Game of Thrones season 7 spoilers below!
We already know that Petyr Baelish aka Littlefinger is the sneakiest dude in all of Westeros. His scheming, backstabbing, flip-flopping and monologuing was present from the moment we met him — and it’s only gotten worse.
Pretty much everything about Littlefinger is unclear, including and especially what his endgame is. Some would guess it’s the Iron Throne. Others might think it’s just to get in Sansa’s winter pants. One theory, sussed out exhaustively by a Redditor named squirrelwoman, ventures a guess that he might actually want both. At the same. damn. time:
Littlefinger wants Sansa and the Iron Throne; Jon is the roadblock in the way of both goals.
Littlefinger’s already told us what his basic strategy is; he lets his enemies destroy each other for him while he acquires more territory and an ever-larger army. Adding the North to his pile is his next step, and while he seems to be sitting around Winterfell twiddling his thumbs, he’s actually positioned exactly where he wants to be, with a fantastic excuse for staying out of the fiery bloodbath to the south.
While Littlefinger and his army are parked safely at Winterfell, his rivals are dropping like flies: the Martells and Tyrells are gone, half the Greyjoy fleet just sunk the other half, and Team Cersei and Team Daenerys are hacking away huge chunks of each other’s military might every time they clash.
In Littlefinger’s plan, it doesn’t matter much whether it’s Cersei or Daenerys who wins; whichever one sits on the Iron Throne at the end will do so with heavy martial losses and a serious public relations problem. People hated Targaryens before one unleashed a Dothraki horde and burninated the countryside… and they hated Cersei before she blew up their religion and strutted around pregnant with her brother’s baby, thus proving the rumors true that Joffrey and Tommen were never legitimate kings.
And just imagine… into this mess rides the Queen in the North, trueborn supermodel daughter of the famously noble, recently vindicated Ned Stark, with the united armies (and food!) of the North, the Vale, and the Riverlands behind her, to be hailed as the liberator of the Seven Kingdoms. It would be sweet justice immortalized in a thousand songs. Once Littlefinger has Sansa installed, Littlefinger can either be the power behind the throne or marry her to claim it himself.
But then Jon threw a wrench in this plan by not dying during the Battle of the Bastards… and another by being so impressive that no one in the North cared that Sansa outranked him… and yet another when he crowned himself King of the Cockblock.
But to Littlefinger, there’s something even worse and more dangerous about Jon: if Jon isn’t stopped soon, Jon is going to completely destroy Littlefinger’s throne-taking army by marching it north to die fighting magical snow zombies.
So when Bran shows up, Littlefinger tries to turn him into an asset. Bran is physically weak and seems like he might have some mental problems to boot; at first glance, he seems like he might be as easy to manipulate as Sweetrobin. That could even be a sweet shortcut for Littlefinger; instead of having to painstakingly chip away at Sansa’s defenses, he could just get Bran to command Sansa to marry him.
So Littlefinger gives Bran a neat present, tries to ingratiate himself, and starts working the “Hey, y’know, YOU’RE the rightful Lord of Winterfell, not that bastard brother of yours” angle. If he can get Bran to challenge Jon, either outcome is a win; even if Jon stays in power, Jon will take a massive hit to his reputation and the loyalty of his Stark-sworn bannermen.
But instead, of course, Bran looks right through Littlefinger and tells him that “chaos is a ladder”. And while it’s plenty unsettling on the “I know about shit you said to Varys in private” level, it also implies that Bran knows exactly what Littlefinger is trying to do at Winterfell… create chaos so that he can climb the ladder.
And now Arya shows up. And Arya is a problem. Not just because Littlefinger recognizes that fighting style, but because any of the folks currently at Winterfell who spent time around the Stark kids before the war could have told him that Arya and Jon were best buddies. That’d be dangerous to have around even before you threw Arya’s currently unknown badass capabilities into the mix.
But if Littlefinger can set up a situation where Sansa and Arya are at odds with each other, the potential benefits to him are huge:
Right now, if Littlefinger tried to poison Sansa against Jon, Arya could talk some sense into her… but Arya will lose all her power to do that if Sansa no longer trusts her.
If Arya thinks Sansa is plotting against Jon, Arya would likely start undermining Sansa… and since Sansa is actually trying to help Jon, Arya will be making Jon’s situation worse. And if Sansa finds out, they’d be even madder at each other.
Moreover, if shit goes down before Jon returns, he’d be asked to choose sides… either pissing off a terrifying little No One, or the woman half his army are more loyal to than him.
And maybe more importantly than any of that in Littlefinger’s eyes, the situation has the potential to cause Sansa to feel utter despair. For years, Sansa has longed to go home, to escape backstabbing and intrigue and return to a place where she can truly feel safe, surrounded by love and honesty. If Sansa has finally gotten back to Winterfell, finally gotten back to the Starks, only to have the Bran-bot stare at a tree while Jon and Arya betray her… after everything Sansa’s been through, that could be the thing that truly breaks her and sends her running into Littlefinger’s arms.
So with all those potential benefits held in his mind, Littlefinger’s doing what he was already planning to do… exploit Jon’s absence to sow doubt among Jon’s bannermen and try to flip their loyalty over to Sansa… while attempting to set up Arya to believe that it was Sansa’s idea.
That scene we witnessed, with Littlefinger talking so earnestly to
the young Karstark heirthe random young girl that totally wasn’t Karstark, my bad? I suspect he’s going to use her to frame Arya to Sansa just as he framed Sansa to Arya.
And then, please, PLEASE, let Littlefinger have underestimated one or all of them and die in some immensely satisfying, karmic retribution way.
P.S. Just to clarify, since I’ve gotten a lot of messages about this… this isn’t what I think is actually going to happen on the show. This is just what I think Littlefinger is plotting.
Edited to add:
Just realized that Littlefinger’s under another deadline as well. He needs to depose Jon before Jon returns, because there’s a chance that Jon has successfully allied with Daenerys, which would also screw up Littlefinger’s plans.
It’s possible that Littlefinger was betting that Daenerys would kill/imprison Jon. It’s also possible that Littlefinger is hedging that bet; it’s been strongly implied that Littlefinger has figured out who Jon’s parents actually are. If Jon comes back allied with Daenerys, Littlefinger might choose that moment to spill those beans, expecting that the revelation will weaken the loyalty of Jon’s bannermen and make them suspicious of Jon’s motives.
And since a lot of folks have messaged to ask:
How could Littlefinger recognize Arya’s Braavosi fighting style?
House Baelish originated in Braavos, but even more than that, Littlefinger was Robert’s Master of Coin; he would have spent years with one of his primary duties being to negotiate with the Iron Bank of Braavos. He likely spent time there, or at least researched what he could expect if he pissed them off too much.
How could Littlefinger figure out that R + L = J?
The driving obsession of Littlefinger’s life has been his love for Catelyn. His #1 tactic for getting what he wants is finding weaknesses and exploiting them. The otherwise rock-solid marriage of Ned and Catelyn had one exploitable weakness that Littlefinger would certainly have known about through Lysa: Catelyn’s resentment over Jon.
It would be insanely out of character for Littlefinger not to dig up every speck of dirt about Jon’s origins that he could… especially when you consider that the #1 theory in Westeros about Jon’s mother (in the books, anyway) is that she was the insanely gorgeous Ashara Dayne, rumored to be the actual love of Ned’s life. If Littlefinger could have proved that was true, he would have had massive ammunition with which to poison Catelyn’s marriage.
Investigating the Daynes would have revealed that Ned showed up at Starfall with Lyanna’s corpse and a suspiciously newborn Jon to return Arthur Dayne’s sword. That would not have been difficult math for Littlefinger to do.
And Littlefinger would have excellent motive to keep the secret. The last thing he’d want to do is tell Catelyn that her husband didn’t cheat on her and was even more noble than she ever suspected.
Got all that?
The TL:DR of it all is basically that all of Littlefinger’s moves this season have been to get rid of Jon Snow so that he can put Sansa on the Iron Throne once Daenerys and Cersei have decimated each other’s military.
It makes sense for a couple reasons. First: It brings the only two clearly-defined goals of Baelish together. Taking the Iron Throne, and getting with Catelyn Stark. (Or in this case, the next best thing.)
Also, it’s classic Littlefinger to let the main players fight it out while he floats around under the radar and waits for his moment. He’s never been one to lead charges, command armies, or get in sword fights with giants. He’s a string puller; a behind-the-scenes guy. This would be a perfect way for him to accumulate power.
One of the steps in whatever his plan is seems to be tricking Arya Stark into thinking her sister betrayed their dad. Not sure how that plays into all this, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Or we could just ask Bran, right? Can’t he see the future? Just tell us what’s going to happen, Bran!!!