Sunday's Game of Thrones quickly moved away from King's Landing after the previous episode's dramatic judicial proceedings, but while Tyrion's sentence looms overhead Littlefinger quietly seized an important seat of power.
This latest episode finished at the Eyrie, where Littlefinger and Sansa have made their home in the wake of King Joffrey’s murder. It appears Sansa’s finally had respite enough to be a child again, building a snowcastle of Winterfell in the courtyard, until Petyr appears, ominously as always.
In a bit of blatant exposition that Game of Thrones is not often known for, Sansa flat out asks Petyr why he orchestrated Joffrey’s assassination.
“I loved your mother more than you could ever know. Given the opportunity, what do we do to those who hurt the ones we love?”
He answers and kisses her as Lysa watches from afar. Of course, crazed and hysterical as Lysa Arryn is, the kiss sends her into a rage and she threatens Sansa’s life, pushing her toward the Eyrie’s gaping hole in the floor, hundreds of feet above the ground. Littlefinger steps in just in time, convincing Lysa to let Sansa go, but Lysa throws a fit. Accusing Littlefinger of loving Sansa instead of her. Ever the calm, composed manipulator, Baelish placates Lysa, telling her he’s “only loved one woman” his entire life. He pauses just long enough for Lysa to release Sansa before finishing “…Your sister,” and throwing Lysa out the moon door, to the rocks below.
The ending didn’t have the same punch in the gut as Tyrion’s venomous speech from the week before, but this move is much more significant than you might think.
First, let’s go back to understanding Baelish’s line, “Your sister.” It’s been known since Littlefinger’s introduction in season one that he loved Catelyn Stark as a boy, when the two still lived in Riverrun. However Petyr’s family was not of high standing so the Tullys never considered Petyr a good match and Catelyn rejected Petyr’s approaches, considering him more of a brother than a romantic interest. In more recent episodes Lysa has admitted that when Cat rejected him, Petyr (Drunkenly, and perhaps even mistakenly) bedded Lysa and took her virginity. Lysa has been in love with Petyr ever since, but Petyr never lost his infatuation with Catelyn.
When Cat’s eventual marriage to Brandon Stark was arranged, Petyr challenged him to a duel for her hand. He lost of course, and was gravely wounded for a time as a result, and Catelyn left the Vale to become Brandon’s wife (Though Brandon was killed by the Mad King in the war, and Catelyn’s hand in marriage was fatefully passed to Brandon’s younger brother Eddard), and so Petyr lost Catelyn for good.
As mentioned above, Petyr claims that he arranged for Joffrey’s death to avenge Catelyn’s murder, but this doesn’t account for the rest of Petyr’s actions. Remember, Lysa reveals this season that it was Littlefinger who plotted the murder of Jon Arryn, setting in motion the entire story beginning with season one, episode one; Littlefinger has been ruthlessly positioning himself in Westeros from the very beginning. While Petyr certainly did love Catelyn, there was likely more to Joffrey’s death than revenge.
All this to show that Lysa’s murder is not a crime of passion. Petyr does not hate Lysa, nor is he governed by his love for Catelyn Stark. He has had his eye set on The Eyrie since before King Robert called Ned Stark to become Hand of the King. And after marrying Lysa in weeks prior, and now unceremoniously tossing her to her death, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, the lowborn descendant of a Braavosi sellsword, who had to fashion his own sigil (The Mockingbird, as reflected in this episode’s title), earns the title of Lord Protector of the Vale, taking charge of one of Westeros’ most impenetrable castles.
Game of Thrones is a story about violence and sex, and both HBO and George R.R. Martin make sure to remind you of that frequently, but politics play a massive role in Westeros as well, and few of the realm’s players seem to take that into consideration. Petyr Baelish was rejected for his low standing, which enraged him. He learned quickly that he doesn’t have the strength to swing a sword, nor the coin to win friends, but a clever mind can be the most dangerous weapon of all. By taking advantage of those he could, he made his way to King’s Landing. There he manipulated his way to the position of Master of Coin, where he boasted to Ned Stark about he ease of which he could move money around, even as The Crown fell further and further in debt. Earlier this season we learned that the Lannisters owe more money to The Iron Bank than they can hope to repay. And yet, Littlefinger managed not only to dodge the responsibility and remove himself as Master of Coin, he was awarded Harrenhall for his trouble. And now, while ancient monsters stir North of The Wall, while Stannis Baratheon rallies an army to take the Lannisters to war once more, and with the last Targaryen in Essos amassing an army, The Boy King is killed, pitting King’s Landing against itself in a frenzy of mistrust and violence. Petyr Baelish can watch all the consequences of his actions unfold from his seat atop the Eyrie, hand in hand with the only known heir to Winterfell and the North.
Because Littlefinger said it best in one of the series’s greatest monologues: Chaos isn’t a pit. It’s a ladder.
Also don’t miss Jim Carrey’s thoughts on the episode.