What a finale! It looks like Season 8 of Game of Thrones will bring an even bigger a showdown between the Mean Queen and the Mother of Dragons. While this show has had many, many troubled plotlines involving women (I’m looking at you Sansa Stark), there have been some truly inspiring moments of female power.
SPOILER WARNING: Don’t read if you haven’t seen all 7 seasons, including the finale of Game of Thrones.
1. Arya tells her dad she doesn’t want to be a great lady in a big castle.
Arya has been so consistent in her dreams, thoughts and ideas about herself. She always wanted to be a warrior. That desire took her across the Narrow Sea to Braavos, where she trained as an assassin.
2. Dany stands up to her big brother.
I’ve always loved the silver-haired firecracker with 99 names. It’s easy to forget that Daenerys was once shy, insecure and under the thumb of her older brother. She actually took her first step toward the Iron Throne when she told him she would no longer tolerate his physical and emotional abuse.
3. Yara Greyjoy flirts with Dany and forms an alliance.
Yara has so many moments of badassery. She’s a fearsome ship captain. She leads throngs of hard men to free her brother Theon. My personal favorite moment is when Dany asks if Yara’s proposal for an alliance comes with a marriage offer, and Yara says, “I’m up for anything.” Still holding out hope for a love scene between these two.
4. Yara states her case at the Kingsmoot.
“I claim the Salt Throne,” Yara yells.
“We’ve never had a queen before – not once,” says an onlooker.
“There are many things we’ve never done,” Yara replies, before giving a speech about how the Iron Islands must make their mark on the world.
She nearly convinces this dirty-looking crew of pirates to take her on as queen (with brother Theon’s endorsement), but rude Uncle Euron stomps in and steals her thunder.
5. Shireen teaches Gilly how to read.
Poor Princess Shireen. She really was a tender soul and a smart little lady. Her life was cut short too soon. Before being burned at the stake, she gave the gift of knowledge to two lucky Westerosi: Gilly and Ser Davos. Shireen’s legacy lives large; Gilly seems to be finding all kinds of goodies hidden in the pages of the Citadel’s ancient texts.
6. Cersei challenges her father.
“Did it ever occur to you that I might be the one who deserves your confidence and your trust… and not your sons?” Cersei asks her father, Tywin in Season 3.
Later her father replies, “I don’t distrust you because you’re a woman. I distrust you because you’re not as smart as you think you are.”
Tywin dictating to Cersei who she should marry is the very definition of patriarchal, and while I don’t like Cersei’s methods for taking power nor her oppressive rule, I do respect her for going up against Tywin. He was scary!
Ultimately, Cersei did prove herself right. The representative from the Iron Bank said just this season that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree when in came to Cersei’s ability to rule mercilessly and with chilling practicality.
7. Brienne’s entire existence.
When we think of the virtues of a knight, what come to mind are things like courage, loyalty, kindness, tenacity and honor. No one in the Game of Thrones universe lives up to this picture of purity like Brienne of Tarth. In that male dominated world, Brienne has given her life to service. She defies the patriarchal structure not only in her actions, but also in how she presents herself. She’s masculine. She refuses to wear dresses and give into the pressure to be a lady. She’s amazing, and I, for one, hope that she hooks up with Tormund (if he’s alive!). I’d love to see her drag him around by his ginger beard.
8. Sansa being a BOSS.
Sansa has had a shitty, shitty path in this gruesome adventure. She’s endured horrible cruelties, but she survived. I don’t think any character outcome for her can justify the writers’ choices to put her through such abuse. However, she is making me so happy with how settled in she seems at Winterfell. I loved the scene in Season 7, Episode 3 when she walked through the grounds at Winterfell pointing out everyone’s mistakes and doling out advice on how to prepare for winter. She’s right where she belongs.
9. Ygritte’s confusion over ladies in the South.
I miss Ygritte. I loved how she constantly called out Jon “You Know Nothing” Snow. Harsh conditions Beyond the Wall led to egalitarian society, and Ygritte has a difficult time understanding how different a few hundred miles away. To Ygritte, it’s unfathomable that women would behave any differently than she does.
10. Kinvara, the Red Pope, giving Varys the verbal smackdown.
I don’t know why this Rachel Weisz lookalike had such a tiny part on the show, but she sure did wow me. Kinvara heads up all the priests and priestesses of the Red God over in Essos. Tyrion calls her in to help them put out the good word for Dany in Meereen while she’s gone (she flew off with Drogon and later was captured by the Dothraki). When Varys questions why he should trust Kinvara, she shuts him down with both a reminder of his first encounter with the Red God, and later with a mystical threat. “We serve the same queen. If you are her true friend, you have nothing to fear from me.” Her blue eyes are menacing, and you know she means business.
11. When Lady Olenna tells Dany, “Be a Dragon.”
“I’ve known a great many clever men. I’ve outlived them all. Do you know why? I ignored them.”
Oh, Olenna, how I mourn thee. Lady Olenna is old school. She works within the confines of the patriarchy and uses cunning and manipulation to assert her will.
12. Lyanna Mormont convinces Jon Snow that women and girls need to be trained to fight against the Night King.
Lyanna “Little Bear” Mormont is named after Lyanna Stark, Ned Stark’s sister. Lyanna was a lot like Arya is. She was a rebel, and she liked fighting. Little Bear has fire in her chest and wisdom beyond her years. When she speaks, she makes sure the Lords of the North listen. She’s intelligent and fair, and when she makes a logical argument that it’s a total waste to have half of the population sit around untrained in combat, Jon Snow gets it.
13. Margaery Tyrell declaring her high aspirations.
Margaery was one of my favorite characters on the show. The granddaughter of Lady Olenna, Margaery was a master manipulator. Her grandma taught her well. She was excellent at getting what she wanted when she wanted it, because she was able to play the part of a lady and use people’s low expectations of women to her advantage. Even the actress who played her agreed that Margaery was a feminist to the core.
14. When Dany levels the playing field.
When Dany was held captive by the Khals in Vaes Dothraki, she knew there was no way she was going to let a group of men decide her fate. She burns them all and takes control of the entire Dothraki nation.
15. Ros departs Winterfell, seeking a new life in King’s Landing.
Ros was always a clever and sassy woman. Granted, she got caught up in Littlefinger’s machinations, but who in Westeros hasn’t? When she left Winterfell in Season 1, she was determined to take her spunky brand of sex positivity and make a name for herself in the capitol. She was creating quite a future for herself – until Joffrey got in her way.
16. Missandei revealing to Dany that her relationship status is complicated.
Missandei is a genius, speaks a zillion languages, and keeps a calm head despite the high stress of the circumstances she faces. She’s a powerful woman in Daenerys’s world, but their relationship extends beyond professional. The women have a real friendship. When they share a laugh over Missandei’s night with Grey Worm, I couldn’t help but smile while watching these two women making their own choices, free of judgment.
17. Quaithe calling out Jorah.
Creepy-face-mask lady in Qarth has a name, and it’s Quaithe! Quaithe of Qarth (Well, Quaith of the Shadow, actually). In addition to painting some guy’s back with the blood of a ram, Quaith lets Jorah know that she knows that he’s in love with Dany. “Will you betray her again, Jorah the Andal?”
“Never,” he says.
18. Catelyn Stark bargaining with Jamie.
Is this a feminist moment? I want it to be. I never knew how to feel about Catelyn. She was fierce for sure, but also naive. She made so many mistakes. Letting Jamie go was a huge one.
19. Lady Crane flips the script.
When Arya is sent to kill an actress in a traveling troupe visiting Braavos, she is surprised to find that her mark is incredibly charismatic and kind. Arya can’t go through with the hit. But she does give Lady Crane a bit of advice. She tells Lady Crane that if she doesn’t like her lines, she should rewrite them. And rewrite them she does.
20. Karsi fighting to the death and beyond at Hardhome.
Hardhome is my #1 most favorite episode of the series. The tension is insane. The best character there was an elder warrior, Karsi. When Jon Snow asks that the Wildlings join his fight against the Night King and the White Walkers, she challenges him and pumps him for information on how exactly they might win such a battle. When the Walkers come, she sacrifices herself for her young daughters and fights to protect her people. It hurts big time when the Night King resurrects her, and her wide eyes shine deadly blue.
21. Dany discussing strategy with her female-centric war council.
After years and years of watching women beaten and raped and made pawns in the wars of men, it was a thrill to see Dany lead a council filled with women. Yara, Ellaria Sand, Lady Olenna, Missandei. Slate said it well: “You don’t need a penis to run Westeros.”
22. Arya and Sansa finally see eye to eye.
A big reveal (well, an attempted big reveal… it reality it was a little anticlimactic) during the finale was that Arya and Sansa were plotting together to take Littlefinger down. I wasn’t crazy about his speedy trial. What I loved was the moment after, when both women stand side by side a top of the walls at Winterfell. Arya repeats what her sister told her once before, “I wouldn’t have survived what you survived.”
“Yes, you would have,” Sansa says. “You’re the strongest person I know.”
They’re both strong, and they’re both weak. And that’s alright. They’re both survivors, each with her own set of coping skills. One thing’s for sure; they’re much stronger together.
23. Diplomacy, queen-style.
It was deeply satisfying to see Dany and Cersei deal face-to-face. After a lengthy War of Five Kings and many seasons of struggle, only two queens remain. The last king, Jon Snow, bends the knee and throws his support behind his lover/Aunt, Dany. To see all of Westeros (and parts of Essos) on its knees for two women was awe-inspiring. Even Cersei couldn’t ruin that moment.
I’m dying for Season 8. Will we ever meet the Night Queen?