Man With a Plan: What game has Littlefinger been playing in Game of Thrones season 7?

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We all know Littlefinger. He’s been around since season 1, and despite all of his broken alliances with multiple houses, he’s still alive. Better men than he have died just for standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Behind his smoker voice and sleazy face, the man is smart. He always thinks 20 steps ahead — further than Tyrion, Cersei, and even Varys. He always has a new game to play.

So what game is he playing now? I’d like to focus on what he’s gotten up to this season, and how he’s angling toward a better position on the game board.

At the end of season 6, Littlefinger spoke with Sansa after the Battle of the Bastards, and wondered whether the north should rally behind her, the trueborn daughter of Ned and Catelyn Stark, or “a motherless bastard born in the south?” With one sentence, he tapped into her suspicion that she was better equipped than Jon to lead — he planted a seed and let it grow. In season 7, we’ve seen Sansa contradict Jon openly, and refuse the lords’ offer to make her their leader only reluctantly.

Because of Petyr’s attraction to her mother, he’s often looked out for Sansa, in his fashion. In his mind, Sansa is more than just the object of his affection — she’s another chance at a relationship that never happened with Catelyn.

That’s not to say he’s above manipulating her. Petyr Baelish has subsisted on a diet of manipulation three times a day since childhood. He knows how to make people think he’s on their side (the Lannisters, Lysa Arryn, Yohn Royce) while really helping himself. It’s how he’s stayed alive for so long.

We haven’t seen much of Littlefinger in season 7, but when he’s shown up, he’s been doing what he does best. We still don’t know exactly what game he’s playing with the Stark sisters, but it ends with him in a better position than he was in before. Will it work? Let’s go through each episode of season 7 and see how Littlefinger is using manipulation to stay ahead of the game.