Warning: SPOILERS for Game of Thrones season 7 ahead
The season 7 finale of Game of Thrones has come and gone, thrilling viewers with some big moments and raising some even bigger questions for its final season. When it returns for season 8, the series will only have six episodes in which to wrap up its epic tale, and that really isn't a whole lot of time. This puts the focus of those final episodes squarely on the biggest threat now looming over Westeros -- the Night King and his army of the dead. So what does this mean for the political machinations and scheming which have been a staple of the series until now?
The answer is obvious -- medieval politics matter very little when ice zombies (and dragons!) are invading from beyond The Wall. It's just as Jon Snow has been arguing all season long: the real war is between the living and the dead, and that war is now here. And if it wasn't obvious enough, as the pace of season 7 ratcheted up and episode after episode featured more spectacle over tense conversations, the death of Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish was the final nail in the coffin for Game of Thrones being a political drama about achieving power through alliances and betrayals.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing; eventually every story must come to an end, and the end of Game of Thrones was always going to be a clash between the forces of good and the forces of evil -- or as it's displayed in the title of the book series it's based on, A Song of Ice and Fire: a clash between ice (White Walkers) and fire (dragons). Still, losing Littlefinger and his penchant for secret plots does signal a definite shift in a series which first became so popular because of its use of manipulation and betrayal.
All we need do is look over Littlefinger's rap sheet to see, for being a relatively minor character, how integral he's been to most major events in Game of Thrones. To begin with, it was Littlefinger who convinced Lysa Arryn to poison her husband, Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King to Robert Baratheon, and send a raven to her sister, Catelyn Stark, explaining that she suspects the Lannisters of doing the deed. This event is the impetus for the whole series, making Robert seek out Ned Stark for his new Hand. From there, it was Littlefinger who sent the assassin with the catspaw dagger to Winterfell to kill Bran, all the while laying the blame on Tyrion Lannister when Catelyn comes to King's Landing asking questions, claiming Tyrion had the won the dagger from him in a bet. Catelyn then goes on to kidnap Tyrion and take him to The Eyrie to answer for his crimes, a move which infuriates Cersei Lannister and further stokes the animosity between the Starks and Lannisters.
Once in the capital, Littlefinger continues playing Ned and Cersei against each other until the day King Robert is gored by a boar and dies. With the king dead and Ned aware of Cersei's children's true parentage, all Ned need do is reveal the truth and install Stannis Baratheon as the new king of the Seven Kingdoms. But before he can do that, Littlefinger betrays Ned (something that, to be fair, Littlefinger warned Ned could happen), and helps Cersei arrest Ned for conspiring to usurp the throne from Joffrey. It's that turn of fate which leads t0 Ned's beheading -- the event that sends the Starks and Lannisters to war, not to mention the Baratheons, culminating in the War of the Five Kings.
During that war, it's Littlefinger who brokers the deal with Catelyn that if she returns the captured Jaime Lannister, her daughters will be returned to her. He's also there to secure an alliance between the Lannisters and the Tyrells after Renly's murder, leading Margaery to marry Joffrey and later, Tommen. Littlefinger is also implicated in the murder of Joffrey -- a scheme he concocted with another of season 7's causalities, Lady Olenna -- and uses the chaos of that moment to have Sansa Stark whisked out of King's Landing and to The Vale. Once in The Eyrie, Littlefinger marries Lysa and after a few days of wedded "bliss", tosses her out the Moon Door. Killing her outright is almost where he gets caught, but Sansa lies and backs up his story that he only killed Lysa to protect her. Littlefinger then becomes the Protector of The Vale, looking after his young charge, Robin Arryn, and for all purposes ruling in his stead.