This was a bad week for almost every woman playing the Game of Thrones, from Lady Olenna Redwyne, whose plotting with Varys was foiled, to Ros, whose attempts to triangulate Varys and Littlefinger ended with her shot through with arrows. But a down week doesn’t mean that all of them are out, so here are this week’s Game of Thrones Lady Power Rankings:
1. Lady Olenna Redwyne: I’d love Lady Olenna if only for her slap back at medieval homophobia: her declaration to Tywin Lannister that “it’s a natural thing, two boys having a go at each other between the sheets.” But I also admire her ability to stay cool in a difficult negotiation, telling Tywin that while she isn’t afraid to have her grandson Loras’ homosexuality revealed, “Brothers and sisters—where I come from, that stain would be very difficult to wash out.” And when Tywin brings out his trump card, telling her that if Loras isn’t married to Cersei, he’ll appoint him to the Kingsguard, she still isn’t defeated. The mark of how well you play the game isn’t whether you win when you’re on your own turf in a fancy garden full of handmaidens. It’s how you play when you’re out of your element, and the odds are against you.
2. Melisandre: Her king may be in a weakened position, but Melisandre’s influence turns out to stretch farther than we know. When she shows up at the camp of the Brotherhood Without Banners, she reveals a new plot. “The High Priest gave you a mission. Turn King Robert away from his Idols and towards the Lord of Light,” she tells Thoros of Myr. Then she gets the Brotherhood members to compromise their political values in favor of their faith, convincing them to turn over Gendry in exchange for gold. And when Arya Stark protests, Melisandre looks into her future and stops the younger woman short with a prophetic vision. Whether it’s personal charisma or the Lord of Light, Melisandre has a lot going for her.
3. Cersei Lannister: She’s resigned to a marriage she has no interest in and bitter that “Joffrey will belong to Margaery, the little doe-eyed whoress, and so will his children and their children. History will be taken from our hands.” But even in this reduced state, Cersei can still pull her younger brother Tyrion into her confidence. Her chops are strong. She just needs material on which to use them.
4. Ygritte: After telling Jon “I’ve waited my whole life to see the world from up there,” Ygritte gets her wish to see both the lands beyond the Wall, and, for the first time, Westeros. She proves herself a deft political analyst as well.“You’re secret’s safe with me,” she tells her new lover. “The Night’s Watch don’t care if you live or die. Mance Rayder don’t care if I live or die. We’re just soldiers in their armies and there’s plenty more to carry on if we go down. With you and me, it matters to me and you. Don’t ever betray me.” For these crazy kids’ sake, let’s hope Jon doesn’t.
5. Arya Stark: Arya’s getting better at archery, even if the Brotherhood’s lead archer warns her “You’re not as good as you think you are.” But she has an ugly awakening when the Brotherhood, which she was beginning to trust, sells her friend Gendry to Melisandre. “We serve the Lord of Light. The Lord of Light needs him,” Beric tells her. But her faith is curdled. “Did he tell you that?” she asks bitterly. “Or did she?”
6. Sansa Stark: Oh, Sansa, missing the point when the man she thinks is her intended, Ser Loras, tells her, “I’ve dreamed of a large wedding since I was quite young. The guests, the food, the tournaments … and the bride of course. The most beautiful bride in the world, in a gown of gold and green with fringed sleeves.” Her own conjugal dream turns into a nightmare when she finds out that she’ll have to marry Tyrion Lannister instead. “Some are given a chance to climb but they refuse,” Littlefinger says of her. “They cling to the realm. Or the gods. Or love. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.” How long before Sansa realizes that?
7. Meera Reed and Osha: As far as they are from the core conflicts in Westeros, the two huntresses are guarding precious cargo: the Stark boys, who are assumed dead. The women’s infighting may risk their mission, but if they can pull it together, they could become an unexpected center of power.
8. Gilly: When it’s an upgrade for you to flee from your father’s compound of incest and pigs for a dense forest full of zombies, your life isn’t in a great place. But Gilly proves she has something to contribute to their survival—“you know your fires,” Sam tells her—and her sense of wonder is a tonic against the cold.
9. Ros: It’s horrible to hear Littlefinger reduce her from the warm, clever, striving woman she was to “a bad investment on my part,” and to explain in clinical terms how he disposed of her. But Ros is more than “a fresh experience” for the bloodthirsty Joffrey, even if the Game of Thrones is biased against low-born people like her. Her death is a reminder that not everyone is playing by the same rules, and that the winner, be they virtuous or gore-soaked, benefits from that unfairness.