Editorial Featured Littlefinger Sansa Stark Season 7

Season 7 speculation: How the Starks will bring about Littlefinger’s downfall

Sansa and Littlefinger official

There’s no justice in the world, not unless we make it. You loved your family. Avenge them.

—Petyr Baelish, to Sansa Stark
Season 5, Episode 3: “High Sparrow”

Spoiler warning: This post includes some discussion of the purported Season 7 plot leak.

In the game of thrones, you win or you die, and the death toll climbs higher every season. With only two seasons left to go, the audience can safely assume that more characters—beloved and infamous alike—will be lost. Whether they end up being heartbreaking losses, crowd-pleasing comeuppances or just casualties of war remains to be seen.

Game of Thrones doesn’t operate on a black-and-white code of ethics, so it can be difficult to determine which characters will get what’s coming to them. After all, if Westeros were a pure world, the honorable Stark family would have remained intact, and likely would have emerged victorious from the ongoing wars. But as the series goes on, George R.R. Martin and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss continually demonstrate that the hero’s arc doesn’t have to transpire traditionally.

However, that doesn’t mean the series’ villains are exempt from justice. While the likes of Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton may have overstayed their welcome, they got their just deserts in the end. When it comes to villain deaths on Game of Thrones, the punishment tends to fit the crime. Ramsay, whose own father once compared him to a “mad dog,” is devoured by his hounds. Viserys Targaryen, who demanded his golden crown, receives it when Khal Drogo pours molten gold over his head. Tywin Lannister, forever preoccupied with his family name and image, is killed by his hated son in the most undignified manner possible. And Walder Frey, who had the Starks slaughtered at the Red Wedding, is slaughtered by a surviving Stark.

If the show continues in this vein, we can make some educated guesses about who goes next and how it’ll happen. Among those on the chopping block is Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, whose courtly skills of manipulation aren’t likely to intimidate an army of White Walkers. Ramsay, who was the resident villain in the North until his death in Season 6, had to be eradicated before the Starks could focus on the bigger threat. Such is the case with Petyr, whose political machinations had their place right up until winter finally showed up.

Littlefinger Official

Throughout his six-season run—an impressive feat for any character on Thrones—Petyr has won pretty much every hand he plays. He does, after all, maintain an impeccable poker face. He’s taken his winning cards and built a house destined to bury him, because let’s face it: no one on Game of Thrones can keep coming out on top without eventually cashing out completely. Petyr’s web of lies and betrayal is too intricate to keep up forever, and he has no true friends to come to his aid.

Once upon a time, Petyr did have such a friend, and his love for her has laid heavy on his thoughts and motivated his actions. His obsession with Catelyn Stark isn’t the only thing that’s made him the man he became, but it played a significant part. When he meets Ned Stark in “Lord Snow,” the two reminisce about the late Brandon Stark, Ned’s older brother and Catelyn’s original intended. As a smitten adolescent, Petyr challenged Brandon to a duel for Cat’s hand, and lost miserably. Still, years later, his interest seems undimmed, as he names her “Catelyn Tully” and calls her “A woman worth fighting for” directly to her husband.

Petyr is always careful to refer to Catelyn by either her given name or her maiden “Tully.” He refuses to call her “Stark,” as if doing so would further his humiliation at having lost her first to Brandon, then to Ned following Brandon’s death during Robert’s Rebellion. As a man who prides himself on his intellect, Petyr is an advocate of the old “brains over brawn” song and dance, and does not respect men who rely primarily on their physical strength. Brandon may have bested him by virtue of his superior swordsmanship and Ned because his family was better connected, but Petyr’s wounded pride demands justice. Ultimately, this leads to his betrayal of Ned in Season 1.

Ned_Stark_beheaded.0

At first blush, it’s not clear how this double-cross fits into Petyr’s grand plan, because we aren’t made aware of that grand plan at the time. But it becomes clearer when he reveals his great ambition to Sansa Stark in the Season 6 finale:

Every time I’m faced with a decision, I close my eyes and see the same picture. Whenever I consider a question, I ask myself, ‘Will this action make this picture a reality?’, pull it out of my mind and into this world… And I only act if the answer is yes. A picture of me on the Iron Throne, and you by my side.

If we believe that these words are the truth, what does this say about Petyr’s history with the Starks? Knowing what we do, it’s reasonable to assume that his original goal was to gain the throne with Catelyn alongside him, but that plan crumbled when she refused him in Season 2’s “Garden of Bones.” He betrayed Ned, leading to the man’s death, and afterwards uses the tragedy as leverage to convince Catelyn that their love is destined to be: “I’ve loved you since I was a boy. It seems to me that fate has given us this chance […]”

While Petyr may have never accepted that his love for Catelyn would forever be unrequited, he remained a goal-oriented man. If he couldn’t have Catelyn Stark, he would set his sights on the next best thing. And so his focus shifted to her eldest daughter, Sansa, whose youth and naivete make her easier bait. Since Catelyn and Sansa are so similar in looks and temperament, it’s no great leap for Petyr to project his unrequited love for the former onto the latter. He said so himself in the Season 2 finale, “I see so much of her in you.”

GoT 610 81 sansa rejects littlefinger

Since Petyr took Sansa under his wing, she has suffered. We learn in Season 4 that he set the plot of the entire series in motion by manipulating Lysa Arryn, who loved him, into poisoning her husband Jon Arryn, and then blaming the Lannisters for the murder. These events led to the deaths of Sansa’s family, as well as her abuse at the hands of Joffrey and Ramsay alike. Recalling my point about how the punishments for Game of Thrones villains tends to fit the crime, if anyone hands Petyr his comeuppance on a silver platter, it will be Sansa.

As he implies when he tells Sansa of his ultimate ambition, everything Petyr has done for Sansa has been based on his own self-interest. He wants her to remain reliant upon him, but he is becoming more and more expendable. Now that Sansa has reclaimed her home, and with it a sense of purpose and family, she doesn’t need Petyr’s emotional support, even if she needed the Knights of the Vale to reclaim Winterfell. More importantly, any trust Sansa ever placed in Petyr was irrevocably broken when he left her to Ramsay’s psychotic whims in Season 5. At the very least, he owed her his army.

Indeed, it seems that Petyr will do anything he can to win Sansa’s favor again, and not just because he desires her. His political ambitions may depend upon it. If he wants the Seven Kingdoms, he needs allies, and what better place to find them than in the North, the largest kingdom in Westeros? Sansa Stark is Petyr’s missing piece. As far as he’s concerned, winning her hand would complete his life’s work; he would avenge his youthful humiliation by Brandon, and spit in the face of Catelyn’s rejections. For however much Petyr may have once loved Catelyn, that love spiraled into obsession when he couldn’t have her. After all, real love doesn’t tend to include going after the girl’s daughter when things don’t work out.

Regardless of Petyr’s insistent pursuit, Sansa will no longer be so easily swayed. Sophie Turner has stated that Sansa is “ruthless” in the upcoming Season 7. But who deserves her ire? Whatever tension remains between her and half-brother Jon Snow, Jon has proven that he’ll do all in his power to protect her. Meanwhile, Petyr has shown time and again that his main priority is himself. Petyr may whisper in Sansa’s ear that Jon can’t be trusted, but Petyr has proven himself the untrustworthy one. Of course, that’s never stopped him from one-upping his foes before, so it probably won’t deter him this time, either.

GoT 610 98 littlefinger does not rise

Prior to Sansa’s triumphant return to Winterfell in Season 6, it was easy for Petyr to manipulate her. For a time, she thought his enduring love for her mother would keep him loyal to her. Instead, he’s projected those feelings onto Sansa, thus turning their relationship lecherous. Even still, Sansa had no one else to turn to. Now, though, she has Jon. And if the rumors about Season 7 are true (and this one probably is), Arya and Bran will return home as well. What is Littlefinger compared to Sansa’s own family? Petyr will undoubtedly be threatened when faced with such strong familial bonds, especially since his relationship with Sansa has become so tenuous.

Other rumors have it that Petyr will attempt to drive a wedge between Arya and Sansa, who were known to bicker in years past. This isn’t much of a spoiler when we consider that Petyr has tried to keep them apart before. When he visits Harrenhal in Season 2’s “The Old Gods and the New,” he’s in the same room with Arya, who’s serving as Tywin’s cupbearer. If he recognized her, he didn’t say a thing. He needed to keep Sansa isolated, and fetching her sister back to the capital would surely put a snag in his plan. But will Petyr be successful in turning Sansa and Arya against each other when and if they’re both at Winterfell?

Short answer: doubtful. Speaking about Sansa, Ned once told Arya, “You may be as different as the sun and the moon, but the same blood flows through both your hearts. You need her, as she needs you.” These aren’t throwaway words meant to patch up a sibling argument. They’re a very real assessment of Sansa and Arya’s relationship. No matter their differences, they need each other, now more than ever. The Starks thrive on togetherness; after being apart for so long, come hell or high water, they’ll stick with one another. Yes, the girls have walked very different paths during the years they were separated. But everything they’ve both done has been to survive, and to avenge their family.

arya-knife-table

So what I propose is this: if a rift between Arya and Sansa happens, who’s to say it isn’t feigned? Sansa doesn’t trust Petyr anymore, nor will the steadfastly honest Arya. Why backtrack on the girls’ character development? It makes more narrative sense for the pair to contrive bitterness in order to lull Petyr into a false sense of security before they take him out. Since such manipulations are Petyr’s modus operandi, this would nicely suit the circumstances of his own death.

“Look around you. We’re all liars here, and every one of us is better than you,” Petyr told Sansa in the Season 2 finale. But he, like so many others, underestimates her. She’s learned from him and developed a knack for reading people. Think of her conversations with Joffrey and Ramsay in Seasons 2 and 5, respectively. She attempted to manipulate Joffrey into dying in battle during “Blackwater” by comparing him to her brother Robb, who’s “only a pretender.” A few years later, she played upon Ramsay’s insecurities over being born a bastard by pointing out that his father had a trueborn son on the way. Sansa has been playing the game longer than she lets on. And now that she definitely knows what Petyr wants, there’s little stopping her from using it against him.

But this poses another important question: what would compel Sansa to sentence Petyr to death? Brienne could have cut him down on her order during their meeting in Season 6’s “The Door,” but Sansa didn’t give it. She recognized the bigger picture, and that she might need Petyr’s influence over the Knights of the Vale. But now that she’s won back Winterfell, there’s a definite shift in power. She holds at least as much over Petyr as he he holds over her, and could gain more if she cozies up to the impressionable Robin Arryn or the stalwart “Bronze” Yohn Royce, the latter of whom is not a fan of Littlefinger’s. And with Bran on his way home, there remains the possibility that he’ll take a short vision quest and see Petyr’s betrayal of Ned from Season 1. While the Three-Eyed Raven’s word might not be enough to convince some, there are plenty of people who could back this claim up if need be. For example, Varys, Tyrion and the Hound all know about it, and all of them have more loyalty to Sansa than they do Petyr.

The Winds of Winter

Whatever the details of Petyr’s downfall, it seems likely he’s going down. But who will swing the sword? The alleged leak points to one individual in particular, but three possible executioners offer different but equally satisfying ends to Petyr’s long career in puppet mastery:

  • Jon Snow: The newly crowned King in the North has killed before, both in battle as well as during his tenure as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. A scenario where Jon is the executioner would echo Petyr’s duel with Brandon, only unlike Catelyn, Sansa wouldn’t beg Jon to spare Petyr’s life.
  • Arya: She may be the only character on the show who isn’t susceptible to manipulation, which is Petyr’s tool of choice. Arya detests liars and hypocrites, and Petyr has built his successes on double-crosses, so it would be suitable for Arya to strike the final blow. It would also quench Arya’s thirst for vengeance. If Arya knew how Petyr had betrayed Ned, surely he would have been on her kill list from the first.
  • Sansa: While Sansa will almost certainly sentence Petyr to death, she could feasibly carry out that sentence as well. She likely wouldn’t wield a sword like Jon or Arya, but should Petyr be sentenced to death by hanging, she could cut the rope. As Ned once said, “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.” Ned’s children, both actual and foster, have lived by those words—think about Robb beheading Lord Karstark, Theon beheading Rodrik Cassel, and Jon Snow beheading Janos Slynt. Sansa has fully embraced her identity as a Stark, and she may live by those words as well.

Littlefinger

The world of Game of Thrones is painted almost entirely in shades of gray. The heroes are flawed, and many of the villains exhibit some kind of redeeming quality. Even Petyr, compromised as he is, started down his path because he wanted to prove he was worthy of Catelyn Tully, the girl he loved. That love became twisted along the way, but it had roots in something pure and pitiable.

But in his last-ditch efforts to win her, Petyr hurt Catelyn unalterably by ensuring her beloved husband’s death. His love for her is tainted by his self-interest, and so it goes when he sets his sights on Sansa. Petyr isolates her so he can continue to use her, and perhaps even manipulate her into loving him. He attempts to seduce her with promises of power, and is blinded by his own desire for it and her alike. It’s this desire that makes a fool of Petyr, just as it did when he challenged Brandon Stark for Catelyn’s hand. For someone who prides himself primarily on his shrewd logic, Petyr falls victim to the whims of lust and love as easily as any man in Westeros. This simultaneously softens him and makes him so desperate for success that he made one, likely fatal, flaw: revealing his ambition to Sansa in “The Winds of Winter.”

In Season 4’s “Oathkeeper,” Petyr gives Sansa some advice: “Always keep your foes confused. If they don’t know who you are or what you want, they can’t know what you plan to do next.” Tragically for him, Petyr doesn’t recognize Sansa as a foe, just as he didn’t recognize how he’d made an enemy of Catelyn when word of his betrayal reached her. Once again, it seems that Petyr will underestimate the Starks’ love and loyalty to one another. In Season 3’s “The Climb,” he told Varys that “the climb is all there is,” and yet Petyr has been clinging to a fruitless love all his life. Petyr may have climbed higher and more efficiently than most, but that only means he has the furthest to fall.

40 Comments

  • I need Sansa to swing the sword. So that he knows who did it. But also because that will make all of the Starks “even” and equal. Besides Bran, who I feel is on a different level, Sansa is the only one who hasn’t directly killed someone. Ramsay was going to die anyway, she was just present for it. It got her used to the sight. Now she can be just as ruthless as Arya and as honest as Jon, and she can play her socially strong role. Arya is the assassin, Jon is the knight in shining armor… it’s Sansa’s turn for Starky revenge. Her strength is the Game of Thrones.

  • I really don’t want Baelish to die. Without him there is no Game of Thrones. And Sansa, where will she be without him? She has been connected to him since Season One. What will she do without him? She is practically invisible in the north. Is she going to go back to Tyrion and be his wife? Is she going to marry Jon? Is she going to marry Sweetrobin? Is she going to fight the White Walkers? Is she going to The Dreadfort? I highly doubt it. Sansa’s best bet is continue with the political game and the “pretty picture.” There is nothing in the story left for her, not even Winterfell. Jon is King, and the WW are coming. She should flee the north with Baelish back to the Vale. Killing Baelish would be a mistake, not only for the story as a whole but with Sansa as well. If he dies Sansa may as well die too.

    • Everytime she has tried to get away from Baelish, it has come at a great cost. She sets herself back by trying to get rid of him. I want her to live too, but I see no future for her without him in it.

  • Everyone is so hyped about Baelish being killed off, even more so that Sansa will pass the sentence. But if it really happened? What if Baelish dies? What is there for Sansa without him? She is invisible in the north. Is she going to marry Jon, Sweetrobin, or go back to Tyrion? Is she going to fight the WW? Is she going to claim the Dreadfort? I highly doubt it. Not even Winterfell will be a option. Jon is King and the WW are coming. Without Baelish, what place will she have in the story? She might as well be dead without him. Sorry to say that but it is true.

  • I would like to know how much Arya learned in the House of Black and White playing the lying game. Would she be able to tell when Petyr lies? It would be great if he says “I’ve always had the Starks best interests at heart. I tried to help your father when he was at Kings Landing” and Arya responds “that’s a lie”. He may have even hired JaQuin to kill Ned, and she tells him that as she shows Petyr the pointy end.

    • I think you might have misread something–the author states that Jon has killed in battle, not that he was killed in battle. Big difference. Personally, I think Ms. Majka’s articles are some of the best written ones on this site.

  • Hoping Arya does LF in and that this entire time, the show has been building her character up on detecting liars, etc… so she will be able to right through LF’s BS when in his presence in S7.

    P.S. I had always intrepreted LF never calling Catelyn, Catelyn Stark, not as a slight to the Starks but more as respect, in a way. By not calling her that, he’s limiting his knowledge of her to the girl he knew, and not the woman she became after his duel w Brandon and her marrying Ned, etc…

  • I honestly don’t remember if it’s canon in regards to the show but Arya became quite adept at the Lying Game. Personally, I like LF and think Aiden Gillen does a fantastic job with the character – that said, I’d love for the retribution to occur after all the Stark siblings are together at WF and for it to go down something along the lines of: Bran, through the Wiernet, wants to see if Ned really was a traitor and in the process sees LF betray him. Keeping in mind that Bran has never met and doesn’t know LF, only for him to see him at WF with Sansa. From there, you can pick your poison as far as who does the deed and how.

  • A good article; well written and argued. From what we’ve seen in the way of filming spoilers we know that Jon Snow/Stark isn’t going to be present in the North throughout S7. If Littlefinger is going to make his move on Sansa (politically and/or romantically) I would expect him to do it when Jon isn’t around.

    GoT doesn’t indulge in fortuitous timing, but about this point would be the ideal moment for Bran Or Arya Stark to reappear at Winterfell. The latter in particular would as the OP points out be a major threat to LF. Not only has she honed her FM skills in detecting liars, she may well have The Hound with her. Sandor Clegane, as the OP states, knows about LF’s betrayal of Ned Stark. His ‘erratic’ but honest relationship with Arya and protection of ‘little bird’ Sansa at the court of Joffrey makes me think that The Hound will be the one to point the first finger at LF.

    • Agreed. I’ve been saying for years that the Hound is the key to LF’s downfall. He has the knowledge, the motivation, and no reason to have been brought back if not for this.

  • i’ll play it like this.

    if Sansa’s cousin, the young Lord Robin, is en-route to Winterfell with his pike-men & archers, both Sansa & Petyr live to fight the White Walkers.

    if the young Lord Robin is dead, or remains @ the Eyrie. Sansa dies.

  • I want Littlefinger to end up in the shattered throne room sitting on the throne a broken man with nothing to rule. Let Varys’s prophetic utterance about Littlefinger ruling on the ashes of Westeros come true.

  • Petyr baelish is good for her, he wants good for her just like he wanted good for catelyn, he felt about catelyn when she died, he didn’t wanted her to die, but mistake happened, I believe he has best interest for Sansa and he will keep her from harm somehow for his own interests.

  • Varys stated what Peter wanted, land/title that goes with it. The Vale is commanded by Robyn, who LF manipulates like a puppet. He if wants a title so bad, why not kill Robyn? I don’t see a rift in eitherSansa/Arya, they lost a great uncle Blackfish, Robb, Rikkon, and their mother. LF can only guarantee Sansa becoming Queen of the North if she agrees to kill her siblings and Uncle Benjen. I just rewatched the Battle of the Bastards, Sansa was highly disappointed that Jon survived. Her stay at KL and marriage to Ramsay (along with her brother death) makes her unworthy to become Queen of the North.

    • If he killed Robyn it would raise too many questions and Royce would kill Petyr on the spot. The less complicated route for Petyr would be to marry Sansa to Robin and then kill Robin and Royce. The same thing that basically happened to Lysa.

  • Yep,LF deserves to die but probably won’t because this is GoT not Disney.That said,it will be fitting for him to die at the hand of the Starks because of his many attrocities against them such as: The manipulation of both Ned and Cat Stark (yeah,Ned was manipulated)
    The murder of Jon Arryn which spurred Ned on his perilious journey to the South
    The attempted ‘Catspaw’ assassination which further strained Stark-Lannister relationship
    The sale of Sansa to the Boltons
    And of course,the ultimate betrayal of Ned Stark.
    His lies will finally catch up with him.Personally,I hope it will somehow be Sansa.Imagine Varys’ expression when he hears his long time rival has finally been defeated

  • Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish has an oversized conquest in his lap. he must conserve his man-power resources. the only way i see Baelish dealing with northern & southern problems is to let the attacking foes (Daenerys in the south Vs. King’s Landing) (White Walkers Vs. Winterfell in the north) exhaust themselves against eachother. then use the Vale forces to conquer all.

    i can totally see Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish having a plan to bring down the great northern wall & retreating to safety. beyond that, i have no idea how Baelish can deal with a Dragon attack. could Baelish win the Throne, possibly. i just don’t think the story is headed in that direction.

    i don’t see the show writers being clever enough to address this strategy on Baelish’s part. there will likely be a unification between the North,South, and Daenerys’s forces against the White-Walker doom. it is probably going to be a bit cheesy too. lol.

  • Littlefinger’s plans fall apart the moment White Walkers get south of the Wall. You can’t deceive, manipulate, or fool death itself.

  • It is hard to believe that Littlefinger can bite the dust without one final meeting with Varys. In the beginning the show made much of the differing philosophies of the two characters, and some closure of that topic would make sense. However not all threads on GoT actually achieve closure, much like real life I guess.

  • Judging from Sophie’s repeated hype, no doubt it’s going to be a long, drawn-out affair, probably from the showrunners’ apparent desire to empower Sansa more :-( But if we really care how the Starks can bring down Littlefinger, there are two fairly quick ways and Sansa won’t have to worry her pretty little head about them. Scenario 1) Arya gets home and notices LF lurking about Sansa. It rings a bell. At the right moment, she fires a series of questions at him and knows when he’s bending the truth. If Sandor has confided in her during their likely re-encounter in the Riverlands, one must be, “You betrayed Father, didn’t you?” She might finally recall her view of the execution, with Littlefinger standing to the left smirking and not reacting. She could ask, “You were on the platform when Father lost his head and only you weren’t surprised by it. You knew what was coming, didn’t you? Did you suggest it to Joffrey?” And she’d ask, “When you saw Tywin Lannister at Harrenhal, Lord Tywin felt stymied by Robb’s success. You talked with him about Robb Stark. A few months later the Red Wedding happened. You gave him the idea, didn’t you?” He’s certainly guilty of the betrayal and she might well suspect the other involvements, whether or not they actually happened. I doubt he could silver-tongue his way out of all three. Being Arya, she would probably impetuously give him the business end of Needle. Scenario 2) Arya or Sansa could convey their suspicions, or Bran could intuit the situation. So he plugs into the Weirwood tree and sees the betrayal, the execution, and maybe LF’s confab with Tywin. He might see even more of LF’s crimes. He’d probably take any resulting info to the acting lord of Winterfell and she’d pursue a formal execution, performed by Arya presumably.

    • I think the result will be a combination of both your scenarios with Bran most likely sealing the deal with his greensight. Plus if Nymeria is reunited with Arya she’ll be snarling at Petyr from the get go.

  • Petyr can’t go back to kings landing after the lannisters find out he was involved in joffs death. And if sansa would come clean about what he did to lysa and with Jon aaryn and it keeps building the hound knows what he’s done varys, tyrion and the list goes on so it looks pretty much like the end for petyr and maybe sansa.

  • My mom warned us Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to decieve. Little Finger’s not the only deciever but hes the champ. He builds more and more into his complicated web all the time and after 7 yrs its bound to come crashing down. He needs to get outta Dodge before Stark justice takes him down. And youre right he might take Sansa with him. Kinda poetic justice if it happens, seeing how she’s been copying his methods, but Sansa being a Stark, I don;t wanna see her go, just punished.

  • Interesting article but it presumes LF told Sansa the truth about his ambitions. Even if he did tell the truth he didn’t tell her what he’d do if he couldn’t achieve his goal. I’d suggest Petyr is quite happy to bring down the whole kingdom no matter what the cost, and as rungs on the chaos ladder go Euron and the NK are almost too tempting for LF not to employ them in destroying everything around him.

    • Baelish & Euron, conquer all?

      i don’t think HBO could televise that…

      besides, if that were the case, HBO would never have killed Ramsey.

  • But any time a Stark passes a sentence and carries it out. They die in the same season. Same fate for Sansa perhaps. It also is the season for it to happen. Every second season too.. 1- Ned. 3- Robb and 5- Jon. Will Sansa be the Stark to pass a sentence and die in Season 7? 😱 How ever it happens. Littlefinger needs to die at the hand of a Stark.

Leave a Comment