“Wordless, she fled. She was afraid of Sandor Clegane…and yet, some part of her wished that Ser Dontos had a little of the Hound’s ferocity. There are gods, she told herself, and there are true knights too. All the stories can’t be lies.”
Synopsis: Sansa argues with Ser Dontos about travel, has a conversation with Sandor Clegane about the joys of murder, and then has to talk to Cersei about menstruation. The life of a teenage girl is fraught with dangers, am I right?
SPOILER WARNING: This chapter analysis, and all following, will contain spoilers for all Song of Ice and Fire novels and Game of Thrones episodes. Caveat lector.
As I discussed in Tyrion XI, it’s interesting that George R.R Martin decides to turn the Battle of Blackwater into a three-hander rather than just portraying both sides. Sansa is the natural choice for the civilian perspective – she’s the only other King’s Landing POV, she has a vantage point on Cersei, the war effort, and the city as a whole, and her identity as a Stark means that she’s simultaneously under threat from a rampaging army if the city falls and potentially liberated if the Lannisters fall.
The Battle of Blackwater: Stannis’ Opening Moves
Because of her literal vantage points from the battlements of the Red Keep, Sansa can act as a camera trained on the city and its environs, much as her mother does for Riverrun during the Battle of the Fords. Thus, she can see the full sweep of war come to the capitol:
The southern sky was black with smoke. It rose swirling off a hundred distant fires, its sooty fingers smudging out the stars. Across the Blackwater Rush, a line of flame burned nightly from horizon to horizon, while on this side the Imp had fired the whole riverfront: docks and warehouses, homes and brothels, everything outside the city walls…
“Lord Stannis wants to smoke out the Imp’s savages.” Dontos swayed as he spoke, one hand on the trunk of a chestnut tree. A wine stain discolored the red-and-yellow motley of his tunic. “They kill his scouts and raid his baggage train. And the wildlings have been lighting fires too. The Imp told the queen that Stannis had better train his horses to eat ash, since he would find no blade of grass. I heard him say so. I hear all sorts of things as a fool that I never heard when I was a knight. They talk as though I am not there, and”—he leaned close, breathing his winey breath right in her face—”the Spider pays in gold for any little trifle. I think Moon Boy has been his for years.”
As an outsider, Sansa’s perspective shows us the moral equivalence of Stannis and Tyrion as both men resort to scorched earth tactics, Tyrion to deny Stannis a landing, and Stannis to deal with asymmetrical warfare in his characteristic fashion. In addition, we also get the first major hint from Ser Dontos that he’s a spy, and not just for Littlefinger. (Which raises the possibility that Varys knows that Littlefinger has Sansa…) The news that Moon Boy is Varys’ spy might also explain how it is that Varys manages to remain so well informed about the political situation in the royal court over the course of AFFC and ADWD, despite hiding out underground in tunnels that are being opened up by Lannisters.
The Battle of Blackwater: Religious Propaganda
At the same time, the talk of fire leads us directly into our next topic, as fire and religion begin to mix:
“Is it true Lord Stannis burned the godswood at Storm’s End?”
Dontos nodded. “He made a great pyre of the trees as an offering to his new god. The red priestess made him do it. They say she rules him now, body and soul. He’s vowed to burn the Great Sept of Baelor too, if he takes the city.”
“Let him.” When Sansa had first beheld the Great Sept with its marble walls and seven crystal towers, she’d thought it was the most beautiful building in the world, but that had been before Joffrey beheaded her father on its steps. “I want it burned.”
So there’s a bunch of things to unpack here. First, is the question of whether Stannis now is a true believer in R’hllor. Certainly, his attitude in Davos II is markedly different from that in Davos I in terms of his confidence in Melisandre’s visions, but as we’ll see in ASOS and beyond, Stannis hasn’t abandoned his critical faculties. On the other hand, it may well be that Stannis’ atheist leanings means that he doesn’t particularly care about burning statues or trees, but considers burning people to be a different matter entirely. Second, here we can see that Tyrion’s strategy of trying to rev up anti-Rhllorist sentiment in King’s Landing is working, to the extent that the rumor is spreading about the threat to the Great Sept, which also explains why it is that the Sparrow Movement ultimately has to back Tommen (a subject for another time).
Third and finally, this is also another instance where we see Sansa getting to be angry, which is good to see and yet again proof that she remains a Stark. However, it also complicates Sansa’s relationship with the Faith of the Seven. On the one hand, as we’ll see in Sansa V, she participates in and seems to believe in the Faith although not without some questions and misgivings, something else she shares with her mother. On the other hand, as we’ll see in ASOS, Sansa also has a strong connection to the Old Gods, and spends far more time praying in the godswood than she ever does in the sept – even if she doesn’t go to this extent of wanting Westeros’ equivalent of St. Paul’s Cathedral to burn to the ground. Given the association between the Great Sept and her father’s death, it’s not surprising that her feelings are somewhat more complicated than your typical child of a mixed-religion marriage, but it is something to keep an eye on if and when Sansa makes oaths to the Seven given her family’s history.
The Battle of Blackwater: The River and Timing
These opening salvos, both military and political, take on a sudden urgency now that Stannis’ land forces have arrived in the King’s Landing area:
The Blackwater Rush was as empty as Sansa had ever seen it. All the ferries had been withdrawn to the north bank, and the trading galleys had fled or been seized by the Imp to be made over for battle. The only ships to be seen were the king’s war galleys. They rowed endlessly up and down, staying to the deep water in the middle of the river and exchanging flights of arrows with Stannis’s archers on the south shore.
Lord Stannis himself was still on the march, but his vanguard had appeared two nights ago during the black of the moon. King’s Landing had woken to the sight of their tents and banners. They were five thousand, Sansa had heard, near as many as all the gold cloaks in the city. They flew the red or green apples of House Fossoway, the turtle of Estermont, and the fox-and-flowers of Florent, and their commander was Ser Guyard Morrigen, a famous southron knight who men now called Guyard the Green. His standard showed a crow in flight, its black wings spread wide against a storm-green sky. But it was the pale yellow banners that worried the city. Long ragged tails streamed behind them like flickering flames, and in place of a lord’s sigil they bore the device of a god: the burning heart of the Lord of Light.
Here, we see the critical importance of geography in shaping the Battle of Blackwater. To begin with, the godawful state of Westerosi infrastructure – people who have read my economic development series are familiar with my obsession about bridges and canals – means that there is no bridge that Stannis’ vanguard can seize to allow the army to cross, allowing Tyrion to cut off transit by removing the ferries.
There is something unrealistic about this; given the Kingsroads’ status as the major Westerosi highway, I refuse to believe that a Hand with Septon Barth’s abilities wouldn’t have had it intersect the Blackwater Rush at a ford at the very least, but it’s absolutely necessary for the rest of the battle to work because GRRM needs the river to be just the right kind of barrier, admitting just enough of Stannis’ men to give Tyrion a challenge while keeping the bulk south of the river where they can’t pose an immediate threat. As Ser Dontos says, “the size of his host does not matter, sweetling, so long as they are on the wrong side of the river.”
Similarly, I really wonder why Stannis’ vanguard didn’t scout out upstream and look for another crossing (for the love of civil engineering, surely where the Gold Road crosses the Rush twice?), which would likely have led to them accidentally slamming into the Tyrell army’s outriders, and alerting Stannis to their presence in the area, which has happened so often in military history.
Moreover, we see in this chapter that timing is absolutely crucial both to how the Battle of Blackwater and Sansa’s own storyline plays out:
“It’s a long sail from Storm’s End, the fleet will need to come up Massey’s Hook and through the Gullet and across Blackwater Bay. Perhaps the good gods will send a storm to sweep them from the seas.” Dontos gave a hopeful smile. “It is not easy for you, I know. You must be patient, child. When my friend returns to the city, we shall have our ship. Have faith in your Florian, and try not to be afraid.”
I’ll come back to this quote again once we’re done with the Battle of Blackwater material, but as we’ll see in Davos III, this is almost exactly what happened. According to the researched timelines that I’ve consulted (Errant Bard’s and PrivateMajor’s), between four and eight days pass between this chapter and the arrival of Stannis’ fleet, largely due to the delay caused by the storm. While the extent of that delay is something I’ll discuss in Davos III, we can see GRRM’s thumb begin to press down on the scales. Without that storm, Stannis’ fleet would have arrived at least a day earlier, allowing Stannis to eventually get his whole army across the Blackwater and take the city. Ironically had that happened, we might have had the Battle of Blackwater in reverse, with Stannis holding the city against Tywin’s forces north of the River and the Tyrells trying to cross the river with their barges with Stannis’ remaining navy holding the river against them.
But that’s not what happens. Instead, Stannis’ navy is delayed by the storm and the city has a chance to prepare, both the military and the civilian population:
The whole city was afraid. Sansa could see it from the castle walls. The smallfolk were hiding themselves behind closed shutters and barred doors as if that would keep them safe. The last time King’s Landing had fallen, the Lannisters looted and raped as they pleased and put hundreds to the sword, even though the city had opened its gates. This time the Imp meant to fight, and a city that fought could expect no mercy at all…
…Yet from here she could see everything: the Red Keep’s tall towers and great cornerforts, the maze of city streets beyond, to south and west the river running black, the bay to the east, the columns of smoke and cinders, and fires, fires everywhere. Soldiers crawled over the city walls like ants with torches, and crowded the hoardings that had sprouted from the ramparts. Down by the Mud Gate, outlined against the drifting smoke, she could make out the vague shape of the three huge catapults, the biggest anyone had ever seen, overtopping the walls by a good twenty feet. Yet none of it made her feel less fearful.
Sansa’s reference to the Sack of King’s Landing during Robert’s Rebellion is a vitally important point: regardless of which lords are on which side, regardless of the cause of the war, it’s the civilian population that suffers. Indeed, Sansa points out an irony that undermines Tyrion’s argument that his actions are justified by the need to defend the city – the only reason that the city is in danger is that Tyrion has decided against surrendering peacefully, so that the Lannisters end up hurting the city no matter whether they’re attacking or defending.
More on this in the Historical Analysis section!
Sansa’s Stalled Escape and Her Character Arc
Now that we’re done with the Battle of Blackwater material, let’s get into Sansa’s storyline. In Sansa IV, we get another reminder that with Sansa, the political and the personal always intersect, in ways that always hinder her:
Sansa picked at the bark of a tree. She felt light-headed, almost feverish. “They sent you, but what good have you done? You promised you would take me home, but I’m still here.”
Dontos patted her arm. “I’ve spoken to a certain man I know, a good friend to me…and you, my lady. He will hire a swift ship to take us to safety, when the time is right.”
“The time is right now,” Sansa insisted, “before the fighting starts. They’ve forgotten about me. I know we could slip away if we tried.”
“Child, child.” Dontos shook his head. “Out of the castle, yes, we could do that, but the city gates are more heavily guarded than ever, and the Imp has even closed off the river.”
…“It is not easy for you, I know. You must be patient, child. When my friend returns to the city, we shall have our ship. Have faith in your Florian, and try not to be afraid.”
One of the reasons why people feel frustrated by Sansa’s ACOK storyline is that so much of her story has been leading in the direction of escaping King’s Landing and yet the book will end with her seemingly still stuck in the same position she was at the beginning of the book. On the other hand, I wonder if this impression among the fandom following the publication of ACOK in the late 90s has unduly influenced our thinking on the matter.
Re-reading these chapters in light of the entire series (especially ASOS) should give us pause. Sansa doesn’t escape King’s landing, not because she doesn’t want to (we’ve seen across three chapters that she really, really wants to), but because the only person at the moment who’s willing to help her (someone who owes her his life, no less) is gaslighting her. Littlefinger doesn’t want Sansa to escape yet because he wants her held responsible for the Purple Wedding, thus isolating her from much of Westeros and making her that more dependent on him, and so he orders Dontos to keep her on hold until his plans are ready. And this brings up back to the theme of chivalry – no doubt prompted by Littlefinger, who’s had enough conversations with Sansa to know her way of thinking, Dontos is using the story of Florian and Jonquil to manipulate Sansa ideologically and gain credit with her that he does not deserve. (Indeed, Sansa seems to realize that in her quote at the beginning of the chapter, realizing that Dontos has an underlying weakness of character that the Hound does not. More on this later.)
Moreover, we can see from a plot perspective that GRRM needs her to stick around in King’s Landing for a couple reasons – Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion and her presence at the Purple Wedding are crucial to many arcs, and she’s also a POV that Tyrion can’t replace (most notably with the Tyrells). Moreover, if she fled King’s Landing right now, her narrative would be a fugitive from the Lannisters looking to reunited with her family, a little bit too similar to Arya’s. In ASOS, Sansa doesn’t leave King’s Landing until after Arya has been to the Twins and ended her attempt to reunite with her family, preserving that distinctiveness.
So unfortunately Sansa isn’t going anywhere until GRRM is ready to let her go.
A Dialogue on Violence
As with the escape, the personal and the political, the Battle of Blackwater and Sansa’s own battle intersects with the Hound. Throughout the series the Hound as always been a figure who’s represented violence, both as an aggressor and as a victim. It makes sense, therefore, that as Sansa feels trapped by the coming battle, she and Sandor engage in a dialogue which is all about trying to make sense of violence (or arguably one-half of a dialogue the other half of which we’ll get in Sansa VII):
“The little bird still can’t bear to look at me, can she?” The Hound released her. “You were glad enough to see my face when the mob had you, though. Remember?”
Sansa remembered all too well. She remembered the way they had howled, the feel of the blood running down her cheek from where the stone had struck her, and the garlic stink on the breath of the man who had tried to pull her from her horse. She could still feel the cruel pinch of fingers on her wrist as she lost her balance and began to fall.
She’d thought she was going to die then, but the fingers had twitched, all five at once, and the man had shrieked loud as a horse. When his hand fell away, another hand, stronger, shoved her back into her saddle. The man with the garlicky breath was on the ground, blood pumping out the stump of his arm, but there were others all around, some with clubs in hand. The Hound leapt at them, his sword a blur of steel that trailed a red mist as it swung. When they broke and ran before him he had laughed, his terrible burned face for a moment transformed.
She made herself look at that face now, really look. It was only courteous, and a lady must never forget her courtesies. The scars are not the worst part, nor even the way his mouth twitches. It’s his eyes. She had never seen eyes so full of anger. “I…I should have come to you after,” she said haltingly. “To thank you, for…for saving me…you were so brave.”
“Brave?” His laugh was half a snarl. “A dog doesn’t need courage to chase off rats. They had me thirty to one, and not a man of them dared face me.”
As the closest thing that Sansa has experienced to a battle, it’s natural that Sansa should use the King’s Landing riot as a point of reference, and so finally we see that event through her eyes. At the same time, though, we also get a continuation of the theme of recognition and understanding through looking someone in the face and looking beneath the surface that we saw back in Sansa II of AGOT. Sansa takes the opportunity to really try to see Sandor for who he is, and the result is she (and we) learn about Sandor’s understanding of the world:
She hated the way he talked, always so harsh and angry. “Does it give you joy to scare people?”
“No, it gives me joy to kill people…your father lied. Killing is the sweetest thing there is.” He drew his longsword. “Here’s your truth. Your precious father found that out on Baelor’s steps. Lord of Winterfell, Hand of the King, Warden of the North, the mighty Eddard Stark, of a line eight thousand years old… but Ilyn Payne’s blade went through his neck all the same, didn’t it? Do you remember the dance he did when his head came off his shoulders?”
Sansa hugged herself, suddenly cold. “Why are you always so hateful? I was thanking you…”
“Just as if I was one of those true knights you love so well, yes. What do you think a knight is for, girl? You think it’s all taking favors from ladies and looking fine in gold plate? Knights are for killing.” He laid the edge of his longsword against her neck, just under her ear. Sansa could feel the sharpness of the steel. “I killed my first man at twelve. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve killed since then. High lords with old names, fat rich men dressed in velvet, knights puffed up like bladders with their honors, yes, and women and children too—they’re all meat, and I’m the butcher. Let them have their lands and their gods and their gold. Let them have their sers.” Sandor Clegane spat at her feet to show what he thought of that. “So long as I have this,” he said, lifting the sword from her throat, “there’s no man on earth I need fear.”
There is a huge amount to unpack here, but given that we’re talking about performances, surfaces, and truth, let’s start with the fact that Sandor, for all that he pretends to be a nihilistic anti-hero, what he actually is a former idealist embittered by trauma, just like Sansa. (There’s a reason Sandor got his face burned for playing with a toy knight.) Just like his fellow Kingsguard Jaime, Sandor sees himself as a truth-teller, who sees past the illusion of chivalry meant to put a kindly face on a warrior hierarchy founded on the threat and use of violence against civilians. In death, Sandor argues, knights are no different from commoners, and women and children are no more sacred then men. But in that last line, we see the lie – at his core, Sandor is a scared little boy trying to make himself strong enough and tough enough that he can stand up against his big brother, which makes his actions in Eddard VII a rather significant test for the younger Clegane. We can see that in Sandor’s outlandishly violent behavior as he puts a sword to Sansa’s throat as if intimidating an unarmed thirteen year old is proof that he’s a badass.
At the same time, Sandor is definitely Sansa’s vector into the battle itself, and what kind of thinking is necessary to make someone choose to leave the walls of King’s Landing and enter into the hell outside. But I’m getting ahead of myself; first yet another red-haired Stark woman has to listen to a Lannister swordsman describe his Niezschean philosophy, another way in which Sansa resembles her mother:
…”Tell me, little bird, what kind of god makes a monster like the Imp, or a halfwit like Lady Tanda’s daughter? If there are gods, they made sheep so wolves could eat mutton, and they made the weak for the strong to play with.”
“True knights protect the weak.”
He snorted. “There are no true knights, no more than there are gods. If you can’t protect yourself, die and get out of the way of those who can. Sharp steel and strong arms rule this world, don’t ever believe any different.”
Sansa backed away from him. “You’re awful.”
“I’m honest. It’s the world that’s awful.”
As I’ve already mentioned, Sandor’s posture is largely a defense gesture – if he simply acts cynical and pessimistic enough, he’ll never be disappointed. But there is something more genuine to Sandor’s Knight in Sour Armor arguments about the non-existence of the gods and social Darwinism and true knighthood (and for Sandor those three things are inextricably linked), something that rings a bit more true than in Jaime’s case. It’s the only way that Sandor can really make sense of what’s happened to him, why he was abused and why the world rewarded Gregor instead of punishing him, and it gives Sandor a model of how he can exert control over his environment.
But as I’ll discuss in more detail in Sansa VII and beyond, for all that Sandor protests, it is notable that the moment he breaks, the moment this simplistic model no longer functions for him, he begins to turn back to the tropes of knighthood – rescuing fair maidens locked away in towers, engaging in duels with knights errant, returning lost children to their mother – albeit in his own snarling misanthropic way. And as I’ll discuss in the future, a big part of the reason why Sansa’s movement fizzles out is because just as Dontos is ultimately too weak to be the knight she needs, Sandor is too wild.
The Seal of Womanhood
The most vivid way that Sansa’s personal story intersect with the battle is the arrival of her period, as Cersei will remark in the next chapter. Beyond that rather banal comparison, Sansa makes a more interesting martial analogy:
But as she crouched there, on her hands and knees, understanding came. “No, please,” Sansa whimpered, “please, no.” She didn’t want this happening to her, not now, not here, not now, not now, not now, not now.
Madness took hold of her. Pulling herself up by the bedpost, she went to the basin and washed between her legs, scrubbing away all the stickiness. By the time she was done, the water was pink with blood. When her maidservants saw it they would know. Then she remembered the bedclothes. She rushed back to the bed and stared in horror at the dark red stain and the tale it told. All she could think was that she had to get rid of it, or else they’d see. She couldn’t let them see, or they’d marry her to Joffrey and make her lay with him.
Snatching up her knife, Sansa hacked at the sheet, cutting out the stain. If they ask me about the hole, what will I say? Tears ran down her face. She pulled the torn sheet from the bed, and the stained blanket as well. I’ll have to burn them. She balled up the evidence, stuffed it in the fireplace, drenched it in oil from her bedside lamp, and lit it afire. Then she realized that the blood had soaked through the sheet into the featherbed, so she bundled that up as well, but it was big and cumbersome, hard to move. Sansa could get only half of it into the fire. She was on her knees, struggling to shove the mattress into the flames as thick grey smoke eddied around her and filled the room, when the door burst open and she heard her maid gasp.
In the end it took three of them to pull her away. And it was all for nothing. The bedclothes were burnt, but by the time they carried her off her thighs were bloody again. It was as if her own body had betrayed her to Joffrey, unfurling a banner of Lannister crimson for all the world to see.
That last phrase suggests something of Sansa’s original character arc as described in the Ur-Text. Both there and here, Sansa’s reproductive system threatens to rob her of agency and identity, as it has for so many women in Westeros’ patriarchal society, making her take the side of the Lannisters through marriage or motherhood against her will. And Sansa’s immediate reaction is one of frenzied, desperate rebellion, suggesting both her desire to remain true to herself at all odds (there’s something in the way she continues to feed the mattress into the fire that suggests a sublimated suicidal impulse) and a delayed reaction to the trauma that Joffrey and the King’s Landing mob have already inflicted on her.
Oddly, this moment prompts Cersei into one of her few moments of kindness and one of her only moments of gender-based solidarity, as she takes on the position of Sansa’s absent mother:
…Sansa lowered her head. “The blood frightened me…”
Queen Cersei laughed. “Wait until you birth a child, Sansa. A woman’s life is nine parts mess to one part magic, you’ll learn that soon enough…and the parts that look like magic often turn out to be messiest of all.” She took a sip of milk. “So now you are a woman. Do you have the least idea of what that means?”
“It means that I am now fit to be wedded and bedded,” said Sansa, “and to bear children for the king.”
The queen gave a wry smile. “A prospect that no longer entices you as it once did, I can see. I will not fault you for that. Joffrey has always been difficult…Joffrey will show you no such devotion, I fear. You could thank your sister for that, if she weren’t dead. He’s never been able to forget that day on the Trident…you may never love the king, but you’ll love his children…Robert wanted to be loved. My brother Tyrion has the same disease. Do you want to be loved, Sansa?”
“Everyone wants to be loved.”
“I see flowering hasn’t made you any brighter,” said Cersei. “Sansa, permit me to share a bit of womanly wisdom with you on this very special day. Love is poison. A sweet poison, yes, but it will kill you all the same.”
This is as close as Cersei will ever go to admitting that her son is an abusive misogynist who has replicated and then intensified the worst aspects of her own marriage with King Robert. But because Cersei is Cersei, calling Sansa an idiot and telling her that love is poison is as close as she can get to being a nice person. And for her, the two things are linked – as I’ve said, Cersei’s relationship with Sansa modulates depending on how much she fears Sansa at any given time. Asserting that Sansa is stupid – which Sansa is happy to go along with to avoid saying that she’d rather die than sleep with Joffrey – is a way to reassure herself that Sansa is no threat.
And as we’ll see in the next Sansa chapter, the prophecy will continue to dominate Cersei’s behavior.
The rule that Sansa talks about in this chapter – that a city or castle that fights to the last will be given no quarter, whereas a city that surrenders would be spared – was a real practice of warfare from ancient times through the Napoleonic era. Due to the high casualty rate that came from assaulting a city or a castle, especially for the “forlorn hope” that was selected to go first through the breach and establish a foothold, it was generally understood that those men who survived would be free to do whatever they wanted to the civilian population. Hence the scene in Henry V where Harry threatens the elders of Harfleur with the dire consequences of resistance:
Indeed, as I’ve talked about on Tumblr, it was generally understood that it was almost impossible for a general to prevent his army from committing massacres in the event of a successful assault, because of a combination of the intense desire for loot (most soldiers weren’t paid very much in regular wages and a common soldier could make themselves rich with a good find), the easy availability of liquor (one of the first targets for looting), and the way in which city streets and the many rooms of castles made it easy to avoid culpability and difficult to impose the chain of command on the army. Even a generals as feared and respected as Sir Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, found it impossible to control his army following the successful assault on Badajoz, leading to the death of thousands of civilians at the hands of a “pack of hell hounds vomited up from infernal regions for the extirpation of mankind.”
So the danger that Tyrion has placed King’s Landing in is very real indeed.
There’s not really a hypothetical in this chapter, because it’s not really a chapter where decisions get made. However, if I’m really really stretching the boundaries of this section, I do want to explore what happens if Sansa escapes before the Battle of Blackwater. Let’s say that, through some chain of events, Sansa gets access to a ship (because if you give Sansa a horse to get out of the capitol, the devastation and chaos in the Riverlands is between her and safety and chances are she’s going to die horribly like Arya almost did), where does she go?
Geography and the Ironborn mean that the west coast is out, so she could really only go to places accessible on the east coast. Winterfell is out. Riverrun is a possibility but it also means going through the Riverlands and would probably have landed Sansa a seat next to Jeyne Westerling for the second siege of Riverrun, and that’s the best case case (worst case is the Red Wedding). White Harbor is really the only safe…harbor in the North, but that would probably mean that White Harbor becomes target #1 for the Boltons.
Book vs. Show:
As people who made it to the end of Season 5 know, the showrunners of HBO’s Game of Thrones don’t have a good bead on Sansa’s storyline. And one of the first signs that things weren’t quite right was how the show handled the relationship between Sansa and Sandor – starting with Season 1 having Littlefinger tell Sandor’s origin story.
In Season 2, the confusing thing was that it wasn’t that the show missed plot points – Sandor still spoke up for Sansa at Joffrey’s nameday tourney, gave her his cloak when Joffrey had her beaten, saved her at the riot, talked to her before the battle, and showed up in her apartment afterwards. Rather, the problem tended to be one of theme and time – Sandor’s conversation with Sansa in this chapter happens, but it’s cut short in favor of another scene between her and Tyrion, and doesn’t address Sansa’s running theme of knighthood.
In fact, I think Sandor spent more time with Arya than Sansa, which is bizarre when you compare to the books.