(This article contains spoilers about the Game of Thrones episode Battle of the Bastards.)
Game of Thrones finally seems to be doing right by its women. It’s not easy being a woman in Westeros, a realm in which entitled Lords, tainted knights, and common folk frustrated with the never-ending conflict are often abusive, violent, sexist, and oppressive. But season 6 has placed some of the power back in the hands of the women in Westeros and beyond the narrow sea, making it one of the most powerful, feminist, and exciting seasons yet. Arya Stark has been reunited with her sword Needle. On her way back home, Daenerys has amassed a massive army and a growing fleet in Meereen. Brienne has finally fulfilled her promise to Lady Catelyn Stark and now serves Sansa. Yara Greyjoy has escaped assassination at the hands of her uncle and is well on her to becoming best friends with the Mother of Dragons.
But no woman in the Seven Kingdoms has been avenged like Sansa Stark (played by Sophie Turner). The oldest daughter of Lord Eddard Stark, Sansa has been a prisoner of someone or the other right from the first season. She was betrothed to Joffrey Baratheon, who repeatedly abused and harassed her, and forced to marry Tyrion Lannister (who turned out to be the only Lannister to have treated her well). She escaped to the Vale with Lord Peter Baelish, who then married her off to the worst man in Westeros, the finally dead Ramsay Bolton who raped, emotionally abused and physically assaulted her.
But by giving her, and by extension, us, the pleasure of watching Ramsay the Bastard be mauled to death by his own ravenous hounds at the end of the last episode, the season has redeemed itself for some of the pain that has been stalking her from the beginning.
Ramsay deserved to die. His fate was sealed from the time we first saw him – such a depraved character can only be around for so long. In spite of the most intense, iconic and brilliant battles scene in all of Game of Thrones, Jon’s relentless fight, the giant Wun Wun’s persistence, the relief of watching the Knights of the Vale and Littlefinger arrive just in time, and even Rickon’s imminent yet heartbreaking murder, Ramsay’s death was the highlight of the episode. It was the cathartic moment we’ve been waiting for – and it was all about Sansa.
The brutal retribution for all the torture and trauma she endured has finally given Sansa a chance to come into her own. She is strong. She is angry. She is determined to win back the North, not just Winterfell.
From the beginning, Sansa was a true lady in form, sophistication and appropriateness, but never the nicest or the kindest woman in the room. She hated her younger (and much cooler) sister Arya who was everything Sansa was not – rough, interested in swords instead of sewing needles, and friends with the butcher’s boy. Sansa wanted to marry Joffrey Baratheon, move to King’s Landing and become a magnificent queen like Cersie Lannister. Leaving Winterfell, losing her father and her family, and repeatedly abused, Sansa stops being the perfect lady who dreams of knights, princes, and castles.
For somebody who has been in the line of fire too many times and is a Stark, Sansa has shown more character development than most characters on the show. Her naiveté has given way to presence of mind and the resolve that to stay alive. Made cynical, wiser and stronger by her hardships, Sansa has abandoned the helplessness that defined her character. The Stark codes of loyalty, honour and righteousness have been replaced by the wickedness and cautiousness that being captive to a monster and companion to a true Machiavellian can bring.
There is that terribly depressing rumour about Ramsay’s last words to Sansa, but let us cross that horrid bridge if and when we get to it. For now, let us fondly remember the smile and satisfaction Sansa finally achieved at the end of the last episode, and rally our forces for the new probable Queen in the North.