Game of Thrones Season 7 has been moving at a relentless pace – Episode 3, “The Queen’s Justice”, basically packed an entire season of story into just under an hour – but one key Westerosi figure has got the short shrift: Littlefinger. In the early years of the show, Petyr Baelish marked himself out as one of the most devious schemers in all the Seven Kingdoms, but since seizing control of the Vale has taken a back seat – and now that object of affectionate manipulation Sansa Stark is wise to his tricks he seems utterly neutered, walking around Winterfell spouting random advice while the younger generation take on old and new fights.

To many fans, his days seem both numbered in the most mundane ways. Sansa’s playing the game and clearly knows the whisperer is rather worthless, while Jon is only keeping him around to ensure control of the strong armied, heavily protected Vale; Petyr’s really not got many acquaintances left to butter up. There is the potential for ructions to come with the return of Bran Stark to Winterfell this week and Arya Stark well on her way although his doom may have actually already begun thanks to Olenna Tyrell.


At the end of “The Queen’s Justice”, the Lannister army performed a massive coup against invading Daenerys Targaryen: they willingly lost home Casterly Rock so the Greyjoy fleet could decimate what remains of the Mother of Dragons’ sea force and instead led an attack on the undefended Highgarden, home of House Tyrell. This wasn’t a total victory for Kingsguard and General Jaime Lannister, however, with Olenna Tyrell – the last member of the line after Cersei blew up her son and grandchildren in the Sept of Balor last season – revealing with her dying breaths it was she who killed King Joffrey.

Cersei and Jaime’s psycho offspring-of-incest was murdered at his wedding to Margaery Tyrell; he was poisoned using a crystallized substance smuggled into the wedding unwittingly by Sansa Stark and put in the King’s wine by Olenna. However, she wasn’t working alone – the whole scheme was enabled by a far off figure: Littlefinger. Petyr had at this point been sent to the Vale by Queen Regent Cersei, but seeing Joffrey would soon be more reprehensible and dangerous than the Mad King helped to usher in Tommen’s reign; he had Ser Dontos Hollard plant the poison on Sansa and engineered Stark’s escape.

And he pretty much got away with it. Tyrion took the fall and while he eventually escaped execution (taking down father Tywin in the process) he is still widely assumed as the culprit – he was found guilty in a trial by combat and is now Dany’s Hand, fully betraying his homeland – as Cersei cited in the Season 7 premiere. Most of the people who know the truth (in the show at least) are all dead: Olenna and the Tyrells have been wiped out for unrelated reasons and Littlefinger murdered Lysa Arryn himself; only Sansa certainly knows the truth. This is all part of Baelish’s plan – he purposely made himself a passive element leading up to the murder – although he’s got particularly lucky with Olenna, who once threatened to grass him in should her House fall.


However, while her confession doesn’t directly implicate Littlefinger, it brings the conspiracy to which he was integral to light. Jaime already knew Tyrion didn’t kill Joffrey and now has pretty unavoidable evidence of a bigger plot. The only other person who’s been seriously linked was Sansa, who left the wedding during the fracas and is still implicated as Tyrion’s accomplice (she disappeared and was in hiding as “Alayne Stone” in the Eyrie before returning to Winterfell – first as captor, now victor). But even then, Jaime will know there’s more to it than that – suspicions that could very easily lead him to Littlefinger: many wanted Joffrey dead but few are like Petyr and would act on it.

If this comes out it could singularly tear the realm apart due to how ingrained Baelish is. We know from how she handled Elaria Sand that Cersei is still vengeful over her children’s deaths, so would likely declare active war against the North – for housing Littlefinger and Sansa’s proxy involvement – catalyzing Jon and Dany’s situation and stretching a Winterfell preparing for a totally different war to the North. Littlefinger’s prided himself in his outwardly impartial approach, but now he’s at the home of people who despise him yet it’s the safest place in an army of enemies.

Although will it stay that way for long? While Joffrey’s murder is the most recent of his secretive actions, it’s certainly not the biggest unresolved murder Littlefinger’s perpetrated in Game of Thrones.


Game of Thrones began with the death of Jon Arryn, Robert Baratheon’s original Hand of the King. The mystery of this powered the first season and was heavily implied to be the actions of Jaime and Cersei; Arryn had discovered their affair and that King Robert had no real heirs, so he and Stannis were preparing to reveal the fact. This provided the perfect motive, which was first outlined by Lysa Arryn’s in a candid letter to her sister, Catelyn Stark. This was further corroborated when an assassin using Tyrion’s knife tried to kill Bran, who had been injured but not killed after witnessing the twincestuous couple together. After that, Robert died, Ned was beheaded, the War of the Five Kings began, and the minor step in its genesis was forgotten – especially as the Lannister’s increased their stranglehold on King’s Landing.

But, as it was oh-so-casually revealed in Season 4, three years and one deadly war later, Jaime and Cersei are for once innocent. Show watchers should have suspected this from the pair’s first introduction in the pilot where they discuss Arryn’s death with confusion, although no suitable alternative arose until we got Littlefinger and Lysa alone. When he returns to the Vale after Joffrey’s death, it’s revealed they’d had a long-standing affair that Baelish manipulated to get her to poison her husband when Jon threatened to take son Robin to Dragonstone to be looked after by Stannis during the inevitable clash caused by accusing the Queen. For Petyr the purpose was bigger than love: he explicitly wanted to destabilize the Seven Kingdoms, something that’s most certainly happened.


Littlefinger is the root cause of everything that’s happened since the pilot episode; there are so many players in Game of Thrones, but he’s the one who first rolled the dice and begun climbing his ladder of chaos. And for all the knocks he’s suffered he remains present thanks to how his biggest plays remain undetected. The only other person who ever knew of his part in Arryn’s death was Lysa, which no doubt influenced her murder (in the books Sansa is also aware, but the show’s reveal was done away from the young Stark). This makes him feel invulnerable in a show where the risk of death looms large, yet it’s now run for so long it could be the very cause of his downfall.

If we have his hand in Joffrey’s death coming to light, that adjusts the perception of the extent of Baelish’s character and with it raises questions of his previous misdeeds. Jaime and Cersei are the only people to know they didn’t kill Arryn, and so for them Littlefinger jumps right to the top of the list. If they crack it along with the Joffrey case, that’s evidence they can use to rally the Starks against him. For something as mammoth and now fast-paced as Game of Thrones, it may be too much to expect an elegant domino chain to bring Littlefinger down, but it wouldn’t be surprising for things to move in this direction.

“The Queen’s Justice” has a major clue in this regard: letters. It’s stated Master Luwin kept all the communication brought by ravens in his time at the castle, which would presumably include Lysa’s fake note, as well as potential inference of Littlefinger’s betrayal of Ned. The note in question was burned but there could easily be records or other forms of information that implicate Baelish in Arryn’s death and the ensuing destruction of the realm.

Although the act was two wars ago, it directly tore the Stark family apart, seeing Ned, Cat, Robb and Rickon killed and the rest scattered across the globe and going through their own unique tortures and more than capable of revenge. This represents the country on a wider scale; to many the reign of Robert I is a long-forgotten memory of a Summer now ended, but the effects can be felt. For a narrative so about the power of stories – to the point it introduced itself into the text – and in a later run where great efforts have been made to highlight the impact of seemingly personal but ultimately powerful decisions on the whole Kingdom, Littlefinger falling at the hands of those he inadvertently-yet-knowingly destroyed is beautifully fitting.

It definitely looks like we’ll be going back that far. Aside from the raven reference, the knife – Baelish’s, which he lied and said was Tyrion’s – first reappeared on Arya’s belt on the EW cover and was further highlighted as part of Sam’s research in the Citadel, and from the Episode 4 teaser is going to come back into play in Littlefinger’s possession. And Season 7 has been full of specific callbacks to the first season – from Arya saying “that’s not you” to Nymeria and Jon and Tyrion bonding over the latter urinating off the wall – so with such a clear understanding of the minutiae it would be strange to not return to the show’s opening catalyst and biggest unresolved thread. We even had a scene where Littlefinger’s counterpart Varys denounced his previous meddlings to Daenerys: would Petyr be so immediate to do something similar for the Starks? Above all, the show is now making no consolations about punishing bad people: the Red Wedding is finally avenged, now it’s time for an earlier tragedy.

How and when it will actually happen is unclear – and after last week’s surprise Highgarden attack even harder to predict with confidence – but all the pieces that tie Littlefinger to murders that will destroy his favor with the Lannisters and Starks are out there. We just need someone to put them all together.