Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Sansa VII, ACOK

“It was not the song of Florian and Jonquil, but it was a song.”

Synopsis: Sansa has to clean up Cersei’s mess, deal with Sandor Clegane, and gets some surprising news from Ser Dontos.

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.

Political Analysis:

And so the Battle of Blackwater draws to a close with Sansa VII, which picks up almost exactly where Sansa VI left off and sees the culmination both of the battle and Sansa’s main arc in ACOK. (Yes, Sansa has another chapter after this, but that’s mostly because Tyrion is out of commission and George R.R Martin needs a camera to cover the new regime in King’s Landing) And in retrospect, I almost wish that Sansa V, Sansa VI, and this chapter were back-to-back a la Dany’s novellas, because the parallels between the chapters are quite fascination.

Cersei’s Götterdämmerung

We open with the result of Cersei’s orders in Sansa VI, and how it links to the last battlefield update that she gets (as I’ll discuss in Book vs. Show, we don’t get to see either Cersei’s moment of murder-suicidal despair in the throne room or her reaction to her father’s entrance):

When Ser Lancel Lannister told the queen that the battle was lost, she turned her empty wine cup in her hands and said, “Tell my brother, ser.” Her voice was distant, as if the news were of no great interest to her.

“Your brother’s likely dead.” Ser Lancel’s surcoat was soaked with the blood seeping out under his arm. When he had arrived in the hall, the sight of him had made some of the guests scream. “He was on the bridge of boats when it broke apart, we think. Ser Mandon’s likely gone as well, and no one can find the Hound. Gods be damned, Cersei, why did you have them fetch Joffrey back to the castle? The gold cloaks are throwing down their spears and running, hundreds of them. When they saw the king leaving, they lost all heart. The whole Blackwater’s awash with wrecks and fire and corpses, but we could have held if—”

Osney Kettleblack pushed past him. “There’s fighting on both sides of the river now, Y’Grace. It may be that some of Stannis’s lords are fighting each other, no one’s sure, it’s all confused over there. The Hound’s gone, no one knows where, and Ser Balon’s fallen back inside the city. The riverside’s theirs. They’re ramming at the King’s Gate again, and Ser Lancel’s right, your men are deserting the walls and killing their own officers. There’s mobs at the Iron Gate and the Gate of the Gods fighting to get out, and Flea Bottom’s one great drunken riot.”

Gods be good, Sansa thought, it is happening, Joffrey’s lost his head and so have I. She looked for Ser Ilyn, but the King’s Justice was not to be seen. I can feel him, though. He’s close, I’ll not escape him, he’ll have my head.

As in Tyrion XIV, we have a case when the Battle of Blackwater is being won and lost at the same time. Even as the Tyrell vanguard is crushing Stannis’ main host on the southern bank, his forces on the northern bank are dominating, despite having been crushed by Tyrion’s charge. Is this the panicking goldcloaks making up a resurgent enemy that doesn’t exist? Was Tyrion acting as an unreliable narrator who’s charge was less successful than he thought? Or did a second wave of landing crafts get across the river? It’s impossible to say with the fog of war pervading the battlefield, along with the smoke and screaming. However, it does seem clear that Tywin’s thrust on the northern bank lagged behind the Tyrells – possibly as a deliberate strategy to ensure that the northern bank wouldn’t be reinforced, possibly as Tywin wanting to make the Tyrells do as much of the fighting as possible, and possibly he’s just a bit slower.

Regardless of which is the case, for the moment the north bank is a disaster that is entirely Cersei’s doing. It’s a prime example of contingency and individual agency driving the battle rather than purely structural concerns – for the want of the want of an order, a battle was almost lost. And yet, despite the sheer scale of the chaos that she has unleashed, Cersei seems completely disconnected from the outcome of the battle, caring for literally nothing but her son:

“Bring him inside Maegor’s now.”

“No!” Lancel was so angry he forgot to keep his voice down. Heads turned toward them as he shouted, “We’ll have the Mud Gate all over again. Let him stay where he is, he’s the king—”

“He’s my son.” Cersei Lannister rose to her feet. “You claim to be a Lannister as well, cousin, prove it. Osfryd, why are you standing there? Now means today.”

Osfryd Kettleblack hurried from the hall, his brother with him. Many of the guests were rushing out as well. Some of the women were weeping, some praying. Others simply remained at the tables and called for more wine. “Cersei,” Ser Lancel pleaded, “if we lose the castle, Joffrey will be killed in any case, you know that. Let him stay, I’ll keep him by me, I swear—”

“Get out of my way.” Cersei slammed her open palm into his wound. Ser Lancel cried out in pain and almost fainted as the queen swept from the room. She spared Sansa not so much as a glance. She’s forgotten me. Ser Ilyn will kill me and she won’t even think about it.

As I said in Sansa V, there is something incredibly ironic about the fact that Cersei, who sees herself as an iron-willed queen superior to the feminine women around her, is absolutely losing her nerve. As Lancel points out, Cersei’s orders don’t even make much sense if your only objective was Joffrey’s physical safety. And while Cersei tries to justify her actions with an appeal to the Lannister family above all else, her violence against Lancel (which will end up just on the safe side of kinslaying) refutes that argument entirely. Cersei cares neither for House Lannister’s interests nor for its persons, all that matters is Joffrey.

But let us also recognize in this moment the minor tragedy that is the life of Lancel Lannister. Here is a child-man who’s spent his entire life taking orders, whether as a Lannister stooge at court, Cersei’s choice for kingslayer, Cersei’s substitute lover, or Tyrion’s double agent. He never really had a chance to think for himself and grow up a little. And now, for the very first time that Lancel ever stands up and speaks truth to power, he gets slapped right back down and nearly dies because of it. It’s a brutal subversion of the usual bildungsroman arc. Control over one’s self and one’s environment, a sense of self-actualization – these are things that only main characters get, and most of us are mere bit players. Lancel comes face to face with Adventure and is broken by his experiences. Far from the beef-necked, glassy-eyed crusader of Season 5, the Lancel of AFFC is a a walking corpse who cannot muster interest in his own life, thinking only of a glorious death in service of the Seven and a surcease from pain.

Sansa In Charge

With poor Lancel writhing in pain on the floor and Cersei in a state of complete disassociation, it is Sansa who steps into the breach and takes charge of the situation, keeping her head when it is most in danger:

“Oh, gods,” an old woman wailed. “We’re lost, the battle’s lost, she’s running.” Several children were crying. They can smell the fear. Sansa found herself alone on the dais. Should she stay here, or run after the queen and plead for her life?

She never knew why she got to her feet, but she did. “Don’t be afraid,” she told them loudly. “The queen has raised the drawbridge. This is the safest place in the city. There’s thick walls, the moat, the spikes…”

…Sansa raised her hands for quiet. “Joffrey’s come back to the castle. He’s not hurt. They’re still fighting, that’s all I know, they’re fighting bravely. The queen will be back soon.” The last was a lie, but she had to soothe them. She noticed the fools standing under the galley. “Moon Boy, make us laugh.”

Moon Boy did a cartwheel, and vaulted on top of a table. He grabbed up four wine cups and began to juggle them. Every so often one of them would come down and smash him in the head. A few nervous laughs echoed through the hall. Sansa went to Ser Lancel and knelt beside him. His wound was bleeding afresh where the queen had struck him. “Madness,” he gasped. “Gods, the Imp was right, was right…”

“Help him,” Sansa commanded two of the serving men. One just looked at her and ran, flagon and all. Other servants were leaving the hall as well, but she could not help that. Together, Sansa and the serving man got the wounded knight back on his feet. “Take him to Maester Frenken.” Lancel was one of them, yet somehow she still could not bring herself to wish him dead. I am soft and weak and stupid, just as Joffrey says. I should be killing him, not helping him.

It is instructive that in this moment, Sansa shows an astonishing strength of character, but a strength that comes from caring for others rather than seeking to dominate them. Whether its appealing to reason or providing a comforting lie, arranging for distracting entertainment, or getting Lancel medical attention by sheer force of personality, Sansa is every inch the medieval lady conducting a siege defense, a role that Cersei is incapable of playing. But as much as Sansa has internalized the verbal abuse of her captors, believing that “I am soft and weak and stupid, just as Joffrey says,” there is a greater strength that comes in refusing to let ones captors change you for the worse, in refusing to give into the violence. When Shakespeare wrote that —

The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
It is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself. 

(Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I)

— he didn’t exactly have Sansa in mind (nor is the speech as nice as it might seem on the surface), but I think it still fits. Moreover, the kind of “hard” strength that Sansa thinks she ought to have in this moment wouldn’t do her any good in what’s coming next.

A Conversation About Violence With Sandor Clegane, Part II

After Sansa manages to get away from the Queen’s Ballroom and to her room (which, given that Ilyn Payne doesn’t seem to have cared where Sansa was that night, does make one question how solid Cersei’s murder-suicide plan was), she is suddenly confronted by Sandor Clegane:

Sansa opened her mouth to scream, but another hand clamped down over her face, smothering her. His fingers were rough and callused, and sticky with blood. “Little bird. I knew you’d come.” The voice was a drunken rasp.

Outside, a swirling lance of jade light spit at the stars, filling the room with green glare. She saw him for a moment, all black and green, the blood on his face dark as tar, his eyes glowing like a dog’s in the sudden glare. Then the light faded and he was only a hulking darkness in a stained white cloak.

“If you scream I’ll kill you. Believe that.” He took his hand from her mouth. Her breath was coming ragged. The Hound had a flagon of wine on her bedside table. He took a long pull. “Don’t you want to ask who’s winning the battle, little bird?”

“Who?” she said, too frightened to defy him.

The Hound laughed. “I only know who’s lost. Me.”

He is drunker than I’ve ever seen him. He was sleeping in my bed. What does he want here? “What have you lost?”

“All.” The burnt half of his face was a mask of dried blood.

As I suggested back in Sansa IV, Sandor’s posture as a violence-loving truth-telling nihilist has completely broken down in the face of the wildfire. What becomes clearer here is the extent of the loss, that Sandor perceives his loss of identity as total. All he has left is his face – hence the repeated imagery of blood, as if the wound that has characterized his entire life has been remade fresh, or that Sandor has been transported back to the moment of his mutilation. At the same time, the confusion of what remains once that adult persona has been stripped away is suggested by the emphasis on masks, which usually symbolize secrets and hidden identities, and dualities (black and green, representing the Battle of Blackwater, fading into the stark contrast between black and white). At the moment, therefore, the question is as much “who” as “where”:

“Bloody dwarf. Should have killed him. Years ago…Dead? No. Bugger that. I don’t want him dead.” He cast the empty flagon aside. “I want him burned. If the gods are good, they’ll burn him, but I won’t be here to see. I’m going.”

“Going?” She tried to wriggle free, but his grasp was iron.

“The little bird repeats whatever she hears. Going, yes.”

“Where will you go?”

“Away from here. Away from the fires. Go out the Iron Gate, I suppose. North somewhere, anywhere.”

“You won’t get out,” Sansa said. “The queen’s closed up Maegor’s, and the city gates are shut as well.”

“Not to me. I have the white cloak. And I have this.” He patted the pommel of his sword. “The man who tries to stop me is a dead man. Unless he’s on fire.” He laughed bitterly.

As we’ll see throughout this dialogue (and I apologize for the bouncing around between topics, but it’s a hard choice between discussing this thematically and losing all sense of the actual conversation, or going through it chronologically and covering the same thing repeatedly), Sandor grounds his sense of self-worth and his utility to Sansa on his ability to kill. But as he’s discovered in the wake of the Battle of Blackwater, this is a foundation built on sand – even the greatest swordsman has to keep looking over his shoulder for some young bravo looking to build a reputation on his blood and waiting for the day that his reflexes and his strength fall just short, and not even Arthur Dayne with Dawn could do a damn thing about wildfire.

So Sandor needs a new identity, a new way to live – and this brings us to why Sandor wants to go North:

“Why did you come here?”

“You promised me a song, little bird. Have you forgotten?”

She didn’t know what he meant. She couldn’t sing for him now, here, with the sky a-swirl with fire and men dying in their hundreds and their thousands. “I can’t,” she said. “Let me go, you’re scaring me.”

“Everything scares you. Look at me. Look at me.”

The blood masked the worst of his scars, but his eyes were white and wide and terrifying. The burnt corner of his mouth twitched and twitched again. Sansa could smell him; a stink of sweat and sour wine and stale vomit, and over it all the reek of blood, blood, blood.

“I could keep you safe,” he rasped. “They’re all afraid of me. No one would hurt you again, or I’d kill them.”

As someone not particularly gifted with introspection, Sandor goes with the one part of his life experience that he can still trust, namely being a sworn sword and bodyguard. The major change he offers here is to shift from being Joffrey’s bodyguard to being Sansa’s. With Sansa as his ward, Sandor can go North both geographically and politically, defecting to King Robb’s service much in the same way that he’ll plan to do with Arya in ASOS. At the same time, Sansa’s supposed weakness (“everything scares you“) allows him to rebuild his self-image as someone who inspires fear (rather than feel it, which you can practically smell under the wine and the vomit) in the cause of protecting the fearful.

At the same time though, the fact that he’s contemplating guarding a lady raises some connotations that weren’t around with his previous client (as far as we know). As much as Sandor’s “little bird” motif was originally meant as part putdown and part survival strategy, the flipside of that is a particularly poorly articulated attraction to both Sansa and the whole chivalric romance tradition that comes out in an unusually violent fashion:

He yanked her closer, and for a moment she thought he meant to kiss her. He was too strong to fight. She closed her eyes, wanting it to be over, but nothing happened. “Still can’t bear to look, can you?” she heard him say. He gave her arm a hard wrench, pulling her around and shoving her down onto the bed. “I’ll have that song. Florian and Jonquil, you said.” His dagger was out, poised at her throat. “Sing, little bird. Sing for your little life.”

Her throat was dry and tight with fear, and every song she had ever known had fled from her mind. Please don’t kill me, she wanted to scream, please don’t. She could feel him twisting the point, pushing it into her throat, and she almost closed her eyes again, but then she remembered. It was not the song of Florian and Jonquil, but it was a song. Her voice sounded small and thin and tremulous in her ears.

Gentle Mother, font of mercy, save our sons from war, we pray, stay the swords and stay the
arrows, let them know a better day. Gentle Mother, strength of women, help our daughters
through this fray, soothe the wrath and tame the fury, teach us all a kinder way.

She had forgotten the other verses. When her voice trailed off, she feared he might kill her, but after a moment the Hound took the blade from her throat, never speaking.

Some instinct made her lift her hand and cup his cheek with her fingers. The room was too dark for her to see him, but she could feel the stickiness of the blood, and a wetness that was not blood. “Little bird,” he said once more, his voice raw and harsh as steel on stone. Then he rose from the bed. Sansa heard cloth ripping, followed by the softer sound of retreating footsteps.

When she crawled out of bed, long moments later, she was alone. She found his cloak on the floor, twisted up tight, the white wool stained by blood and fire. The sky outside was darker by then, with only a few pale green ghosts dancing against the stars. A chill wind was blowing, banging the shutters. Sansa was cold. She shook out the torn cloak and huddled beneath it on the floor, shivering.

As we’ve seen before, the Florian and Jonquil myth is GRRM’s take on the unlikely knight who wins the love of a lady by overcoming initial distrust or mockery – think Don Quixote and Dulcinea, or Gawain and the cursed hag/lady, or Gareth Beaumains whose kitchen boy disguise initially wins him the disdain of the lady Lynette. But as with Sansa’s story throughout the series, GRRM is doing a bit of subversion here. Sandor is simultaneously Sansa’s would-be rescuer and would-be attacker – once again putting his Freudian symbolic threat of both violence and rape against her throat. Far from being safely controlled, his trauma-driven violent side is spilling out from inside and will direct itself against Sansa as easily as against anyone else. In other words, GRRM is calling out the whole chivalric romance tradition as a poorly functioning cultural script intended to prevent (or gloss over) abduction and rape; in the real world, there’s very little distinguishing the knightly protector from the bandit.

Because GRRM in spite of all that remains a Romantic, he doesn’t leave it there. Sansa’s salvation in this instance isn’t a hero with a sword, but the same human decency and bravery that she showed back in the Queen’s Ballroom, once again refracted through the lens of maternalist religion. That same instinct, to look inside the violent person and minister to the hurt within, defeats Sandor in a way that even Brienne of Tarth could never have managed, calling him back to his better self – thus why he leaves Sansa with a symbol of purity and protection. And this too is a Romantic trope – the idea that someone’s essential purity and goodness could gentle the wrathful and soothe the savage heart is the central driving idea of Beauty and the Beast, for crying out loud!

The Battle of Blackwater: The Final Act

And just when you think you have your feet under you when it comes to the whole theme of knightly romance and the horrors of war, GRRM throws you another curveball as Sansa’s other Florian arrives to end the Battle of Blackwater:

“It’s done! Done! Done! The city is saved. Lord Stannis is dead, Lord Stannis is fled, no one knows, no one cares, his host is broken, the danger’s done. Slaughtered, scattered, or gone over, they say. Oh, the bright banners! The banners, Jonquil, the banners! Do you have any wine? We ought to drink to this day, yes. It means you’re safe, don’t you see?”

“Tell me what’s happened!” Sansa shook him.

Ser Dontos laughed and hopped from one leg to the other, almost falling. “They came up through the ashes while the river was burning. The river, Stannis was neck deep in the river, and they took him from the rear. Oh, to be a knight again, to have been part of it! His own men hardly fought, they say. Some ran but more bent the knee and went over, shouting for Lord Renly! What must Stannis have thought when he heard that? I had it from Osney Kettleblack who had it from Ser Osmund, but Ser Balon’s back now and his men say the same, and the gold cloaks as well. We’re delivered, sweetling! They came up the roseroad and along the riverbank, through all the fields Stannis had burned, the ashes puffing up around their boots and turning all their armor grey, but oh! the banners must have been bright, the golden rose and golden lion and all the others, the Marbrand tree and the Rowan, Tarly’s huntsman and Redwyne’s grapes and Lady Oakheart’s leaf. All the westermen, all the power of Highgarden and Casterly Rock! Lord Tywin himself had their right wing on the north side of the river, with Randyll Tarly commanding the center and Mace Tyrell the left, but the vanguard won the fight. They plunged through Stannis like a lance through a pumpkin, every man of them howling like some demon in steel. And do you know who led the vanguard? Do you? Do you? Do you?”

“Robb?” It was too much to be hoped, but…

“It was Lord Renly! Lord Renly in his green armor, with the fires shimmering off his golden antlers! Lord Renly with his tall spear in his hand! They say he killed Ser Guyard Morrigen himself in single combat, and a dozen other great knights as well. It was Renly, it was Renly, it was Renly! Oh! the banners, darling Sansa! Oh! to be a knight!”

In place of war as elemental chaos, we get war as romance. Let’s not mince words here; the heroic last-minute charge of the Tyrells led by the ghost of Renly himself is a giant honking Deus Ex Machina. It’s implausible, unrealistic, seemingly out of tune with the rest of ASOIAF, and yet GRRM writes it so beautifully that the reader can’t help but get carried away by the moment. Hell, if even Ser Dontos, who has every reason to reject the whole knightly superstructure in favor of the reality of cold-blooded espionage he lives in, can’t stop himself from wanting to be a knight again, what chance do the rest of us have?

And yet…re-readers know that, behind the surface, this victory is not due to Renly’s ghost as much as the Reach cavalry (who appear after being mysteriously absent at Storm’s End) and a political deal struck at Bitterbridge and Tumbler’s Falls tinged with distrust and conspiracy to murder. Tactically, there’s not much to talk about – the Tyrell cavalry hits Stannis’ flank from an unexpected direction and rolls up the line, their task being made easier by the fact that ~8,000 of Stannis’ forces turn against him the moment the attack lands. At the same time, though, we can see the impact of Renly’s ghost as a kind of weaponized chivalric romance. And this gives a slightly different perspective to the Tyrells from what we saw in Catelyn II; rather than just being the knights of summer, there is an intelligence within House Tyrell that sees the knightly code as a set of symbolic tools that they can use to enhance the glorious image and the very real political power of Highgarden. If you think about it this way, it’s a great introduction to the conspiratorial style of House Tyrell, which will be such a major influence in Sansa’s storyline in A Storm of Swords.

Historical Analysis:

When I left off last time, seemingly both sides had lost during the first assault on Constantinople. But when the smoke from the fires that had consumed a huge chunk of the city had cleared, the Emperor Alexios III had fled the city and the former Emperor Isaac II – who had been blinded and imprisoned for almost a decade, and whose overthrow had been the supposed justification for the Crusaders’ intervention – was returned to the throne, the Crusaders refused to leave. They insisted that Alexios Angelos (the one who had made all of those lovely promises back at Venice and Corfu) be crowned emperor, so that they could get paid.

The Byzantine court agreed, and father and son were crowned as co-emperors. Which is about when the new Alexios IV realized he couldn’t actually afford to pay what he had promised. It took confiscating the wealth of the Orthodox Church to pay off the 85,000 marks that the Crusaders owed to the Venetians, a step that infuriated the faithful of Constantinople, and Alexios IV had also promised to supply the Crusader Army in its drive to retake the Holy Land via an invasion of Egypt, which would cost far more. So instead, Alexios IV and the Crusaders raided Thrace (despite it being Byzantine territory) to find the necessary gold.

In the absence of the new emperor, the Byzantine citizens of Constantinople rioted against the Latins (i.e, Italian merchants) who they blamed for the downfall of their city. The Latins fled across the Golden Horn to the Crusader Camp and returned with support from the remaining Crusader garrison, torching a mosque that had been built in the city. Unfortunately, the blaze spread rapidly and grew to five times the size of the fire that had driven Alexios III out of the city. Now 100,000 people were homeless and proved eager converts to the nationalist arguments of Alexios Doukas, a nobleman who had been thrown in prison for attempting to overthrow Alexios III and who now saw a way into power.

When Alexios IV returned to Constantinople from his Thracian campaign, he found a city that hated him for bringing the Crusaders and where Alexios Doukas was the people’s favorite. Almost against his will, Alexios IV ceased payments to the Crusaders in December of 1203 and began preparing the city for another siege.  Under the decidely unofficial command of Alexios Doukas, the Byzantines reinforced the towers on the Golden Horn Walls with wooden extensions, “so that they had no dread of the ladders or ships of the Venetians.” And once again, the Byzantines turned to the fire ships that had won the day during the Persian and Arab sieges, sending their fleet across under cover of knight to try to burn the Venetian navy at anchor. When the tactic failed, Alexios IV was blamed for warned the enemy ahead of time, and riots in the streets forced him out of power (and into prison, where he was eventually strangled) and raised Alexios Doukas, now Alexios V, to the purple.

After a winter of inconclusive besieging, since the Crusaders were not strong enough to prevent food and reinforcements from arriving in the city and the Byzantines weren’t strong enough to drive them out, the Crusaders and the Venetians drew up a formal agreement to conquer the city and divide the Byzantine Empire among them.

In April of 1204, the second major assault on the city began – once again, the Venetian navy took to the water to shield the horse transports packed with knights, and the Crusaders landed on the south bank of the Golden Horn only to find themselves coming under heavy artillery fire from the Byzantines. This time prepared for the Venetian tactic of attacking from the masts, the Byzantines defeated the assault handily: “both the ships carrying the scaling ladders and the dromons transporting the horses were repulsed from the walls they had attacked without success, and many were killed by the stones thrown from the City’s engines.”

The Crusaders regrouped, and this time the Venetians had lashed two ships, named the Pilgrim and the Paradise, together, so that they could support a raised assault ramp. And onto that ramp strode the knight Peter of Amiens – our reverse mirror-image parallel to the Hound. Charging over the ramp, Pierre and his men grabbed control of a single tower and managed to knock a hole in a bricked-up postern gate, which was nonetheless defended by many Byzantines. Momentarily halted by the bottleneck and the fierce resistance of the defenders, the Crusaders wavered. And in that critical moment:

“A knight by the name of Peter entered through the gate situated there. He was deemed most capable of driving in rout all the battalions, for he was nearly nine fathoms tall [a poetic exaggeration taken from the ancient Greek Odyssey] and wore on his head a helmet fashioned in the shape of a towered city [a flat-topped great helm]. The noblemen about the emperor and the rest of the troops were unable to gaze upon the front of the helm of a single knight so terrible in form and spectacular in size and took to their customary flight as the efficacious medicine of salvation.”

The huge knight and the breaching of the Golden Horn walls had broken the will of the defenders, and now the city was open. Boniface of Monferrat rode to seize the Boukelon Palace and Baldwin of Flanders the Blachernae Palace. After a failed attempt to counter-attack led his army to rout, Alexios V fled the city. Three days of murder and pillage followed, and one-sixth of the city was in ashes – indeed, most historians argue that the sack of Constantinople in 1204 did far more damage than the city’s capture by the Ottomans in 1453 (in no small part because the Ottomans were intent on keeping the city as their capitol).

A word on the outcome. As might have been suggested by their wild ride to capture the palaces, Boniface and Baldwin fought over which of them would be crowned the new Latin Emperor – Boniface arguing that he had been the one to make the alliance with Alexios Angelos, and Baldwin on account that he had done the majority of the fighting. With Venetian support, Baldwin was named Emperor and Boniface was bought off with Thessaly. In return, Doge Enrico Dandelo managed to grab all of Byzantium’s island colonies in the Adriatic and the Black Sea, giving Venice dominance over the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea trades.

Howver, in their greed and ambition, the Crusaders had forgotten that the Empire they had carved among themselves had people living in it. When the Crusaders attempted to subdue their new territory, the Bulgars moved against them – the new King of Thessaly Boniface was ambushed in 1207 and his head sent to the Bulgar Tsar; the Emperor Baldwin was captured by the Bulgars outside of Adrianople and eventually executed, with his skull turned into the Tsar’s favorite drinking cup. Innocent III saw his Crusade founder without ever setting foot on Egyptian soil. Only the wily Venetians prospered, secure on their islands behind the wooden walls of their fleet.

But before I leave you, the story of Renly’s ghost leading the charge has too good a historical parallel not to mention.  Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar is better known to history as El Cid, the Castillian knight who became a symbol of the Reconquista despite having frequently fought for Muslim rulers and leading both Christians and Muslims in battle and governance. Famously, El Cid was leading the defense of Valencia from the Almoravids when he died. His wife Jimena ordered that his corpse be dressed in his armor and lashed to his horse to lead a final cavalry charge against the besiegers.

What If?

Once again, there’s only one hypothetical in this chapter:

  • Sansa leaves with Sandor? Even  with the totally logical caveat that it wasn’t really a great idea for Sansa to run off with a mentally unstable drunk who keeps putting edged weapons to her throat, it remains to be seen whether leaving at this moment would be that good. Giving the timing of their escape, and that Sandor was planning to head north, it’s quite likely that their path would have taken them straight through Duskendale right as Roose Bolton sends 3,000 Northmen to sack the town, or as Randyll Tarly is sent to ambush the Northern infantry.
  • Regardless of whether they managed to survive that battle, it’s most likely that they would have intersected with Roose Bolton before making contact with Rob Stark, which would not be good for Sansa’s long-term health and safety even with Sandor as her bodyguard. And sadly, even if Sandor had managed to get Sansa through to her brother in hope of a reward as in OTL, the odds are most likely that Sansa would have wound up either another victim of the Red Wedding or besieged in Riverrun along with Jeyne Westerling.

To that end, it could be argued that staying in King’s Landing so that she could be extracted to the Vale might well have been Sansa’s best out, at least after the Tyrell plan was scotched. More on that in ASOS.

Book vs. Show:

As I’ve said before, earlier decisions to cut scenes between Sansa and Sandor made this scene in Season 2, Episode 9 have a very different subtext in comparison to the book version. For one thing, Rory McCann plays the scene as a quiet, defeated man, which makes Sansa refusing his offer to take her to Winterfell – something he never says explicitly in the book – less explicable, given that there’s no knife to her throat.

Yes, the moment where Sansa bears up under his argument that “the world is built by killers,” and recognizes that Sandor won’t hurt her is good, but it’s an oddly transposed moment that bears more of a similarity to Sansa IV than it does to this moment. And it’s certainly not the same kind of catharsis that we get here, especially given the decision to have Sandor leave and the camera cut almost immediately.

In what otherwise is a perfect episode, it’s a lost opportunity.

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139 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Sansa VII, ACOK

  1. Steven Xue says:

    Wow this has been a great read as always. You know I’ve always found it rather strange for Sansa to think of Robb when Dontos asked her to guess who was leading the vangard of the army that just turned up in defense of the city. Seriously did she actually believe that Robb had suddenly changed sides and was now fighting for the Lannisters?

    Oh and by the way your historical parallel of El Cid’s corpse leading the Valencans fits in better with Cleon the Butcher. I guess you’ll be bringing him up again when you get to Dance (in a few years time).

    • Sean C. says:

      As she herself said, “it was too much to be hoped”.

    • I don’t think she thought he was fighting for the Lannisters. Maybe that he was attacking both Stannis and the Lannisters.

      I’ll bring him up again, but Renly’s ghost is pretty damn close, no?

    • Space Oddity says:

      The tale of El Cid’s corpse is alas, a good example of fauxlore–no, not only didn’t it happen, but it didn’t even happen in Spanish legend for a long time. It seems to have originated in a story about how El Cid’s corpse was brought to the monastery that it now rests in on horseback, and have been popularized by the Charlton Heston movie.

      That stated, that scene is awesome beyond words.

      And with that said, I’m surprised Steven didn’t mention Patroclus, an even better fit…

  2. Keith B says:

    Cersei’s indifference to people outside her immediate family parallels Jaime’s. When Catelyn told him that Stafford Lannister had been killed at Oxcross, he said he was only interested in his father and siblings.

    Wasn’t it Littlefinger who suggested the use of Renly’s armor rather than the Tyrells?

    • Winnief says:

      It may have been Baelish. Also I’d like to note in retrospect the awesomeness that this sets up of Mel encouraging Stannis to engage in blood magic and kin-slaying to avert her vision of Renly smashing his army in KL…only to have it happen another way. Oh prophecy, is a slippery bitch all right, and I have a nasty feeling that if/when Shireen burns in the books it will be because of another fundamental misunderstanding on Mel’s part.

      • Keith B says:

        Loras gives Littlefinger the credit in ASOS: “Lord Littlefinger suggested it. He said it would frighten Stannis’s ignorant men-at-arms.”

        If Stannis, or Jon Snow, or anyone else who dealt with Melisandre had the slightest notion of critical inquiry, they would have demanded that she tell them exactly what she saw in her visions, how she interpreted them, and how they compared to the results. Thus they could have gained an understanding of the risks and limitations of her prophecies. As it is, they might as well ignore her, because depending on her is as likely to hurt them as help them. Game of Thrones and the Methods of Rationality, anyone?

        • Grant says:

          Stannis and Jon don’t blindly trust every word she says, and Jon does want details and evidence of her prophecies before he starts to put faith in them in ADWD.

          And having read parts of it, I don’t think we want to emulate the Methods of Rationality.

          • Keith B says:

            Yeah, I couldn’t get through it, either.

            Stannis and Jon are skeptical, but they need to be more systematic about their skepticism. As it is, they can only accept or reject what she says, they can’t evaluate it.

  3. Winnief says:

    If as you say the changes with the Sansa/Sandor scene were a missed opportunity, since Martin wrote this episode for once we’d have to blame him rather than D&D. I remember reading that Martin was always annoyed at all the San/San shippers out there and I suspect he was thus deliberately toning down that whole dynamic for the show to avoid it. JMHO.

    Otherwise that was an absolutely brilliant takedown of one of my favorite chapters in the whole series and the way it examines how strength and bravery can be rooted in compassion rather than cruelty. It’s also a crucial part of Sansa’s characterization and the contrast between her and Cersei in Maegor’s holdfast is so stark and powerful that I can’t help but feel it MUST have further thematic/plot significance and is indeed a BIG part of why I believe Sansa to be the YMBQ. I know you think differently Steve and that’s ok. Agree to disagree and I imagine Season Six, will help provide some more evidence one way or another on that one.

    I found the moment with Lancel especially intriguing-there’s a bit in ASOS where Tyrion notes how Sansa addresses Kevan and Lancel warmly and they both beam at her-I imagine Lancel informed his dad about Sansa’s kindness to him. Conversely I’m sure hearing about Cersei’s behavior is one of the reasons for Kevan’s hostility towards her later in AFFC.

    And let me say for the record that Sophie and Lena just *killed* it!

    • True, but there’s also an element of previous decisions – if you don’t have the setup for Sandor and Sansa, pulling it out in 2×9 would come off really weird.

    • Andrew says:

      Well the difference between Cersei and Sansa is Cersei acts tough but she proves to be weak in this scene while Sansa believes herself to be weak yet shows admirable strength in this scene.

      I would go so far as to say Sansa is Cersei’s foil.

    • No. GRRM never said he was annoyed with SanSan shippers. It’s really annoying that this myth, borne out of a misquote/blatant misrepresentation of an interview that’s easily found on Youtube, with a big dose of wishful thinking by some fans who project their own feelings onto GRRM, keeps being perpetrated in the fandom. Sadly, no amount of linking to the actual video and writing down transcripts of it for anyone too lazy to watch it has been able to put a stop to it.

      What GRRM said is that he’s surprised by how many people have responded to SanSan, even though he admits that he has “played with it” in his books. This is not an exact quote, but you can look for “George RR Martin on San San” on Youtube.

      Since he similarly said he was surprised that some people have figured out some of the clues in his books he thought subtle (which was probably a reference to R+L=J), I guess maybe we should also conclude that he’s really annoyed with R+L=J, even though he wrote it himself. Or maybe he just thought he was subtler with his clues, whether with that or with SanSan, than he really is, and more people pick up on it.

      And no, since D&D were the ones who gutted the Sansa/Sandor dynamic and both character’s development and screentime in season 2, as well as in season 1, you should definitely blame them, not GRRM. The Blackwater scene was one of the few actual scenes with dialogue and substance between the two. Of course it couldn’t have been the same as in the books, as that wouldn’t have made sense with their changed dynamic (or lack of it) in the show. Not to mention, there was more that GRRM says he wrote for the episode, such as Sansa actually singing a song to Sandor, but D&D decided to cut it. They are the ones with the final word on all episodes.

  4. Sean C. says:

    There’s an interesting recurring motif with a lot of Sansa’s bolder acts, that being, Sansa herself seems to have no idea why she does them. Whether claiming “she never knew why she got to her feet” here, or in the Alayne I chapter in TWOW where she ascribes her probing Corbray to “some demon of mischief”. Despite having such an internalized arc in many respects, she’s one of the least-introspective characters. I don’t know if her self-conception (mixed with the conception others force on her) means she doesn’t really attribute boldness to herself, or whatever else it might be. She also, I note, doesn’t ever really give herself credit for things like her moral-rallying stunt here (though given that she’s ultimately just helping the Lannisters, perhaps that’s not something she’d feel overly proud of anyway).

    In the “what if” realm, a Sansa who was returned to the Starks would either have been left behind with Jeyne Westerling (which would have radically changed the political situation after the Red Wedding, since there’d be a Northern political figurehead out in the open; she’d at least have the Blackfish looking out for her) or she’d have been the bride at the Red Wedding instead of Edmure (though having just gotten her back, I suspect Catelyn, especially, would have been ferociously opposed to marrying her off that quickly). Though that has its own implications for the future, particularly for the alliance between the Freys and the Boltons. Arya probably gets back to the Starks in this AU too, without the Hound to interfere with the Brotherhood’s possession of her.

    The much less pleasant “what if” (not that the above scenario was sunshine and roses anyway) for this chapter would be if Sandor, drunk and probably in the midst of a PTSD episode, actually did kill her. Obviously, in that scenario, her story’s over, but Sandor almost certainly tries to commit suicide by cop once he realizes what he’s done (either after sobering up or immediately afterward). Which would be interesting, depending on who he decided to try to take with him. Also, as with the above, Arya makes it home, though she’d, like Sansa, either end up a titular queen or a Frey hostage.

    The scene in the show just doesn’t work, I’m afraid. It’s a case of something that exists only because something vaguely like this existed in the book, but without any of the story that led up to it. I know that Sophie, when asked why Sansa stayed, argued that it was because Sansa didn’t trust him — but if that’s the case, why is the whole scene structured to lead up to her looking the Hound in the eye and acknowledging that he won’t hurt her? Now, obviously, there’s a ways between “you won’t hurt me” and “it’s therefore a good idea to go with you”, but in literary terms it feels like a declaration of trust, when the outcome of the scene necessitates otherwise. “I trust you a bit, but not that much” is kind of a limp noodle. Also not helped by the fact that the Hound in the show is fairly placid and doesn’t come across as unstable or unreliable (even apart from the fact that he makes an offer that he never actually made in the book). But again, all of that was baked in by the time GRRM got to writing this scene in the show; even if he’d been allowed, writing him like the book Hound at this point would have seemed jarringly out of character.

    • David Hunt says:

      ” Obviously, in that scenario, her story’s over, but Sandor almost certainly tries to commit suicide by cop once he realizes what he’s done (either after sobering up or immediately afterward). Which would be interesting, depending on who he decided to try to take with him.”

      Sean, if there’s any way that he can arrange it, there’s only one candidate for such an effort by the Hound: his brother. Gregor would be his biggest piece of outstanding business at that point. Plus, either he kills Gregor, which he dearly wants to, or he gets the death that he’d be seeking. Win/win, for certain values of “win.”

    • Captain Splendid says:

      All of Sansa’s “bold” moments stem from the same source her perceived weaknesses also come from: Her love of stories. After all, the heroes in the stories always stand up for the weak, put themselves in the path of danger, etc.

    • thatrabidpotato says:

      I would put forward that a third option becomes available if either Sansa or Arya makes it to Riverrun, Robb, and Catelyn and is the heir apparent: send them to Greywater Watch in place of the will in OTL. It’s in keeping with Robb’s strategy of dividing his treasure: Jeyne at Riverrun, sister at Greywater, mom at Seagard.

      • Sean C. says:

        On that score, actually, if Catelyn got one or both of the girls back I’m dubious she would have voluntarily separated from them. So she may miss the Red Wedding too, if the girls don’t go.

        • thatrabidpotato says:

          So we would then have the new Queen in the North and her mother sitting in the crannogs with hostile forces camping on either end waiting for them to come out (Robb would certainly have told Roose if he’d asked where Cat was, he’d see no reason not to trust him.)

          It’d be a very odd situation. The Northmen definitely won’t rise for Stannis if everyone knows there is a viable and free Stark heir out there, but how far will they and the Rivermen go in that situation?

  5. Keith B says:

    [If Sansa had left with the Hound] it’s quite likely that their path would have taken them straight through Duskendale…

    Not likely. Sandor is pretty smart about some things, and as Joffrey’s sworn sword he would have overheard enough to know he should stay far away from Roose Bolton. Most likely he would have cut straight across the Riverlands to Riverrun.

    “Sansa would have wound up either another victim of the Red Wedding…”

    Nah. There’s no way the Freys would have allowed her to be killed. In fact, it may have led to an immediate break between the Freys and the Boltons, as Walder trumped Roose’s Arya with his Sansa.

    • Sean C. says:

      What would he have overheard that would make him stay away from Roose Bolton? I doubt he’d know much of anything about the Boltons.

      • Keith B says:

        Sandor was at court for a long time before and after Joffrey became King. The various lords of the realm and their reputations, both before and after they became enemies, would have been a constant subject of discussion. He would have heard plenty.

        • Sean C. says:

          I doubt there’d have been much discussion about Roose, who few people at court would ever have met, and who was extremely remote (like much else about the North). And Roose really doesn’t have that sort of reputation (“a peaceful land, a quiet people”), otherwise he’d never have been given his command or kept it as he did.

          • Keith B says:

            At the least, people would know that he wanted to kill Ser Barristan after the Battle of the Trident, and that he was now allied with Vargo Hoat. They would know about his sigil, and about the leeches. That’s more than enough to stay away from him. However quiet he is, his reputation would get out. Someone always talks.

          • Sean C. says:

            Except that his reputation hasn’t gotten out. He’s given the #2 command in Robb’s army and other lords (Glover, Tallhart, etc.) follow his often questionable orders without question. And they know him far better than the Hound does. There’s no reason to think the Hound would know much about him or be suspicious of him, when to date he’s acted as an apparently loyal if erratically successful subordinate to Robb.

            To the reader Roose comes across like a villain caricature, sig and all, but he is not perceived that way in-universe.

          • Keith B says:

            The Brotherhood without Banners seems to know about his unsavory character. How did they find out? How did they know about the leeches, for example? it seems his reputation has gotten out.

            Glover and Tallhart followed his orders because he was their commanding officer and they had no idea that he had sent word to Tywin to set up an ambush. They knew what kind of person he was. As Robb said, “that man scares me.” But they didn’t know he was a traitor.

            There are only a couple of hundred important lords in Westeros, and they’re all very well aware of each other. It’s like a small village. Word gets around.

          • Ian G. says:

            I think this is exactly right. Never mind King’s Landing, Jon tells us that NED “had never had cause to complain of the lord of the Dreadfort.” Ned! If the Stark lord who made a point of knowing what was going on both throughout his retinue and with all of his bannermen didn’t know how warped Roose was, I think there’s no chance at all for someone from the South.

            And look, all of the things we see that mark him out as the villain could very easily be benign. He uses leeches? So he’s a health nut – weird, but not evil. He speaks softly? Again, so what? His sigil is gruesome? Absolutely, but it’s not like he picked it. And it is not a wild outlier – look at the Baneforts, the Manwoodys and the Trants.

            About the only two things you can point to are his advocating the murder of Selmy, and his generally cold demeanour. Selmy, if it is well known, is something that would give him a bad reputation – but first, we don’t really know how well known it is, and second as someone else said he likely wasn’t alone. The demeanour thing…well, look at this in context. Northerners generally seem to have a reputation as wild savages in the south; I’m not sure Roose’s chilliness is going to stand out against a backdrop of Karstarks and Umbers. Indeed, Roose is notable for being one of the more etiquette obsessed people in the series – he’ll murder you without a second thought, but he WILL get the right title for you. This is obviously the form of good manners rather than their substance – but it easily might fool someone who didn’t know him.

            All of this is to say that Roose Bolton likely has no independent reputation at all to even a southerner as well connected as Sandor Clegane. No doubt Sandor would want to go directly to Robb with Sansa in the AU where she leaves with him, but that’s just a matter of getting the best deal – he’d do the same if Robett Glover were in command at Harrenhal.

        • rewenzo says:

          Isn’t it specifically stated that Roose Bolton’s modus operandi is a “a quiet people, a quiet land?” Bolton does all he can to make sure his cruel nature does not get out. Which is why Ramsay annoys him so much.

          When the war starts, the Boltons have been loyal to the Starks for what, a 1000 years? Ned, Catelyn, and Robb, who are much more familiar with Roose than KL would be, have no reason to distrust him, although they find him unsettling in person. Sandor’s never met him, as far as I know – unless they met briefly in King’s Landing when Ned Stark rolled up with his northmen.

          • Keith B says:

            Jaime certainly knew that Bolton was the Starks’ chief rival in the North. He put him in the same class as the Reynes and Tarbecks in the West, and the Florents in the Reach. Even though Westeros is a big place, there are few enough important lords that they all know each other at least by reputation, and everyone who’s well-connected, like Sandor, knows all about them. It’s what people are interested in, it’s what they care about, it’s what they talk about.

          • rewenzo says:

            This is more of a comment on the institution of the Boltons, as questionably the number two House in the North, rather than some suspicion of Roose himself. The insight that “Lords Paramount have slightly lesser great houses that envy their place” isn’t a particularly useful one. It’s too general. If you couldn’t assume that a Lord Paramount could more or less rely on his powerful bannermen not to murder his immediate family members then Westeros wouldn’t really work. The Tyrells could never use the Florents, the Arryns could never use the Royces, the Martells could never use the Yronwoods, etc.

            Again, the problem you have here is that it would be pretty weird for Sandor Clegane or Jaime Lannister in King’s Landing to have a better idea of Roose Bolton’s treasonous goals than the people who actually interact with him, especially when the most unnerving things about Roose Bolton only come across upon personal exposure to him. So far as I know, nobody remarks on Bolton’s creepiness until they meet him. E.g., Arya is suspicious of him in a way that she isn’t of Robbett Glover, but only after she meets Roose.

          • Keith B says:

            It’s not necessary to assume that he’s a traitor. The fact that he’s a Stark rival who “env[vies] their place” is a tip-off that he’s likely to have his own agenda, which does not have Sansa’s best interests at heart, and that he won’t be kind to any protector of Sansa’s, especially one who’s a known enemy and deserter. And unfavorable information about the Boltons isn’t such a huge secret. The Brotherhood knows something about it, Ser Barristan knows, and Sandor was at Winterfell and presumably had contacts with knights, men at arms, and others who knew about all the Northern lords, including Roose. And why ever should Sandor want to go through Duskendale anyway? If he wants to get Sansa to safety, her brother is at the other end of the Trident.

          • rewenzo says:

            All lords have their own agenda. This information alone, even if known to Sandor, doesn’t help him.

            What are you referring to with the Brotherhood?

            Regarding Barristan, I think you’re referring to Roose urging Robert and Ned to kill him. I don’t think this would be a particularly telling episode – lots of lords probably agreed with Roose. To the extent this shows Roose is kill-happy, that also doesn’t distinguish him from a lot of lords, or give Sandor the notion that Roose would be anything less than loyal to his King and not murder or hold Robb’s sister hostage.

          • Keith B says:

            Roose Bolton wouldn’t murder Sansa Stark. That was never the danger. What he would do is use her for his own purposes, which aren’t necessarily what’s best for her. Also, there’s more at stake for Sandor than Sansa’s well-being. Given what’s known about Roose’s cruel nature, and the fact that he’s allied with Vargo Hoat, why wouldn’t he just kill Sandor and do whatever he wanted with Sansa?

            I can’t remember everything about the Brotherhood from ASOS, but when they encounter Arya they know about the flayed man sigil, they know about the leeches, and when they attack some of Vargo Hoat’s men they let one escape to carry back a warning to both Vargo and Roose. So information about Roose Bolton is available.

          • Crystal says:

            Keith: I surmise that if Roose got his hands on Sansa, he’d marry her himself. Either he doesn’t marry Fat Walda, or the latter mysteriously chokes on a piece of pie or something, leaving Roose free to remarry. “Woohoo, I’m King in the North!” he would be thinking. Not good for poor Sansa, though better than being given to Ramsay (in that Roose wouldn’t brutalize her as openly, because that’s Bad for Business) – still a miserable fate though.

          • Keith B says:

            Crystal: I think he had already married Fat Walda before he took Harrenhal. That was the only time he had the opportunity. My guess is that he’d want to marry Sansa to Ramsay. But Roose’s real plans are a mystery. It may be that he regards Fake Arya as a temporary expedient who will be exposed eventually. In that case, he might indeed have wanted the real Sansa for himself.

          • David Hunt says:

            Keith, my personal opinion as to Roose’s plan for Jeyne Poole is that she is going to bear Ramsay a “Stark” heir to Winterfell if she can live that long. After that, Ramsay is going to be put down. Whether Roose does this covertly or openly executes him depends on how openly horrible Ramsay has been. Whichever way works best to achieve “a peaceful land, a quiet people.”

            He will then see about living as long as he can to raise up the this Stark child and his own son by Fat Walda in an attempt to not leave behind a child lord. I’m sure he meant it when he told Theon that child lords were problematic, but I think he was outright lying when he told Theon that he was sanguine about Ramsay killing his other children. He told Theon that because he knew it would get back to Ramsay and put at ease so he wouldn’t see the knife coming. No child lord can be as bad as Ramsay.

          • DLG says:

            I think this lets Robb and especially Catelyn (as Robb’s chief political adviser at the beginning of the War of Five Kings) off too easily for poor political judgment in giving Roose such an important and autonomous command, That Roose hasn’t been openly troublesome during a time of stability in the North when the Starks are led by a personal favorite of the king, is hardly a guarantee that he would be trustworthy when the Starks are vulnerable.

            Then there’s the explicitly anti-Stark symbolism. The fact the flayed skins still hanging in the Bolton hall are Starks creates a direct link from the flayed man banner to defiance of the Starks. Yes Roose inherited the skins and the banner, but retaining them is a choice with strong political implications. (Compare the recent controversy over the Confederate battle flag for example.)

    • winnief says:

      In fact that might put Walder in conflict not only with the Boltons but with Tywin as well who is NOT gonna feel like giving up half of the Realm to a damn Frey instead of grabbing Sansa for himself.

      • Keith B says:

        Agreed. It would be too late to take Sansa away from them, but he’d definitely take steps to make sure they didn’t gain too much power in the Trident as well as in the North. it might be that he would think twice about granting Riverrun to Emmon Frey, for a start.

    • He’s pretty smart, but Sandor couldn’t have known that Roose Bolton was sending men to Duskendale because the orders haven’t been given yet.

      You say that, but the Freys weren’t supposed to kill Catelyn.

      • Sean C. says:

        Sure, but Catelyn grabbed a knife and killed some dude, which would be fairly unlikely for Sansa.

        In any event, if Sansa was at the Twins it would almost certainly have been as the bride, so she’d have been captured the same way Edmure was.

      • winnief says:

        True but Cat wasn’t prime marriage material with a claim to Winterfell. In fact if the Freys had killed Sansa as well they’d be in for a world of hurt from Tywin for losing him his best chance to control the North.

        In related news I found it more than a little amusing in AFFC that the Freys were surprised that Jaime demanded that they surrender their most valuable prisoners to him and Emmon’s shock that Baelish was LP of the Riverlands not him. If they *had* tried to keep Sansa for themselves I have no doubt the Lannisters would have laid down the law there as well.

        And if worst case scenario Sansa does die during the RW then that’s going to have all kinds of ripples. It certainly is the death knell for LF’s grand scheme and seven knows what else. (Especially if she IS the YMBQ…but even if she isn’t Martin has something big planned for her I can smell it.)

        Also without Sansa the events of the PW are going to play out quite differently-Tyrion might never have been set up as the fall guy at all and that would butterfly away everything in his arc post his arrest and trial.

        • Crystal says:

          If the Freys had kept Sansa, they’d be either revealed to be in cahoots with the Lannisters (because Tywin would demand Sansa back posthaste) or earn the wrath of the Lannisters and not their allegiance (if they released her to Robb and she’s either at Riverrun or back north). It would be very bad for the Freys either way, but especially if they were openly quislings earlier in the timeline. If Robb was killed, Edmure captured (as in OTL) and Sansa sent back to KL having witnessed these events, she’d be a tragic heroine in the eyes of the North and the Riverlands, *and* still alive as a rallying point.

      • Keith B says:

        True, he couldn’t have known that Duskendale wasn’t safe, but where does he go from there? In order to get to Robb, he needs to head west at some point, and from Duskendale he’d need to pass through the vicinity of Harrenhal. Bolton was at Harrenhal and Vargo Hoat was foraging for him, which is plenty dangerous enough.

        It was a mistake to kill Catelyn, since she may have had some small value as a hostage and Lysa Arryn might have ransomed her. But, as others have pointed out, Sansa, as heir to Winterfell, was far more important. Walder Frey would have made certain that she wasn’t harmed.

        • winnief says:

          Exactly. Look how eager the Frey’s were to go carpet bagging in ADWD.

          Again though that’s gonna start a three way battle between the Frey’s, Boltons, and Lannister’s for custody of the heir to WF. I’d put my money on the Lions but anything could happen.

          Of course whatever happened the North wasn’t gonna let itself be ‘stolen’. That’s what none if the RW conspirators understood-that the North WOULD remember.

          • Ian G. says:

            You know, I don’t think this is quite right. I think Roose Bolton knew full well he’d have his hands full – he took the gamble that he could see off the loyalists anyway.

            And yes, we know this is going to work out badly for him. That said, it took the totally unexpected presence of Stannis Baratheon to bring things to a head this quickly – without Stannis coming north, there’s a very real chance that the Boltons defeat the loyalists, at least until Roose dies himself. I can’t imagine Ramsay holding on to anything. Of course, if the Boltons beat the Manderlys et al in a purely Northern civil war, maybe Ramsay falls down some stairs and a son of Fat Walda’s inherits…

            This is not to defend murderous treason. With that said, if you’re a Bolton (or an Yronwood or a Royce or a Reyne or a…) and you actually want to turn the tables on the ruling family, you’re going to have to run some risks. Roose’s were probably more reasonable than most.

          • Space Oddity says:

            Why do people keep putting the Royces alongside the Boltons, Yronwoods and Reynes? Looking at the history, it seems pretty clear that the Royces are some of the Arryns’ biggest backers in an interesting case of “Defeat Means Friendship”. It’s the Graftons who are powerful scheming so-sos. (And to an extremely lesser extent the Sunderlands, though they really seem to be more of a petty annoyance than anything else.)

          • Ian G. says:

            My point in putting the Royces in is merely to take houses that are clear number twos in their regions that might, under the right (or wrong, depending on your point of view) leader seek to rise to the top spot. Every region has one, except maybe the Stormlands and Riverlands – the Iron Islands and Reach seem to have more than one each, and the Harlaws, Redwynes and Hightowers are similarly plot-free to the Royces.

          • Space Oddity says:

            The Royces actively support the Arryns however, with the Graftons seeming to occupy the ‘shifty git bannerman’ position in the Vale. So, the comparisons with the Boltons, and even moreso, the Reynes and Yronwoods seem a bit much.

            And I recommend checking your history as regards the Hightowers. If the Dance and First Blackfyre Rebellion are any indication, they plot, they just like to be subtle about it. And aren’t aiming for the top spot in the Reach, just in making the top spot in the Reach meaningless.

      • Space Oddity says:

        Regarding Cat’s death–I think people underestimate something, which is that Walder has him a mad hate-on for the late Hoster Tully, which is a big reason the Red Wedding goes down like it does…

        • Wat Barleycorn says:

          Agree. Petty personal rivalries should not be under-rated as a political force. And nope, death of one of the players is no guarantee that the rivalry has ended. Not in the least.

          • Space Oddity says:

            Yep. I don’t think it was a coincidence that Cat wound up dead, and Edmure wound up imprisoned in the most humiliating manner possible, while also giving Walder a chance to control the Tully heir. In the Lord of the Twins’ eyes, revenge for totally deserved slights is best sort of revenge at all.

    • Grant says:

      If you mean Tywin’s alliance with Roose, Joffrey would have never known about that. If you mean Roose’s reputation, it really doesn’t exist that much, especially in the south. So far as anyone can say, Roose is a relatively loyal bannerman of Robb Stark. The fact that Robb was willing to let him have independent command would suggest to most that Robb himself considers Roose loyal, something we know was a mistake but could hardly be expected of Sandor.

  6. Sean C. says:

    Oh, and I almost forgot:

    (Yes, Sansa has another chapter after this, but that’s mostly because Tyrion is out of commission and George R.R Martin needs a camera to cover the new regime in King’s Landing)

    I don’t agree with that. The dissolution of Sansa’s betrothal next chapter, ridding her of something that had been hanging over her all through the book, is a pretty big deal for the character; so is the news of the date being set for her planned escape (again, something that she’s been anxiously awaiting word on since her second chapter) and the teaser introduction of everybody’s favourite hair accessory. None of those things could have been adequately covered in a Tyrion chapter (well, maybe the first).

    • winnief says:

      Good points all. Plus having Sansa as the one in observance was part of her arc of political education. …one of the show’s most grievous blunders.

    • It’s still pretty weak beer. I feel the same way about it that I do about Dany’s next chapter, which I’ve always felt was more of a first chapter than a last chapter.

      • thatrabidpotato says:

        Really? I think Dany V is the best chapter she gets in this book, and firmly concludes her Qarth arc while setting her up for the next.
        Maybe I’m just easily satisfied.

  7. Andrew says:

    Glad you got this one done.

    1. Like you said, Cersei is very short-sighted with not much of a head for long-term thinking. Oda Nobunaga left to face an army of 25,000 with 3,000 or less, knowing that he was dead anyway if he let the enemy forces besiege his castle, and better to take a gamble wait for a most certain defeat. Joffrey is dead anyway if the Red Keep falls, so they might as well let him stay on the walls.

    2. “One of the guards knocked into her on a stair. A jeweled wine cup and a pair of silver candlesticks spilled out of the crimson cloak he’d wrapped them in”

    One of the redcloaks, Cersei’s personal guard, is looting when things seem to be going bad. It demonstrates how little loyalty the Lannisters, especially Cersei, seem to inspire in those who follow them, possibly excluding Tyrion and Jaime.

    3. Just before she bumps into Sandor she thinks of her late direwolf, Lady, who would have been her protector. I think this adds further to Sandor-as-protector.

    4. “Lancel was one of them, yet somehow she still could not bring herself to wish him dead.”

    Ironically, Sansa seems to be showing Lancel more care and sympathy than his cousins.

    • thatrabidpotato says:

      “Ironically, Sansa seems to be showing Lancel more care and sympathy than his cousins.”
      Not ironic at all. Being associated with the Lannisters is bad for your health.

    • Crystal says:

      Poor Lancel – the prevailing mentality among Tywin and his children is pretty tepid towards him. He was way out of his depth in King’s Landing, more even than Ned, because Lancel really didn’t have much in the way of innate intelligence or ability.

      Sansa showed Lancel kindness when he had never been kind to her, and I wonder if that was the beginning of his journey toward religion and penitence.

      Good catch about the redcloak looting stuff from the castle! There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of loyalty to the Lannisters as a family, unlike the Starks or Arryns. Tywin kept people in line with fear. His father couldn’t inspire respect OR loyalty. Tywin thought he was shoring up the family legacy, but, as we can see with his children and eldest grandchild, his methods were rotting it from the inside, and the chickens are starting to come home to roost. (I can’t wait until Steven does the Tyrion chapter with Tywin chastisting Joffrey; Tyrion notes he actually appears agitated afterward.)

      • winnief says:

        I know Crystal that was one of my favorite moments of the series. At the peak of his power, basking in triumph and suddenly Tywin is forced to face the fact that his grandson and centerpiece of his legacy, the Great Lannister King for whom he’s killed tens of thousands and violated damn near every taboo is a psychotic child in the bent of Aerys II not only utterly unfit for a crown but almost certainly incapable of holding it. Its a moment for schadenfreude to be sure.

        I also suspect that Martin is setting up Sansa’s mercy to make it possible for SOME Lannister’s to reconcile with Team Stark like Tyrion dor sure and Jaime. (Its not gonna happen with Cersei for obvious reasons.)

        • Andrew says:

          And that psycho learned it from his mother who in turn learned from Tywin himself. It all traces back to him.

          Jaime did call Sansa “my last chance at honor” so I think he will meet her again, and likely help her out of a tight spot. When Cersei sends him a letter asking for help, he tosses it into the fire, and resumes his mission in the riverlands. However, when Brienne tells him Sansa is nearby, he leaves his party and his mission to go help her. I think it is clear Jaime, if given the choice between Cersei and Sansa, would help Sansa escape in the event if she is recaptured.

      • John Galvano says:

        Poor Lancel indeed. He almost succeeded in being a hero but instead he is broken. I forgot how authoritative he is for one brief, shining moment.

      • Andrew says:

        I think when it comes to comparing Lannister loyalty compared to the Starks, Tyrion gives a good explanation: “The Starks look for courage and loyalty and honor in the men they choose to serve them, and if truth be told, you and Chiggen were lowborn scum.”

        The Starks have standards for their followers; people they know they can rely on when they find themselves backed against a wall. The Lannisters usually just buy loyalty from their men. When backed against a wall, as Brown Ben Plumm said, sellswords value gold and silver, but that means nothing when compared to their lives.

      • Space Oddity says:

        Actually, Tytos does seemed to inspire loyalty among SOME of his bannermen, even if said loyalty was frequently mixed with a desire to slap their hands to their foreheads and groan at his latest bungle.

        So yeah, in the long run, Tywin has been worse for House Lannister than his own father.

  8. John W says:

    What if The Hound rapes Sansa and then leaves her? Assuming the rape is discovered, would this change her value for Littlefinger or the Tyrells? Would Tywin still have married her off to Tyrion?

    • Grant says:

      I don’t think so. After Robb’s death, Sansa is the only (known) Stark in the world with all the potential hold on the North that implies. I suspect that both families would really be in a rush to get their hands on her, even if she was ‘damaged goods’. Of course there would be some trickiness about any pregnancy, any child of hers born in the next nine months or so could be claimed to be a bastard of Sandor’s so Tyrion or Willas would need to wait on the marriage and bedding until after a pregnant woman would start showing signs (perhaps six months to be sure).

      And given Tywin’s need to control the North and his dislike for his son, I don’t think Tyrion’s bride being raped would have been a reason not to.

  9. Karl says:

    I feel like you missed an important what-if here . . . what if Cersei killed Lancel with that punch?

    • thatrabidpotato says:

      Kevan is definitely actively opposed to her from Day 1 as soon as he finds out.

      • Crystal says:

        Agreed – Kevan would NOT be a happy camper, to say the least, and might influence Tywin to have her packed off to Casterly Rock. (I wonder if killing a cousin, even by accident, would count as a kinslaying?)

        • winnief says:

          I think in Westeros it would still be considered kin slaying all right and yeah it would put Cersei in an even worse position with her father in ASOS.

          Of course the story of her killing off Lancel would also make Tywin a LOT more sceptical of her attempts to slander Tyrion and claim credit for defending the city.

          But if Lancel dies who’s gonna spill their guts to the FM or Jaime?!?

          • Grant says:

            They probably have generally accepted exceptions to accidental deaths, such as if you’re holding your brother on your shoulders but you slip and he breaks his neck on the fall. In Cersei’s case though, Lancel was clearly injured and she showed no concern for him after she caused him a very obvious injury. So even though they couldn’t argue she deliberately tried to kill him, she definitely is going to have the reputation of kin-slayer and everything that comes with it.

  10. Crystal says:

    I’m reminded of Ned’s words to Bran way back in Chapter 1 of AGOT – the only time a man can be brave is when he is afraid. In this case, substitute “woman” (or “young girl”)! Sansa is terrified, as well she might be, but she pulls herself together to reassure the women in the room and get Lancel to a maester. And then she’s confronted by a large, drunk, scary man who *holds a knife to her throat* and she manages to sing him a song instead of wetting the bed or fainting. Sansa is damn brave here, especially considering she’s twelve. This is one of my favorite Sansa chapters because it shows how brave and queenly she is. People will be singing songs of how the actual queen got drunk, ran out, and left them to be reassured by a tween!

    I think Andrew is right when he noted that Sansa is Cersei’s foil. I would love to see Sansa as the YMBQ, though the possibility is that it’s Dany, or that there is no actual YMBQ but Cersei hoist herself on her own petard with her paranoia. But Sansa as the YMBQ would give the most satisfaction because of her and Cersei’s character arcs.

    One can see how Ned and Cat instilled noblesse oblige in their children, whereas Tywin did absolutely no such thing – the smallfolk and even lesser lords were scum. Ned’s legacy is people willing to die for the Stark name and his “little girl,” but who is going to stick their neck out for Tywin’s little girl? Nobody.

    • winnief says:

      That is precisely why I consider Sansa to be the logical choice as the YMBQ. She not only has the most personal history (by far!) With Cersei but Martin has written them as foils to one another as well. In fact in AFFC you see some of that too with the careful observations of “Alayne” and Cersei’s hilarious obliviousness. As many have noted the irony alone would be worth it.

      Still it *could* still be Dany. I suppose.

      And I would argue that ‘rising above fear’ is what has made Kit’s last 2 seasons so badass because his performance makes clear that he is (rightly!) Often terrified in the face of what he’s up against but he will damn well stand and fight anyway. Compare to all the fake machismo and strutting out there and its even more impressive.

      • Andrew says:

        I dunno, my immediate objection was why send her to the North then? But then the show is not the best place to look for logical plot progression.

        THough TBH I also think all the political intrigues will be *much* less important than people think they are as winter sets in and the Dragons and Others come. Suffice to say that the next two (three?) books will have a lot of Euron, Dany, Bran, Jon, Arya etc. getting their magic mojo going and Varys and Littlefinger and the like won’t be in much position to fight this.

        The fear aspect is certainly a good one. I did like the scene with Robb in season 1 where he admits to Theon that he was afraid… also reminded of all the times everyone, from Sam to Arya to Tyrion have been terrified and ultimately overcome those fears. Again, Ned’s words to Bran come to mind.

        • winnief says:

          Whatever Sansa’s ultimate fate I think D&D wanted her up North for the following reasons

          A. As you say the politics are becoming less and less relevant and so they’re shifting the focus from KL to the North where the REAL game is coming.

          B. They want to set up a meeting with Sansa and Jon. I have my theories why but we’ll see and in any event they’re understandably anxious to finally have some Stark reunions.

          C. They didn’t want to use additional screentime or the expense of Vale scenes and putting Sansa in the Jeyne Poole role economized on all that.

          Why they EVER thought having Sansa raped by Ramsay would be a good idea especially after the hell they caught for the Sept scene…well your guess is as good as mine

          • Chinoiserie says:

            I feel Sansa’s plot in the books is tied to Aegon and since he was removed Sansa’s plot was mostly gone. So the show has now replaced her plot with Stannis’s. Yes, I believe she will be rallying Northern lords and sieging Winterfell in season 6, Jon arrives later with the wildlings.

            Additionally I feel that the show runners felt that replacing Jayne with Sansa would make us care more and that something horrible happening to Sansa would give her symphony from the people who still disliked her.

          • Keith B says:

            For those who weren’t happy with what the show did with Sansa in Season 5, I wonder what they think it should have done instead? Leave in Jeyne Poole? Take out Theon? Do the Vale plot as Martin wrote it? At least the show is trying to put the major characters into the heart of the action.

        • @Um, how about sticking to the books?!

          Heart of the action?! If by “action” you mean “being repeatedly raped and beaten”. I can’t think of any other action that was happening at Winterhell. There sure were no politics, no Nothern lords, no Freys, no murder mystery, no spearwives to the rescue, no clansmen willing to fight for “Ned’s Little Girl”, no Pink Letter, no heart tree, no real Theon character development, barely any Roose Bolton, and definitely no logic or point to any of it.

          What other character did they put in the “heart of the action”? Brienne maybe, with her “standing in front of the castle just looking at the window for an entire season” ‘plot’? Jamie with his dumb shenanigans in Dorne – so much better than dealing with the aftermath of the Red Wedding, right?

          Although maybe they should have had Jaime raped by some Dornish, Tyrion raped by the Ironborn (replacing Maester Kerwin, because “that was a plot with Victarion we loved in the books! Do we introduce a new character, or do we use one of our leading men we adore?”), and Bran could travel to King’s Landing to marry Cersei “for revenge!!!” and get a “hilarious” sex scene with her a la Marge and Tommen, because “there was just one more Bran chapter, we didn’t know what to do with him this season, and his storyline is boring anyway!” Jon could, in the meantime, decide to defeat the White Walkers by marrying the Night’s King (the Marriage Strike that always works!) and having a “traumatic” wedding night scene… because he is a “hardened man making a choice”!

          • This was a reply to Keith B, of course.

          • Keith B says:

            “Sticking to the books” means adding a lot more characters. In the show, Jeyne Poole was an unknown actress who appeared in one scene at the beginning of Season 1. You can’t do the book’s Vale plot without Harold Hardyng. If you bring him into the show, people will wonder who he is and why they should care. And that’s just the beginning. If you stick to the books, you need much more time and many more scenes. The first of the books was published 20 years ago, and the characters are about three years older. Book characters only get older when the author wants them to. Real actors don’t have that luxury. So if sticking to the books is your solution, I don’t think it’s practical. Try again.

          • No. Sticking to the books means respecting the characterizations, arcs and themes of the books. Sticking to the books means not completely changing the characterizations and making main characters the opposite of what they are in the books, not making their arcs the thematic opposites of what their book arcs are, not making the Dornish a bunch of sexist racist stereotypes about evil brown women who like to kill little girls after you’ve said pre-season you’re adapting Dorne because you share their values, it means not turning Loras into a gay stereotype, Tyrion into a completely unrealistic Gary Stu, Sam into a dudebro, Brienne into a thug, and Sansa into the Interchangeable Female Unit you can use for any crap you think of at the moment, it means not turning every character into a stereotype, it means not making Dany a damsel in distress in the Daznak Pit and completely changing the meaning of what happened there, it means not changing male characters’ storylines to give them pointless action scenes instead of actual political stories and character development, and not changing women’s storylines from political arcs and character development into a meaningless series of events where they act in a nonsensical manner (like marrying Ramsay Bolton?!) so they can be raped and brutalized for SHOCKS (men get to be stereotypical action heroes, but what else do you do with a female character who doesn’t fight with weapons but get her raped?) while not even remotely being able or intending to seriously treat rape as subject and its effect on the victim, it means not making characters act like insane idiots with inexplicable motivations just so you can get a major female character raped by a psycho or have a little girl burned by her father because you really hate him, it means not making Ramsay Bolton the protagonist of the Northern storyline, super-warrior and the apex of a love triangle (?!), it means not making up your own stupid crap because you think you’re better writers than GRRM and that you can “fix” his storylines, while you’re actually below average writers with only the most superficial understanding of books.

            “But they couldn’t have introduced Jeyne Poole! Too many characters!” is a really poor defense, especially considering the fact that they had no problems introducing such ‘amazing’ original characters as Myranda, Olly, Olyvar, and giving them a crapload of screentime. They introduced a completely new character in Hardhome and viewers liked her, but supposedly they can’t make people care about an innocent young girl being raped and abused, if she hasn’t been on the show since season 1. That’s utter BS. They wanted to rape Sansa to the SHOCK. It’s as simple as that.

            And if they were so incompetent and incapable of adapting these stories and introducing new book characters, you know what’s a really good rule for adaptations? “It’s better to cut something than to change it”. They could have simply cut Ramsay’s marriage from the story alltogether – there are lots of other things going on in the Northern storyline, but they cut all these other things and only left Ramsay raping his wife. That was the only thing they thought they just had to adapt, because they “loved that subplot with Ramsay in the books”. They cut everything that that storyline was about, anyway: with no Northern lords, no tensions in Winterfell, no Pink Letter and the importance to Jon’s story, no theme of lowborn people (Jeyne Poole, the millers’ boys) being treated as expendable, no real Theon character development in relation to the fact he decides to save one such person he would have never cared about before, what was the point of that anyway?

            If they were really so incompetent that they couldn’t write anything for Sansa, even without Harry the Heir (because they couldn’t have possibly introduced him, in spite of having introduced, say, all three Sand Snakes, random slaver to waste the casting of Adewale Akinnoye Agbaje on, or Hizdahr, who has a role in the books but ended up being completely pointless in Dany’s story, since she really didn’t even need to marry him in the show and there was no apparent reason why she did), even though there would have been enough material if they hadn’t raced through it in season 4; and in spite of the fact that GRRM has told them some things at least about the future plots, so they could have introduced some of that as well; if they really were unable to do it, they could have simply left Sansa out of the season, like they left Bran out. But I guess raping Bran was not such an appealing prospect as raping Sansa.

            Your show apologism is really poor. Try again. Not that it’s possible to find anything to justify that crap.

          • Keith B says:

            You know, you aren’t answering my question. It’s easy to criticize. I should know, I do it all the time. It’s hard to make improvements. What exactly would you do differently? What would you leave in, what would you take out, what would you change? True, they added Olyvar, Myranda, and Ros, but they all had a function in the show, and they were all partly replacements for other characters who were left out.

            No, you can’t leave out Ramsay’s marriage unless you want to remove Theon or at least make him a very minor character. And no, you can’t cut Sophie Turner out of an entire season.

          • Yes indeed, it’s extremely easy to criticize something that’s utter crap. It must be much more difficult trying to defend it, so I have some sympathy for you. Or I would, if I could see any reason why you felt the need to defend it.

            I’m marvelling at your argument that making Sansa be dragged by LF halfway through Westeros before she even asks LF where they are going, then agreeing to marry into the family of brutal torturers who murdered her family, just because LF told her so, then being left alone in Winterhell with no guards, walking like a sheep into the slaughter, and then getting raped and brutalized for the rest of the season (and occasionally telling Theon how she’d totally love to torture him like their joint abuser did), before picking a lock and telling Myranda she was ready to die, was the best thing anyone could have done with Sansa in S5. Do you actually believe that?

            Yes, they could have cut Sophie Turner out of an entire season – they did that with Isaac Hempstead-Wright. They can clearly do anything they want, and it would have been far preferable to destroying the arc and any semblance of characterization or sense for her character. But someone more competent could have easily written material for her in the Vale. Like, you know, there are other characters there that are already established, like Lord Royce, Lady Weynwood, Sweetrobin, in addition to LF and Myranda? And there’s politics? And Sansa making friends? And learning more about politics? And dealing with a difficult child, showing her people skills (as opposed to punching him, because that’s supposed to show she’s a Strong Female Character in the show)? How about organizing tournaments as she does in the Alayne chapter, getting the Vale lords further on her side? If they want her to meet Brienne, why not have Brienne, who was in the Vale the last time we saw her, come to the Vale and meet Sansa? Maybe Sansa learns that Arya and the Hound were around and she didn’t get to see them? LF told her Arya was alive back in S3, but that plot point was forgotten. How about she wants to find Arya?

            And how about this: she wants Winterfell, right? And she already has the Vale lords on her side, and they know who she is, in the show? Maybe they don’t even need Harry the Heir. Let’s have Sansa influence the Vale lords and get them to raise an army to go to the North.
            Or, you want her to go to the North ASAP. Fine then, let’s say she already has convinced the Vale lords. She and LF travel to the North with Vale soldiers and contact the Northern lords and Stannis. Sansa rallies the Northern lords around her, and offers Stannis an alliance, since he can use a Stark to help him gain the Northern support, and Stannis and the Northern lords all go against the Boltons.

            Isn’t that most logical way to go about getting the North back? Although just sitting in the Vale, safely and smartly, and waiting for Stannis to finish the job with the Boltons (LF said he expected him to win!) would also be a much smarter way to go about it than the crap in the show. The absolute last thing you would do if you wanted Winterfell or “revenge” against the Boltons is to be the willing bride of Ramsay Bolton and walk into Winterfell as sheep to the slaughter, legitimizing the Bolton rule of Winterfell, losing your virginity to him, becoming his legitimate wife and possibly giving him an heir. What part of that is revenge, unless it’s against oneself, I really don’t get.

            Or, you really want Sansa to interact with the Boltons? Fine, let’s have her hear about her “sister’s” wedding and travel to Winterfell with LF, as his supposed niece Alayne, since LF, the Boltons and the Lannisters are supposed to be allies, so that would not be too weird. Then reveal herself to the assembled Northern lords and rally them, planning an attack on the Boltons from inside the castle. There she could take the place of the spearwives and help “Arya”. It doesn’t even have to be Jeyne Poole, Sansa from the books would care about any poor girl who was getting raped and abused (show Sansa may not though, since she apparently was only upset with Theon until she learned he murdered some other innocent boys that were not related to her).

            Or, you really, really want the “Sansa marries Ramsay for REVENGE” plot, here’s the only way that would make sense for Sansa, LF and logic in general: there’s no fake Arya, so no Stark bride for Ramsay, but LF proposes that his niece marry Ramsay, and Sansa travels to Winterfell as Alayne. Naturally, both in this and the scenario above where she’s not the one marrying Ramsay, she has Vale soldiers with her as guards, as is only logical. (And LF doesn’t go to King’s Landing because Cersei summoned him for no reason whatsoever, so Sansa could conveniently be left helpless.) In both this and the scenario in the previous paragraph, Sansa is not a sheep to the slaughter making an inexplicable decision, LF’s plans are not completely insane, and Roose Bolton is not being totally OOC and rebelling against the Lannisters, even though they are the only thing keeping him in the position of Warden of the North. There, Sansa she reveals herself secretly to Northern lords and rallies them against the Boltons. The ‘wedding’ never goes further than the feast (she sure as hell was never going to have the bedding! and the vows are worthless anyway, as they are under a false name, not to mention that she’s still married to Tyrion…) – and the wedding was always just a pretext for the Northerners, with the help of the Vale soldiers, to go Red Wedding 2.0 on the Boltons. There, here you have your “revenge” story!

            EVERY possible scenario would have been better than the crap they served us. If they had had Sansa learning how to make best lemoncakes all season, that would have still been a better storyline for her than Winterhell.

            And the Northern storyline would have been really easy to do. By…wait for it… STICKING TO THE BOOKS! And casting a few Northern lords! If you can cast Myranda and Random Old Lady, and waste your budget on 500 different faces in the House of Black and White that no one could ever notice anyway, you could cast a couple of speaking roles for Northern lords and a number of extras. How about getting back those Freys? What was that Red Wedding, was that something people cared about? Why has everyone forgotten about it on the show? Let’s have some tension between the Boltons and Freys, and the Northern lords on the other side, instead of Ramsay Sue the super commando and his 20 Good Men & and his love triangle. Let’s have Theon as the real protagonist rather than Ramsay, have him interact with the Northerners, with Roose Bolton… and yes, you can have Ramsay’s wife, fake Arya. It’s extremely easy. You don’t even have to make her Jeyne Poole. Just introduce her as a poor, innocent Northern girl, someone from Winterfell who was taken prisoner when Ramsay took the castle, cast a good young actress, and show her fear and helplessness as she is being forced to pose as a Stark under threat of death or torture. You don’t need to show rape, just show her fear, as she tries desperately to find an ally in Theon and begs him to help her escape. and later her trauma after Ramsay’s rape and abuse. Show how both she and Theon are broken. Show the clansmen joining Stannis to fight for “Ned’s Little Girl” (because Ned’s legacy lives on, unlike Tywin’s. But that would destroy the “being honorable and good is only for idiots, and Tywin was awesome” theme they have going on in the show). Preferably show Jon sending some wildlings (and could they please be women? Thanks. I’m not sure why the showrunners felt compelled to make almost all wildling warriors men, except for an occasional lone Smurfette like Ygritte or Karsi) to help save his “sister”, leading to the Pink Letter. Show Theon in front of the heart tree, and have Isaac’s only appearance in the season, as a voice whispering Theon’s name. Since they like hammering things on the show, why not make a more explicit parallel between Fake Arya and Fake Bran and Rickon (the two lowborn orphan boys Theon had murdered)? (If only D&D&C had even noticed that parallel. Their reading was far too superficial for that, and they still apparently think Theon’s biggest crime was betraying the Starks, so he totally needed to save an Important Girl, a real Stark princess, to be their shiny hero.) Have the murder mystery, the political tension, while Stannis is marching on Winterfell… It would have been awesome. And you can do the Battle of Winterfell in S5, since you presumably know how it turns out. But however it turns out, I’m sure it’s not in the ridiculous and lame way it did on the show.

            Regarding Myranda’s, Olly’s, Ros’ “a role on the show”. Roles that didn’t make any sense and were pointless. What the hell was the point of Myranda? To make Ramsay more of a Ramsay Sue? To have a “love” triangle centered around him? To have a lowborn woman as the antagonist of the story instead of Ramsay? (Great choice, especially after cutting Jeyne!) To do a Madonna/whore dichotomy with her and Sansa? What is the point of Olyvar, to show how much Loras is gay, because we wouldn’t have known otherwise? To feature in an illogical plot that was completely needless, since there was no reason to change Margaery getting arrested with Loras being arrested – except for the fact that, for them, having Margaery sexually abuse Tommen in a “funny” sex scene took precedence? (I’m sure they think it was funny and he’s a lucky 12-year old and don’t get that it’s abuse.) What was the point of Ros, nude scenes and unnecessary sexual violence because we wouldn’t have otherwise known Joffrey and LF were bad people? Why did we need Olly to be the center of Jon’s storyline and the main conspirator, rather than the adults from the Night’s Watch?

          • Mr Fixit says:

            You know, timetravellingbunny, I am always amused by how so many show haters can’t structure their argument without resorting to hilarious over-the-top tirades. I am dead serious here: your points, and those of many others dissatisfied with the show, would resonate much more strongly if you guys weren’t always so hilariously frothing-at-the-mouth enraged. It shifts the discussion into the intensely personal direction and makes it easy for the opposed camp to dismiss the whole thing out of hand, fairly or unfairly.

            “Sexist racist stereotypes about evil brown women, Gary Stu, dudebro, thug, Interchangeable Female Unit, damsel in distress, stereotypical action heroes, insane idiots, super-warrior and the apex of a love triangle, making up your own stupid crap, below average writers with only the most superficial understanding of books, utter BS, incompetent and incapable, completely pointless, raping Bran was not such an appealing prospect as raping Sansa, show apologism…”

            Do you really think a litany full of such “arguments” is conducive to having a reasonable discussion? Frankly, the only thing you will accomplish –and that may well be a goal — is to prevent any decent discussion and drive people away. If so, congrats; you are on the right track.

          • Oh thanks, telling people that they are “frothing at the mouth” is exactly something that’s conducive to a reasonable discussion! You are so obviously someone trying to have that kind of a discussion!

            Now, maybe you could make a list of words and expressions you deem forbidden before you can honor us show haters with having a discussion and listing some actual arguments? And, you know, coming up with at least one attempted rebuttal of my arguments? Like, for instance, explaining what exactly is untrue or a ridiculous exaggeration about anything I said? “Dudebro” is a type of character. Show Sam is exactly that kind of character – creeping on women (“it’s not fair that Craster has so many women and we have none”), showing entitlement over women, bragging about having sex with women, bragging about the things he’s done in an attempt to show how macho he is – while Book Sam is the opposite of it. Are you saying that’s not true? Or that show Brienne is not a thug? That show Ellaria and Sand Snakes were anything other than evil brown women who kill little girls? That show Sansa is anything but a character randomly used for plots, sometimes of other female characters, with no consistent characterization or arc? That Dany was not a damsel in distress in the show version of Daznak’s Pit, saved by Jorah and then Drogon- and in her last scene, where she drops a ring so her men could find her and save her? That the writing in season 5 was not utter crap?

            But oh, oh, I’m sure it’s all my fault for daring to hate on the show, I’m sure that’s the only reason such a reasonable person as you seem to be is unable to have a reasonable discussion and come up with any arguments to defend your beloved show. Sure.

          • Mr Fixit says:

            I have no intention of rebutting your arguments as that was not the point of my post (not to mention, you were responding to another poster). My reply was intentionally somewhat inflammatory so you understand how it feels to “debate” with people who use inappropriate language and whose posts feel like they’re written in caps lock.

          • Well, at least you’re honestly admitting you’re trolling. That’s something, I guess.

  11. Andrew says:

    As much as Sansa as queen is delicious I really, really doubt it will happen for a variety of vague thematic reasons. If either of the Stark girls becomes queen, well, there’s a reason for naming Sansa’s wolf Lady, and Arya’s wolf Nymeria; that and her arc is too heavy on the Cat parallels, whereas her sister parallels Lyanna, the Helen of two would-be kings. Though I don’t think any of the Starks save Bran or maybe Rickon will end up as monarchs TBH. It certainly won’t be “good king Jon and queen Dany save everyone” or whatever.

    Sansa’s character arc is proof positive that the series is not the derpy grimdark nihilism people seem to think it is; that and the fact that she is not a “conventional” (read- traditionally masculine) protagonist does a lot to put people off her character. I think people do the series a disfavor by trying to hammer the characters into neat little boxes and especially ignoring their developments and growth outside the first book.

    Equally important is how Sandor, throughout the series, represents the “bestiality” of man to his fellow man and how that leaves a trail of broken bodies and souls behind it, from Mycah onwards; there’s also the fact that he’s a dialogue on knights, first from a chivalric, heavily gendered/Romantic perspective with Sansa and then a more “realistic” class-based conflict (and then cooperation… she’s basically a squire after the Twins) with Arya. A key message of the series is that violence is a traumatic experience for all involved, and both Stark girls are clever and empathetic, compassionate people who repeatedly seek to help and care for the weak and suffering, which is a key part of how they ended up surviving for so long and why they will come back to power in the end. It also speaks volumes, again, to Ned and Cat’s parenting, that their children as a whole seem much more decent morally and emotionally. Though that also applies to the Tullies TBH, poor Edmure doesn’t get nearly enough respect.

    • winnief says:

      Fair points all Andrew. So I take it that you believe Sansa to be the future Lady of the Vale, the Lady of the North, or the Riverlands?

      I actually think that Sansa is likely to get Riverrun given poor Edmure’s status and that the show never mentioned Roslin’s pregnancy. After all the Frey’s ain’t keeping Riverrun, if Edmure dies Cat’s kids are next in line and Bran and Rickon both will be busy up North while Sansa’s remarkably strong Tully appearance is gonna make her an obvious choice. I could definitely see the Blackfish championing her arguing its what Cat and Hoster would have wanted. In any event I really wanna see the Blackfish again.

      • Crystal says:

        Not only that – there’s the little fact that Petyr Baelish is now Lord Paramount of the Riverlands, and Sansa is posing as his daughter. There is every possibility that Littlefinger might be sent to Harrenhal, especially if there is a Red Wedding Mark II courtesy of the BWB and/or some disaffected Riverlords. If LF goes and brings Alayne, there are bound to be many who note how closely “Alayne” resembles a young Cat Tully – since hair dye isn’t going to change facial bone structure, eye color, or body build – and there will be speculation.

        And there is a riverlord who may have actually seen Sansa herself – when Ned was presiding as Hand, Karyl Vance accompanied a group of smallfolk to beg Ned to do something about Gregor Clegane. Sansa was watching the proceedings that day – and I’m sure Vance, and any other Rivermen present, would want to glimpse Lord Tully’s granddaughter who was to be the Queen one day. If Vance sees “Alayne,” the game is going to be up.

      • Andrew says:

        I think the Stark girls get Harrenhall and the Dreadfort respectively, as ironic echoes of the fact that Littlefinger/Ramsey are trying to use them for their claims, and because it would be hilarious for the girls to get the two “scariest” castles. Also there’s plenty of Bat imagery with Sansa and Arya as founder of the Dreadstarks (I view her as a potential Date Masamune… ruthless, ambitious, capable) would be all kinds of awesome. I think she and Rickon are going to be hardcore old-school, scary Starks in the future- I fully expect some very bloody executions- impalements, flayings, rabid wolf-packs etc- for Ramsey or some Freys or whatever in the upcoming books. Also Arya has been set up to be something of an (anti-dragon?) revolutionary leader- there’s a reason she’s associated with outcasts and armed insurrection (Braavos, the FM, the BwB, Mycah) and I think that sort of “harsh justice” is going to happen very soon.

        But yes Sansa is definitely going to end up in power in the Riverlands IMHO. She’s got the looks, the brains, and the connections for it. Also the Vale has soldiers and food… I suspect the moment the Lannisters/Tyrells look weak they will move into the Riverlands to “restore order”.

        • Crystal says:

          I would like to see Sansa and Arya get the Riverlands and North, respectively, but I hope Sansa can rule from Riverrun and have Harrenhal torn down and used for scrap. I don’t know if even Queen Elizabeth I and her court could have used something so big and unwieldy as Harrenhal.

          As for Arya, one thing I want to see is her getting Ramsay’s dogs to tear him limb from limb like Artemis and Acteon.

    • winnief says:

      For the record though Andrew I think that while Martin (based on the ur-text) may have *originally* intended for Arya to take on the Lyanna role needless to say her character arc evolved into something very VERY different and he decided to transfer any and all ‘romantic’ angles to the elder sister. Hence Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion and her current status as Westeros’s most Eligible Heiress. JMHO

      • Keith B says:

        Arya will have romance too, eventually. She’s going to marry Edric Dayne. You know it was meant to be.

      • Andrew says:

        No way, I didn’t get that at all from Dayne. He’s basically just the Hipster Gendry, people are shipping him because he’s literally the only non-creepy dude in her age bracket she’s really interacted with.
        Bluntly speaking the Daynes are small frys and I can’t see her ending up ruling a two bit castle on the far side of the Seven Kingdoms. It’s telling that the Daynes were cut entirely from the show.
        Also Arya absolutely has romantic tones with Gendry (and also with Jon) and all the theories about Jon/Sansa are 1. creepy and 2. utterly unfounded. Arya is a natural leader, clever, hardworking, compassionate, brave, and loyal. The idea that a nine/eleven year old girl who’s survived by being a ninja/guile hero is somehow lacking in political acumen is… foolish.

        Sansa is behind Bran and Rickon at minimum. And the will is important- Sansa’s disinheritance and lack of a wolf are emphasized too much, I just can’t see her inheriting Winterfell over any of her siblings.
        As to Arya’s character arc, her arc is one of survival, disillusionment, and a dialectic on agency and rebellion to injustice along with a deconstruction of a Heroic Odyssey. I don’t think that’s changed at all. People are deluding themselves if they think she wouldn’t be engaged in politics or whatever.

        • David Hunt says:

          Sansa was never disinherited. What Robb did was legitimize Jon so that he would come before her in the line of inheritance. If Bran and Rickon stayed “dead” and Jon were killed in a coup at the Wall, for example, she would still be next in line to take the title as Lady of Winterfell.

    • John Galvano says:

      “Sansa’s character arc is proof positive that the series is not the derpy grimdark nihilism people seem to think it is; that and the fact that she is not a “conventional” (read- traditionally masculine) protagonist does a lot to put people off her character.”

      X1000

      The bile directed toward Sansa’s character is disgusting considering she is probably the most kind-hearted character.

      • winnief says:

        Agreed. I also find it…interesting how big a fan base Asha gets because she’s all grown up Tomboy and Action Girl but as I’ve noted before her actual record is pretty troubling.

        We may instinctively root for the hard drinking badass gal who wants adventures but *her* adventures consist of raiding and pillaging helpless people. And she makes a number of critical mistakes.

        And let’s not even start on the Sand Snakes!

        And for the record people underrate Sansa’s journey in the Vale because it isn’t violent though its quite important not only to her character development but to Westerosi politics. And D&D skipped over all that to victimize her again….grrrr well maybe we’ll see some of what she showed at Vale come into use next season in the North. *Maybe.*

        • David Hunt says:

          “well maybe we’ll see some of what she showed at Vale come into use next season in the North. *Maybe.*”

          *puts on best Leverage voice* You’re adorable.

        • Andrew says:

          1. Asha doesn’t seem to have the awareness that maybe going the “adventurous” route is not always a good idea.

          2. I don’t like the elder Sand Snakes either, except Sarella. The Sand Snakes try to emulate their father, and show, in a way, they don’t get him. They think of killing Tommen, a child who had never wronged them, when if you look at Oberyn, say what you want about the guy, but as far as I know, he never killed children.

          Nymeria called Cersei’s plan to murder Trystane “monstrous” despite wanting to have a much younger boy, Tommen, murdered. Obara has some issues regarding her origins with her plan being to burn Oldtown (isn’t her half-sister learning there?) despite the city not having anything to do with the deaths of her family, but as a way of trying to “burn” her past as the daughter of a prostitute. Tyene suggests murdering Balon Swann’s party, likely in a violation of guest right.

          As for Sarella, she is pursuing an education at the Citadel, challenging gender norms in contrast and in a more original way compared to the martial paths of her half-sisters.

          3. Sansa, is in a way choosing Sarella’s path in that she is engaged in a learning experience. She is learning political intrigue, and she is starting feel better in her own skin. We saw a glimpse of it in ASoS :
          “That was unchivalrously done, my lady.”
          “As was bringing me here, when you swore to take me home.”

          • Andrew says:

            Yup, also the various female characters (especially Brienne and Arya) make it abundantly clear that they aren’t man-hating swashbuckling tomboys like people think they are. GRRM makes it abundantly clear that they all suffer for the latent misogyny in the series and even the fandom (and D&D, see their Brienne is a walking mankiller with no empathy and Arya’s out for revenge! leaving aside the former is a walking Knight in Shining Armor and Nice Gal and the latter wants freedom/power/agency and family and maybe some semblance of justice but thinks she has nothing left but revenge…) tends to overlook the more subtle or “feminine”/emotional aspects of their characters… I can’t see Arya advocating the murder of innocent children a la the Sand Snakes; the contrast between them, Arya, Brienne, and Asha and how they acted within their circumnstances was an interesting part of AFFC.

            Simply put Westeros, like certain parts of the fandom, forces people into neat little boxes, and those that don’t conform (Brienne, Dany, Arya, Sam, Tyrion) face constant discrimination and abuse.

          • Andrew says:

            Yes, one complaint among the fans about the show is that D&D take complex female characters and adapt them into stereotypes. They took out what is supposed to be one of the best parts of Brienne’s character: that she aspires to the ideals of knighthood, and in some ways is more a true knight than most knights in Westeros.

          • Winnief says:

            Yeah, what’s most infuriating about it is they *can* do better too. I mean I actually find ShowCersei far more complex and nuanced than BookCersei.

          • Show Cersei (aka the non-villainous Mamma Bear who’s totally justified and not paranoid or misogynistic or abusive at all and hasn’t really committed any crimes since… is it season 1?) is complex and nuanced compared to the rest of the characters on the show, but nowhere near as complex or nuanced as Book Cersei, who is an amazing and original character.

            Being nicer =/= being more complex and nuanced

        • John Galvano says:

          Reading through all these blogs has made me realize the Sand Snakes actually suck. Talk about Knights of Summer.

          • Crystal says:

            Sarella doesn’t (I like her and I hope she can use her Maester’s training), and I can’t say about the younger ones as we don’t really meet them, but you are right, Obara, Tyene and Nym are pieces of work. The hypocrisy when it comes to killing Tommen vs. killing Trystane is dark comedy – “Yes, let’s kill a sweet little nine-year-old boy! What? No, not TRYSTANE! He’s just a sweet little boy, how could anyone want to kill him?” Ahem.

          • John Galvano says:

            yea, I’ll give a pass to Sarella and the younger girls

          • Andrew says:

            Sarella seems to be my favorite Sand Snake so far. She knows how to shoot a bow and arrow, but she doesn’t let that be her focus. She focuses on learning.

            She also shows to be level-headed in trying to prevent Pate from attacking Leo by reasoning Leo can’t buy Rosey’s maidenhead if he doesn’t have the coin to buy a drink.

    • Great points in the second and third paragraph… But as for the first paragraph – I don’t see how Sansa’s story parallels Catelyn at all, or how Arya parallels Lyanna? Sansa looks like Catelyn and dresses and acts like a lady, and Arya looks like Lyanna and is a tomboy, and that’s where the similarities end. Sansa gets put in a couple of situations that she’s in because Littlefinger and Lysa are dealing with their Catelyn issues through her – just because she’s her daughter and looks like her. But that’s all – she doesn’t even have a personality similar to Cat’s, and her arc is completely different. And Arya may have a few of Lyanna’s traits, but her arc is absolutely nothing like Lyanna’s, and has nothing to do with love triangles and handsome princes.

      If anything, the strongest and deepest parallels are between Arya’s arc and that of Catelyn/Lady Stoneheart, with themes of loss, grief, depression, violence and obsession with revenge borne out of this loss, grief and depression. Both of them have almost identical thoughts about having a hole where their heart used to be (the wording is almost the same), Cat after the news of the ‘deaths’ of Bran and Rickon, Arya after the Red Wedding (one quote is in ASOS and the other in AFFC). They are also, IMO, far more similar in personality, once you get beyond the surface.

      • Winnief says:

        I agree that Arya, with her vengefulness, (and also a somewhat…impulsive nature) is much more like Cat than Lyanna or Ned.

        Sansa, does seem to get entangled in tragic love triangles like Lyanna, but actually I think she’s really a lot like her father in terms of personality. (At least initially.) Iron clad self control, able to keep secrets, strong sense of duty, an unfortunate habit of trusting the wrong people and sometimes seeing the world through rose colored glasses, and committed to fulfilling her socially prescribed role. It’s just her role is that of a Lady rather than a Paramount Lord.

        • Crystal says:

          I agree with you about both the Stark girls. Arya looks like Ned (and Jon) but she’s more like Cat (and, I think, Robb) in personality; Sansa looks like Cat and is always compared to her, but she’s more like Ned in personality.

          And there’s a certain irony in Jon and Sansa having the most distant relationship of all the Stark siblings, but being so much alike in personality and outlook.

          Lyanna has something in common with both her nieces, I think: Arya physically resembles her and is tomboyish, whereas Sansa has her romantic outlook, at least at first. She has lost it by AFFC and I don’t blame her. For all we know, Lyanna was similarly disillusioned by the time she gave birth to Jon, only she didn’t survive to act on it.

        • Metacod says:

          IMO, the ‘Sansa is more similar to Ned than Catelyn’ idea is complete nonsense and at least as inaccurate a reading of the characters as anything the show has done.
          I won’t get into Ned being a textbook introvert versus Sansa’s extroversion, his preference for straightforward speech and dislike for politicking, or his rigid beliefs on things like succession of monarchs; I’ll just look at winnief’s claims:

          -Sansa able to keep secrets? Revealing the proposed Tyrell marriage to the alcoholic idiot Dontos, revealing her knowledge of Jon to Myranda in about ten minutes (after being explicitly warned that Myranda is clever)… Jon and Arya weren’t kidding about “don’t tell Sansa.”
          -Strong sense of duty: to what, exactly? Not to her family, and (as of AFFC) certainly not to any ideals of justice.
          -Committed to fulfilling her socially prescribed role? Unfortunate habit of trusting the wrong people? The former describes Catelyn even more than Ned, and the latter applies to her as much as him.

          And the idea that Arya has more in common with Catelyn than Lyanna doesn’t make much more sense to me, but that’s another subject.

          • I would agree that the similarities between Sansa and Ned sometimes get overstated. (But not because of the “(not) keeping secrets” part – Sansa was 12, Dontos was someone she misguidedly trusted, and she was able to keep the secret of her escape plans from everyone else for almost a year). But, she still has more in common with Ned than with Catelyn – at least they have a far more similar temper. It’s the supposed similarities between Catelyn and Sansa that get exaggerated a lot more, in spite of their very different personalities.

            I agree about Sansa’s lack of a sense of duty. That’s one big similarity between her and Arya, in spite of all their differences in personality – unlike Catelyn, Ned, and Jon Snow (or other unrelated people like Dany), neither Arya nor Sansa have a sense of duty as a motivation anywhere in their internal monologues. People (like Tyrion or Littlefinger) tend to assume that Sansa is “dutiful” because they don’t understand her very well.

            I don’t know if I’d say that Arya has more similarities in personality to Catelyn than to Lyanna; I think she has major similarities in personality traits to both of them. But no one has said that Arya’s personality is more like Catelyn than Lyanna. What I said is that 1) Arya’s arc has a lot more thematic parallels to Catelyn’s than to Lyanna’s. GRRM was probably intending to have Arya’s arc parallel Lyanna when he was originally envisioning the story, as seen in the initial draft (where Arya’s role is that of a love interest of two major male characters and there’s a love triangle, with no mention of any other role she’s playing… I’m so glad he abandoned that original draft), but in ASOAIF as it is, Arya’s arc is nothing like Lyanna’s.

            and 2) Arya is a lot more like Catelyn in personality than Sansa is (and I’d also say Arya is more like Cat than like Ned). They both have a strong pragmatic, down-to-earth streak (with none of Sansa’s dreamy idealism and romanticism), similar temper, and tend to be direct, even brusque, although that’s more tempered with Catelyn due to age and sense of social propriety (although Arya has been learning to control her impulsiveness and instinctive reactions as well in order to survive). When reading Cat’s internal thoughts about many of the people she meets, like the “knights of summer” etc., I feel like I’m reading a more mature version of Arya’s mantra “this is stupid”. Sansa has an instinctive desire to please people and do avoid conflict, her primary motivator is the desire to be liked/loved and for everything to be happy; Cat and Arya… not so much. Catelyn on a diplomatic mission with Renly speaks her mind to him and to Stannis, and at one point, frustrated with their behavior, even straight up calls them out on acting childish. Sansa would never do that, she would find a way to tell them her opinion but wrap it up in something courteous that would flatter their egos. That’s one of the main weapons, this ability to be manipulative even without intending to, just out of her desire to avoid conflicts and be perfectly courteous and nice. Lysa also noticed the difference between Sansa and Cat when she was threatening Sansa – she said Sansa was like a “mouse” compared to Cat’s boldness; faced with Lysa’s accusations, Sansa first asserts herself, but then when she sees Lysa’s madness and anger, her instinct is to try to mollify her by telling her what she thinks she wants to hear (that didn’t work out well, though it can in other situations). I don’t see Cat doing that in a similar situation.

            The similarity that people see between Cat and Sansa is that they are both acting as *ladies*, sticking to that societal role, unlike Arya or Lyanna. But, as someone once observed, while Sansa’s chapters are full of descriptions of clothes she is wearing, Catelyn never thinks about what she’s wearing. In other aspects, as well, she doesn’t show any deep inclination or interest towards “ladylike pursuits”. (Not that she’s interested in sword-fighting, either; except that one time when she wonders if she would have been able to protect her family better if she had been a warrior woman like the Mormonts – which says a lot about what Catelyn’s real interests are.) Catelyn’s driving motivations are “family, duty, honor” – in that order. She is a lady because that’s what she’s supposed to be, like Ned is a lord because that’s what he’s supposed to be, in their society.. If she was born a man, and he a woman, I can see them easily switching roles. Female!Ned would not be a tomboy like Lyanna, he would be a perfect dutiful lady, and male!Cat would be a perfect dutiful lord, warrior and all, not one with “feminine” pursuits.

            So, yes, there are obviously some sharp differences between Cat and Arya (mostly the same traits that Cat shares with Ned, like their sense of duty), but there are a lot of similarities, and thematic parallels in their arcs become stronger as the series progresses (Arya’s arc has parallels to Cat and Lady Stoneheart). They are both driven by fierce protectiveness, they both lack Sansa’s optimism and ability to cope her trauma by putting on rose colored glasses, so their grief and loss leads to anger and hopelessness and the feeling that they have “a hole where the heart was” (as I said before, this description appears in both Catelyn’s and Arya’s internal monologues, almost word by word), and their sense of justice gets mixed up vengeance and violence.

      • kaelandm says:

        Not to mention that both Lyanna and Sansa are spirited away by charming men with whom they have a very unbalanced power dynamic, and considered by the general populace and popular mythology as beautiful maidens who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Of course, we don’t know how Lyanna felt about Rhaegar, so we can only judge based on the facts of the situation, but Sansa certainly feels conflicted regarding Littlefinger and the Vale. There are definitely parallels you could draw there.

    • jpmarchives says:

      “Sansa’s character arc is proof positive that the series is not the derpy grimdark nihilism people seem to think it is”

      Unfortunately, the show’s treatment of her seems to imply that it has become exactly that.

      • In the show, she certainly did. I don’t think that Benioff and Weiss see the story as anything but a grimdark story that’s all about how bad things happen to good people, honor is stupid and gets you killed, and “if you are looking for happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention”. Whatever the books are about, the show at this point seems mostly to be about trying to shock people in the way they were shocked by Ned’s death, Red Wedding and Oberyn’s death.

        • jpmarchives says:

          Never underestimate the power of incentives. Even if the show had always intended to be as close as possible to the books (and I maintain that season 1 at the very least did a decent job) success and infamy came after the red wedding and it became enshrined in popular opinion that GOT and Martin by extension subscribe to this worldview.

  12. Chinoiserie says:

    You said you would discuss Cersei in the book vs. show section, was it some other other section since here it is merely Sansa and Sandor?

  13. John Galvano says:

    “their task being made easier by the fact that ~8,000 of Stannis’ forces turn against him the moment.”

    Did you mean to add something more at the end of that sentence?

  14. Lann says:

    ‘rather than just being the knights of summer, there is an intelligence within House Tyrell that sees the knightly code as a set of symbolic tools that they can use to enhance the glorious image and the very real political power of Highgarden.’

    Certainly some truth to that but if I remember correctly Loras tells Jaime that Renly’s ghost was LF’s idea.

  15. Tullio Pontecorvo says:

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    Just wanted to say, I gave you a little bit of advertising (lol) on my FB author page.

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  16. Renata says:

    What if had Sansa asked Dontos to help her against Ser Ilyn?

    • Grant says:

      From what we can see described of the two of them, probably not much unless he got a knife in Ilyn’s back somehow.

      • Renata says:

        I mean: if so, Dontos could think of barricading Sansa’s room. Then he and Sansa would meet the Hound there… Would the Hound be nice with that ‘intruder’? I bet not…

        • Grant says:

          By the time she talks to Dontos I think Sandor’s already left, and with the Lannisters winning there’s no reason for Sansa to be afraid that Ilyn’s going to kill her anyway. Or if you mean that she could go look for Dontos beforehand, well if she could she wouldn’t have had to worry about Ilyn killing her.

          • Renata says:

            Indeed there was a possibility which they all would meet. After calming down the women in Queen’s Ballroom (and taking medical attention to Lancel), Ser Dontos comes to Sansa on the dais and advises that she return to her room where she’ll be safer. He tells her that he’ll come for her when the battle is over, but Sansa is wary that it may be Ser Ilyn instead. In that moment, she considered asking help, but decided it would be futile and she would only be risking Dontos’s life as well: “He has not the courage, or the skill [to fight against Ser Ilyn]. I would only be killing him as well.” Well, it turned out that this brave decision really spared Dontos being murdered by a disturbed Sandor Clegane.

  17. […] dogs, the Silent Sisters) that all symbolize death. The contrast with Ser Dontos’ description of the Tyrell charge and the Lannister celebrations could not be stronger; the rich colors exposed for the romantic lie […]

  18. […] it’s hard to blame him: the public memory of the Battle of Blackwater has been rewritten in romantic terms that have no place for the Halfman. As he is “not shaped for sportive tricks/nor made to […]

  19. […] Tyrell, we get introduced to the ladies of the House, which is really the first time (outside of Maegor’s Holdfast) that we see Sansa in almost entirely female […]

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