Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, the man who once expertly orchestrated the inciting actions of the War of the Five Kings, currently appears to be totally lost. After helping Sansa Stark and Jon Snow reclaim the North in Season 6 of Game of Thrones, he’s now wandering about Winterfell getting dunked on left and right. Sansa has no use for (or interest in) him; the newly returned Arya hates his guts; Bran knows his deepest and darkest secrets. But the master of conniving plots must have a plan, right? He’s not just going to let the walls close in on himself. With that in mind, The Ringer staff took a stab at guessing what Littlefinger has up his sleeve (and in some cases, what he ought to have up his sleeve).
Turn Arya Against Sansa
Kate Knibbs: Littlefinger, for all his faults, is clever and conniving above all else. He knows he's profoundly screwed now that Sansa hates him, Arya's a skilled killer, and Bran can traverse the space-time continuum. Backed into a chilly Winterfell corner, Littlefinger will turn to what he knows best: manufacturing interpersonal conflict for his own ends. He knows that Bran's going to be tough to manipulate, and he hasn't gotten anywhere with Sansa, so I suspect he'll go for the newest returnee and most emotionally vulnerable Stark. (And also the Stark most skilled at wielding a dagger.) Game of Thrones has been drawing parallels between Sansa and Cersei all season, and I could see Littlefinger pouncing on Sansa's begrudging admiration of Cersei and her frustration with Jon Snow to try to make Arya doubt her big sister’s intentions. After all, Arya hates Cersei more than anything and had the tightest bond with Jon, so if she perceives Sansa as somehow disloyal to Jon or in thrall to Cersei, it could cause tension.
I don't think Littlefinger's plan will necessarily work, but if I had to bet on it, I'd put my money on a desperate attempt at stoking a sisterly feud.
Alyssa Bereznak: Last episode, Littlefinger tried to build a relationship with Bran by gifting him the very Valyrian steel dagger that was once used in his assasination attempt. It was a scheming, ironic gesture, considering that many years and many accents ago, Littlefinger lied about the dagger’s ownership to drive a wedge between the Starks and Lannisters. It’s hard to tell what exactly Bran was thinking as he accepted the dagger. Our dude is perpetually zonked and cold around everyone these days (see: subsequent conversations with Meera and Arya). But there was one moment of clarity in their conversation: “I imagine you’ve seen things most men wouldn’t believe,” Baelish says, feigning empathy. “To go through all of that and make your way home again only to find such chaos in the world, I can only imagine—.” Before Littlefinger completes whatever annoying thought he has next, Bran interrupts: “Chaos is a ladder,” he says, as an intense stare-off ensues.
As you'll recall, "chaos is a ladder" is something that our dear Lord Baelish half-whispered back in Season 3, as he explained his strategy of advancement to frenemy Varys. The panicked expression in Littlefinger’s eyes means that he knows that Bran knows that he's a motherfucker. So, what do you think a ruthless, power-hungry liar might do to prevent that information from spreading? Kill the source. Before Littlefinger can pursue his unrealistic dream of sitting on the Iron Throne with Sansa by his side, he must first eliminate any possibility that she discover the extent of his Stark sabotage. Littlefinger is going to hire someone to kill Bran. And maybe after that, he’ll go for Jon Snow. It’s my sincere hope that Bran retaliates by warging into a mocking bird that pecks the guy’s eyes out. However it happens, it’s going to happen. With the return of that dagger, Petyr Baelish’s schemes have come full circle, and it’s time they’re put to an end.
Keep Getting High Off of Bran’s Supply
Ben Lindbergh: Two episodes ago, Littlefinger gave advice to Sansa as if he’d given himself some substance from Bran’s supply. “Fight every battle, everywhere, always, in your mind,” he said in his standard conspiratorial murmur. “Everyone is your enemy, everyone is your friend, every possible series of events is happening at all once. Live that way and nothing will surprise you. Everything that happens will be something that you’ve seen before.”
In a world of wargs, White Walkers, and resurrections, no one’s imagination is up to the task of envisioning every eventuality. Luckily for Littlefinger, he’s sharing a castle with the one man who can see all things as they happen (or have happened)—and he knows it, after Bran’s recent reference to Littlefinger’s private “chaos is a ladder” conversation with Varys.
Bran’s built-in bullshit detector might be the biggest threat yet to Lord Baelish, but we know that Baelish believes in keeping his foes confused. The obvious play is to try to kill Bran, perhaps not for the first time. Sticking close to Bran instead would seem to work against him, which makes it the perfect Petyr move. Until the fall from the ladder breaks him, Littlefinger should embrace the warg life and keep chasing that Three-Eyed-Raven contact high, hoping enough of Bran’s training rubs off on him to enhance his plotting for power and cryptic commenting—or at least his ability to see some Lady Stark without clothes on, a lifelong goal that’s slipping further and further away from fruition.
Reunite With Varys
Megan Schuster: I am sure that Littlefinger has a plan. From the day he was born, Littlefinger has never been planless. He plots in his sleep and hedges each of his schemes with five smaller backup schemes if something goes wrong. But right now, hanging at Winterfell and following Sansa around like a lost puppy, I’m not sure what his current plan is (besides probably another awkward proposal and an even more awkward rejection). So instead, here’s what I think the show’s plan should be for Littlefinger: reunite him with Varys.
Littlefinger has never been a more dynamic character than when he had to outsmart Varys. Their conversations around the Red Keep—from the throne room to the gardens, hallways, small council chambers, and pretty much anywhere else a conversation could be had—were tension-filled and often led to some of the biggest plot points in all of Game of Thrones. Just like Magic and Bird in the ’80s, they’re both better when they’re trying to outdo each other. And with Jon and Dany getting ever closer to forming an alliance (and maybe a romance???), if Littlefinger can keep from getting killed for a while and if Melisandre’s prophecy about Varys takes time to come to fruition, it’s possible the puppet masters will meet once again.
Become a Father Figure to Robin Arryn
Zach Kram: The problem with Littlefinger's plan is that he doesn't have a plan anymore. He might fight every battle in his mind, always, but everything that's happened in the last two episodes isn't something he's seen before: Sansa's emerged as a capable, confident leader; Arya's returned home as one of the continent's best fighters; and Bran's back, alive, and quoting back Baelish's own private pump-up mixes.
So Petyr should forget the ladder of chaos, the Iron Throne, and even his crush's-daughter-cum-crush-redux. Instead, Baelish should pivot to the area he's thus far neglected in his naked pursuit of power: fatherhood. With Jon Arryn—a warm father figure himself—long dead and Lysa a victim of gravity, sickly Robin Arryn has been an orphan for nearly three seasons now. Sure, Petyr is technically his stepfather, but he's hardly so much as interacted with the boy since departing the Vale back in the Season 5 premiere. And Robin is 15, or thereabouts, now—old enough to command an army in theory, yet still so blunted psychologically in practice that he can't easily form a sentence without the words "Moon Door" or "fly."
Thrones hasn't exhibited a pattern of healthy father-son relationships in the past. Robert (and Jaime) failed Joffrey; Balon couldn't disguise his hatred of Theon; Tywin provoked his son into shooting him with a crossbow; Lord Walder spent his time belittling his sons; Craster sacrificed his. But Littlefinger already exists as an unorthodox player in Thrones; now, let him occupy that same role for Westerosi fathers and turn his scheming mind toward child-rearing. Benioff and Weiss can even bring back Ed Sheeran to croon "Cat's in the Cradle" as the two awkward relatives bond.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.