An epic week in the Game of Thrones universe upended power dynamics as Daenerys Targaryen gained an army and the Night’s Watch lost its Lord Commander. All the action shook up the relative position of the show’s ladies, too. Here are this week’s Game of Thrones Lady Power Rankings:
1. Daenerys Targaryen: Dany’s solution to a thorny dilemma—should she trade a dragon more valuable than any army for an army that will let her wage an ethical war and actually start her campaign of conquest—was so badass that it makes me want to go around hissing “Dracarys!” at anyone who crosses me. After telling her new soldiers “Unsullied. Slay the masters. Slay the soldiers, slay every man who holds a whip, but harm no child. Strike the chains off every slave you see,” revealing her knowledge of High Valyrian, getting toasty on the Wise Masters, and winning the loyalty of her new army, Dany does the Game of Thrones version of a mic drop, letting her whip get trampled into the dust. All the other women on this show may be moving chess pieces from behind the scenes, but Dany’s the first one to get the resources to play in public.
2. Lady Olenna Redwyne: She may not have an army of her own, but Lady Olenna Tyrell has an advantage over almost any other woman in Westeros or across the Narrow Sea: She doesn’t give a damn, and she doesn’t have any hangups about her position in the world. “You here to seduce me, Lord Varys? Please, seduce away. It’s been so long,” she coos at the Lannisters’ spymaster, before getting down to the business of arranging Sansa Stark’s marriage. She sounds out Cersei Lannister’s insecurities, telling her in the sept that “We shower [men] with good sense and it slides right off, like rain on a wing.” When Cersei bitterly replies “And yet the world belongs to them,” Lady Olenna breezily informs her “A ridiculous arrangement, in my opinion,” and gets on with her bad self. Can we please have a Queen of Thorns spinoff?
3. Margaery Tyrell: If not for the fact that she’s constrained by the need to be nice to her wretched fiancé, Margaery would be in the two-spot this week. But she’s getting awfully good at that. First, she talks him into an appreciation of the sept, telling him “Sometimes severity is the price we pay for greatness,” and eliciting an “I couldn’t agree more” from the little twerp. And then she shows a canny understanding of how important it is not to let her popularity eclipse Joffrey’s. “If you give them your love, they will return it a thousand fold,” she tells him, encouraging Joffrey to appear before the commoners. “I’ve spoken with them. I know how they feel about you. You lead the defense of King’s Landing. They adore you.” When they venture outside to deafening applause, Margaery wins herself a little more latitude with Joffrey—and peels him further away from his mother.
4. Cersei Lannister: Cersei may technically be the highest-ranking woman in Westeros, but this week she’s outflanked by her future daughter-in-law and delivered a devastating set-down that reveals just how limited her power really is. “Did it ever occur to you that I might be the one who deserves your confidence and your trust? Not your sons. Not Jamie or Tyrion, but me,” she asks her father. His response after she tries to weigh in on policy? “I don’t trust you not because you’re a woman, but because you’re not as smart as you think you are,” Tywin tells her. Yowch.
5. Ros: “Prodigies appear in the oddest of places,” Varys tells Ros when she stops by his chambers to chat—and to begin the work of extending her base of power beyond the notoriously unreliable Petyr Baelish. He’s technically talking about the apparently sexually gifted Podrick Payne, but his words apply equally well to Ros, and the extent to which she’s risen beyond her “former profession.” Her reveal to Varys? Given Littlefinger’s shipboard manifest, he’s planning on sneaking Sansa Stark out of the capital. What that information gets her remains to be seen. But I’m all for seeing Ros work her way up to a position where she can have revenge on Joffrey and the kind of independence Varys won for himself over the years.
6. Brienne of Tarth: She’s still imprisoned and nursing an unfortunate case of internalized sexism. But being threatened with rape hasn’t stopped Brienne from speaking up to her sadistic captors and asking for Jaime Lannister, who helped save her last episode, to be treated decently. And she’s not letting their grim predicament stop her. “You have a taste, one taste of the real world, where people have important things taken from them, and you whine and cry and quit,” she bucks up Jaime, who seems intent on starving himself to death. “You sound like a bloody woman.” I could do without the last sentiment. But I have no doubts that Brienne will get herself out of this jam and show the Kingslayer and everyone else what a real knight looks like.
7. Sansa Stark: Poor, naive Sansa. It may be true, as Varys tells the Queen of Thorns, that “This is the truth: Littlefinger is one of the most dangerous men in Westeros. If Robb Stark falls, Sansa Stark is the key to the North.” But Sansa’s way too clueless to recognize that she could build a power base if she wanted it. And now she’s letting herself fall for another fairy tale, as Margaery promises her: “Once I marry Joffrey, I’ll be queen. And if you were to marry Loras. Oh, your place would be at Highgarden, wouldn’t it? We would be sisters, you and I. Would you like that?” You’d think that seeing your father’s head on a spike might disabuse you of your romantic notions. But the education of Sansa Stark seems a long way from complete.
8. Arya Stark: Arya is far more of a badass than her older sister, but her blessing and her curse is that her marriage doesn’t matter to anyone, so she’s a notch lower on the list. That said, anyone with the stones to tell the Hound “You murdered Micah. The butcher’s boy. He was 12 years old. He was unarmed. And you rode him down” has potential. Sandor Clegane is right when he tells the Brotherhood Without Banners that he doubts any of them have the guts to fight him, save his accuser: “Who will it be? Should we find out if your fire god really loves you, priest? Or you, archer, what are you worth with a sword in your hand? Or is the little girl the bravest one here?”
9. Gilly: I would not want to be one of Craster’s daughters, and I’m even more sure I wouldn’t want to be on the run with Samwell Tarly. But even in her powerless indignation, there’s something to admire in Gilly’s moral clarity about how to manage what little life she has. “I don’t want your stupid thimble,” she tells Sam. “I want to save my baby’s life. Can you do that? Can you? I don’t have time for you. I don’t have time for anyone but him because he doesn’t have much time.” Turns out he might have a little more than she thought, but it’s a hard road back to civilization.