It feels almost callous to release a ranking of the relative power women have in the universe of Game of Thrones after an episode in which so many of them ended up dead (and dead over a broken engagement). But the game marches on. After the Red Wedding, here’s where the women of Game of Thrones stand—or lie:
1. Daenerys Targaryen: The Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons is still rolling, and now the city of Yunkai is hers. Plus, she’s getting hit on left, right, and center by Daario. But she might do well to learn from the death of the King in the North this week—that is, if Dany knows anything about the country she wants to conquer at all. Even slights that seem small and personal can grow to have national consequences.
2. Ygritte: It says a lot about what women go through in this episode that Ygritte can lose her lover, who turns out to have been working her the entire time, watch him kill the man who looked out for her, and still end up in the No. 2 slot simply by virtue of having her life intact and her weapons handy.
3. Arya Stark: “You’re almost there, and you’re afraid you won’t make it. The closer you get, the worse the fear gets,” Dog tells Arya, as they approach the Twins, where he hopes to ransom her back to her mother and brother. And the fear proves warranted. Thankfully he saves Arya from seeing the worst of the massacre and knocks her out to save her life.
4. Osha and Meera Reed: After witnessing Jon’s standoff with the wildlings at the Nightfort, these two enemies come to terms for the best interests of the Stark family and themselves. Osha will take Rickon in one direction, splitting up the two living heirs to Winterfell to save the line, and she won’t have to go beyond the Wall, the site of her tremendous trauma. And Meera will keep going North with her brother, Bran, and Hodor in pursuit of the three-eyed raven.
5. Gilly: Samwell Tarly may not be the ideal person to be wandering around the North with, but he’s not the worst, either. With everything else so miserable, I’m rooting for these two crazy kids. Someone in this universe deserves to be happy.
6. Roslin Frey: Married off to a man who showed nothing but contempt at the idea of wedding her, then used as bait to distract that man’s entire family so that they won’t see the mechanisms of the plot set in motion to murder them, Roslin is having the worst possible version of her special day.
7. Catelyn Stark: She’s been marginalized all season, but Cat Stark gets back into her son Robb’s confidences just in time for the Red Wedding. She’s the first member of the Stark party to spot the plot in motion, but by then, the doors are barred. And she’s left pleading for her son’s life, begging Walder Frey: “Let it end. Please. He is my son. My first son. Let him go and I swear we will forget this. I swear it by the old gods and the new, we will take no vengeance.” Is there a more painful illustration of the way that Westeros wastes its women and their talents than the sight of Cat cutting the throat of Walder Frey’s wife, even after she’s been told that killing the other woman will do nothing to sway the old man, then getting her throat cut herself? At least Cat gets to die on her feet.
8. Talisa Stark: At the Red Wedding, Talisa jokes that if Cat had her way, she’d be home in Volantis rather than married to Rob. Watching her murdered in a way that’s intended not just to kill her but also to destroy her pregnancy is an agonizing end for a woman who came to Westeros to treat the wounded no matter their affiliation.
9. Walder Frey’s wife: If Cat Stark is an illustration of what happens when the talents of bright women are marginalized in Westeros, Walder Frey’s wife, not even named on screen like her stepdaughters, is a reminder of how early that marginalization starts. The fate of Walder Frey’s wife, who was sold to an old man who saw her as utterly replaceable and then killed by another woman in an act of mad desperation, shows us how little control the women of Game of Thrones have over their own lives.