Game of Thrones Moment of the Week: “The Spoils of War”

The Moment: Arya and Sansa reunite

Setting the Scene: When Arya comes home to Winterfell, she shares a quiet moment with her sister.

Why It’s Awesome: I will always have a soft spot for the complex relationship between Arya and Sansa Stark. I have a younger sister, and people have always separated us into the “girly older sister” and “tomboy younger sister,” which made it hard at times for us to find common ground as young kids. But as we grew up, we came to learn that those stereotypes and differences in interests meant so little in the grand scheme of things. When you’re family, it doesn’t matter how different you may seem, your roots are the same, and they connect your stories forever.

Arya and Sansa are the last Starks left (since Bran has basically lost all sense of his former identity), so to see them finally reunite after so many seasons of following their separate journeys was incredibly cathartic. But what I loved about their reunion scene was that it wasn’t immediately filled with relief and joy; there was a tension there that I wasn’t expecting but was actually the perfect choice for their dynamic. Knowing how close Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner are in real life, I have to give them a lot of credit for playing their initial interactions with pointed restraint. These two characters were never close, and they didn’t exactly have a happy parting. So for them to cry happy tears and tell each other all they’d been through wouldn’t have been true to their characters. Instead, Arya didn’t really return Sansa’s initial embrace, and they seemed unsure what to say to each other. There was happiness and relief there, but it was understandably guarded.

However, things began to soften when they talked of their father. When Sansa mentioned that everyone who knew him was dead and Arya replied, “We’re not,” a warmth began to spread between them. Because Arya was right—their father’s legacy lives on in them. No matter what they’ve gone through, they’re still alive, and as long as they’re still alive, House Stark is still alive. It was a reminder that they’re family, and at the end of the day, that’s what matters most.

There was still some believable uncertainty and hesitation between them—like when Sansa laughed at Arya’s very real list of names of people to kill—but as they spoke of their mutual hatred of Joffrey and the hard roads they’d traveled alone, they felt more like sisters than perhaps they ever have. There was a quiet understanding between them when they spoke of the long stories that brought them back home. They didn’t pry (unlike Bran’s super creepy mentions of Sansa’s rape); there was a depth of understanding between them that showed they both understand that the other has faced traumas of her own that are best left unspoken.

Williams and Turner played those last interactions in the crypt with a level of mutual respect that was actually far more beautiful than any tearful reunion would have been. When Arya remarked to Sansa that their stories aren’t over, I felt a swell of hope that I don’t often get to feel when I watch this show. They get to write the next chapter in their story—in the story of the Stark family—and I hope we get to watch them write it together.

The realistic ebb and flow of awkwardness and affection in that scene made their second hug—filled with genuine emotion—feel incredibly earned and powerful. (It was the first moment of the season to make me cry.) It was a moment between two sisters who, on the surface, could not appear more different but who, at their core, have always been connected. They get to choose how their stories go from this point on, and that hug seemed to be a sign that—at least for this moment—they’re choosing to make each other a part of their story. In a season where family ties and loyalty seem to be playing more important roles than ever, it was beautiful to see the bond between these two sisters strengthen even over the course of one short scene. After all they’ve been through, they need allies they can trust, and it seems they might have found that in a place neither would have expected years ago—each other.

Honorable Mentions: Brienne watches the Starks, Arya and Brienne spar, Bran sees straight through Littlefinger, Jon counsels Daenerys, Daenerys and Missandei have a moment of “girl talk,” Drogon and the Dothraki make their Westeros debut (featuring Jaime experiencing some very painful flashbacks to another Targaryen who wanted to “burn them all”)—basically this entire episode was one phenomenal scene after another

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