Game of Thrones season 8: Sansa Stark's survival instinct proves she deserves to be Queen in the North
It’s hard to believe that just four episodes stand in the way of us finding out, at long last, who will win the game of thrones and who, like Cersei coldly declared in season one, will die. The night has indeed been dark and full of terrors, with a number of beloved characters meeting unexpected, untimely at various points in their journey. And as we hurtle (not nearly fast enough!) towards the battle that is likely to make the Red Wedding, the Battle of Castle Black, the Hardhome Massacre and the Battle of the Bastards all look like paintball contests between friends — it is reported to be the longest war sequence in film and television history, dwarfing even the magnitude of The Lord Of The Rings — fans are locked in feverish debate over who will survive and who are most likely to meet their maker in the forthcoming episode.
If there’s one character in the show who is a walking-talking human manifestation of the survival instinct, it’s Sansa Stark. It’s fitting that the pivotal episode’s promo began with Sansa’s quiet but clear voice in the background, “The most heroic thing we can do is look the truth in the face.” Who, after all, has been forced to face more ugly truths than the current Lady of Winterfell?
In season one and two, she sees her golden prince, Joffrey, transform into a cowardly-but-vicious monster and order her father’s execution before her own eyes. She watches as her fiancé revels in his heinousness and the agony he repeatedly causes her, even as she is basically being held hostage by his mother to use as a political pawn later, but manages (for the most part) to keep her facade of being devoted to him intact which leads to Tyrion telling her, “Lady Stark, you may survive us yet”, a bittersweet comment that echoes in the opening episode of season eight when Sansa and Tyrion meet once again. “We both survived,” she tells him with a half smile. That’s a massive leap for a girl who came into King’s Landing with her head filled with romanticised notions of marriage and dreams of ruling over the Seven Kingdoms along with her sweet, loving prince, who was destined to become the king.
Season three sees her being passed around like a metaphorical bong, with her engagement to Joffrey set aside and secret plans made to have her wed Loras Tyrell. Ultimately, she’s married off to Tyrion, and even though her life is quite literally the opposite of what she had imagined it to be while leaving Winterfell, she finds a way to survive by sheer force of will. She puts her newly learnt skills of lying and manipulating situations to protect herself through season four, even as she faces the prospect of another distasteful marriage, this time to her cousin, Robyn, the Warden of the East. We also witness her transformation from a young girl to a shrewd woman.
Despite her newfound hardness, season five brings a whole new set of unimaginable horrors as she is practically sold to Ramsay, the son of Lord Roose Bolton, the recently anointed Warden of the North, yet another family that betrayed her own to usurp power. She is raped — brutally and repeatedly — but she keeps looking for ways to escape her most horrific prison yet, doing all that she can to survive until she can find an ally.
In so many ways, season six is the culmination of all the lessons Sansa has learned due to the many misfortunes and betrayals in the past five. Gone is the gentle, trusting and naive young girl we were first introduced to in season one. This Sansa is steely, sharp as a razor, skilled in manipulation and strategy, and fiercely loyal but also deeply suspicious of the motives of anyone who is not family. This is not a woman who can be messed with, manipulated, or swayed with promises of love. It is because of her superior mind that Jon survives the Battle of the Bastard. An unflinching Sansa look on as Ramsay is attacked and killed by his own starving, bloodthirsty hounds was like watching her character come a full circle.
Sansa comes into her own as the Lady of Winterfell in season seven, ruling over the North and preparing for the long, looming winter. As unemotional and unmoved as she is on the outside, we also get to see Sansa’s sentimental side when she finally reunites with Arya and Bran, both of whom she thought were dead. And we know that she’s finally learned to trust family before everyone else when, despite his best efforts, Petyr Baelish is unsuccessful in turning Arya and Sansa against each other. His efforts cost him his life, instead.
All of which bring us to Sansa at her iciest and fiercest best, in season eight. The Lady of Winterfell will not be intimidated — not even by a queen who comes armed with two gigantic, fire-breathing dragons. It’s almost lyrical when we see a friendship budding between Sansa and Dany. Their journeys have been difficult and somewhat similar, after all. Both were sold into marriage as young girls, in an attempt to secure political power. Both have survived impossible odds to reclaim their birthrights. And both have learned how to command respect from men who could never imagine being ruled over by a woman — either as a queen or as wardeness.
And yet, Sansa’s journey and character arc are just that much more compelling. Unlike Dany, she didn’t have two unbeatable dragons to do her bidding and literally turn to ash anyone who dared cross her. Her survival depended entirely on her own ability to silently wait, no matter how painful patience was, until the odds tilted in her favour, ever so slightly. Sansa survived because she watched and learned — slowly at times — from everyone that crossed her way. She had no tools, no weapons, no army rallying behind her to protect her. Quite the opposite, in fact, given that she saw man after man, and ally after ally betraying her trust even after telling her he loved her. Sansa is superior because she made herself so, using her mind, not because of a magical immunity to fire that makes her someone to be feared and capitulated to.
The King in the North might be admirable and honourable, but the North, with its ability to withstand and outlast the harshest of winters, deserves a queen. And Sansa deserves to be that queen — the Queen in the North.
Updated Date: Apr 27, 2019 10:21:11 IST
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