In the season seven premiere of Game of Thrones, Sansa Stark made some telling comments about Cersei Lannister, revealing a new layer to her character and possible implications for what's ahead. While Sansa and Jon Snow are discussing strategies, she notes that Jon has been so consumed by the Night's King that he's forgotten about their enemies to the South — namely, the Lannisters.
Sansa emphasizes that Cersei is a threat they need to consider, saying, "If you're her enemy, she'll never stop until she's destroyed you. Everyone who's ever crossed her, she's found a way to murder." Jon seems taken aback. "You almost sound as if you admire her," he says, and Sansa acknowledges that all the time she spent around Cersei had its effects. "I learned a great deal from her," she says.
Those learnings become more and more apparent with each season. Early on, when Sansa first makes her way to King's Landing and marries Joffrey, she's naive and easily manipulated. She suffers at the hands of Joffrey and Cersei in particular, but meanwhile, she also has a front-row seat to the struggle for power. Sansa watches as everyone from Cersei to Littlefinger to the Tyrells pulls whatever strings they can find to fight for control. She hates Cersei, of course, but she also realizes that Cersei is shrewd and cunning. In a world where men maintain much of the power, Cersei plays the cards she needs to play in order to have a seat at the table. Or, more accurately, a throne.
On the other hand, up until recently, Sansa has felt powerless. She's been abused in more ways than one, used repeatedly for her body and her last name. Now she's recognizing her own strength, fearless, because who or what could possibly scare her after what she's already been though?
Who or what could possibly scare her after what she's already been though?
At Winterfell, Sansa is channeling her mother, using her voice, and literally has a seat at the table. She tells Jon that she loved their father and their brother Robb, but they made stupid mistakes "and they both lost their heads for it." What does she mean? Maybe she's acknowledging that they were loyal and honorable, but that goodness didn't keep them alive. Ned and Robb chose to die with honor rather than bend the rules to stay alive, and she may not be willing to do the same.
Sansa wants to win. And while she doesn't have to play the game quite as cruelly as Cersei, she's already shown that a bit of well-intentioned secrecy can go a long way. Based on the tension between Sansa and Jon in the premiere, she might continue to do things her own way, even at Jon's expense. Remember how she saves Jon's army in the Battle of the Bastards, going behind Jon's back to request Littlefinger's help? That may just be the low-key level of manipulation that helps Sansa make her way to the top — and maybe even take down Cersei herself.