Quite a lot happened on Game of Thrones season seven, episode five, “Eastwatch.” Jon Snow’s not a bastard! Wolf Team Six headed north of the Wall to capture themselves a White Walker to take to Cersei! Gendry is back and he’s got a sweet hammer! It would be easy to dismiss Littlefinger’s trap for Arya as a minor plot point, but it has serious implications.
The letter that Littlefinger requested was written by Sansa way back in season one, and it was written under duress. In the letter, Sansa requested that her brother Robb bend the knee to the newly crowned Joffrey, despite the fact that the young king had just imprisoned their father (Ned Stark) for treason.
Sansa wrote the letter because Cersei threatened her and she didn’t have many options. She was fourteen years old, alone save for her sister in King’s Landing and she wanted to be queen. Joffrey hadn’t gone completely mad with power just yet, and Ned still had his head. Context gives Sansa’s letter meaning, and Robb understood that his sister hadn’t betrayed them in signing her name.
There’s just one very serious problem…
So what does the letter say, exactly?
The letter, written in front of a very insistent Cersei, reads:
Robb, I write to you with a heavy heart. Our good king Robert is dead, killed from wounds he took in a boar hunt. Father has been charged with treason. He conspired with Robert’s brothers against my beloved Joffrey and tried to steal his throne. The Lannisters are treating me very well and provide me with every comfort. I beg you: come to King’s Landing, swear fealty to King Joffrey and prevent any strife between the great houses of Lannister and Stark.
Think about what this means to Arya. She thinks Littlefinger is working for Sansa, and that he had this letter removed from the records at her behest. Arya believes her sister is trying to hide the contents of the letter, which are pretty damning without context.
The only context Arya has is her own memories. She watched her father lose his head courtesy of Ilyn Payne, under Joffrey’s orders. She watched the Lannister soldiers parade Robb’s corpse around with his direwolf’s head attached following the Red Wedding. Sansa advocating for Joffrey is the worst kind of treason anyone could commit, at least to Arya.
Arya’s Embraced the Dark Side
Arya always walked a fine line with morality, but she embraced a pretty evil ideology in her studies at the House of Black and White. She swore herself to the God of Death. Sansa, by contrast, has tried to remain true to the ethics she was raised with. Sansa is very much her father’s daughter, whereas Arya is definitely more true to her wolfish nature.
Arya will either confront Sansa with the letter, or she’ll keep the information for herself and let it fester within her like an infection. She’ll never trust Sansa again and will likely lash out at some point. The sisters didn’t get along well before they were split, and their reunion has already been tense.
Showrunner D.B. Weiss confirmed that Littlefinger is trying to drive the sisters apart on the “Inside the Episode” featurette for “Eastwatch.”
“Arya is very used to being more clever and more stealthy, and smarter than any of the people she’s up against, but she hasn’t dealt with Littlefinger for a while. She gets roped into spying on somebody who’s actually leading her by the nose to something that he wants her to have,” he said.
“He’s looking for a way to prevent this sister bond from developing further because the tighter they are the more definitively he is caught on the outside of it.”
Sansa’s seen how stab-happy Arya is and was disconcerted with her display in the yard with Brienne of Tarth. She already thinks her sister is dangerous. It won’t take much from Arya for Sansa to be convinced she needs to be locked up or sent away for her own good. She’ll likely turn to Littlefinger for counsel, cementing his (uber-creepy) bond with Sansa.
Regardless of what Arya does with the letter, it’s going to drive a wedge between the Stark girls. That’s exactly what Littlefinger wants.