Definitely, the most dramatic development and change from the book in Game of Thrones 5.03 was the fact that Sansa will marry Ramsay Bolton. As discussed in a previous show vs books feature, it was Jeyne Poole being passed off as Arya that was going to marry Ramsay in the books.
Now, we have this beloved character in this horrid situation, a treacherous alliance between Littlefinger and the Boltons and all manner of nervous and exciting possibilities for the Kingdom of the North.
What do I expect to happen with Sansa and Littlefinger and the Boltons and Brienne and Theon now? Read further and find out!
Sansa just might be able to handle Ramsay.
We’ve seen how twisted and cruel Ramsay can be. He’s even more of a complete monster than Joffrey, and not as cowardly. So far his victims, Theon, Tansy, Ironborn, Northern peasants have all been in powerless positions. Without his more cunning father Roose to reel him in and with no real reason in Ramsay’s or his mens’ mind to be merciful, these people have all felt the brunt of his viciousness.
Sansa is another story. As Roose spelled out for Ramsay in “High Sparrow”, Sansa is the political key to ruling the North. Now that Roose and Ramsay are under the same roof, I expect Roose to take a much more active role in reeling Ramsay in. He’s repeatedly shown his displeasure with Ramsay’s aversion to diplomacy and Roose can’t afford to have Ramsay turn Sansa into something like Theon. That kind of atrocity would be what unites the lesser houses of the North against house Bolton.
While Roose’s desire to placate the North may work towards Sansa’s well being, Sansa has some experience dealing with monsters, after all. Ugh, I really don’t want to recount all the crap Joffrey put her through, but it is relevant. Being threatened with a loaded crossbow while stripped and beaten, taunted with her family’s death, threatened with rape. If Ramsay thinks he’s going to shock Sansa with that kind of treatment, he’s got another thing coming. My hunch is that Sansa is going to be savvy of the situation enough to discourage Ramsay from doing those things to her. Like, “If you lay a hand on me, your father will know.”
Ramsay’s not going to like that. We haven’t gotten a chance to see what his candid thoughts about marrying Sansa are, but it’s a sure bet he’ll want Sansa as his play thing.
The other major factor is how exactly Roose is going to try and win the North over with Sansa and how exactly Sansa decides to play along. That should come into focus more as the season continues.
The Greyjoys join Stannis?
Roose insists that if the other houses in the North unite against house Bolton, they wouldn’t have enough men to hold the North. There’s just a little narrative problem with that scenario. Who would we follow? Every domain of narrative importance to the show has characters that the audience follows. Cersei, Jaime, Jon, Daenerys, Tyrion, Sansa, all give us a frame of the action in their locations. With such an emotionally cathartic plotline (potentially) like retaking the North from the traitorous Boltons, we need a character be the point of view for that arc. We have none.
No other major house in the North has emerged. Brienne doesn’t have anywhere near the political clout to lead an army, Sansa can’t instigate a rebellion from where she is, unless that women who told her, “The North Remembers” speaks for an already organized resistance. Fortunately, there are outside forces that have the in-universe power and narrative stakes to liberate the North.
So, as far as we know, the Greyjoys are still reaving and pillaging and still causing problems for the Boltons. Yara will obviously be discouraged about rescuing Theon, but she still cares about him. Stannis will launch his campaign to oust the Boltons sure as day. If Stannis and the Greyjoys join forces, they stand a chance against the Boltons.
But that would take some serious compromise on both Stannis’ and the Greyjoys’ parts. The Greyjoys are fighting the Boltons, after all, because they want the North for themselves and Stannis isn’t going to suffer the Greyjoys being so uppity. The Baratheons, the Greyjoys and the Boltons all making war is definitely going to make the North suffer.
Brienne and Theon will help Sansa.
I expect out next few sightings of Brienne and Podrick are going to be similar to the gig Arya and the Hound had for Season 4; great character development but not getting anywhere fast. Brienne is going to have to take some time to train Podrick. Besides, a loyal Stark warrior isn’t going to do well for herself in Bolton lands. If Brienne had a rough time as their prisoner when the Boltons were pretending to be Stark bannermen, it’s going to be 10 times worse now.
But Brienne’s not going to let Sansa stay at the mercy of Roose Bolton and Littlfinger. Some opportunity will present itself. Perhaps not a conventional challenge of the Boltons that Brienne’s martial prowess is accustomed to, but she will make trouble for the Boltons.
Also, since Stannis is marching south, Brienne may get her shot at him after all. If she’s faced with the choice of avenging Renly or rescuing Sansa, which may be through Stannis, what will Brienne choose? Hard to say.
Theon definitely recognizes Sansa. The question is, will Sana recognize Theon? I’m imagining some profoundly awkward scene where Sansa and Ramsay get to talk more and Reek is lurking in the corner and Sansa gives him some strangely familiar looks. How much does Sansa know about what Theon has done? Does she know that Theon reportedly put her little brothers Brandyn and Rickon to the torch?
I’m confident that Sansa won’t be as big a victim of Ramsay’s cruelty as he would like, but it’s definitely going to take seeing some suffering from Sansa to jog Theon’s memory.
Littlefinger at the top of that Ladder.
Even as Queen-mother, even without Tywin’s support, Cersei is a dangerous woman to cross. What exactly is it that she expecting an immediately reply on? Probably something to do with Lysa Arryn or the loyalty of the Vale to the crown. Whatever Littlefinger plans on telling her Roose is smart enough to check whether Littlefinger would sell him out to the Lannisters behind his back.
Remember, as far as we know, none of the Lannisters know that Sansa escaped Joffrey’s wedding with Littlefinger’s help. Littlefinger is going to want to conceal Sansa’s marriage into the Boltons for as long as possible, or at least until he stands to gain form revealing it.
The distance between King’s Landing and the Vale is going to protect Littlefinger for a while. Also, now that Tommen and Margaery are officially married, Margaery is the proper Queen.
Let’s take a moment to recount a few important moves that Littlefinger has made and what we know about him. Through marriage and assassination, Littlefinger has become the de facto ruler of the Vale while Robin Arryn fails at swordplay. The Vale has been mostly untouched by the War of the Five Kings and is geographically defensible. He’s now gained tremendous favor with the new Wardens of the North by arranging and ace-in-the-hole marriage for the Boltons. And he’s already co-conspired with the matriarch of the new royal family, Olenna Tyrell to murder the previous King. So he has powerful, up and coming allies pretty much everywhere that matters in Westeros.
And let us not forget the quiet HOLY-$#%@ moment mid-season 4 when Lysa blabbed that she poisoned her own husband and blamed the Lannisters for his death, at Littlefinger’s behest. Let that sink in for a moment. Littlefinger orchestrated the initial death that pitted the Starks against the Lannisters, then played Ned Stark right into Cersei’s hands. This jumped up bean counter basically started the War of the Five Kings! (apart from the unrelated fact that Joffrey was a twincest bastard).
Varys has had Littlfinger figured out for a while. He’s really the only one who’s considered him a serious threat to the realm. “He would see this country burn if he could be King of the ashes.”
So where does Littlefinger go from here? Was his little history lesson to Roose about the last alliance between the Vale and the North merely an example, or a suggestion? Littlfinger’s preferred method of combat is subtle political subterfuge; he’s not going to be marching armies anywhere just yet. That’s probably why he racked up millions in royal debt to the Iron Bank and basically left the Lannisters with the bill.
There’s still a few more dots to connect, but there are plenty of fans out there who expect Littlefinger to be the final Big Bad, either sitting, or puppet-mastering the sitter of the Iron Throne, whenever Daenerys makes her conquering return to Westeros.