Major spoilers ahead for the 'Game of Thrones' season 6 finale. You know the drill.
"The Winds of Winter," this week's spectacular, best ever Game of Thrones finale, was a huge episode for a number of beloved (but not necessarily good) characters.
Cersei, for so long torn between some shred of morality hidden deep inside and the impulsive urges that defy it, decided once and for all that it was her destiny to be a bad guy, fulfilling a certain prophecy in the process. Daenerys, after six seasons spent trying to work out how she would return to Westeros and who would be at her side, appointed Tyrion as Hand of the Queen and set sail with her new Greyjoy allies.
On the surface, the action at Winterfell felt more like the quiet after the storm than anything likely to change the course of the great game. Sansa announced the arrival of a white raven from the Citadel, and with it the confirmation that winter has finally arrived. About freaking time, some might say.
After a pep talk from Lady Mormont (unquestionably the most badass little girl to grace Westeros, past or present), the noble Houses who had declined to provide the Starks with men came good by pledging their allegiance to Jon. Sansa, too, reassured her brother that he deserved to be crowned King in the North, regardless of his bastard heritage.
But it was Littlefinger who, in the space of one brief conversation with Sansa, finally played his hand, revealing his true intentions after years spent moving in the shadows, and threatening in the process to alter the course of the Seven Kingdoms' future. Relive the scene in question below.
Lord Baelish's confession confirms what we'd all long since suspected, but never truly known, with regards to his intentions. As Sansa points out to him, he serves only himself. This is a man born into a high family with a small estate and a poor reputation, determined to attain power at any cost.
Without any legitimate claim whatsoever to the Iron Throne, Littlefinger's only method of taking it is to marry Sansa. To do that, he must drive a wedge into the bond of trust between brother and sister which, thankfully for Baelish, is already fragile — even if "The Winds of Winter" did appear to mend that trust a little.
Both Sansa's body language as Jon is crowned King in the North, and the nature of the glances shared between her and Littlefinger, are open to interpretation. On the one hand, the support Sansa had pledged to Jon earlier in the episode, along with her apparent pleasure at seeing her brother receive the full backing of the North, would suggest that she fears Littlefinger's Machiavellian strategy.
But what if the fear that's evident in her expression isn't fear of Littlefinger himself, but fear of what she's capable of — fear that Littlefinger has identified a thirst for power inside of her thus far suppressed? Is it Baelish that she doesn't trust, or is it some part of herself?
If Sansa should keep her resolve in avoiding a marital arrangement with the man she knows to be a scheming, self-serving snake, Littlefinger may have one further ace up his sleeve: knowledge. Could he be aware of the rumor that Jon Snow was not fathered by Ned, but by a Targaryen? We've seen nothing to suggest it yet, but like Varys across the Narrow Sea, Baelish has spies in many places. It's not impossible (if still unlikely) that whispers may have spread during Lyanna Stark's pregnancy, and that could be the intel Littlefinger needs to send Jon Snow in the direction of Daenerys, and use his absence to set his own plan into action.
Ultimately, I don't believe that Sansa Stark, the spoiled young girl we've seen grow into the smartest strategist this side of Littlefinger himself, would betray her brother. The biggest clue lies in that conversation in the Godswood: "Back then, I only thought about what I wanted. Never about what I had."
What Sansa has — a second chance at a family — is far more valuable than what Baelish would have her desire. That vision of Littlefinger on the Iron Throne with the love of his life's daughter by his side is not Sansa's endgame.
In this game of survival, Sansa's only hope is to protect what she has, even if it means removing Lord Baelish from that pretty picture in his head.
What do you think: Will Sansa play Littlefinger or betray Jon next season?