When we last saw Sansa Stark in “Game of Thrones,” she was being crowned Queen in the North, a title that her brothers Robb Stark and Jon Snow inevitably failed to hold. Westeros was historically known as a realm of seven kingdoms, all under the control of one monarch. Sansa was able to successfully make the North an independent kingdom like it once was in the deep past of Westeros’ history, a move that had her and Daenerys Targaryen on the outs.
A Stark liberating the North for itself within the “Game of Thrones” world would have been impressive in and of itself, given its violent and difficult trajectory throughout the timeline of the show. Patriarch Ned Stark died at the hands of the Lannisters/Baratheons, who held control of the entire realm from King’s Landing. Becoming independent and surpassing that stronghold was what the North was fighting for during the entirety of the show. But the fact that it was Sansa, not Robb, Jon or any of the other Starks, that made it happen says something about the strength of her character.
Sansa’s arc has always been troublesome for a lot of viewers. The sexual abuse she endured from Ramsay Bolton was always, always, always a point of contention, with lots of fans citing that it wasn’t part of the original books and only presented a normalization of the kind of trauma too many women face. This conversation was revived during season 8, when Sansa’s line, “Without Littlefinger and Ramsay at the rest, I’d have stayed a little bird all my life,” didn’t sit right with lots of viewers.
The message received from this line was basically that Sansa wouldn’t have been the strong, intelligent women she became if she hadn’t endured that abuse. Sophie Turner refuted this take, telling the New York Times, “I obviously think that’s not a message to spread, but I don’t think that was the intention. It was that she was strong in spite of all of the horrific things that she’s gone through, not because of them,” but it still struck a chord in lots of fans.
What everyone can agree on, though (considering there are so many differing opinions about the season finale of GoT), is that the end of Sansa’s story was the one that ended right. Her final scene was her coronation, with her Northern subjects shouting, “Queen in the North” as she sat, content, on a throne carved with her family’s sigil. It gave us hope that even though none of the trueborn Stark males will continue the family line, perhaps the name will live on through the Lady (Queen) of Winterfell.
More than that, Sansa’s entire outfit was on. point. A number of analytical minds came out in the days after the episode, having picked through the scene with a fine-toothed comb, and found that Sansa’s final outfit (fashioned by resident “Game of Thrones” designer Michele Clapton) was actually a callback to her family.
Her sleeves were stitched with Wierwood tree leaves, for Bran, the Three-Eyed Raven. The dress was adorned with a fish scale-looking pattern, for her mother Catelyn, a Tully of Riverrun. The fur on her cloak had scraggly tufts of black fur, a callback to her youngest brother Rickon’s direwolf, Shaggydog. The midnight coloring of the cloak was for Jon, who “took the black” for his Night’s Watch post. The gray color palette of the rest of her dress was to honor her father Ned and the North that he ruled. The one-sided cloak evoked Arya, who wore something similar throughout the final season. Her crown, made with two direwolves facing each other, reflected the sigil Robb wore on his armor. There was even a sewing needle tied into her bodice, a nod to her past.
The choices made for her outfit, combined with knowing her storyline closely, made Sansa’s final scene hopeful and radiant. For someone who didn’t have a safe home for all but two seasons of “Game of Thrones,” Sansa turned out all right. Despite the controversy surrounding the inclusion of her abuse, her character truly did transform from a naive child who would simply nod in agreement in the face of whatever evil she was dealing with to a strong leader who didn’t bow to anything just because it was easier and who fought for what was right for her.
Considering the disappointment that the “Game of Thrones” finale has fostered, I’m glad no one can deny that Sansa’s closure was done right.