Going into last week’s season premiere of Game of Thrones, many fans were nervous. This is, after all, the first season when then show will split from the books. Where does that leave the fate of characters like Cersei and Sansa? But one thing was clear from the first episode of the new season: The show’s leading ladies are going to play a huge role in the new developments in Westeros.
In the season premiere, we got a significant amount of Cersei, a fair number of scenes with our favorite Khaleesi, as well as brief check-ins with Sansa and Brienne. Jon Snow will always have a place in our hearts, but the more we watch, the more it’s clear that the women characters of Game of Thrones are stealing the whole show.
Game of Thrones has often come under fire for the amount of violence it directs towards its female characters, but it also features a roster of strong female leads. We can thank the book series author, George R.R. Martin, for the sheer number of awesome ladies on this show. As he mentioned to The Telegraph, working on the books helped him tap into his inner feminist.
It’s great to see complex female characters on television, women who extend beyond the traditional slots of “love interest” or “damsel in distress.” Here are just a few reasons why the women of Game of Thrones make the whole show worth watching.
They challenge traditional gender roles
Even in Westeros, men and women appear to have designated duties—which is why Brienne of Tarth immediately stands out among the crowd, and it doesn’t just have to do with the fact that she’s over six feet tall. (As is the actress who plays her, Gwendoline Christie. Tall women represent!) Brienne always wanted to be a knight, and she isn’t going to let anyone tell her any differently. She might prefer chainmail over a dress, but that doesn’t make her any less of a woman. She knows how to hold her own in a sword fight (how about that knockdown brawl with the Hound last season?), but she’s also a woman who can have romantic feelings for someone. It’s encouraging to see that Brienne is starting to be respected by several of her peers—Jaime Lannister, for instance—and she hasn’t had to change a thing about herself in the process.
They aren’t afraid to step up and lead in the face of adversity
Daenerys Targaryen has come a long way from the timid young woman who was promised to Khal Drogo in marriage. Since then, she’s assumed command of her own khal, owned the thieves who tried to steal her dragons in Qarth, purchased an army of Unsullied soldiers to free them from their masters and led said Unsullied to conquer the city of Meereen. Nothing was handed to her easily, and she’s definitely dealt with her fair share of difficulties as she leads an army (not to mention that her dragons are proving to be a bit of a handful). But she’s not an unfair leader, nor is she unnecessarily cruel. When she witnesses the despicable way in which slaves are being treated, she chooses to act rather than to sit back and permit any more violence to occur. At the beginning of the series, she was in no position to lead an army—but now she’s starting to embrace her position as the mother of dragons, and it’s been pretty awesome so far.
They’re living proof that everyone grows up eventually
Sansa Stark might not be everyone’s first pick when it comes to strong female characters, but there’s no denying that she’s had to do a lot of growing up lately. She’s one of the few remaining Starks, and gone is the little girl who once dreamed of marrying a king and eating all the lemon cakes she could possibly want. Sansa’s strength lies inside, in her ability to disguise her true feelings. She learned very early on that she couldn’t allow her emotions to rise to the surface in King’s Landing if she wanted to stay alive. She had to hide her pain when it came to dealing with despicable Joffrey—and, to be honest, she dodged bullet by escaping from that marriage. Now that she’s effectively on the run under the pseudonym Alayne; there’s no telling when she’ll be able to be reunited with her surviving siblings again. But we have faith that Sansa will prevail. She has a quiet nature, but there’s a direwolf hiding beneath the surface just waiting for the right time to strike.
They are independent and self-sufficient
No one encapsulates independence more than Arya Stark. She’s essentially been on her own since the end of the first season, and as we head into season five she doesn’t appear to be needing anyone any time soon. She’s had to deal with particularly unsavory characters like the Hound, but her determination and her sheer mettle are the tools she needs to make it through practically any situation. Like her sister Sansa, she’s also keeping her true identity on the down-low since there are people out there who would definitely try to make some money off turning her into the Lannisters. The difference between Sansa and Arya is that Arya is more inclined to strike first, but given that she doesn’t have the protection of four walls and an armored guard she doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for someone else to come along and rescue her. Right now her fate might be uncertain, but I’d put my money on Arya making it through to the bitter end.
They speak their mind, no matter what
If you’re inclined towards a woman who’s brutally honest regardless of the consequences, look no further than Cersei Lannister. She’s delivered some choice one-liners throughout the course of the show, launching verbal barbs in the direction of anyone who gets her fired up. There might be certain aspects of her character that are less than honorable, to say the least, and she might also be candid to a fault, but sometimes the world needs a person who isn’t going to be afraid to speak up. There aren’t many of Cersei’s traits I’d like to possess, but her frankness is something I could stand to learn from at times. If nothing else, she teaches us that it’s also not so bad to enjoy a glass of wine or two if there’s a war going on outside.