There’s no question that Bran knocked Littlefinger down a rung this week. When Baelish expresses his sympathy that Bran came home to find Winterfell in such chaos, Bran interrupts him by saying, “Chaos is a ladder.” This, of course, was a reference to a line from a speech Littlefinger gave back in season three episode six, “The Climb.”
Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish: Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some, are given a chance to climb. They refuse, they cling to the realm or the gods or love. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see someone look so horrified. Bran clearly sees Littlefinger for what he truly is, and almost certainly knows about the horrific acts he’s committed in the past. But what significance, other than showing that Bran is perhaps the first person in Westeros able to out-creepy Littlefinger, does that exchange have? I think it has momentous significance for the ultimate fate of everyone’s least-favorite social climber.
Even Though He’s Down, Littlefinger is Not Out
Littlefinger is being pushed out. He can’t get to Sansa now because she’s too insulated by her other advisers and her siblings. Not to mention that she’s insulated by her trauma. She’s aloof and mistrustful – with good reason – and it’s unlikely that Littlefinger’s perverse fantasy of winning her as a wife has any chance of success.
Sansa was quick to give credit to Queen Cersei as a cruel and twisted mentor. However, Petyr Baelish has shaped her worldview just as surely. While everyone was focused on the gloriously-delivered callback Bran set out this episode, there was an equally telling exchange between Sansa and Littlefinger in “The Queen’s Justice.” Sansa is brushing off Littlefinger’s rather mansplainy admonition to remember how dangerous Cersei is when Littlefinger stops and lays another piece of his personal creed on the table for all to see.
“One of two things will happen, either the dead will defeat the living, in which case, all our troubles come to an end, or life will win out. And what then? Don’t fight in the North or the South. Fight every battle, everywhere, always, in your mind. Everyone is your enemy, everyone is your friend, every possible series of events is happening, all at once. Live that way, and nothing will surprise you. Everything that happens will be something that you’ve seen before.”
So what is going to happen? One way or another, Littlefinger will likely pressure Sansa to betray Jon and declare herself Queen in the North, and she is just as likely to refuse. Then, as Littlefinger himself so eloquently stated, one of two things will occur:
1. Littlefinger bites the dust, and all his troubles come to an end
There is certainly strong evidence for this outcome. If Bran knows about Littlefinger’s private conversation that highlights his gratuitously naked ambition, he probably knows about Littlefinger’s part in betraying Ned Stark. More importantly, he likely knows who really sent the assassin to kill him while he convalesced and that Littlefinger likely had a hand in it. With that in mind, it’s easy to read his re-gifting the Valyrian steel dagger to Arya as a prelude to vengeance.
Arya would certainly be up to the task. Watching her father die was a horrific shock to the young Arya, and knowing that Littlefinger was partly, if not mostly, responsible for it would be reason enough to add him to her kill list. She’s got plenty of spaces opening up.
Littlefinger’s smirking mug, too, would make a potent addition to her arsenal of faces. Being Petyr Baelish would get her surprising access to all sorts of places, I’m sure, and could expedite her quest to kill Queen Cersei in an unexpected way. But, however satisfying this all may sound, it’s mostly wishful thinking.
2. In the ultimate dick move, Petyr Baelish joins the White Walkers
More interesting – and more likely – is that Littlefinger escapes and somehow offers his services to or is turned by the Night King. He is too good at reading the room to stick around and die at the hands of someone whose martial skill he’s seen on full display. This newly-feathered three-eyed raven sees Baelish as a major player, and an enemy, even if he doesn’t say so openly.
A grand betrayal of his entire species for personal gain fits with Littlefinger’s personal brand of sleazebaggery, too. The direct reference to the White Walkers in his speech in “The Queen’s Justice” is no accident. Nor is the fact that immediately after this speech, Sansa learns that Bran (and Meera, may the Old Gods bless her), have returned. What it looks like is foreshadowing.
If you think Littlefinger teaming up with the army of the dead is improbable, remember Craster? He gave his sons as sacrifices to turn into new White Walkers. That was just so he could have a nice, little, secluded spot in the forest. Just think of what Littlefinger would do to gain a kingdom.
Already Petyr has given Ros over to the twisted boy-king Joffrey to be turned into a crossbow pincushion, mercilessly killed a man he paid to rescue Sansa, made his wife, Lysa, “fly” off of a mountain, and sent Sansa into the clutches of the only guy who may have been worse than he is. To him, supporting a powerful, undead king as a bid for survival and conquest would be like changing slippers.
It’s especially likely if Littlefinger is promised the right to rule, even as a puppet. If he could be the king of the frozen wasteland, he would, and he’d view his satrap status as a setback. Littlefinger is too sure of his own cleverness to see teaming up with the icy dead guys as a dumb move.
Littlefinger, Big Baddie
It’s possible that Petyr has been the “big bad” all along. After all, if the Valyrian steel knife was the artifact that started the war, what does that make the man who pressed it into the assassin’s hands? Let’s not forget that he also helped to murder Robert Arryn, which brought Ned Stark down south in the first place. He’s not some Severus Snape grudgingly looking after his late crush’s kids out of some lingering love for her; this man has sinister and ambitious goals, and he cares for no one but himself.
Even if he dies, in a show with so much resurrection and a flipping huge army of undead wights, it’s entirely possible it won’t be the last we see of Littlefinger. He could be resurrected, turned, and put to use for his intellect once the White Walker reaches Winterfell. Or he could have some incredible hidden power that’s allowed him to stay out of harm’s way for so long. This is pure speculation, but Game of Thrones prides itself on being able to successfully shock the audience.
Lili Loofbourow, writing for The Week, points out that “The Spoils of War ” is an episode that is all about misdirection. We think that Cersei’s gold will never make it to King’s Landing, but it does. We think that Bronn will kill Drogon, but he doesn’t. Perhaps that misdirection extends to our expectations for how Littlefinger’s fate will play out.
It would be far more interesting for Petyr to assume his icy arch-villain mantle to the fullest than to wind up as a frozen or cremated corpse in the Winterfellian snow-lands. He’s been around since season one. This tale belongs as much to Littlefinger as it does to Daenerys, first of her name, or to Jon Snow.