Ever since "Game of Thrones" introduced us to its vast, colorful cast of characters, there's been a general chorus of agreement that Sansa Stark is the worst.
Well, hey. We get it. It's easy to hate on Sansa! She threw in her lot with the royal family, even when it was kind of obvious that they're terrible people. She doesn't have cool swordplay skills like her sister Arya; she isn't a smart seductress like Margaery Tyrell or a fierce queen like Cersei Lannister. She cries, like, all the time.
And truly, she was much too excited about the prospect of being married off to the gayest knight in Westeros.
But that's why, when "Game of Thrones" returns to TV on April 12, we can't wait to see more of her. Here's why this next season of the series will be The Season of Sansa Stark -- and why anyone who doesn't like that can go choke on a lemon cake.
It's easy to forget how far Sansa has come since we first met her in Season 1, when she was a sheltered teenager who believed in the system she'd always been assured would work for her. Because of where she started, her character arc has been one of the most interesting and brutal of the entire series, as her faith in the basic goodness and fairness of the world was used to manipulate her, imprison her, and beat her down. In short: The moment at which Sansa finally stops being a naive, romantic, well-mannered young lady and starts being a badass bitch from hell has been a long, long time coming.
The savvy student.
Sansa might not have joined her sister in learning practical skills like swordplay, but don't think for a second that her stint in King's Landing hasn't been an education. The eldest daughter of Ned Stark is a canny observer, and her tormenters -- particularly Cersei Lannister -- are constantly underestimating her. Meanwhile, Sansa has been quietly watching, waiting, and absorbing every lesson in manipulative game-playing that her captors don't know they're giving her. (Prediction: Cersei is going to regret having given Sansa this particular piece of drunken advice.)
From pawn to player.
This scene, in which Littlefinger revealed that the poison that killed Joffrey was toted into the Purple Wedding by none other than Sansa herself, was the last time that Sansa got played -- and we do mean the last time. Look at her face: She is completely, utterly, 100% done with being used for personal gain by Petyr Baelish, or anyone else.
She's always had it in her.
People have always hated on Sansa for being too complacent and compliant -- because people are idiots. Like, let's just remember the part where even when she was being held captive and repeatedly beaten for the sadistic pleasure of King Joffrey, and even when she knew that mouthing off meant serious pain, Sansa Stark still replied to Joffrey's threats to bring her Robb's head on a stick with, "Or maybe he'll bring me yours."
And this season, she'll be letting it out.
Make no mistake: Sansa is ready to step up and become a major player in the "Game of Thrones" universe -- the kind nobody sees as a threat until it's way too late, precisely because she's made herself seem completely useless and unimportant. Personally, I am going to love watching her work.
"Game of Thrones" returns to HBO Sunday, April 12.