In the fifth episode of Game of Thrones Season 7, Littlefinger baits Arya into stumbling upon a letter Sansa wrote way back in Season 1. It was hard to make out what the letter said during the episode’s first airing, but it has big implications for Sansa and Arya’s relationship going forward.
Spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 5, “Eastwatch,” are below.
Sansa is in Stark Avenger mode now, and over the course of seven seasons she’s become a mature political powerhouse in her own right. But remember, in Season 1 Sansa was an entirely different person, and Littlefinger is concocting a devious plan that depends upon Arya’s memory of that person.
Back before Ned Stark was beheaded — and before Sansa knew that reasoning with Cersei and Joffrey was futile — Sansa tried to plead for his life. When she asked Cersei, “What will happen to him?” Cersei handed her a paper and quill and said, “That depends on your brother and on you.”
Under duress from Cersei, Sansa wrote a letter telling Robb to bend the knee.
Robb, I write to you with a heavy heart. Our good king Robert is dead, killed from wounds he took in a boar hunt. Father has been charged with treason. He conspired with Robert’s brothers against my beloved Joffrey and tried to steal his throne. The Lannisters are treating me very well and provide me with every comfort. I beg you: come to King’s Landing, swear fealty to King Joffrey and prevent any strife between the great houses of Lannister and Stark.
Your faithful sister
Of course, the more timid, simpering version of Sansa who wrote this letter is more familiar to Arya. Arya is not yet well acquainted with the mature woman her sister has become, so it’s easy for her to believe Sansa really did acquiesce to the crown, betraying their father. Littlefinger is trying to drive a wedge between Sansa and Arya, rightly fearing what will happen if Sansa has a killing machine in her corner who is utterly devoted to Jon. After all, Littlefinger wants Sansa to rise in power. She won’t if Arya influences her to defer to Jon.
Sansa was quite shitty when Arya last spent an extended amount of time with her. Arya remembers her as a girl who was rude to Jon and wanted to have Joffrey’s babies. In Season 6, Jon was able to move on from the old version of Sansa, but he also has a more forgiving nature than Arya.
For Littlefinger’s plan to work, Arya’s memory of the past has to color her perception of the present.
Game of Thrones Season 7 is currently airing on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. Eastern on HBO.