“Game of Thrones” has always been criticized for its treatment of female characters, whether it’s for over-sexualization, violence or just straight up screen time and storylines. The rape of Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) in particular drew a lot of negative attention from feminist viewers in Season 5.
Now though, it seems “Game of Thrones” has doubled down on empowering storylines for its female characters in Season 6, which was especially prevalent in the most recent episode, “Battle of the Bastards.”
Sansa shined as a beacon of strong female writing, first voicing her outrage at not being included in any strategizing or battle plans — despite being the only one to know the depths of Ramsay’s (Iwan Rheon) depravity — and then again as she brought the late minute save with the Knights of the Vale.
Perhaps the best part of Sansa’s heroism is that it does not and cannot detract from Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) own bravery and victory in the battle. He is every bit as much the hero of that story as she is.
Too often, we see women lifted up by beating or demeaning men, as if their only strength can be found in surpassing members of the opposite sex. “Battle of the Bastards” showed us that Sansa and Jon play to different strengths, and those strengths combined won back Winterfell.
We were also treated to a wonderful new female friendship (or maybe more) between Yara (Gemma Whelan) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke).
You could see how pleasantly surprised Daenerys was to hear that Theon (Alfie Allen) would be abdicating the throne in favor of his sister, and the two women shared more than one knowing smile.
We’re especially pleased with the direct (if a little obvious) language about female leaders and the rampant misogyny in Westeros when it comes to women in power. “We’d like you to help us murder an uncle or two, who don’t think a woman is fit to rule,” Yara jokes.
Their partnership may be political, but we can already see an understanding and deep respect growing between these two women, and their alliance will be hard to beat. As terrible as the Dorne storylines have been on “Game of Thrones” we almost want to see these girls team up with the Sand Snakes to create an even fiercer female fighting force.
At this point in the game, Season 7 will likely be the beginning of the final battle for control over Westeros, and several female characters are positioned perfectly to be part of that battle.
Sansa has control of Winterfell in the North with Jon, Cersei (Lena Heady) and Margaery (Natalie Dormer) are the power players in King’s Landing (assuming they can beat their wraps for religious crimes), Daenerys and Yara will lead the attack from foreign soil and Arya (Maisie Williams) is a total wildcard.
That’s a pretty impressive lineup of empowered women.
Who knows if this female-friendly vibe can continue — there’s already one or two women marked for violent death in the upcoming finale episode — but “Game of Thrones” fans can only hope the fantasy show keeps writing rich stories for all their fan-favorites.
“Game of Thrones” airs Sundays at 9 p.m ET/PT on HBO