10 Key Moments That Paved the Way to Matriarchy in Westeros

Photo: HBO

In the wake of last night’s season finale, the Westeros political scene looks very different than the sausage fest of six seasons ago. While the show has always been full of tough ladies, this season we saw the women of the Seven Kingdoms maneuvering themselves into positions of power in unprecedented ways. Cersei Lannister took the Iron Throne after dousing her enemies in wildfire and red wine. Daenerys Targaryen, allied with Yara Greyjoy, Olenna Tyrell, and Ellaria Sand, is finally sailing westward with a massive army and some spiffy new sigils, ready to take back her birthright. Meanwhile, Arya Stark is putting her assassin training to use, and Sansa Stark has returned to her ancestral home alongside newly crowned King in the North Jon Snow.

In short: The War of the Five Kings is over, but the age of the queens is just beginning. Long may (some of them) reign! Here are the season’s most important moments paving the way to matriarchy in Westeros.

Insurrection in Dorne 

However you may feel about this season’s Dornish plotlines, you’ve got to admit that Ellaria and her Sand Snakes give Daenerys a run for her money when it came to dismantling the patriarchy in extremely graphic and literal ways. While the girls take down prince Trystane in the season premiere, Ellaria twists a knife into King Doran. “Your son is weak, just like you,” she spits. “And weak men will never rule Dorne again.”

Cersei and Olenna play the game 

Daenerys literally sets the patriarchy on fire 

In what might be the season’s most GIFable moment of female excellence, Dany frees herself from her captors by turning the heat up to high and making herself a nice flame-broiled Dothraki feast. “You are small men,” she says, before setting the Dothraki leadership on fire with some incendiary declarative statements. “None of you are fit to lead the Dothraki. But I am. So I will.”

Sansa takes a stand

After seasons of abuse, this season really saw Sansa come into her own as a major power player in Westeros. After reuniting with her brother Jon, she encourages him to take back Winterfell and works to rally allies in the North to her cause (say what you will about how she handled that whole Knights of the Vale situation). In episode five, when she tells Littlefinger about what Ramsay did to her (“I can still feel what he did, in my body”), it’s just one of many occasions where Sansa’s words are just as powerful as anything that happens on the battlefield.

Yara stakes her claim to the Iron Islands and allies with Daenerys 

While Sansa, Dany, Margaery, and Cersei are consolidating power in their respective regions, another queen comes into the mix: Yara Greyjoy, a swashbuckling tomboy who loves a good pair of tits almost as much as she loves the four r’s (“reaving, roving, raiding, and raping”). When evil uncle Euron shows up to steal the throne from her, she doesn’t fret: She gathers up her ships and heads east, where Dany recognizes in her a kindred spirit and makes her promise to renounce her violent ways. “Our fathers were evil men,” Dany tells Yara. “They left the world worse than they found it. We’re going to leave the world better than we found it.” Sorry, Brienne and Tormund, but this is easily the season’s most shippable moment.

Dany’s big battle 

With the help of Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal and some intense CGI, Dany’s overthrow of Slaver’s Bay is finally complete. Westerosi tourists: Why not spend your holidays in sunny Dragon’s Bay?

Sansa gets her revenge

Regardless of how you feel about Sansa feeding Ramsay to the dogs, watching her get justice on her tormentor was poetic justice at its finest. “Your words will disappear,” she says, staring coolly into the eyes of her former captor. “Your house will disappear. Your name will disappear. All memory of you will disappear.” 

Arya bakes a Frey pie and becomes a Stark again

In the season finale, Arya gets to use her patented face-swapping skills to kill Walder Frey and check another name off her kill list (plus, who knew she could bake?). After watching A Girl struggle in training-montage purgatory for way too long, having her avenge her family’s murder at the Red Wedding was one of the season’s most cathartic moments. As she told Jaqen H’GHar a few episodes before: “A girl has a name, and a girl is Arya Stark.” Yup!

The rise of Lyanna Mormont 

This season’s greatest new character is the pint-sized Lady Mormont, who, as Vultures Nate Jones points out, took over the “badass little girl” slot previously occupied by Arya and Shireen and instantly became everyone’s favorite character. Scatter my ashes in Bear Island, please.

Cersei gets revenge

While Margaery played the game well all season, she ultimately proved no match for Cersei Lannister, who finally got her revenge on the Faith Militant by burning down the capital, water-boarding Septa Unella with a bottle of shiraz, giving an epic speech about how good it feels to fuck her brother and murder people, and then getting herself crowned queen once again. Killing hundreds of people to save your own skin is a pretty evil move, but it’s hard not to root for a woman who decimates her enemies while sipping wine and looking glorious in what many have noted appears to be custom Balmain. The great game may be terrifying, but thanks to Cersei, it’s also stylish as hell.

A new alliance

In one of the finale’s most important bits of table-setting, we see the beginning of an alliance between Olenna Tyrell, Ellaria Sand, and Daenerys. Looks like Cersei Lannister’s going to have a whole lot of angry women gunning for her beautifully embroidered neck come next season. Valar(her) Morghulis!

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