Previous Game of Thrones seasons had what critics referred to as a "woman problem." Many TV reviewers accused the show of needlessly brutalizing female characters like Sansa Stark and over-relying on female nudity. But on last night's episode of Game of Thrones, "Battle of the Bastards," ladies (particularly single ladies) reigned supreme.
(Editor's note: spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones.)
After one of the biggest and most cinematic battles in TV history, Sansa murdered her rapist husband Ramsay Bolton and reclaimed her queendom in Winterfell. Her victory is particularly significant in light of the longstanding controversy over her character: Throughout the show's run, she's repeatedly been forced into political marriages, then raped on her second wedding night, leading some to fear writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were reducing Sansa to the role of sexualized pawn.
Now, near the end of season six, Sansa's abusers are getting their comeuppance. Ramsay is eaten alive by his own hunting dogs after Sansa declares that his words, name and house will all disappear and be forgotten forever.
Sansa's vengeance was not last night's only female victory. Daenerys Targaryen (Mother of Dragons, long may she reign!) returned with firepower to reconquer the city of Meereen after Tyrion Lannister made a foolish treaty with the Slavers in her absence. Once again reigning from her royal pyramid, she makes a pact with Yara Greyjoy of the Iron Islands. They laugh at Greyjoy's usurper uncle's aspirations to claim Daenerys's hard-earned political might with a marriage proposal and his "big cock." Together, the women agree to overthrow men who don't see women as "fit to rule."
Yara is the TV show's first openly lesbian character — a deviation from the books, but the subtle homoerotic twist already sparked excitement from viewers and cast members alike. Fans are already buzzing about Yara and Daenerys as a potential power couple.
After five seasons of excessive rape and disproportionate female nudity and objectified women, Game of Thrones is finally revealing that there might be a feminist moral in this tale of bloodshed — and it's one that weighs in favor of women like Yara and Sansa, who are unmarried and untethered to a man's political ambitions.
This is a profound departure from previous seasons, which previously showed female characters primarily achieving power through their relationships with men. For the past few seasons, for instance, Cersei Lannister leveraged her role as "mother of the king" and her sons' marriages for clout after she was widowed by King Robert Baratheon, whom she married solely for political reasons. Yet this season, after she found herself cast out by none other than her son King Tommen, Cersei was thwarted and exposed by the same hierarchy she once used to subjugate others.
This season, single ladies are claiming victory for themselves, not their husbands, sons, brothers or lovers. The message is crystal clear: women don't need a man by their side to rule, and those who seek opportunity through traditional roles will find themselves humbled by patriarchy. The only way to overcome sexism is to burn it to the ground.