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Welcome to Final Path, a new regular feature leading up to the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. In every Final Path, The Hollywood Reporter‘s resident Westeros expert Josh Wigler will offer a character-by-character deep dive of their journey through seven seasons, as well as what can be expected in the upcoming eighth and final season. Up next: Sansa Stark.
“It was very, very bittersweet,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017, right in the middle of shooting the final season. “The day where we had the final read-through for the final script, it was really bittersweet. It was hard. At the end of the very last script, they read aloud, ‘End of Game of Thrones.’ As soon as they read that out, pretty much everyone burst into tears. There was a standing ovation for [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss]. We were all clapping and cheering. It was amazing.”
Will similar levels of applause erupt when viewers watch the ending for themselves — Sansa’s ending in particular, to get to the point? Certainly, few characters in the Game of Thrones universe have earned a measure of peace and happiness quite like Sansa, one of the most brutalized players on the board over the course of seven harrowing seasons and counting.
Bleak predictions abound throughout the Final Path series. When it comes to Sansa, however, it’s a brighter forecast — which, of course, is setting things up to fall apart in the cold light of the final season’s reality. Read on for the journey of Sansa Stark thus far, as well as some hopes for sunny days ahead.
Name and Titles: Sansa of House Stark, Lady of Winterfell, and future Queen of the North. (It is known.) (OK, it is speculated. More on this ahead.)
First Appearance: “Winter is Coming,” the series premiere. The first time we see Sansa, she’s seen with Arya (Maisie Williams) and the late Septa Mordane (Susan Brown), working on an embroidery project while the Stark brothers practice archery outside. Unlike Arya, Sansa has little interest in following her brothers’ pursuits; for now and for the next several episodes, Sansa’s thoughts are fixated on considerably more peaceful dreams.
Last Appearance: “The Dragon and the Wolf,” the season seven finale. A very different Sansa Stark resides in Winterfell, years removed from the very first stitching scene. She’s just sewed up one of the biggest problems in her life, Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen), with the help of her sister, Arya, also returned after many years away from home. Both of them older, a good bit colder, with different sets of survival skills under their belts — just in time, too, as winter is here.
Best Friends: Friends have been hard to come by for Sansa, who has spent most of Thrones trying to avoid enraging her surrounding enemies. Sansa was once quite friendly with Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), but she’s long since dead. She briefly believed in Littlefinger, but eventually grew wise to his manipulative game, and cut him loose. At present, Sansa’s core crew consists of family, reunited after so many years away: Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Arya and Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright). She trusts Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), Yohn Royce (Rupert Vansittart) of the Vale and even has cause to vouch for Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) should he ever return North.
Worst Enemies: Many have come and gone, thankfully, like Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) and Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), both of whom died gruesomely in her presence, the latter at her command. In terms of living rivals, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) stands out among the pack. During season seven, while Jon’s efforts are squarely centered on the White Walker threat, Sansa is the one who is constantly warning about Cersei’s threat level; one imagines that awareness will come into play in the final six episodes.
Best Kill: People die around Sansa, but not at her hands. That said, as mentioned, two have died at her command, both of them in memorable fashion. First, there’s Ramsay, eaten alive by his own hungry hounds, desperate for food after seven days of starvation; consider it justice for the way she was treated during their ugly marriage. Next, there’s Littlefinger, whose execution she commanded after he told one lie too many, felled by his own chaotic ladder.
Worst Wound: Countless hours, days, weeks, months and years of physical, psychological and emotional abuse from a litany of abusers, including but not limited to Cersei Lannister, Joffrey and his underlings, Ramsay and Littlefinger. Of those abusers, only one still stands — for now.
Critical Moments: “I’m a slow learner,” Sansa tells Littlefinger in their final scene together, “but I do learn.” Among the Stark siblings’ shared traits, there’s this: a history of tutelage under masters of their trades, for better and for ill. Sansa has suffered an overwhelming amount of hardships throughout her life (“You wouldn’t have survived what I survived,” she rightly tells Arya at one point), the lessons she learned along the way inform the woman she’s become. Cruel kings, self-serving schemers, smirking queens with good intentions and mischievous means…you name it. And yet, there’s still one crucial power player Sansa has yet to meet.
Unresolved Mystery: Sansa Stark, present Lady of Winterfell, is about to meet Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons and hopeful Queen of Westeros. What will happen when these two women meet? It’s a question very much on the minds of Game of Thrones viewers at present, as we know precious little about the final season’s plans, save for one scene shown repeatedly in promotion material: Sansa and Daenerys’ first meeting in the courtyard of Winterfell. As is the case with many of her people, Sansa is not keen to bend the knee to anyone outside of the North. How will her relationship with Dany play out, now that Jon has officially pledged the North to the Targaryen cause?
Final Predictions: Sticking with Sansa and Daenerys, here’s some optimism for the future: there will be no rivalry between the Lady of Winterfell and the Dragon Queen, at least nothing that lasts any real length of time. There’s so much ground to cover in season eight, with no time to spend on a huge feud between Sansa and Daenerys. Might it take a moment for them to get on the same page? Sure. But it shouldn’t require much more than a meeting-of-the-minds, not unlike the one between Daenerys and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) back in season five.
Speaking of which, what does the future hold for Sansa and Tyrion? The two were married back in season three, and have not seen each other since early on in season four. Now that Tyrion is headed to Winterfell, a reunion between the estranged spouses is imminent. I have already planted my flag with the wacky prediction of Tyrion ending the series as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch (which, as then, I maintain is a wild swing), but I can also envision a scenario where Sansa and Tyrion resume their marriage as a sign of greater peace for the Seven Kingdoms. If the Starks and Lannisters can forgive each other at this high a level, why not the rest of the realm?
Similar levels of forgiveness are not likely to occur between Sansa and Cersei, however. The Mad Queen of King’s Landing is actively conspiring to attack the Stark-Targaryen alliance, even with the knowledge of the White Walker threat. Cersei’s plans could massively spoil the outcome of Game of Thrones, at least if left unattended. Throughout season seven, however, Sansa was actively featured considering Cersei’s continued threat level. If this is a war that’s going to be waged on multiple fronts, expect Sansa to be a major player in the battle against Cersei — and expect Cersei to deliver some serious damage to Sansa, even if she can’t claim victory in the end.
Which brings us to the ultimate prediction with Sansa Stark: she is going to end the series as the Queen in the North. It’s been a fun thing to say and fantasize about over the past few seasons, but here we are, six episodes away from shutting it all down on Thrones. If our prediction holds that Jon Snow won’t survive, and taking Bran’s declaration that he can never be the Lord of Winterfell at face value, that leaves the crown to rest upon Sansa’s head. The hypothetical scenario plays out something like this: Jon dies in battle, Daenerys returns the North to his family as a tribute to their power, and Sansa rules the land from Winterfell, forging a lasting peace with her new Targaryen friend.
Last Hope: For Sansa Stark, Queen of the North, to not only enlist Brienne of Tarth as the Captain of the Queensguard, but to add another hulking soldier to the lineup: Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann). Add Arya to the list of hopeful members of the Queensguard, but sadly, we have another prediction in mind for Sansa’s younger sister — coming your way in the next edition of Final Path.
Follow THR.com/GameOfThrones for more coverage as the final season prepares for its April 14 premiere.
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