Spoilers ahead for Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones.
Sansa, Brienne, and Podrick finally made it to Castle Black, where they meet up with Jon Snow (!) and enlist his help. Now, she’s going to have to start making some plans, stop being a pawn, and finally become a player. With Bran up in the Far North and Rickon a prisoner, she’s the acting head of House Stark, and it falls on her shoulders to protect (and avenge) her family and unite her people, as she impresses upon Jon. Here’s what should be on her to-do list, in no particular order.
Dissolve her marriages. Even if Margaery beats her on the actual marriages, Sansa Stark appears to hold the record for the most betrothals and marriages combined. Her engagements include Joffrey, the closeted Loras Tyrell, and her cousin, Robin Arryn. Due to the Tyrell plot, she got snatched up by the Lannisters, who married her off to Tyrion, and in escaping the Lannisters, she was married off to Ramsay. Before you know it, Sansa’s committed bigamy!
Most of this was not by choice. Sansa’s been a political prisoner — her various guardians were more interested in exploiting her as a “key to the North,” and consent wasn’t an issue per se. But she said her vows, and she’s left with a tangled marital history. What would her married name even be at this point — Sansa Stark-Lannister-Bolton? It’s a problem, considering that marriage is one of the ways she could make political alliances, and this avenue is closed off as long as she’s a wife twice-over.
Clearly, Sansa needs to dissolve a marriage or two. Her marriage to Ramsay might be foremost on her mind, but now that she’s keeping company with Brienne and Podrick, it’s bound to come up that Pod was once Tyrion’s squire. Some assumed Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion would be voided because Tyrion was about to be executed — but he wasn’t. Others thought her marriage to Tyrion could be voided because they never consummated it, but that alone doesn’t automatically annul it, at least not in Westeros. Neither party appealed to a High Septon or a Council of the Faith to get an annulment approved, so that would have to be the next step.
The marriage to Ramsay is a little trickier. That was consummated (although we would call it rape). Remember the debate about how that scene was shot, and the focus on Theon/Reek’s face? He was there to bear witness, in lieu of the more traditional bedding ceremony. Annulment, then, is not likely to be granted, and divorce doesn’t exist in Westeros. But killing your spouse? That’s a tried-and-true method. To do that, though, Sansa’s going to need to go to war.
Build Team Sansa. Sansa’s got more potential allies (and relatives) than she realizes, and if she makes the rounds, she can probably command a decent-sized force. As she pointed out to Jon Snow, he does have a lot of wildling support — plus the giant Wun Wun is great at bashing in gates. Then there is cousin/former fiancé Robin Arryn, who has the Knights of the Vale, one of the few armies not exhausted by Westeros’s civil wars. Littlefinger, who called them “some of the best fighters in Westeros,” has enlisted their help on Sansa’s behalf, and hopefully she gets word of that soon. Then, there are the long-forgotten Tullys: Edmure Tully (Sansa’s uncle, and the groom at the Red Wedding) is still a prisoner of the Freys, but Brynden “The Blackfish” Tully (Sansa’s great-uncle) is still at large, and could rally the Riverlands.
Beyond immediate family, there are the Stark loyalists. Although it appears that both the Umbers and the Karstarks are Team Bolton, there are other Northern lords who could stand with the Starks. House Mormont, for one, has been a staunch supporter. Also likely to be sympathetic to her cause would be House Reed (home of Howland Reed, first glimpsed in the Tower of Joy flashback), House Hornwood, House Glover, House Cerwyn, and House Manderly. Lord Wyman Manderly (a role that was cast for season six) lost his son at the Red Wedding and should want to fight both Freys and Boltons. The North remembers, but Sansa needs to spread the word that some of the Starks survived.
Make a choice. If Sansa wants to be Queen in the North, she’s going to have to decide what kind of queen she would be. Luckily, she’s learned some skills at the feet of some of the best politicians in Westeros, as well as some of the worst. She’s seen the results of both honorable and conniving decisions. “It’s pretty extensive, what she’s seen,” actress Sophie Turner said. “Right from the beginning, even when she was a prisoner with the Lannisters, she was constantly watching and absorbing. She had a front row seat watching master manipulators who knew how to get exactly what they wanted. And Cersei, unknowingly, gave her so much advice with her intimidation tactics.” We’ve seen glimpses of Sansa practicing what she’s learned, but harder tests are in front of her. Will she be a force of justice or vengeance?
So far, she’s stood by when other people were attacked or killed right in front of her, and she’s even lied to help them get away with it. Although she objected to Roose Bolton being a murderer, she didn’t judge Littlefinger for the murders he committed. Granted, in some situations, she was powerless, and the choices she made were mostly for survival’s sake. Where she could, she sometimes helped others, but a leader has to do more than that. She has to be able to wield her influence for a larger cause, to be worthy of fealty. As practice, Sansa could try to prevent the blow-up that might occur between her sworn shield and the onion knight and red priestess. If Sansa can diffuse the situation, and get Brienne, Davos, and Melisandre to all be on the same side, now that would be magic.