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Aidan Gillen on Setting Up Sansa Stark With Ramsay Bolton: ‘That Was a Misjudgment’

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Did Littlefinger know what he was doing when he played matchmaker between Sansa Stark and Ramsay Bolton, the Game of Thrones marriage from hell? We may never know onscreen, but the actors disagree over what happened when Littlefinger arranged a marriage alliance that seemed to benefit him the most.

“That was a misjudgment,” Aidan Gillen told Vulture at the Game of Thrones premiere, giving his character the benefit of the doubt.

“He’s not a stupid man,” countered Sophie Turner, refusing to allow Littlefinger even one mistake. “He knew exactly who the Boltons were, and who Ramsay was.”

Turner — and Sansa — has every right to be outraged by Littlefinger’s decision-making process. On the surface, Littlefinger gets to appear (at least to the Boltons) as if he’s helping the Boltons secure the North, since the Northern lords preferred to have a Stark in Winterfell. But he told Sansa the marriage could help her avenge her family, by destroying the Boltons from within. He knew that once Cersei got word of the marriage it would appear that the Boltons — who had a pact with Tywin — were now betraying the crown, as Sansa (at least in Cersei’s eyes) was considered partly to blame for Joffrey’s murder (which Littlefinger helped commit). And Littlefinger knew the Northern lords, or even Stannis Baratheon, might feel compelled to “rescue” Sansa, which could leave her as the ruler of the North, no Boltons required. (Although, really, it would be Littlefinger ruling — she’d just be his proxy.)

On the other hand, Cersei wants Sansa’s head on a spike, and Littlefinger doesn’t dissuade her from thinking he won’t deliver that in the end. “He’s playing all sides against each other, and he’s playing for himself,” Turner said. “He’s very good at it. But it’s difficult to see how he has Sansa’s best interests at heart.”

It’s a political masterstroke if it works — he’d be undermining the Boltons, the Starks, the Baratheons, and the Lannisters all at once. And it worked at least in turning the Lannisters against the Boltons. But what happens if the Lannisters and Boltons actually talk to each other? Or if word somehow gets out that Littlefinger was behind the Stark-Bolton wedding? Or, worse for him, if word somehow gets out about his involvement in Joffrey’s murder, which Sansa knows about? Putting her in harm’s way may not have been the best method to keep her silent, and her escape should give him cause to worry. Was all this orchestration too much of a risk?

“He has so many plates spinning, and it’s not always going to work out the way you want,” Gillen said. “He intends to smooth some things out, or make a back-up plan, but he’s constantly putting himself in dangerous situations.” The alternative, Gillen said, would have been for Littlefinger to sit out the whole thing, and work “on a sheep farm in the rain.” But that’s not who he is. “He wants to be close to the power source,” Gillen said. “He’s not stupid enough to want to be the one on the Iron Throne, because they don’t last. And it’s not as much fun. He’s not a throne-sitter, but he’s definitely more of a string-puller.”

While Turner feels Littlefinger may have intended for Sansa to be abused — or have at least turned a blind eye — Gillen hopes that what happened to her might be something that devastates him. “I’d like us to see his heart,” he said. “I’ve always tried to put a bit of humanity in there, but it’s a dangerous thing for him. That might be his fatal flaw, the one thing he can’t control.”

Aidan Gillen on Setting Up Sansa and Ramsay