we really see in Littlefinger is when he describes the all-consuming love he once bore for Catelyn Stark nee Tully. That love turned out to be more creepy than endearing, though, like when he told the story of their ill-fated romance while asking two prostitutes to finger each other in his brothel, or when he brought it up again while pushing Catelyn's sister Lysa out the Moon Door.
Since Season 6, however, Littlefinger's made it pretty clear that he's transferred at least part of his affection from Catelyn to her daughter, Sansa (ew). But if we've learned anything in seven seasons, it's that you can never really trust a damn thing that comes out of Littlefinger's mouth. So does he really love Sansa, or is his professed desire to have her at his side just part of another, greater scheme?
In an interview with the New York Times, Aiden Gillen, the actor who plays Petyr Baelish confirmed what we all pretty much knew to be true already: Littlefinger doesn't really love Sansa at all. Gillen explained:
"I don’t imagine that was to be taken literally. It was intended to be taken literally by Sansa. But with this character he’ll say something and mean something else. It wasn’t far off the mark. [The idea that Littlefinger has affection for Sansa] was maybe unintentional. I’m not really playing a romantic interest there. I know that’s how it appears, but it’s something slightly different. [It's more] kind of mentoring, in terms of schooling Sansa in the ways of manipulation, the ways to play the game, or the ways to survive. Of course there’s a certain lack of clarity in what he’s after, and I think that’s the way it should be. I don’t think I should have to say anything about it."
So while happily ever after with Sansa is the last thing on Littlefinger's mind, he's not 100% out to sabotage the Starks either. Gillen shared:
"There’s always something more to it when it involves the Starks, given his history with Catelyn Stark and that rejection, and that that’s what’s driving him. But I wouldn’t say the undermining of the Stark family has been a goal. It’s opportunistic. He couldn’t have foretold that Arya was going to show up again, and that Bran was going to show up again. He has played his part in the rise of the Starks, showing up last season with the Knights of the Vale, but he will also undermine it and exploit it. That’s what he’s doing — he’s trying to drive wedges between all of them."
Going back to that young love he first felt for Catelyn, it was this early heartbreak that is still driving Littlefinger's actions. In his eyes, he's not such a bad guy at all, he just doesn't know any other way to be:
"It’s pathological. I’m not trying to play him as a complete villain, really, although he had his hand in many of the more treacherous acts or events we’ve seen over seven seasons. Most of them, in fact."
It's true — Littlefinger is almost single-handedly responsible for starting all the tragic and treacherous events we've seen since the start of Game of Thrones. Now that the Dragon Queen has flown to Westeros, it seems unlikely that Baelish will ever get his dream of sitting on the Iron Throne, with or without Sansa. But there's no telling who he might take down before he finally stops climbing once and for all.
If you haven't seen it yet, check out all the Easter Eggs and references you might have missed in the latest episode of Game of Thrones, "Eastwatch," in the video below.