With the return of Game of Thrones on Sunday, the penultimate chapter of the hit HBO series has begun. As one of the last 13 episodes of the show and the premiere of season 7, ‘Dragonstone’ had the unenviable task of setting up the beginning of the end for one of the world’s most popular television series. But while a good deal of the episode’s extra large running time was devoted to planting the seeds for the rest of the season and series, the slower pace also allowed the leaner ensemble to shine in ways their characters rarely have in the past few years.
Some of the strongest scenes in the episode came thanks to the growing tension between Sansa Stark and Jon Snow. As the rightful heir to Winterfell and the newly proclaimed King in the North, both have political reasons for wanting to take charge. At the same time, their two separate stories over the past six seasons have shaped them both into intelligent and driven leaders who each bring a lot to the table. As a result, they share very different worldviews and priorities, leading to their tense tête-à-tête in the great hall of their family castle.
The exchange has many asking who was right and who was wrong, but the reality is that both of their plans were sound, they merely speak to different interpretations of how to move forward. And it’s that very dichotomy that has not only shaped both the show and books since the beginning but will be crucial moving towards the end game.
Sansa and Jon’s Argument
The argument in question may seem like a trivial matter, but it’s the perfect discussion for the writers to map the contrasting personalities of Sansa and Jon as leaders. In legal terms, Bran is the true heir to Winterfell and thus the one who should be crowned the King in the North. Given that most of the world thinks he’s dead, however, that honor falls to Sansa. In the Dorne worldview, that holds double as Sansa is the eldest living Stark. Either way, she has the strongest claim. Not to mention, it was her planning that brought Littlefinger’s troops last season and won back Winterfell from the Boltons.
On the other hand, Jon is a Stark in blood and was once the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. He’s also a gifted military leader and covered himself in glory during the Battle of the Bastards. What’s more, he’s not only seen the true threat of the White Walkers but fought—and killed—them. For the Northerners, it seems they have an easier time ignoring Jon’s bastardy than Sansa’s gender.
When the two square off over whether to punish or pardon the Umbers and the Karstarks, both Sansa and Jon prove whose child they are. Jon chooses history and family honor, refusing to let the wartime actions of a few strip away centuries of loyalty between the great Northern houses. Sansa, meanwhile, shows some shades of Catelyn but ultimately proves who taught her about life: Cersei and Littlefinger.
While Jon admires the steadfastness of Ned and Robb, Sansa remembers that their rigid ideology got them killed. Jon feels it’s more important to bind together the remaining Northerners against their common enemy, while Sansa wants to ensure traitors are punished and the loyal are rewarded. The reality is, they’re both right.