September 9, 2017

Sansa Stark and Samwell Tarly: The Art of Moving On in Life

Posted in Pop Culture at 11:38 pm by chavalah

You thought I’d said my piece about Game of Thrones season 7, didn’t you. πŸ˜› Nope! This little bit has been niggling at me. Some of it rows over water tread in my last post, so I’ll try to be quick about it.

Sansa’s personal ultimatum to take action

Perhaps one of the most unfortunate things about season 7 is that it moved so fast that characters didn’t really have a chance to communicate meaningfully. This was a downfall, I think, in most quarters, but it made some sense Winterfell. The Three Eyed Raven Formerly Known as Bran feels psychologically distant from his old life and relationships. Arya and Sansa travel a more familiar road. They’re sisters with past baggage, traumatic journeys apart and a lack of skills to bridge that gap.

The tension between them, further stoked by Littlefinger, works decently well until the carve-your-face scene. I don’t care that Arya gave Sansa the dagger after her Hannibal Lecter spiel; there’s just no objective way that she isn’t lethally threatening there. In the next episode, Sansa apparently comes to the conclusion that her sister doesn’t want to kill her, but…why? Just because she doesn’t want to be Lady of Winterfell? Arya didn’t necessarily want to be Lord of the Twins, either, but she put on Walder Frey’s face when it suited her purposes.

Td;lr–I never wanted to get to the point where I thought that sibling resentment could lead to actual kinslaying murder plots, but the carve-your-face scene crossed that line. That’s not just Littlefinger pulling strings from the sidelines, though by the next episode the show wants you to think that it is. Then, sometime after her talk with him, Sansa decides to get a broader perspective by way of Bran, which Isaac Hampstead-Wright confirmed was filmed in an interview.

From this unseen point, and presumably some plotting with Arya as well, Sansa’s storyline moves towards a character-defining conclusion. We know that the Littlefinger trial is, in fact, predominately about her, because the scene starts with a closeup of her on the battlements where she’s preparing herself for this move, and it ends on her face after he’s dead.

It’s not so much that she hasn’t been acting with a sense of duty as Lady of Winterfell, where we’ve seen her preparing for the winter, meeting with northern lords and upholding Jon’s title, but this is the act that really costs her something. Even Arya seems to understand as much, asking her sister if she’s okay later.

Condemning Littlefinger to death is a game changer for Sansa. He may have been toxic to her, but he’s also the most long-standing relationship that she’s had since her father’s execution. He’s taught her lessons about how to survive the political arena, but now she must learn how to temper that with her own sense of self.

Since reuniting with Jon last season, Sansa’s goals have always been to take back Winterfell, to hold it for her family, and to help her brother prepare for the long night. Littlefinger, of course, is an anathema in all of this. He exists to sow chaos within people when Sansa’s goals, as implicated to her sister during their spats, is to work together. It was definitely time for the student to overtake the master. πŸ˜›

What I loved most about the trial scene is how Sansa turned Littlefinger’s psychology game against him. She can now read peoples’ motives–including his–to see what they’re really after. Yes, Sansa condemns Littlefinger to death, largely based on the evidence that Bran gave her. But on her own, she analyzed his reasons for sowing enmity between her and her sister.

Some of Sansa’s parting lines to Littlefinger are “When you brought me to Winterfell, you told me that there is no justice in this world unless we make it.” Back in season five this stood as the fusion between Sansa’s political acumen and her desire to return home. Since then, she also reclaimed her remaining family members and the power of her Stark name. The only string left to be cut was Littlefinger’s dangerous influence. Sansa no longer needs him as a crutch. He represented the traumas of her childhood. But now she has grown into her independent adult self as the Lady of Winterfell.

***

Sam’s library school experience makes mine look tame πŸ˜›

The most interesting thing about Sam this season is that he’s living out his dream. Take away the food slop and the chamber pots, and this is basically the title of “wizard,” which he told Jon that he coveted back in the first season. Before being sent to the Wall, Sam’s goal was to learn at the Citadel.

But instead he was sent North, and his life took a very different path. Though ultimately arriving at the Citadel, he’s outgrown his childish dreams. He used to imagine a life of just learning for the sake of learning, but now his mind has a more focused purpose. It’s not enough to bury your head in a book (chalk this up to another reason why I hate Westeros :P); a specific agenda must be adhered to. Namely that the White Walkers are coming and must be stopped.

The maesters exist in Sam’s former childlike state. They don’t care about the world beyond their ivory tower. So perhaps in the move most indicative of him growing up, Sam packs up and leaves them.

This is one of those moments when the show didn’t have enough time to fully explore emotional realities, but it also seems to imply that Sam found out about his father’s and brother’s deaths. His parting words to the Citadel actually belong to his father: “I’m tired of reading about the achievements of better men.” Randyll Tarly was a horrible father in almost every respect, but it does seem like he passed something down to his eldest son. Men (maybe people) of worth don’t hide from the world; they fight for something. Though unlike dear old dad, it seems like Sam is on the right side of history. πŸ˜›

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