In an episode of Game of Thrones packed with significant moments — from the return of the Hound, who had been trying and failing to live a quiet life, to Arya's stabbing at the hands of the Waif — one short, mysterious scene in "The Broken Man" could prove to have perhaps the greatest consequences of all.
After Sansa witnesses her brother Jon Snow's failure to unite his own army, much less attract more soldiers for the cause in any significant numbers (62 men from the House Mormont is hardly a game changer, as she drolly points out), the eldest Stark daughter seeks solitude in one of the tents at camp to pen a letter.
Who is the letter intended for, and what does it say? Something about the way Sansa reads over it a second time after stamping the parchment with the Stark seal suggests she's apprehensive about sending it, perhaps because the recipient is somebody Jon Snow wouldn't be pleased about forming an alliance with.
Take a closer look, and the phrases "forfeit your" and "for Winterfell" are present in the first and second lines of the message. The former would suggest that she's making somebody an offer — forfeit your title, or privilege, and you can have safety or something equally valuable in return — while the latter might be a command to ride for Winterfell immediately.
Sansa's decision to strike out without Jon and make a strategic decision alone is pretty significant for her character arc. We're seeing somebody now so versed in the art of war that she's able to a take an action that could result in the death of thousands of men and wildlings, and confident enough to trust her own judgment above that of the former Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.
Basically, she's become a total bad bitch.
So Who Was The Letter For?
As far as I can tell, the letter has three possible recipients. The first would be the families of the North not yet persuaded to fight alongside the Starks: The Karstarks and the Umbers. Trying to negotiate with the Karstarks would be delicate, on account of the fact that Robb once beheaded a member of their House.
The Umbers, on the other hand, were allegedly keeping watch over Rickon and Osha before the two were delivered to Ramsay Bolton earlier this season. If the letter was written to the Umbers, that would essentially discredit the theory that the Umbers only handed Rickon over to Ramsay as part of a wider ruse to betray the House Bolton and win the North back for the Starks.
Honestly, though, the Northern families don't feel like such a taboo subject in the grand scheme of Jon Snow's battle plans. Lord Baelish, on the other hand, is pretty much persona non grata, Jon and Brienne both all too aware that he was responsible for Sansa's suffering at the hand of Ramsay.
But cast your mind back to his parting gift to Sansa at their sour reunion at Castle Black. Sansa used the piece of intel he gave about her Great Uncle Brynden Tully, a.k.a the Blackfish, retaking Riverrun as a bargaining chip with Jon (despite the source being unreliable), suggesting a lingering degree of trust in the man who married her into House Bolton — or if not exactly trust, a knowledge that Littlefinger is the slickest political operator around.
A third possibility? The letter was for Ramsay. Trying to lure the patricidal Bolton spawn into a trap would be insanely risky, and Jon Snow certainly would never sanction it. That said, I'm really not smart enough to try to imagine what form a double-cross of Ramsay could take, and on balance it seems far more likely that Sansa would have been writing to Littlefinger.
Check out the preview above for next week's episode, which judging by the title "No-One," seems destined to mark another big week for House Stark.