How ‘Game of Thrones’ Failed Arya and Sansa Stark – and sisters everywhere

If you’re like me you’ve been looking forwards to Starks reuniting, in any capacity, since they were first separated, back in Season 1. Hell, if you’re like me one of the top moments of the series so far is Jon and Sansa reuniting in Season 6. If you’re like me, you’re very, very disappointed about the Stark reunions we’ve gotten this season.

But – we’re gonna leave Bran’s transformation from actual person with feelings to useless know-it-all and focus on another thing, in what is probably the most egregious mistake Game of Thrones has made in a season riddled with so many plot holes it seems hard to point out just one thing that has gone wrong.

The Arya/Sansa relationship.

Sure, the reunion was okay. Loving, a bit awkward, but hopeful. It wasn’t the gush of relief and affection that Jon and Sansa’s was – and those two didn’t even have a relationship before – but it was okay, and I figured, just a place to build on. Arya and Sansa were practically strangers, after all, they’d get on the same page.

Except they didn’t.

The real question here is why, and when I ask the proverbial why I mean why in show logic. I actually know why they haven’t: the show wanted to ramp up the drama and just as they tried to do it with Jon and Sansa’s relationship before, they had to tease a possible issue between them, and, of course, give Aidan Gillen, who’s had precious little to do in the past few seasons, some screen time in what is certain to be his final season.

But why would Arya Stark, the woman who fought to avenge her family, and Sansa Stark, the survivor who only wanted to go back to Winterfell and keep everyone together and alive, find themselves fighting after all these years? Why?

You don’t have an answer, right? I don’t either.

It just makes no goddamn sense.

The first part of the issue has, of course, to do writing. Now, I don’t want to generalize, Game of Thrones writers are certainly competent, but they’ve had their fair share of issues in the past with writing women in general and being sensitive with women’s issues. That can have many reasons, but I’m going to have to go on a limb here and say it’s mostly due to the fact that they haven’t seen a woman in that writer’s room for about four seasons.

Season 3, that’s the last time a woman had a writing credit on Game of Thrones, and unless IMDB is lying to me, there’s only been two women with writing credits in the whole history of the show. We discussed this issue before here at Fangirlish, specifically as it related to the X-Files, but the conclusion is the same.

You need diversity in every writers room if you’re going to tell diverse, real stories people can relate to. And, you could point out, rightfully so, that Game of Thrones isn’t exactly diverse, and it isn’t, but it does have female characters. A bunch of them. So, you’d think they’d at least want women in the writers room?

Apparently not.

So, basic problem number one, a room full of men seem to think it’s easier for a woman like Sansa to share with her older brother she never had a relationship with than her younger sister, a miscalculation if I ever saw one, but that’s hardly the only problem with this whole story-line.

No, there’s also the fact that, to get to where we are right now they had to take arguably one of the best-loved characters on the show, Arya Stark, and make her 1) way dumber than she’s ever been, 2) erase all her character growth.

Because, would Arya, even season one Arya, have ever fallen for Littlefinger’s trap before? Would the Arya who trained with the Faceless Men and supposedly learned to read people not be able to see that her sister was telling the truth?

The answer to the first question, in my opinion, is no. The answer to the second one should be no, as well, but drama was needed, and so the writers have made Arya act against common sense – and more importantly, against her own characterization.

This just means that she’s acting in a way we know she would. It’s like what they did to Jaime Lannister in Season 4, after a beautiful Season 3 of growth. They basically went: Hmm, this character has changed, but we want him to do this, so to hell with growth!

Season 4 Jaime Lannister, meet Season 6 Arya Stark.

And let me be clear about those two instances, neither of the changes were integral to the plot. Jaime’s rape of Cersei – something that didn’t happen in the books and which had the showrunners were very confused about: they didn’t understand why we would think a woman saying no means it was rape – was just them taking the violence thing up a notch and this stupid drama with Arya and Sansa is just them trying to add drama to the only storyline we wanted to be free of it.

Why let two women just get along, after all? Why make Sansa as willing to share the torments of her past with her sister as she was with her brother? Why make Arya – usually one of the smartest people in any room – actually behave like she was smart?

No, let’s just have two sisters fighting! That’s what sisters do anyway, isn’t it?

*rolls eyes*

I don’t for a moment think this won’t be solved in the season finale. Someone – probably Sansa, since she is obviously the one possessing a clearer head in all of this – will go to Bran and you know, ask him about all the things, like they should have done from the beginning. They’ll discover Littlefinger, he’ll be disposed of and Sansa and Arya will have a moment of bonding where they finally come to respect each other’s differences and see strength in being a woman, no matter what kind of a woman you are.

But – and here’s my main problem with this – they shouldn’t have needed three episodes. Jon and Sansa certainly didn’t, for all that the show tried to make their little squabbles look like a problematic thing.

And, you know why they didn’t? Because Jon never wavered. Jon never took offense. Jon learned to understand Sansa. Jon. The man. Obviously. Why does it surprise me that, even on a story involving two women, the takeaway from Game of Thrones is that, men are better?

Oh, wait. It doesn’t. It really doesn’t.

Which is why, as much as I enjoy it, as much as I believe Game of Thrones is must-see television, the show will never be what it wishes to be – the best show on the planet.

Half the planet is made up of women, after all.

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.

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