Lord Petyr Baelish is one of the biggest dirtbags in Game of Thrones, but he’s also one of the most cunning. (Neither is a small feat.) A self-made man from meager beginnings, the native of the Fingers region has climbed his way up the ladder of chaos, plotting, deceiving and murdering as he moves from one rung to the next. He was once just a humble brothel owner and Westeros’ master of coin, but now he’s the Lord Protector of the Vale, and with some more manipulating he could finally achieve his dream of ruling over the Seven Kingdoms — an ambition he once revealed to Sansa Stark.
In the seventh season of Thrones, Littlefinger is spending most of his time lurking in the shadows and creepily whispering in the ear of Sansa, the new interim Queen of the North and Lady of Winterfell. His recent manipulation efforts with the young Stark are only serving to further aggravate her — she’s bored of his pithy one-liners and looks as if she’s ready to throw him out of Winterfell — so if he hopes to reach the Iron Throne, he’ll have to play the game better, because Sansa is his ticket to the top.
As we’ve said before, Sansa is on a solid trajectory to the Iron Throne, and since Littlefinger has little chance of taking the big seat himself, his best bet for controlling the Seven Kingdoms depends upon him hitching his wagon to hers. That means making some serious changes on his part and ultimately marrying Sansa, thereby ensuring he’ll become king when she becomes queen.
Since we’re doing an ongoing series that explores how different Thrones characters could take the Iron Throne, and since George R.R. Martin seems to love rewarding his worst villains — Cersei Lannister is the Queen of Westeros; Euron Greyjoy appears to be unstoppable; Ser Gregor Clegane is a resurrected Hulk zombie — now seems like an appropriate time to see how Lord Creepyfinger could, unfortunately, end up winning Game of Thrones. Here are the steps he needs to take to make that happen.
Step 1: Win Sansa’s trust
Sansa is a strong and resilient young woman who has a real shot at becoming the new queen of Westeros. For starters, she has the right name, and in the world of Game of Thrones that’s extremely important. House Stark is one of the oldest in the realm, stretching back thousands of years to the time of the First Men, and their family has ruled the North for generations upon generations. But more than that, Sansa has the right temperament for the Iron Throne. She’s gleaned a great deal of wisdom from the various rulers she’s known throughout her life — compassion from her father, Ned Stark, and her brother, Jon Snow; strength from Queen Cersei Lannister; and guile from Lord Baelish himself. And as the interim Queen of the North, she’s in a unique position to prove herself as a leader.
So if Littlefinger wants to take advantage of Sansa’s ascendance in the world and rise up along with her, he needs to become her lawfully wedded husband — but first he has to win back her trust. Now, it’s true that he answered her call to arms for the Battle of the Bastards and saved Jon from certain death, but that still doesn’t make up for his tragic mistake of wedding her to Ramsay Bolton. The best way for Lord Baelish to earn some points with Sansa is to stop bullshitting her and just be completely honest about his ambitions: He should tell her that he wants to rule the Seven Kingdoms with her. It doesn’t have to be a hard sell at first — he should just let her know that that’s what he’s angling toward.
Along with a new level of honesty, Lord Baelish needs to stop being such a blatant creeper — and that includes putting an end to the forceful kissing and breathy monologues asking if she’s safe and happy. His overt sliminess may not have raised any red flags back at King’s Landing, where pretty much everyone in power there is gross (looking at you, Jaime and Cersei). And his cheap charms may have wooed the somewhat unhinged Lady Regent of the Vale Lysa Arryn, but Sansa isn’t susceptible to Littlefinger’s control tactics anymore.
Winning over Sansa will certainly be an uphill battle, but if Littlefinger’s proven anything, it’s that he’s able to adapt to get what he wants.
Step 2: Establish Sansa as a ruler
As the Lady of Winterfell, Sansa finally has an opportunity to show everyone just how brilliant she truly is. She’s already filled her new position well — she’s making efforts to ensure Winterfell is properly prepared for winter — but Littlefinger needs to use his talents to make her shine like a finely polished Valyrian steel sword. This includes using his “little birds” to sniff out and squash any hint of insurrection, as well as safeguarding her image in the eyes of her bannermen. She must always appear strong, capable and worthy of her title.
Step 3: Propose to Sansa
As mentioned above, Littlefinger’s path to the Iron Throne hinges on marrying Sansa; without a lawful bond to her he’ll never be the king of Westeros. While Sansa could potentially reach the Iron Throne on her own, going all in with Littlefinger significantly increases her chances of success. They’re stronger together.
But there’s one major problem: Sansa has made it abundantly clear she’s not interested in Lord Baelish. In fact, it looks like she can barely stand his presence. She does, however, seem thirsty for power. Plus, taking the Iron Throne away from Queen Cersei would be a satisfying twist of the knife against the woman who tormented her for so long.
Lord Baelish has spent the entirety of Thrones fighting a shadow war for the top spot — he’s a genius at manipulating others to do his bidding. Together, he and Sansa can rule Westeros, and that’s the angle his marriage proposal needs to take if he wants Sansa to say “yes,” instead of ordering Arya to cut off his face and wear it like a Hannibal Lecter mask.
And to be clear, Sansa and Littlefinger working together doesn’t necessarily mean she needs to turn against her family. Some people will surely have to die in this pursuit of ultimate power, but there’s no reason to think any of them need to be Starks. If she makes a convincing case to her family that she could be a capable and just queen, maybe they’ll support her effort. And while Littlefinger has shown he completely lacks any real moral compass, we’ve never seen him in a leadership position. As King of Westeros he may very well be a better ruler than the sadistic Lannisters or the fire-obsessed Mad King.
Step 4: Mount an attack
Once the knot is tied, it’s time to for Sansa and Lord Baelish to take King’s Landing and overthrow Queen Cersei. But even with all the bannermen of the North united behind them, they’d be hard pressed to overwhelm the Lannister forces. Thankfully, Jon has been working on winning over a new ally: Daenerys Targaryen.
Dany has three dragons and several, massive armies at her disposal. Combined with Sansa and Littlefinger’s troops, King’s Landing doesn’t stand a chance. However, Dany would never agree to fight alongside the North if she knew Sansa’s true intentions. This is where Lord Baelish comes into play.
It’s critical that Littlefinger conceals their plans from Dany and convinces her they believe she is the rightful queen. It shouldn’t be too big of a task — he’s kept his lifelong ambition for the Iron Throne secret from everyone except for Sansa and Varys.
Step 5: Steal the Iron Throne
When the battle for King’s Landing is won and Queen Cersei is defeated, Littlefinger must move swiftly to pull off the biggest con of his life: stealing the Iron Throne from Dany and giving it to Sansa. It will require bribes and subterfuge, threats and promises, backstabbing and, of course, murder. He needs to go full Michael Corleone here: Eliminate Dany and all of her allies in one fell swoop, so they can’t retaliate. Put Grey Worm and Tyrion to the sword. Kill anyone left over from the Lannister camp, for good measure. Leave no one alive who could possibly rise up against them. Blood will be shed and unspeakable atrocities will have to be committed, but once the task is complete, Lord Baelish will officially become King Baelish, and Sansa will be the Queen Sansa.
It’s a political coup only that could only be pulled off by someone like Littlefinger, who lives his whole life planning for every conceivable outcome.
“Don’t fight in the North or the South,” he tells Sansa in the Winterfell courtyard in the seventh season’s third episode. “Fight every battle, everywhere, always, in your mind. Everyone is your enemy. Everyone is your friend. Every possible series of events is happening all at once. Live that way and nothing will surprise you.”
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