SPOILERS: S6 E10: The Winds of Winter
Pity poor Daenerys. Part liberator, part warrior queen, she was poised to become the first female ruler of Westeros. But she has been beaten to the honour by the Machiavellian, sadistic Cersei Lannister, and as the Khaleesi sets sail for Westeros these two women will face off for power.
Against all the odds, the patriarchy of Westeros is being overturned, and a new era of female empowerment beckons. Yara Greyjoy has been promised the Iron Islands by Daenerys, Ellaria Sand rules Dorne, Olenna Tyrell is de facto leader of Highgarden, Cersei rules Kings Landing. Jon Snow was proclaimed King in the North after a rousing speech for his cause by young Lyanna Mormont, and half-sister Sansa Stark’s contribution was crucial to his victory against her abusive husband.
Westeros is filled with and controlled by strong, complicated female characters
This is not to forget Arya Stark, a beacon of strength and resilience since the first episode. She has resisted the Faceless Men’s demands she eradicate her identity, and has taken murderous revenge on Walder Frey, the most lecherous misogynist left in Westeros.
Arya and Brienne of Tarth represent fighters with a moral cause, though Arya’s compass becomes ever shakier (she did feed Walder his own sons after all). This is set against the horrors perpetrated by the likes of Melisandre, Cersei and even Daenerys, who has crucified slaveholders and immolated men who viewed her as nothing more than an expired sexual entity. There is no cause without its shades of moral grey, and this fight for power and recognition in the murky, violent world of Game of Thrones is no different.
Against all the odds, the patriarchy of Westeros is being overturned
Hopefully these momentous events of ‘The Winds of Winter’ will lay to rest the pervasive accusations of sexism against the series. The highly controversial decisions to depict sexual assaults of Sansa and Cersei have been vindicated, proven to play a crucial role in the development, agency and motivations of these characters. Sansa relished the destruction of her abuser by his own hands, Jaime can only watch on as Cersei sits the Iron Throne.
It also seems clear that this season’s plot developments are not acts of penance by David Benioff and DB Weiss [the show’s creators] following previous controversies, but part of a conscious and highly ambitious plan for the series. Game of Thrones is not created to navigate a politicised checklist, to complete a mission to offend as few people as possible. It is telling a story, a great one, with complex characters struggling to survive.
This is why the shows female leaders are so interesting and engaging; they have proved themselves over six seasons of strife and prejudice. This is a fantasy with at its heart a story of a feminine fight for equality and power. Westeros has become a women’s world, and is all the better for it.