Sansa Stark: where the Lady of Winterfell stands in Game of Thrones' race to the Iron Throne

Lela London
Sansa Stark, The Lady of Winterfell - HBO

As one of Game of Thrones' key characters, Sansa Stark has truly been through it all. In seven and a half seasons, the teenage Northerner has been orphaned, held (and wedded) as a prisoner, raped and tortured by rule of the Seven Kingdoms' 'game'.

Thankfully, season eight has shown the resilient Stark blossom into a strong and intelligent Lady – two traits which proved useful while defending Winterfell against the Night King and his White Walker army (though, she has to give her sister a little credit for saving the North).

The Mother of Dragons also brought out an unexpected side of Sansa after her arrival in the North. The once vulnerable young Lady spent many years fawning over Queens and femininity. Now, she challenges them. And rightfully so.

As the very last episode season eight fast approaches, here's a quick need-to-know guide on Sansa Stark - the Lady of Winterfell:

Who is Sansa Stark?

Sansa Stark (played by Sophie Turner) is the eldest daughter and second child of Lady Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) and Lord Eddard Stark (Sean Bean).  She has an older brother, Robb, two younger brothers, Bran and Rickon, a younger sister, Arya and a "bastard half-brother" Jon Snow. 

Sansa Stark, The Lady of Winterfell Credit:  HELEN SLOAN / HBO

At the series' inception, Eddard was the head of House Stark (one of the Great Houses of the realm) and Lord Paramount of the North (the Seven Kingdoms' most-referenced constituent region). House Stark rules the North from their seat of Winterfell and Eddard holds the titles of Lord of Winterfell and the Warden of the North to King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy).

At the time, a pre-teen Sansa hoped for little more than a future as a "proper lady" with "feminine virtues" but her childlike and romantic infatuations made her a prime target for Lannister manipulation.

By idealising a life with royal-in-waiting Joffrey Baratheon, these sentimental aspirations were entirely short-lived.

In fact, few characters endure such consistent brutality as Sansa. Her direwolf is the first to be killed by order of Joffrey, her future betrothed, who goes on to execute her father and claim the Iron Throne.

Sansa is treated sadistically by the child king, gaslighted by Cersei, nearly killed and raped in the streets of King's Landing, passed around like a play-thing for those vying for power, married off to Tyrion (never consummated), then actually raped by new hubby Ramsay Bolton. In front of childhood friend Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). Blimey.

Not the best wedding night...Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, and Iwan Rheon as Ramsay Bolton

Thankfully, as the series progressed her ability to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune has gradually turned in her favour.

Who is Sophie Turner?

Sophie Turner made her professional acting debut, as Sansa Stark, in 2011 and has appeared in all seven seasons. She has received six nominations for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, as well as a Young Artist Award nomination for Best Supporting Young Actress in a TV Series.

Turner has also starred in the television film The Thirteenth Tale (2013) and she made her feature film debut in Another Me (2013). She has also starred in the action comedy Barely Lethal (2015) and portrays Jean Grey/Phoenix in newer releases in the X-Men series.

Turner began dating Joe Jonas in November 2016 and she announced their engagement on Instagram just under one year later. The pair got married in a secret ceremony in Las Vegas in May.

According to series author George R. R. Martin's blog, Turner actually adopted the dog who played her direwolf - Lady - after the Northern Inuit (named Zunni) was executed on screen.

Sophie Turner

What's happened to Sansa so far in Game of Thrones?

Season 1

Idealistic and naive Sansa arrives at King's Landing and is betrothed to Joffrey Baratheon, heir to the Iron Throne. She then witnesses the execution of her father and becomes a prisoner in King's Landing and a plaything for her abusive, psychotic monster of a fiancé. 

Season 2

Sansa is 'tutored' by Joffrey's mother Cersei who refers to her as a 'brood mare', married off to whoever they tell her to. At the end of the season the Tyrells march into King's Landing and Joffrey promptly drops his engagement to Sansa and plumps for the beguiling Margaery Tyrell instead.

Season 3

Sansa believes she is free after warning Margaery about how barmy Joffrey is, but her naivety trips her up again. A safe marriage to Loras Tyrell is scuppered and she is married off to the 'Imp' Tyrion Lannister in order to curb the ambitions of House Tyrell and to bind two of the great houses of the Seven Kingdoms closer to the Lannisters.

Season 4

Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish (AidanGillen) and Olenna (Diana Rigg) conspire to kill Joffrey just after his marriage to Margaery. In return, Littlefinger is allowed to take Sansa, and Tyrion is blamed for his nephew's death. Sansa escapes to the Eyrie where her mother's sister resides. Aunt Lysa tries to kill her out of jealousy, however.

Season 5

Sansa is taken to Winterfell and married off to new resident Ramsey Bolton (IwanRheon) at the behest of Littlefinger who (wrongly) thinks Bolton can be won over and controlled by Sansa's feminine charms. Ramsay (who makes Joffrey look cuddly and likeable) takes punishes his new wife in their bedroom - in perhaps one of the most controversial scenes in the show. Sansa eventually manages to escape from Winterfell and is reunited with Jon Snow.

Season 6

In the North, the armies of Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton face off in a battle for control of Winterfell - the Battle of the Bastards. The Bolton army defeats most of Jon's forces but thanks to a letter sent by Sansa, Littlefinger and the Knights of the Vale arrive late to save the day. Bolton's army is routed and he is left to be eaten alive by his own dogs after being taken prisoner. Snow is proclaimed 'King of the North' (even though technically Sansa outranks him).

Sansa Stark Game of Thrones

Season 7

Sansa starts season 7 as Jon Snow's right hand man, offering a newfound sense of steely cool over the impending war with the Night King while her "half-brother" goes off to hunt for Daenerys. Bran (as the Three Eyed Raven) and Arya return to Winterfell soon after and Littlefinger seizes the opportunity to play the estranged sisters against each other. His plan backfires as the Stark children unite to sentence the traitor to death, once and for all.

Season 8

After begrudgingly handing Winterfell over to Daenerys, the two begin a long run of civil but tense exchanges. Questioning the resources available for the Targaryen's armies and dragons, Sansa shows a growing sense of care and duty to the people of Winterfell (which the new Queen seems to lack). Her annoyance later moves towards Jon, asking him if  if he bent the knee to save the North or because he loves Daenerys.

The next day, in a moment of hopeful understanding with the new Queen, Sansa questions her motives for the North once the dead are defeated. The moment is interrupted with the arrival of Theon – who Sansa rushes to embrace – in the Great Hall. 

During the Battle of Winterfell Sansa stays in the crypts with those unprepared for battle, including Tyrion, and manages to survive the night and the rising of the crypts' buried bodies at his side. In the aftermath, she learns of Jon's true parentage (and right to the Throne) while trying to convince him not to trust the dragon queen. With a kind of ammunition against the warring Targaryen, the future doesn't look bright for the Queenly duo.

Is Sansa going to kill Daenerys?

We wouldn't put it past her. Sansa, aka Cersei-in-training, may indeed kill Daenerys to protect her family and assert their sort-of right to the Iron Throne with Jon/Aegon as Westeros' leader.

While Daenerys descends further and further into madness, Sansa seems to not only be keeping the coolest head in Westeros but has made her dislike for Daenerys public knowledge. It is bound to put her in the dragon queen's 'way', in a sense, and will likely force Jon to choose between them. Particularly now Daenerys will be set to rule the ash-filled Seven Kingdoms, in lieu of the rightful heir. 

If Sansa doesn't kill her, it seems like Jon or Arya might have to do so to save her.

Will Sansa survive the final episode?

While anyone surviving season 8's surefire death toll is up in the air, it wouldn't be entirely unlikely for Sansa to rise above the rest.

Against all odds, the seemingly weak and disinterested teenager has sustained a strength many others die trying to attain. Both mentally and literally. As the race to the Iron Throne heats up, Sansa's unconventional 'army' includes Brienne (sworn to protect her), super-assassin Arya, insight from the Three Eyed Raven, the eyrie, the North, and the rightful heir to the Throne - Jon Snow.

Without a target on her back (at least not the biggest target), her chance of survival is far higher than the rest. 

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