In the third episode of Game of Thrones’ current season, the enigmatic Littlefinger delivers one of his strangest monologues to date — and that’s saying something. Speaking to Sansa Stark, who’s currently in charge of Winterfell while Jon Snow is at Dragonstone, he tells her to anticipate every possible outcome against every enemy, all the time. It sounds a bit like a stoner’s ramblings after their Philosophy 101 seminar, but the gist of Littlefinger’s message is to expect the unexpected.
Littlefinger might want to heed his own advice after the fourth episode of season seven, “The Spoils of War,” which sees him blindsided by two of the Stark siblings for very different reasons. It’s enough to worry about Littlefinger’s days in Westeros; we’ve never really seen him shook or caught off-guard in the way he appears when talking to Bran, for instance. His constant scheming and political pivoting might finally be catching up to him.
Let’s start with Littlefinger’s conversation with Bran Stark. Littlefinger offers Bran, rather oddly, the Valyrian dagger that was used in the assassination attempt on Bran all the way back in season one. (If you don’t remember, the killer was thwarted by Catelyn Stark and Bran’s direwolf, Summer.) Since the blade’s made from Valyrian steel — i.e., reserved for rich people in Westeros — the implication is that someone of high stature ordered the assassination. Though it’s originally believed to be Littlefinger’s blade in season one, he pins the blame on Tyrion Lannister. Catelyn, looking for somewhere to direct her rage, is happy to accept that narrative, despite the fact that it makes little sense for Tyrion to arm an assassin with a knife that could so easily be traced back to him. All these years later, it’s still unclear who exactly ordered Bran’s death.
But that assassination attempt is one of several developments that instigate the initial conflict of Thrones between the Starks and the Lannisters, as Littlefinger points out to Bran in “The Spoils of War.” He goes on to talk about how that attack has shaped Bran into the man he is today, molded from the “chaos” that’s unfolded since. And it’s his use of the word “chaos,” that causes Bran to interrupt him: “Chaos is a ladder.”
If the phrase sounds familiar, it’s because Littlefinger used it while speaking to Varys in perhaps his most infamous monologue, back in season three, and it doubles as Littlefinger’s mantra. Suffice to say, hearing Bran repeat what he said to Varys is enough to rattle Littlefinger, and it opens up a world of possibilities. If Bran is all-seeing, all-knowing, what else does he know about Littlefinger’s scheming? Does Bran know, definitively, who ordered the assassination against him?
Thrones is still, wisely, keeping the extent of Bran’s knowledge under wraps (it’s not like he’ll be spouting spoilers for future events). But it still makes every conscious choice of his all the more curious, and one of those this week was to hand the dagger Littlefinger gifted to him over to Arya Stark.
Just as Bran’s had a strange transformation from adventurous kid to ultra-woke tree wizard, Arya has gone from rambunctious tomboy to cold-blooded assassin. Bran probably knows this, too. So his passing off Chekhov’s dagger could have a huge ripple effect on the series — some believe it could eventually be used to take down Cersei Lannister, or even the Night’s King.
And yet, despite Bran’s seemingly vast knowledge of every event known to man, he doesn’t seem particularly concerned with Littlefinger or his scheming. (Remember: This dude betrayed Bran’s father.) It might be because he knows Littlefinger’s already doomed; he might’ve just helped set that potential plot twist in motion himself, by giving a Valyrian steel dagger to Westeros’ premier face-changing assassin.
Let’s not forget Arya and Littlefinger’s brief history, either: She sees him conspiring with Tywin Lannister at Harrenhal back in season three. When she gives him a quick glance after a casual sword-fighting session with Brienne of Tarth, it’s not exactly a welcoming look.
One prevailing theory on Thrones, and one of several theories we’re keeping track of this season, is that the series is essentially a shadow war between Varys and Littlefinger. At some point in the sprawling narrative, that might’ve been true. But things may be spiraling out beyond Littlefinger’s control: Bran’s having god-like visions, Arya’s a faceless assassin and Sansa’s one of the most quietly impressive political players in the realm. All of this puts the scheming Littlefinger in potentially dangerous company.
As for Varys, juding from the preview for next week’s episode, he seems concerned with Daenerys Targaryen’s volatility in the wake of her vicious attack outside of King’s Landing. In other words: He doesn’t have a handle on his most powerful chess piece, either.
Chaos is beginning to take over Westeros. Will Littlefinger climb it like a ladder, or will he succumb to it?
Updates on other theories we’re tracking
•The final scene of “The Spoils of War” was certainly shocking, with Jaime Lannister sinking under the weight of his armor after a failed attack on Dany and Drogon. But he’s totally fine — there’s no way Thrones would kill off such a major character so ambiguously. Some fans believe Jaime could be the prophesized Azor Ahai reborn, a legendary warrior who will stop the impending White Walker threat. One factor running against that theory is the fact that Jaime hasn’t had a symbolic (or literal) rebirth, which is key to the Azor Ahai prophecy. Sinking to the bottom of a river, though — and at the very least, nearly dying or being resuscitated — might be enough to make him qualify for the prophecy.
•You know how Bran is basically God, and can see everything that will ever happen? It’s kind of strange that he’s so casual about passing through the Wall, since doing so with the mark of the Night’s King on his arm probably means the White Walkers can destroy or get through the Wall. So thanks, Bran — if the White Walkers get through the Wall, it’ll probably be your fault!
The seventh season of Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. Eastern on HBO.
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