Be aware there are references to plots from the books not yet explored on the show.
For the first five seasons of Game of Thrones, the Starks were basically the punching bags of the Seven Kingdoms and whichever A Song of Ice and Fire god you may choose to believe in. Season 6 is the first time in the history of this show that it feels like the tide is turning for the Starks. This is what we in the biz like to call “a story arc.” But it’s not an arc unless there is a degree of change.
If the first five seasons of Game of Thrones were about the fall of the Starks, then the last few seasons, surely, must be about their vengeful rise. And while author George R. R. Martin is known for subverting typical hero tropes, Season 6 leads us to believe that showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff might be interested in an ultimate triumph for the Starks — even if that’s not in the plan for the books. If this is the case, we can make some assumptions about what the Game of Thrones endgame might look like in relation to each of the remaining Starks:
A Sansa-Led Victory at Winterfell
In the short-term, the Stark who has the most potential to kick some ass is Sansa Stark, which is fitting given that she has arguably suffered the most in recent seasons. (Though, really, the Starks have all had a crap life pretty much since the pilot episode). Sansa Stark’s main antagonist is Ramsay Bolton, who the Stark-led army is about to meet in a battle for Winterfell.
If the Era of the Starks theory is true, then not only will Sansa and Jon win, but the decisive blow will come with the arrival of a Littlefinger-led army that Sansa potentially sent for with her secret raven. This will not only mean that the Starks reign supreme, but that it was Sansa’s actions that made it happen, and that brought about Ramsay’s downfall. What happens with the wily Littlefinger after that is anyone’s guess…
The Return of Lady Stoneheart
Nope it’s not just you — Game of Thrones has been dropping Lady Stoneheart hints like The Hound chops people’s heads off (which is to say: a lot). In recent episodes, Jaime, Edmure Tully, the Blackfish, Brienne, and Lord Glover have all mentioned Catelyn Stark. Sansa has been doing her best Catelyn Stark impression. Lady Crane has looked over Arya just like her mother would have. And, this is the kicker, Beric Dondarrion has wandered back into the plot.
For those who aren’t aware of the Lady Stoneheart character from the books, she is Catelyn Stark brought back to life by Beric/the Lord of Light. (More specifically, Beric sacrifices his life for Lady Stoneheart.) She is a much-changed woman, cold and mostly mute and totally without empathy. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the fierceness with which she loves her family. After Beric brings her back to life, she goes on a killing spree to murder anyone associated with the families who planned the Red Wedding. It’s not pretty.
Many outlets are seeing Beric’s continued existence as a sign that Lady Stoneheart isn’t going to appear on the show, but, to me, this seems an easy fix. Perhaps Beric hasn’t brought Catelyn back to life yet (which would make for an even more gruesome, corpse-like look for Lady Stoneheart). Perhaps he didn’t have to sacrifice his life for her. There are so many work-arounds for a TV show that has no obligation to follow the book’s plot so closely. My money is on a Lady Stoneheart return in the Season 6 finale. After that, vengeance belongs to the Starks.
Nymeria and Ghost
You better believe I count the remaining direwolves as part of House Stark. They, too, deserve vengeance for their fallen brothers and sisters. We haven’t seen Nymeria since Season 1, but that doesn’t mean Arya’s direwolf hasn’t been keeping busy. In the books, Nymeria leads a band of fearsome wolves that have no fear of men. Nymeria also happened to be the one to drag Catelyn Stark’s body to shore following the Red Wedding. Perhaps Nymeria and Lady Stoneheart are together right now, the one-two punch of Stark vengeance? There’s something poetic about that. Either way, I am hoping that Nymeria’s band of wolves will come into play in a later battle. Perhaps the one for Winterfell. Perhaps in an upcoming fight against the White Walkers and their warg army. Ghost can come, too.
Arya Kills Cersei Lannister
Arya’s story arc has to be leading somewhere (and I really hope it’s not to the murder of Tyrion Lannister). Cersei has always been top of Arya’s kill list and, on a show where these two women are some of the most interesting and fascinating characters, it’s probably going to take one to kill the other. Right now, Arya’s quest for vengeance has been more training and less vengeance, but that has to change as Game of Thrones races towards its ending. While I see most of the other Stark’s having story conclusions on the larger, more historical scale, I see Arya’s satisfying conclusion much more personal: the death of Cersei Lannister for all of her crimes against the Stark family.
Bran’s Win Over the White Walkers
If the living do defeat the dead, then it is obviously going to have to be a group effort. However, Bran Stark has the possibility to be the not-so-secret weapon that tips the scale in the living’s favor. Yes, Daenerys’ dragons will come in handy, as will Jon Snow’s experience fighting the wight army, but Bran has become the character with the most potential power. He might not be able to walk, but he has the whole history of the Seven Kingdoms in his head. He has the power to change time to some degree (though I really hope Game of Thrones doesn’t stray too far down that path). For a story that understands and continually demonstrates that power usually comes from those who are physically the strongest, it also understands that knowledge can be the greatest power — and Bran is the corporeal representation of that theme.
Also it’s worth pointing out that Bran is currently being helped by yet another Stark: his Uncle Benjen, who is existing between life and death.
While we’re discussing Bran and his somewhat inadvertent quest for vengeance, I would also like to throw in a pitch for an eventual confrontation between Jaime Lannister and Bran Stark. I’m not sure if Jaime will make it to the end of this series, but, if he does, seeing him apologize (or not) to Bran for paralyzing him would be a fascinating scene — as would Jaime Lannister trying to make amends for this catalyst of a crime by sacrificing his life for Bran.
Jon Snow on the Iron Throne
Oh, hey, Jon Snow. No, we haven’t forgotten about you — even if most of the Seven Kingdoms probably has. The Stark bastard sent to Castle Black to live out his days, Jon Snow is the unlikeliest of heroes for any in-world character. They probably don’t even know who he is. But they should. In his time in the narrative, Jon has recruited a wildling army, faced the wight army and survived, and been brought back to life. If he doesn’t end up on the Iron Throne, what’s it all been for?
Of course, this theory has been kicking around fan forums for a long time. If you believe that R+L=J, then Jon is not only a worthy ruler of Westeros, but a rightful one. For many people, Jon’s eventual rule will be more of a co-rulership with Daenerys, which I definitely support. After all, thematically, this isn’t just the Era of the Starks; it’s also the Smashing of the Patriarchy.
What do you think this season’s Stark-centric storylines mean for the rest of the show? And do you think it matches up with the books, or will things turn out differently here (at least for characters like Sansa, Arya, and Bran?)