Game of Thrones

Why Sansa Stark Will Win the Game of Thrones and Rule All of Westeros

'The Dragon and the Wolf' positions the eldest Stark daughter to eventually sit the Iron Throne.

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Sansa
Screenshot vis HBO

Warning: this post contains spoilers for the season finale of Game of Thrones.

The most surprising moment of last night's satisfying-but-uneven season finale of Game of Thrones came when Sansa Stark finally stood up to Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, the quintessential man behind the curtain whose various machinations cost the Starks everything. Finally caught in his own web of lies, Littlefinger begs for his life before Arya Stark puts an end to him, once and for all.

But before Littlefinger dies, Sansa thanks him for "all the many lessons" in deception, self-preservation, and statecraft he taught her over the years. Indeed, Littlefinger gave Sansa a momentous gift: the ability, and likely the opportunity, to become Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm. (More on how she'll get there in a minute.)

The least surprising moment of "The Dragon and the Wolf" came immediately after Littlefinger's death, in the very next scene. Back in King's Landing, Jamie Lannister learns that his sister, Queen Cersei, has no intention of honoring the pact she made with Jon Snow, the king of the North, and Daenerys Targaryen, a rival claimant for the Iron Throne, to band together to fight the army of the dead. Her reasons for doing so are entirely rational: her armies probably wouldn't make the difference in the battle with the White Walkers, and even if the living triumph, the other members of the pact fully intend to continue warring with Cersei once the threat of zombie-nuclear winter is over. It makes more sense for the queen to strengthen her position and prepare to confront whichever enemy survives the battle in the north. Cersei has no interest in planning for a future in which she is not the ruler of Westeros—if she is going to lose the conflict, then it doesn't matter to her who wins, or even survives at all.

Indeed, if her rivals behaved similarly selfishly they might have actually overcome this inherent collective action problem. Daenerys could have threatened to feed Cersei to her dragon unless she got what she wanted from the elder queen, and she could have taken Jamie—the only other person Cersei cares about, as evidence by Cersei's unwillingness to hurt him—as a hostage to ensure compliance. Instead, noble-hearted Daenerys and Jon are sailing north to their likely doom, while Cersei plots to reconquer the kingdoms. (At least they're enjoying a romantic boat trip.)

Which is why I expect the union of Ice and Fire is ultimately ill-fated, even though Jon and Daenerys are now together at last and seemingly in love. Of course, the audience knows something they do not: Jon is not a bastard son of Ned Stark. He is actually the son of Daenerys's dead brother, Prince Rhaegar, which means that his claim to the Iron Throne is stronger than hers. (Jon is the son of the last Targaryen king's son and heir, whereas Daeny is that king's daughter.) It's a relatively trivial level of incest, as far as Game of Thrones goes—Daenerys' parents, and Jon's grandparents, were siblings, and Cersei has taken both her brother and cousin to bed—but it does introduce the possibility of conflict between Daeny and Jon. And even if they do overcome this conflict, defeat the White Walkers, beat Cersei Lannister, get married, and jointly occupy the Iron Throne, they still have a problem: Daeny is infertile. Unless the show undoes this plot point (which would be a fairly obnoxious cheat), a Daeny-Jon partnership could never produce an heir.

Which brings us back to the Sansa prediction. If Jon and Daeny die fighting the White Walkers, and Cersei is dispatched by some other means—possibly by Jamie, for the good of the realm—then Sansa will be left as the obvious choice to rule the kingdoms. She already possesses the best qualities of these other figures: like Daeny, she inspires devotion among her followers, like Jon, she cares about the good of the realm, and like Cersei, she promotes her family's interests. She is a loyal person, but her loyalty is tempered by practicality. And she has her other siblings—the all-seeing Bran and awesomely powerful Arya—to help advise and carry out her plans.

Last night's revelation regarding Jon's true parentage also provides a path for Sansa to legitimately claim the throne. If Jon and Daeny were to die, either in the battle with the White Walkers, in the conflict with Cersei, or childless, much later in life, then their next-of-kin would be Jon's eldest cousin: Sansa.

Such an ending would be narratively satisfying—relative good triumphing over relative evil, and all that—while still upholding the political realism of Game of Thrones. It's not enough to be more moral than your enemies, you have to be better and smarter, too. Dispatching Littlefinger is the best evidence yet that Sansa is the figure who embodies this creed.

NEXT: Does originalism constrain conservative judges?

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  1. It’s garbage television for garbage people.

    1. Based on garbage books by a garbage author. Yes, once upon a time he wrote well and interestingly, but GoT was a disappointment from the start.

      1. ^ The only other respectable Reason commenter.

        1. GO BACK TO YOUR REALITY SHOWS AND LET LEARNED PEOPLE TALK.

          1. Crusty’s more of a Fuller House guy.

            1. House Tanner > House everyone else.

              1. Stephanie Tanner can sit on my Iron Throne whenever she wants to.

                1. If you’ve got some meth, Jodie Sweetin would certainly take you up on that.

      2. Still better than most of the vast unpublished works of the Reason commentariat no doubt.

        1. Especially now that SugarFree’s gone.

  2. Maybe Robby can keep us up to date on “Days of Our Lives”, or maybe “Judge Judy”. You know, important stuff we should all follow.

    1. I guess the coloring book is done.

  3. The big problem with this scenario: aren’t they just making this shit up as they go along at this point? What if the Starship Enterprise with the X-Men and Godzilla on board appears out of nowhere at the end, or it turns out this was all a dream, or suddenly the animator drops dead of a heart attack?

    1. aren’t they just making this shit up as they go along at this point?

      It was the night king’s plan all along for jon and dany to try and kidnap a zombie only to have one of their dragons killed so he could resurrect it and use it to blow a hole in the wall. Duh?!

      1. “It was the night king’s plan all along for jon and dany to try and kidnap a zombie only to have one of their dragons killed so he could resurrect it and use it to blow a hole in the wall. Duh?!”

        If only they had installed some Bofers 40 mm anti aircraft guns on the wall they could blasted the dragon out of the sky and foiled his plot!

        1. They used a ballista to shoot a giant at Castle Black. Bronn had a mobile ballista but Eastwatch does not have one to shoot down the Night King.

          Its not sloppy writing at all.

          1. It would have to be tipped with dragon glass and Jon just started mining operations.

            1. Yup and they might have hurt or killed the Night King.

    2. “or it turns out this was all a dream”

      Hey it worked for the “who shot JR?” story line on “Dallas”..

      Oh and you left out Superman. If all these other characters show up he needs to get in on the action too.

      1. And Cher can ride in on a battleship turret, reminding Supes to turn back time.

  4. Littlefinger showed he’s not a genius when he didn’t haul ass back to the Eyrie as soon as Bran pretty much made it clear the Three-Eyed Raven could see every dirty dead in Baelish’s past.

    Speaking of ass, how about that aunt-banging Aegon Targaryen’s ass. I bet that got some ladies’ attention. No dick shot though.

    SPOILER ALERT.

    1. He has been an idiot ever since he brought Sansa to Winterfell to marry Ramsay Bolton. His only purpose since then was to provide the deus ex machina to save the Stark’s bacon at the Battle of Bastards. Since then, he has been a loose end skulking about.

      1. Which is why he’s gone. I hold out hope that the lovable little rogue will survive to the last book and be a factor in the end-end game.

        I also hold out hope we’ll get that book.

        1. I want Littlefinger to live, and get set back to his ancestral house on that shitty little Island in the ass end of nowhere, where he’s technically a lord but is actually worse off than a lot of Westerosi peasants, and he absolutely hates it, to live a long boring life with nothing to do but stew over all his brilliant schemes coming to naught.

          1. That may be where the books are headed, since Littlefinger and Sansa don’t seem to have any inclination to ever leave the Vale.

          2. That’d be great. Killing him seems like the most unsatisfying end to his character.

        2. I thought he would end up ruling Westeros with Cersei. They seem to be the only two with any strategic sense on the show.

          1. Cerosi is only a great strategist in her mind. Everything she’s actually tried to do has turned out disastrously bad for her.

    2. Littlefinger showed he’s not a genius when he didn’t haul ass back to the Eyrie as soon as Bran pretty much made it clear the Three-Eyed Raven could see every dirty dead in Baelish’s past.

      Maybe you’re forgetting that Angford had the Riven Pass blocked with the hornships and Val had already gone ahead to warn the Queen of The Damned that the Black Horde had been all but wiped out by the curse Lord Dorchester had put on the Flamewielder. Ever think about that, smart guy?

      1. Don’t bring gibberish into this conversation.

      2. Um, did you forget that Angford is married to the Duke of Billowshire’s grandniece? And therefore probably enjoys the support of the Order of the Silver Ocelots, who are secretly the dominant force in the Piltharian countryside?

  5. Robby just *had* to emerge from sabbatical to share his deeply considered views on this

    1. He finds onscreen depictions of aunt-nephew incest to be highly inspirational.

      1. I thought he was trying to milk one last vestige of “#ISTANDWITHSANSA”-wokeness before no one gives a shit again for at least 10 months.

    2. And you just “had” to comment because he won’t love you back.

      1. this is abuse. if you’re looking for an argument, you want room 12A, next door.

      2. Is this irony?

  6. Soave, Sansa is not Jon’s relative on the Targaryen side of his ancestry. She would not be Jon’s or Danearys’ heir under any sort of heredity rule of succession. That is not how any of this works.

    In the Targaryen way of thinking on the dating pool, Jon and Dany being close relatives actually makes them the most desireable match for each other.

    Dany’s predicted infertility was presented with an out which was predicated on poetically absurd sounding conditions, but was still an out.

    1. You are correct. None of the Starks are of the royal line and have no hereditary claim on the Throne through the Targaryens. Titles don’t work like modern day intestate succession, they don’t jump out of families just because the closest living heir is from the other side. If Dany and Jon take the Throne but have no issue then succession would crawl back up the Targaryen tree until it finds a way back down to a living person. Under no circumstances does succession start going up into the Stark tree. It would be extremely unlikely that no Targaryen descendant exists whatsoever, as Targaryens of the royal line did marry into other families such as the Baratheons although the show makes no mention of them. And if such was the case then only the relatives of Robert Baratheon would have a claim with any legitimacy. Any other person making a claim (such as Sansa Stark) would not be doing so based on heredity.

      1. Gendry is actually closer to the line of succession than Sansa is. He’s a bastard, but a previous Aegon (IV) Targaryen kicked off the Blackfyre Rebellion by legitimizing his bastards, so there’s precedent.

        1. I am unsure that Gendry is actually a bastard. We know Cersei and Robert had a black-haired child that died young. I have speculated that Cersei actually killed that child, knowing that her and Jaime would have children. But if she couldn’t bring herself to kill actually kill that child, and just sent him away, that child COULD be Gendry. Gendry’s storyline just seems irrelevant unless he is more than just a bastard.

          1. of all the living people we know of from the GoT show, Gendry would have the strongest claim after Jon and Dany. Even a bastard’s claim is stronger than one not of the royal line.

            Unless and until its revealed that Tyrion is the bastard son of Aerys Targaryen and Joanna Lannister. If this turns out to be true then he would have a claim as well, albeit as a bastard. Rhaegar was born first, then Tyrion, then Dany. Assuming absolute primogeniture succession, and that legitimate heirs take precedence over illegitimate ones, the order would be Jon (as eldest child of the eldest child of the king), then Dany (as next eldest legitimate child of the king), then Tyrion (as next eldest illegitimate child of the king).

          2. Ironically, the next person in line after Jon and Daenerys would have been Stannis Baratheon, so he would likely have gotten what he wanted if he had just waited.

        2. And being Robert Baratheon’s blood issue he also has Targaryen blood, as Robert’s grandmother was the Targaryen princess Rhaelle; Rhaelle was the younger sister of Dany and Rhaegar’s grandmother and grandfather. (Robert and Dany are second cousins on the Targaryen side.)

      2. Plus no one cares about lines of succession in Westeros now. Whoever claims the Iron Throne by military might sits on it.

  7. ”Daeny is infertile. Unless the show undoes this plot point (which would be a fairly obnoxious cheat)…”

    Not at all. As Jon himself points out, the only firm reason to think she’s infertile is the prophesy of a blood magic priestess who hated her, and who mistreated her husband Drogo into a coma, and who was responsible for killing her unborn child. Not precisely reliable. And even that prophesy is worded so as to leave the possibility open.

    1. Even by Dany’s own account, didn’t she prove the priestess wrong? She regards the dragons as her children, which were born when she burned the witch to death. Why believe what she says?

      Plus, ending winter and defeating the White Walkers will reverse the planet’s rotation, making the sun rise in the west and set in the east. Duh.

    2. She also didn’t actually say Dany was infertile. She said she’d get pregnant after a seemingly ridiculous set of conditions. The first of which (the sun setting in the east) could be seen as fulfilled with the destruction of House Martell (who’s sigil is the sun).

      1. That actually makes sense – book-Doran has pinned the hopes for his house on sending Quentyn to Meereen to woo Daenerys (resulting in his rejection and subsequent badly-failed attempt to steal a dragon) and Ariane to meet with “Young Griff,” who claims to be Aegon Targaryen (but probably isn’t since he wasn’t important enough to include in the show) and is invading the Stormlands at the head of the Golden Company.

        1. The fact Jon’s name was revealed to be Aegon Targaryen (which makes no sense from a book standpoint bsince it implies his dad gave two kids the same name) could mean that Show Jon is absorbing Faegon’s plotline in the show version of the story.

          1. Too bad he didn’t also absorb fAegon’s massive army of sellswords and war elephants.

            1. Well, in a sense he did, since he has the Vale army, the northern Army, and what’s left of Stannis’s Army, no of which I suspect book Jon will end up with.

            2. That army was the Golden Company, which Cersei was hiring to help defend her holdings. Canonically they were descended from Westerosi exiles on the losing side in a previous Targaryen dynastic war.

    3. Also, all that unprotected sex she was having without getting pregnant

  8. OH MY GOD REASON

  9. Seriously?

  10. Hey guys I was just in an electronically-induced coma for the past 5 months. Did I miss anything? And PLEASE NO SPOILERS THANK YOU.

  11. All hail His Grace, Hordor of House Hordor, First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm.”

    Has anyone see Hordor dead?

      1. I am pretty sure Hodor is undead now. Does that count as “lives”?

        1. Hodor!

  12. If you thought the Stark sisters turning on Littlefinger was “surprising” then you are seriously lacking in predictive faculties. That turn of events has been telegraphed all season long.

    1. That turn of events has been telegraphed all season long.

      (sequence of long, hateful looks at OGREtheTroll by Reason Staff)

  13. Writers block is a bitch

  14. And even if they do overcome this conflict, defeat the White Walkers, beat Cersei Lannister, get married, and jointly occupy the Iron Throne, they still have a problem: Daeny is infertile. Unless the show undoes this plot point (which would be a fairly obnoxious cheat), a Daeny-Jon partnership could never produce an heir.

    The last book, Dance with Dragons (about two seasons ago in television story time), ended with Danerys apparently getting her moon blood so Jon’s prediction in the show that the witch’s prophecy about Danerys never being able to have children being unreliable may have a foundation in the author’s intention. Prophecies on the show are not meant to be taken literally and sometimes they may even be bunk. Still it does raise an interesting question for those fans who are hoping that when Danerys says she wants to “break the wheel” that it may lead to some form of democracy in Westeros ? if she didn’t think she was incapable of having children, mightn’t she be more focused on build her own dynasty instead?

    1. Nothing will piss me off more than, if at the end of this, they institute a bullshit representative democracy or some nonsense. That’s like the most feel-good cop out bullshit ever.

      1. It’s a prophetic allegory. White walkers are Trumpkins, Lannisters are Republicans, the dragons are antifa, the eunuch army are SJWs. Hopefully we can learn from it and appoint our own dragonmother to her rightful position

      2. I don’t think that democracy in Westeros going to happen (at least not in the books) but I fully expect the Iron Throne to be destroyed by the end of the television series or for none of the characters named Targaryen, Stark or Lannister to be sitting on it.

        1. Smart money is on King Hot Pie.

          1. King Hot Pie was my nickname in college.

      3. What’s your problem?

        A democracy imposed from the top down in a continental culture thay has almost no democratic instutions, that is a surefire long term soliution that will have no problems going forward beyond this generation whatsoever

        1. I see Tyrion drawing up articles of confederation between the 7 kingdoms, with a ruling council from each of the 7 houses, and a rotating prime minister, with each house ruling for a year before peacefully handing over the reins of power. No one will want to mess things up too badly because they’ll be in a charge in a few years again. And no one will want another bloody war for a generation at least.

      4. I see not a full democracy, but an oligarchy where one of the existing institutions (the small council? the four wardens?) replaces the king. So not a full solution, but a magna carta style first big step away from an absolute monarchy.

        1. I think you’re right about leadership being vested in a sort of council. A system of reforms based on the Magna Carta seems a more likely outcome than something like an actual democracy. Couple that with some sort of literacy program (Gilly and Davos were both illiterate when they were introduced) and eventually you may get to the point where a representative system of government is more feasible – if the council will allow it.

          1. It’s also possible the initial council will be the surviving ruler in the north, the surviving ruler of Daenery’s forces, and the surviving ruler of Cersei’s forces, creating the prophesied three-headed dragon.

          2. Part of the reason our nation building fails is that we always try to jump right from dictatorship to full democracy, which then fails because none of the institutions a stable democracy depends on exist. It took the Anglosphere almost 500 years to go from an absolute monarchy to a modern democracy. You can’t do it in just 5.

            1. It’s this line of thought that almost convinced me to support the Legion in New Vegas. Almost.

          3. No one will need to learn how to read after Qyburn invents right wing talk radio.

          4. Actually, an elected monarchy, where the regional ruling houses elect a ruler, like with the Holy Roman Empire, would have precedent inqctual medieval history.

      5. Not representative democracy, but likely a single nation with a ruler elected by the remaining ruling houses. I was going to say a federation of realms with an elected ruler, but so many powerful houses are now destroyed, by the end it’s probably gonna be a series of minor houses looking for guidance.

      6. But I could imagine all of the minor and petty lords of all the kingdoms, over whose lands all the big players have taken grand and glorious shits, all get together and march on the next ruler demanding he or she sign their declaration of rights and privileges. Someplace called Runnymede preferably. Sign it or no more soldiers.

      7. Come now. Everyone knows that in the final episode, the U.S. will intervene, because war in Westeros is a direct threat to our national security. Besides, history will never forgive us if we sit aside and do nothing in the face of a humanitarian crisis!

  15. The biggest plot of this whole show is to free common people from serfdom. There will be no Kings or Queens anymore.

    Reason writers did not pick up on this and run with it?

  16. Did you forget your blogspot password, Robby?

  17. Daenerys’ parents, and Jon’s grandparents, were siblings

    No, Daenerys’ parent IS Jon’s grandparent. She’s his aunt.

    1. He’s saying the Mad King married his friggin sister. The Mad King is Dany’s dad and Jon’s pop-pop.

      1. Okay, I misread it. I thought he was suggesting that Dany’s parents and Jon’s grandparents were two separate couples that were brother and sister (making them cousins).

    2. Daenerys’s parents (and Jon’s grandparents) Aerys and Rhaella were brother and sister.

    3. Sounds like they need to research this on Ancestry.com

  18. There’s only one obvious choice for a match for Sansa Stark: she must remarry Tyrion Lannister.

    1. Nah, Jon Snow can marry her. They’re just cousins, no big deal in Westeros.

  19. Arya and Bran would be the best Hand and Master of Whispers ever.

  20. You guys aren’t paying attention. The ending is obvious. Dany will have to marry Samwell Tarly, since he now controls the wealthy duchy of Highgarden. Rulin’ ain’t cheap. Sam is the George RR Martin character, bookish and overweight, and Martin will rip up another fantasy novel trope by having the nerd get the girl, rather than the dashing, brave and brooding Jon Snow.

    As for Dany and Jon, 2 problems: one, Jon will no doubt die fighting bravely against the Zombie Snowmen, and two, even if he comes back to life again, Bran the 3 Eyed Weirdo has announced to the world that Dany is Jon’s aunt. No one in Westeros is going to stand idly by while another Targaryan incest product (Jon and Dany’s baby they no doubt made on the Love Boat) smashes peas in his high chair waiting to claim the Iron Throne.

    And Cersei’s baby is still fake news.

    1. Or if Jon lives and is the One True King Who Was Promised by the Wicked Red Witch of the West, he will need to marry a suitable royal female. Not too many of those left, just Cersei, Yara and Ellaria Sand that I can think of. Take your pick, Wolfman.

      1. Or Sansa of course.

    2. There is no Tarly heir. Sam took the black and cannot hold lands or titles and cannot take a wife (although he can apparently hold titties). The Reach is up for grabs apparently and you’re going to have to find a different Martin stand-in POV character with a claim to the throne. I’ll just go ahead and say what we’re all thinking: Tyrion Lannister, who is actually the product of the Mad King taking liberties with his Hand’s wife. And Brandon Stark is the Night King.

      SPOILER ALERT.

  21. Would a single dragon glass arrow kill a giant wight or a white walker?

    I haven’t enjoyed watching zombies killed as much as I enjoy the human v human carnage. It’s hard to beat the Hound slicing dudes in two. These zombie battles are just meh so far for me. Breaking a skeleton in pieces isnt extremely exciting. I can imagine the sheer terror of an undead army matching on a medieval Winterfell if I was reading it but when the zombies show up all organized and restrainted it takes away from the terror of it all and doesn’t allow for the suspense to build.

  22. Daenerys isn’t infertile. That was a prophecy.

    “When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east,” said Mirri Maz Duur. “When the seas go dry and mountains blow in the wind like leaves. When your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child. Then he will return, and not before.”

    1. Could be metaphorical …. “Mountains blowing in the wind like leaves” could be referring to Gregor Clegane being hanged, or something to that effect.

      “Sun rising in the west and setting in the east” – could have something to do with the Long Night – day night cycles getting screwed up.

      “Seas go dry” – I don’t know but maybe the long night causes so much of the ocean to freeze that sea levels drop ?

      1. In book world, sun rising in the west and setting in the east probably refers to Quentyn Martell (sole heir to the sun sigiled house Martel) going to Mereen to marry Danny and getting killed.

        Seas go dry refers to the drought in the grasslands (referred to several times as the Dothraki Sea) occuring at the end of Dand of the Dragons.

        1. Quentyn isn’t the sole heir, though. He has an older sister, Ariane, and a younger brother, Trystane – in fact, because of Dorne’s laws of equal primogeniture, Ariane is ahead of Quentyn in the line of succession to House Martell anyway. It’s her mistaken belief that their father plans to promote Quentyn ahead of her that leads to her conspiracy with the Sand Snakes to kidnap Myrcella Baratheon.

          Quentyn’s death does put a massive damper on Prince Doran’s plans. Ariane’s already-released chapters from The Winds of Winter indicate that she’s going to fall for the mummer’s dragon, too, so things aren’t going to end all that well for Dorne.

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