In a recent interview with Vulture, actress Sophie Turner discussed the possibilities of “Dark Sansa” in Game of Thrones Season 7. The question is — has she already made an appearance?
Warning: Possible spoilers ahead!
The inscrutable Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) has been at the forefront of great theorizing over the course of Game of Thrones‘ past several seasons. As one of the many beleaguered Stark siblings, Sansa has experienced tremendous trauma and, as Season 6 ended, triumph. Has Sansa already turned to the “dark side” to make the latter happen and betrayed Jon Snow in the process?
Who is Sansa Stark, really?
The truth is that in Game of Thrones Season 6, the Sansa that emerges is a character that is hard to pin down. She is mercurial. She chooses her words carefully, like any politician. Although she still experiences the occasional outburst, as was seen in her handling of the Northern lords in the Season 6 episode, “The Broken Man.”
Sansa seems aware of the role people expect her to play, and changes it from audience member to audience member. To Jon Snow, she is a loving little sister. To Arya, she is a stuffy older sister. To Littlefinger, she is an impressionable ingenue. To Cersei Lannister, she is a mirror. To Brienne of Tarth, she is the cagey daughter of the woman she pledged her eternal devotion to, and the list goes on.
For Game of Thrones viewers who have seen her take on these various personas, the elusive nature of Sansa Stark is apparent. So to what end is she playing these various roles?
Lyanna Stark parallels
Sansa and her late aunt share a lot in common. Both are mysterious figures on Game of Thrones. Whether or not Lyanna willingly ran off with Rhaegar Targaryen or was taken by force is one of Game of Thrones‘ most prevalent mysteries. Similarly Sansa’s loyalties to her family and especially to her brother Jon Snow (Kit Harington) are equally as mysterious.
No matter its origins, Lyanna’s relationship with Rhaegar would alter the Seven Kingdoms forever, claiming the lives of her brother and father before it was all over. In a similar parallel, Sansa’s infatuation with Joffrey Baratheon would prevent her family from making a timely escape from King’s Landing, a delay that would lead to her father’s imprisonment and ultimately his death.
What was Sansa really up to in Season 6?
When Sansa gains intelligence from Littlefinger, she shares it with Jon but lies about where it came from. When Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) questions her about deceiving Jon, Sansa never gives Brienne an answer for why she lies.
Why did Sansa send Brienne away on a thankless mission, right after Brienne questioned Sansa’s choice to deceive Jon? Was she getting her out of the way so she could plot her next move away from Brienne’s suspicions?
During two of her encounters with Littlefinger in Season 6, he mockingly refers to Jon as her half-brother. Sansa never scolds him, or tells him it makes no difference. While in private, she tells Jon he is as much a brother to her as her full-blooded ones.
Sansa’s actions before the battle for Winterfell
With the pressure of needing to rescue Rickon before the weather turns, Jon makes the decision to proceed with the battle for Winterfell. Sansa cautions him to wait. When Jon asks what will change if he delays his plans, she does not give him any reasons to change his mind.
He asks where they can find more reinforcements to recruit. She offers no names. Sansa withholds crucial information by never telling him about the Knights of the Vale. Why?
How many times did Sansa lie to Jon?
Jon asks Sansa about matters pertaining to their military endeavor on three separate occasions. Sansa responds by lying to him each time.
Why did Sansa lie to Jon?
She never gives a reason. When Jon asserts the need for them to trust each other in “The Winds of Winter,” he does not push her to explain why she did not trust him. Does she have an instinctive distrust for Jon, or is she simply plotting to usurp him?
Why did Sansa never defend her brother to Littlefinger?
During two separate occasions in Game of Thrones Season 6, Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) belittles Jon’s biological connection to Sansa, and at neither time does Sansa correct Littlefinger. Even after Jon fought for their family, and risked his life to take back Winterfell, she privately says or does anything to stand up for him. When Littlefinger questions how the North could choose Jon over Sansa, she does not argue Jon is worthier of the position.
Whose side is Sansa on and whose will she take?
After six seasons, Littlefinger finally admits his ultimate agenda for the first time. He confides to Sansa that he wants to be the King of the Seven Kingdoms and rule with her as his queen. Once again, Sansa does not disclose this to Jon.
Why did Sansa promise Jon that she would commit suicide if he was defeated?
The night before Jon is set to ride into battle to rescue Rickon and take back their ancestral home, Sansa tells Jon that if he is defeated, she will take her life. Sansa always chooses her words carefully, so what was the point of these? She clearly knew that she was only putting more pressure on him. Did she think her brother needed more of an incentive than he already had to win?
Sansa’s reaction to Rickon’s demise
On the eve of the battle for Winterfell, Jon listens as Sansa warns him that Rickon is a dead Stark walking. She tells this to Jon in a distant fashion. Not as a sister who has resolved herself to an unthinkable reality, but as a sister who does not seem to be too bothered by the prospect.
Sansa’s disappointment over Jon’s “Battle of the Bastards” resolution
When Jon suggests a duel with Ramsay to settle their dispute, Sansa’s face visibly falls. Is it because she is worried Jon will lose? That is unlikely, given that Ramsay had practically admitted Jon was the greatest swordsman in the North. He clearly dismisses the offer because he knows he will lose.
So why is Sansa upset by the prospect of Jon taking Ramsay down in a one-on-one fight that would curtail the massive bloodshed of a battle? Maybe because she wants that battle to take place, so she can reduce Jon’s army and tip the scale of those who comprise House Stark’s military support in her favor.
The dark theory for Sansa’s shadowy behavior in Season 6
Before continuing, it is time to review the key points. Sansa knew that she had secretly solicited reinforcements in the fight for Winterfell. She later learns that Littlefinger is plotting to sit on the Iron Throne. She shares none of this intelligence with Jon, whom she repeatedly keeps in the dark about several key matters.
So why did Sansa do all of these? If she wants Jon to succeed and sees their relationship as a true partnership, why would she be keeping such crucial secrets from him?
Consider this, Dark Sansa has already arrived
When Jon’s men are encircled by Ramsay Bolton’s forces, countless members of Jon’s army are killed. Sansa knew that Jon’s forces would be swallowed up and if the Knights of the Vale waited to ride in, they could come from the outside and pick off the Boltons.
By lying to Jon, she allows this strategy to take place. She also thins the herd of those whose loyalty is exclusively pledged to Jon, the Wildlings.
Viewers are not made aware of how much time passed between the Knights of the Vale arriving and when they descended on the battlefield. When Sansa is shown watching the battle with Littlefinger, she looks on with a strange calm as Jon is nearly crushed to death. Not exactly the expression of a sister largely consumed with concern for her brother.
If Jon would have died in the battle for Winterfell, Sansa would have been the next in line to rule the North. That is clearly not lost on her in Game of Thrones Season 6.
The succession of House Stark
When Sansa lists the line of succession to lead Winterfell, she acknowledges that Jon’s claim precedes hers, even though he is illegitimate. When Littlefinger incredulously asks why the North would choose Jon over her, she fails to mention her own acknowledgement of the Stark siblings’ line of succession.
In Game of Thrones Season 6, Sansa Stark proved she could have a secret and plot to keep it. Her lies almost cost her brother his life and she still managed to remain above any sinister suspicion.
When viewers last see her in Season 6, Sansa exchanges an ominous look with Littlefinger as the North chooses Jon Snow to lead instead of her. Is it the beginning of Dark Sansa or the continuation? Find out when Game of Thrones returns for Season 7 next summer on HBO.
[Featured Image by Helen Sloan/HBO]