Shortly before Season 7 of Game of Thrones got under way, HBO unleashed a controversial trailer that got the whole fandom talking. In case you missed it, it's this one:
The key moment comes in the final seconds—a voiceover from Sansa that states, "The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives." Blogs, forums, and Reddit threads exploded with theories as to what it meant.
The Starks are associated with wolves; it's featured on their house sigil. So which Stark is going to die? Surely not Sansa, since she's the one saying it. So, Arya? She's definitely a lone wolf. Or could it be Jon? He has a tendency to go it alone, especially when the White Walkers and/or brooding are involved.
Or maybe Sansa is saying it ironically, and she actually is the one dying. Bitter last words? Eek!
But we've actually got a sneaky suspicion that the real meaning behind the line has been missed. Not because fans are dumb, but because the team who put that trailer together is engaging in a sneaky bit of misdirection.
We've heard the line before, and it originally had a very different meaning. Brace yourself—potential MASSIVE SPOILERS are coming!
You see, Ned Stark first said the words on the show to Arya back in Season 1.
"Let me tell you something about wolves, child. When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. Summer is the time for squabbles. In winter, we must protect one another, keep each other warm, share our strengths.
"So if you must hate, Arya, hate those who would truly do us harm. Septa Mordane is a good woman, and Sansa...Sansa is your sister. You may be as different as the sun and the moon, but the same blood flows through both your hearts. You need her, as she needs you...and I need both of you, gods help me."
Changes the meaning a bit, doesn't it? Ned isn't saying "if there's a lone wolf, they have to die for the pack to survive"—quite the opposite. He's saying that when the snows fall (which they are) and the white winds are blowing (which they definitely are, right Jon?), the Starks need to stick together if they're going to make it through.
Some of you might be shouting: "But he said that to Arya, not Sansa!" But we're betting this is a direct quote from a chat Ned had previously with Sansa, which would mean she's actually talking about the Starks bonding, not dividing.
Why is this significant? Well, mainly because we haven't heard the line yet this season, which means it's definitely going to appear in this Sunday's finale. It'll be the culmination of the plotline that's had a lot of people fooled this year–Arya vs. Sansa–and it'll mean the end for one of the biggest characters on the show, a demise that will have a major knock-on effect for the final season.
Pull up a throne, and allow us to explain...
The Starks have seemed very divided this season. Yet Bran clearly knows about Littlefinger's role in Ned's death–Littlefinger instigated it, and Bran repeating Petyr's "Chaos is a ladder" quote back to him was a reference to that whole period.
Arya knows that Littlefinger plotted with Tywin Lannister after Ned's death to destroy the remaining Starks (she saw/heard them together when she was Tywin's cupbearer) and Sansa... well, Sansa knows better than anyone what a creep Littlefinger is.
But for some reason, the Stark kids aren't talking to each other about it. In fact, Arya's apparently allowed herself to be manipulated by Littlefinger, which makes little sense.
Arya turning on her sister has been one of the most irritating aspects of season 7. But what if they are talking to each other? What if Arya knows exactly what Littlefinger's up to—thanks to Bran—and is using her Faceless Man skills to test Sansa, to see if she's still a Stark at heart?
Arya's told loads of lies recently. She doesn't want to know what it's like to wear pretty dresses – she hates that stuff. She saw Sansa's reaction to Ned's death and Sansa certainly wasn't smiling. Oh, and that whole thing about dying before she served the Lannisters? Yeah, tell it to Tywin. It only makes sense if it's all subterfuge, part of the game of faces.
From this perspective, Arya's lulling Littlefinger into a sense of false security—loudly criticizing Sansa, while observing Littlefinger, so she can eventually take his face and replace him.
Why wouldn't Arya immediately let Sansa into her ruse? Well, she takes after Ned–who let Catelyn believe Jon was his bastard, we assume to make the lie appear genuine (thanks to Catelyn's honest disdain for the boy she considered a product of her husband's cheating).
Ned would have been ace at the game of faces–the most honorable man in Westeros kept the biggest lie of them all a secret, right up until he got his head cut off. But we digress.
Of course, Sansa could be playing along – but if she isn't, you can bet that Arya will tell her exactly what's been going on before the finale's end. How do we know? That quote – which we believe will be said to Littlefinger, shortly before Sansa kills him with the dagger he gave an assassin to use on Bran, which Arya returned to her sister. (Man, that dagger gets around).
Yep, our theory is that not only does Littlefinger die in the finale, but Sansa's the one who does the deed – shortly before Arya cuts off his face, so she can continue to gather intel in his stead.
We've been promised a "violent and surprising" incident involving Arya and Sansa, and we're convinced that this is it. It's a huge call on our part–a lot of fans believe Game of Thrones' most important players are Varys and Littlefinger, that they're secretly orchestrating everything.
That means Littlefinger's death will change the perception of the whole show for a large section of the audience as we head into the final season. But, if Arya does use her faceless magic to keep Littlefinger in the game, perhaps the Varys vs Littlefinger plotline can continue?
If it does, we really hope someone tells Jon–we'd hate for him to kill "Littlefinger" to avenge Ned, only to find out that it's his little sister in a mask. (Though, seeing as he has to plunge his sword into the heart of someone he loves in order to fulfill the Prince Who Was Promised prophecy, maybe that'll work out okay?)
One thing's certain—Ned will be quoted when the Starks come together this Sunday. This pack will survive.
Game of Thrones Season 7 concludes Sunday with a movie-length finale at 9 p.m. on HBO.