Warning: The following will contain spoilers for what happened during the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, "Battle of the Bastards." Check out all of Polygon's Game of Thrones coverage here.
I've written previously about how this season of Game of Thrones has allowed its female characters to really shine and dominate, no longer just being used as limp bodies being tossed around from one place to the next by a group of men. It's been a welcome change after seasons of watching Sansa being forced to go from bed to bed of men she does not want to be with and watching Daenerys struggle with finally having power over a legion of men, losing it and fighting to get it back.
The show and its showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, have been called out for the use or underuse of their female characters in the series for years, and this season feels like those criticisms have finally been heard. All of the changes they promised to make to ensure that characters like Sansa were going to get more to do than just stand there and be pretty for a cavalcade of men finally seemed to pay off during last night's episode, "Battle of the Bastards."
One of the best moments during the entire episode is subtle, but rewinding and watching it occur for a second time still gave me goosebumps. When Ramsay Bolton is pounced on, being torn apart by his own dogs, Sansa stands and watches, the smallest of smiles gracing her face as she watches her tormentor's gruesome death. It's a pretty bone-chilling moment, but this is what we've been waiting for all season long. Sansa, stripped of all power from the vilest of characters, finally gets to watch karma unfold. She's no longer the one who has to worry about what he'll do to her, but rather, she's the one in power.
Everything about this scene, from the way the moment is shot to Sophie Turner's perfectly subdued acting, motions a big change for Sansa. She's the one standing over her tormentor, watching him being devoured by dogs, and she holds all of the power in her hands. For the first time in Sansa's life, what happens next is completely up to her. As much as the scene was about the death of Ramsay Bolton, an act we were all happy to finally see play out on our screens, it was also about the success of Sansa Stark as a character. The Starks, as a family, have been belittled, broken and beheaded, but that hasn't stopped them from fighting through everything that's been thrown at them and coming out on top.
Arya was blinded and still managed to make her way around, never backing down. Sansa was put through unspeakable acts and still managed to hold onto the belief that she would eventually return home to Winterfell and life would get better. Jon Snow literally died and managed to come back from that to take down the despicable Ramsay Bolton. But whereas Jon Snow had a group of men willing to die for him, Sansa and Arya were faced with an even tougher struggle, trying to make friends out of enemies and survive on the journey from one town to the next.
This was the moment that Sansa was waiting for
And survive they did. So when Sansa looks down at the body of Ramsay being torn limb from limb by a pack of his own dogs, the smile on her face doesn't feel crude or vile or evil, but rather deserved. Celebratory. Justified. This was the moment that Sansa was waiting for; the moment of pure validation that there were consequences for evil people and there was some kind of natural justice in the world. Again, as much as the scene was about the death of Ramsay, it was arguably more about Sansa and her right to seeing her tormentor, her rapist, viciously murdered. It was her moment to savor.
But the episode wasn't just about Sansa. There was also the heartwarming team-up of Daenerys and Yara, two women who have brilliant, strategic minds but who have been told repeatedly that they are worthless outside of their ability to produce an heir for their husbands. Yara had her people laugh at the idea of her leading an army, similar to how Daenerys had to fight with the Dothraki about what she was capable of and what she was worth beyond her biological ability to carry a baby.
Now, however, Yara and Daenerys are a team to be reckoned with. The most powerful military figures are no longer knights, princes and kings, but women who have broken out of the patriarchal cuffs holding them from progressing as respected figures in battle. There's been a switch in power, from the men of Westeros to the women, and it feels like this change has been brewing for quite some time. As we go into next week's episode, Dany finally has the number of men and ships she needs to lead an attack on King's Landing. It's an arc we've been building up to for as long as I can remember. It's time for the women of Westeros to take on the Lannisters of King's Landing and it's about to get very, very interesting.