One of the best things about HBO’s Game of Thrones is its characters are not static like cardboard cutouts. They are instead dynamic. They develop and change and not just because the plot requires it. The process is organic. It is their circumstances and things that happen to them that change them.
For instance, to protect his daughter, even somebody as rigidly honourable as Ned Stark had to let go of his honour and admit to the crime of treason he did not commit.
There are two characters that have undergone a radical transformation in the show, fundamentally changing who they are. One is Jaime Lannister, and the other is Sansa Stark.
In the last season, Sansa Stark told an interesting thing to her sister Arya, with whom she had a reunion after years. She said, “You wouldn’t have survived what I survived.” She did not say as though she were boasting. She stated it flatly, like a fact.
If one were to wonder aloud who is the stronger among the two admittedly very different girls, most people would answer Arya. But strength is more than reflexes and skills. True strength is, as Cersei would have said, lies in the awareness as to when to save your strength and when to utterly annihilate your enemies.
Sansa was a sweet girl in the beginning of the show, fawning over the good-looking prince (Joffrey). All her life she had wanted to escape the frigid North to warmer climes and riches of the South.
She got the chance when she was betrothed to Joffrey and her father was appointed the Hand of the King. All was splendid, like in the songs. But this romantic picture of the world was about to shatter for Sansa. She was about to be acquainted with the harsh realities of the world
After promising to her that he would have mercy on her father, Joffrey got him beheaded anyway. And then began the torments. Joffrey would make her look at her father’s head on a spike. The beatings, the humiliations, Sansa suffered everything passively, still hoping things will get better.
Everybody she had trusted had betrayed her. She was alone. Nearly everybody else in her family was dead. Arya’s whereabouts were unknown (to her). She was in a viper’s nest.
Now, it was decided Joffrey cannot marry a traitor’s daughter and a match with Margaery Tyrell was arranged for him. At the wedding, somebody (we later learned Olenna Tyrell and Littlefinger) poisoned Joffrey and the boy choked on his own blood, perhaps still a kind end for him.
Sansa escaped with Littlefinger to Eyrie and it was then we began to see differences in the Sansa we had always known. Years of sufferings had hardened her. Under Littlefinger’s tutelage, she learnt the art of climbing the ladder that is chaos. It is now well-known that it was Littlefinger who is behind it all, that is — almost every conflict in Westeros. It was he who started the war between the Starks and the Lannisters.
Sansa also knew it was because of him her father was beheaded. But she bid her time. After Littlefinger married her off to an even bigger monster than Joffrey — Ramsay Snow who raped her — she’d had enough. She ran to Jon and made him fight Ramsay, secretly arranging with Littlefinger for reinforcements from the knights of Vale.
The Battle of the Bastards, as it was called, was won and Sansa appeared to take a sadistic pleasure in making Ramsay’s own hounds feast on him.
How hard it is to reconcile this Sansa to the young, innocent girl from the very first episode?
Now, since she had her home Winterfell and was reunited with not just Jon but Arya and Bran as well, Sansa decided she no longer had any use for Littlefinger who was anyway trying to ignite a feud between the two sisters. A passive sufferer before, she was now a formidable, cunning lady of Winterfell.
She got Arya serving as her executioner, who was only pleased to do the honours. Sansa thanked Littlefinger for all his lessons, just before she got his throat cut.
As it stands now, Sansa has all the ruthlessness of Cersei but that ruthlessness is tempered with kindness and the capability for love and care. Even after she has suffered so much, she is entirely devoted to her family.
Jon and Dany might have a better chance to end up on the Iron Throne, but it is Sansa who deserves it the most. Jon is a reluctant leader and Dany is too fond of using her dragons to burn those who do not kneel before her alive.
Game of Thrones season 8 premieres on April 15. It will air in India on Star World.