Spoilers ahead for the Season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones had already shown the clip of Sansa welcoming Daenerys to Winterfell. She did so without much seething. What they did not show you was what happened after Daenerys paid Sansa a compliment. Her warm greeting given a rather cold response from Sansa. It was the beginning of Sansa versus Daenerys.
The tension between the two did not ease throughout the hour. For those concerned this was going to be a one-episode arc, think again. The teaser for Episode 2 hinted at even more to come! Thus, giving Game of Thrones a surprise twist it definitely needed. Sansa versus Daenerys makes sense and here’s why.
Sansa Is Thinking Clearly
Sansa declared her personal autonomy in a significant way. She faced pressure to go along with Daenerys, and she resisted. Sansa is for the North and more specifically its independence, or so it seems. Daenerys just wants to take it over, along with everything else she has conquered since Game of Thrones began.
If Daenerys did not have that plan, she could have refused Jon’s gesture and told those in the North that she has no wish to rule them. But she didn’t, which means Daenerys and Sansa have conflicting goals.
It would never make sense for Sansa to have immediate affection for Daenerys. She is opposed to everything Sansa desires for the North. Supposedly Jon Snow bent the knee to win her aid against the White Walkers. However, she had already agreed to help Jon and the cause before he officially bent the knee to her.
Then there is history. House Stark and House Targaryen have not gotten along. As Sansa pointed out in Season 7, Daenerys’ father horrifically murdered her grandfather and uncle. Daenerys’ father was a mad king. He needed to be removed from power. How she feels entitled to it given the circumstances that led to the Targaryens getting overthrown has always been troubling. Sansa may agree.
Daenerys Deserves Some Defiance
For a long time, Game of Thrones has gotten crowded with Daenerys fans. Just about everyone, including Jon Snow and Tyrion, has fallen under her spell. Daenerys cannot make Sansa like her, and it does not seem like she will for at least another bit of time.
Given how pro-Daenerys everyone on the show has been, it is refreshing to hear a different opinion. In another surprise, Game of Thrones gave more than one character the chance to echo it. To everyone watching, she is not the person her on-screen fans have described her as being. She genuinely cares for people, but she also craves power and blood.
Sansa is the only one who can really go toe-to-toe with Daenerys at this point. Both have survived difficult circumstances and want their houses restored. The thing is, House Stark did not burn Daenerys’ grandfather alive and strangle her uncle. So, it makes their moral position a lot better.
It Puts Jon Snow in a Tougher Spot
Arya and Sansa made their loyalties clear in the Season 8 premiere. They are Team Stark all the way. Jon Snow learning his true biological origins puts him in an extreme position to prove whose team he is on. He now knows he is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. However, he lacks the personal ambition and moral impetus to take what is his.
In a hint at things to come, Arya told Jon not to forget he is their family. Arya did not say how she felt about Daenerys, but she referred to her as Jon’s queen, not hers. All the while indicating she would not defend Daenerys to Sansa.
Jon is in a trickier place than ever before. His sisters/cousins are reminding him about his family. Support for Daenerys does not mean support for the North or the Starks. Instead, it would mean supporting what so many -- including the Starks -- fought against during Robert's Rebellion. If Jon is the one to rule, he will do so as a Stark and a Targaryen.
Sansa and Arya have made it clear he is a Stark to them. Now, the truth is out to at least a few. Jon is still a Stark, but not because his father was one. It is because his mother was one.
His decision whether or not to declare himself the rightful heir to the Iron Throne may force him to give up some of his Stark loyalty. He chose Daenerys before. For the Northerners, it was not the right choice considering the faith people had put in him, and Sansa knows it.
Sansa confronted him regarding his true reason for supporting Daenerys. She asked him if he submitted because he wanted to save the North or because he is in love with Daenerys. Jon did not get a chance to answer.
If Jon decides to declare his status as the legitimate son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, he will have chosen the Starks, as there would be a Stark/Targaryen on the throne rather than a Targaryen / Targaryen. Jon will also have tested the suspicion that Sansa and Sam seem to have about Daenerys and whether she would give up her own claim in the light of Jon's better one.
Sansa May Be Onto Something
Plot wise, there may be a telling reason Sansa has not submitted to Daenerys. Sam made his case for Jon Snow to declare who he is and assert his claim to the Iron Throne. When he did, he pointed out that Jon gave up his crown for his people. He then asked if Daenerys would do the same. If Sansa had a chance to answer, she would probably say “no.”
When Sansa talked to Tyrion, she said she used to think he was “the cleverest man in the world.” She indicated his judgment about his sister keeping her word made her doubt that. If Tyrion is off about Cersei, is he also wrong about Daenerys?
Arya told Jon that Sansa is the smartest person she knows. Considering that Arya is a pretty good judge of character, her opinion should be considered trustworthy. Hence, Sansa’s assessment of Daenerys could be likewise.
Of course, Arya saying so also hints that Sansa’s actions during the Battle of the Bastards were not innocent. She was smart enough to know her actions put Jon in danger. Sansa has also demonstrated an aptitude for ambition. Daenerys could make the case that Sansa does not have Jon’s best interest as any higher of a priority than her.
Daenerys’ real character will not be known until she gets faced with being told the truth. That being, she is not the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Will she do the right thing and step aside? Or will she fight Jon for what she believes is hers? Will Jon even make her choose?
The next episode should see Sansa versus Daenerys continue as the teaser showed both exchanging words. Daenerys’ critical of a “he,” who is probably Tyrion for trusting Cersei. However, Sansa points out, Daenerys never should have trusted her either. The intense glare that Daenerys gives Sansa is a thank goodness "looks don’t kill" moment. Check it out at the 16-second mark below:
Will Daenerys change Sansa’s mind about her? I hope not. It is a relief to see Sansa speaking the truth about the Mother of Dragons. Just like there was no reason for Arya to trust or be close to Sansa in Season 7 immediately, there is no cause for Sansa to believe in or like Daenerys. It is true to who they are and a character-driven quarrel that will hopefully last more than two episodes.
Find out how Sansa vs. Daenerys plays out when Game of Thrones’ final season continues. New episodes air Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.