Before Game of Thrones had even premiered its sixth season, the HBO series, in conjunction with Entertainment Weekly, boldly proclaimed that the "women are set to rule Season 6." At the time, it was easy to be skeptical about the declaration. After all, some major Season 5 moments -- including Sansa's rape, Gilly's near-rape, and Shireen's death -- made critics and fans alike question the show's frequent use of violence against women. What would possibly make Season 6 any different?
We've never been happier to be wrong.
In its sixth season, Game of Thrones not only empowered its female characters, but it also completely shifted the balance of power. The dated, patriarchal ideals of Westeros were quite literally burnt to the ground, as everyone from Sansa Stark to Cersei Lannister broke free of their proverbial chains and made their own audacious moves for power. Here are all the ways women ruled Westeros (and Essos!) in Season 6:
Introducing Lyanna MormontHBO
It took just five minutes of screen time on Game of Thrones for 10-year-old Lyanna Mormont of Bear Island to become a fan favorite and put Jon Snow and Sansa Stark in their places. It’s been said that when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die —e and Lyanna Mormont is most definitely a winner.
Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes take back DorneHBO
Although Dorne has never been a favorite subplot on Game of Thrones, watching Ellaria and her daughters lay waste to Prince Doran, his guards, and his son Prince Trystane was undoubtedly thrilling -- if only for the way she told him, as he lay dying, "Weak men will never rule Dorne again."
Melisandre resurrects Jon Snow
At the start of Season 6, Melisandre was a goddamned mess. Not only had she lost her faith in the Lord of Light after he led her astray with Stannis Baratheon, but she was beginning to lose faith in herself and her abilities as a red priestess. In fact, one of the more shocking scenes from the season found Melisandre revealing her true self: a 300-year-old crone. That being said, Meli was Davos's only hope in resurrecting Jon Snow, so she gave it a try — and the Lord of Light answered her call, renewing her purpose and solidifying Melisandre's role as one of the most powerful players in the game.
Meera Reed saves Bran StarkHelen Sloan/courtesy of HBO
No one works harder in Westeros than Meera Reed. Not only is she personally responsible for dragging Bran Stark's lanky ass everywhere, but she's also his only line of defense. After losing both Summer and Hodor to the White Walkers in "The Door" — although, not before Meera killed one herself with her dragonglass spear — she's now Bran's only hope. She's also his only friend, which honestly sounds like a tough gig. The entirety of Westeros owes you one, Meera.
Sansa Stark wins the battleHBO
We can all agree that Sansa Stark's secret letter to Littlefinger was the tactical move that won the Starks the victory at Winterfell. If not for the Knights of the Vale storming onto the pitched battlefield in the fourth quarter, Ramsay Bolton would still be Lord of Winterfell — and Jon Snow would be just another flayed man on a cross.
Gilly stands up to Lord TarlyHBO
Sure, Gilly jeopardized her and Sam's entire future by telling Lord Tarly off at the dinner table, but it was entirely worth it to see the look on the old man's face. There's a certain tenacity that comes from being raised North of the Wall, and Gilly proved that she's not one to be fucked with — even in a fancy dress and heels.
Margaery Tyrell makes a deal
Despite her untimely demise, Margaery Tyrell will always be known as one of the greatest schemers in Westeros. She had everyone from King Tommen to the High Sparrow wrapped around her pretty little finger. Her fatal flaw may have been trusting the High Sparrow to take down Cersei, but at least she went out knowing she was right.
Daenerys Targaryen and Yara Greyjoy make a pact to be better than their fathersHBO
Daenerys and Yara have a lot in common: ambition, passion, and shitty dads who were even shittier kings. Yara and Theon offered Dany a fleet of ships and their allegiance in return for her help in overthrowing their treacherous uncle Euron to secure Yara her rightful place on the Salt Throne — a first for the Iron Islands. Since we know how Daenerys feels about powerful women, she agreed to help Yara in exchange for the Iron Islands' allegiance to her reign. Together, they vowed to leave the world better than they found it (i.e., without any dumbass men).
A girl takes back her nameHBO
Ayra spent way too much time in Braavos trying to figure her shit out. She wanted vengeance for her family, but at what cost? When it became apparent that Arya would have to forsake her identity as a Stark to join the ranks of the Faceless Men, she grabbed Needle and got the hell out of Dodge — but not before killing the Waif and taking back her name.
Sansa gets her revenge
Was there anything more exhilarating than watching that small smile creep up on Sansa's face as she walked away from the kennels to the sounds of Ramsay being eaten alive by his hounds? Nope. After three long, torturous seasons, Ramsay Bolton finally got his comeuppance at Sansa Stark's more-than-capable hands.
Lady Lyanna reminds the NorthHBO
WHO HERE IS A BETTER HYPE WOMAN THAN LADY LYANNA OF BEAR ISLAND? The North just needed a swift kick in the ass (courtesy of Lyanna) to remember that the North knows no king but the King in the North whose name is Stark.
Lady Olenna forms an alliance with Dorne and DanyHBO
The enemy of my enemy is my friend, or so it's been said. Cersei stole a future from Lady Olenna when she blew up the Sept of Baelor, killing Margaery, Loras, and Mace Tyrell in the blast. In return, Lady Olenna (a.k.a. The Baddest Bitch in the Reach) forms an alliance with Ellaria Sand, now the ruler of Dorne, and Daenerys Targaryen. This scene solidified the fact that Daenerys's political sect is now ruled exclusively by powerful women (Yara, Ellaria, Olenna, and herself) -- and that's a far cry from the Westeros of Season 1.
Sansa says, "Boy, bye" to Littlefinger
Sansa has learned how to play the game from the master manipulator himself, and she's going to use Littlefinger just as he used her. The evolution of Sansa Stark from naïve little girl to embattled heroine is one of the show's greatest triumphs. She is the show’s survivor. She continuously endures the pain and humiliation of being a woman in Westeros. Just because Sansa doesn't wield a sword as fiercely as Arya and Brienne, or command a horde of dragons like Daenerys, that doesn’t make her any less of a hero.
Arya Stark sends her regardsHBO
Revenge is a dish best served cold, or, if you're Arya Stark, in a pie. What does Frey pie taste like, Walder? Does it taste like shame and regret? Guess we'll never know. That honor belongs solely to Walder Frey. We didn't think Arya's revenge on the Freys would be that satisfying — after all, Walder was old and his sons were idiots — but we were wrong. It took three seasons, but Arya finally avenged Robb and Catelyn's deaths. And now the trio responsible for the Red Wedding (Roose Bolton, Walder Frey, and Tywin Lannister) are all dead. Thank the Seven.
Cersei Lannister burns them allcourtesy of HBO
Mad Queen or not, Cersei knows how to make one hell of a statement. Lucky for her, Daenerys is rather fond of setting people on fire, too.
The Mother of Dragons burns down the patriarchy
No image was more symbolic of Season 6 than Daenerys Targaryen literally setting fire to all of the Khals and dismantling the patriarchal ideals that have plagued the Dothraki for centuries. That scene set the tone for the entire season and even foreshadowed Queen Cersei's reign.
Cersei becomes Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Lady of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the RealmHBO
Having set fire to her political enemies — and unintentionally causing the suicide of her son, Tommen — Cersei is now Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. That's a Big Fucking Deal. Weak men will never rule Westeros again. Long may she reign.