This post contains spoilers.
It’s no secret that women in the series occupy a precarious space in Westeros. Sexual violence is commonly employed to subdue them, and upward mobility often relies on women’s sexuality, regardless of their economic status. Poorer women become prostitutes to survive. Rich women use their bodies to secure positions of influence. (As Cersei tells Sansa before the Battle of Blackwater, a woman’s best weapon is “the one between your legs.”)
Given their social limitations, it’s understandable that many women feel compelled to survive on their own and distrust others. But as last night’s episode demonstrated, the most successful female characters are the ones who develop bonds with each other. For the women in Westeros and beyond, forming robust partnerships with one another is the best strategy for survival.
Until last night, we knew Margaery relied on her grandmother Olenna’s counsel. We had no idea, though, the lengths to which Olenna would go not just to secure Margaery the crown but to secure her safety. Looks like someone was listening when Sansa warned her that Joffrey was “a monster”; Olenna intervened and, much to her granddaughter’s surprise, orchestrated Joffrey’s murder. Margaery has youth, charm and sex appeal on her side; Olenna has hard-won wisdom, insight, and a willingness to get her hands dirty that surpassed even Margaery’s expectations. Working on her own, neither woman could have procured a stronghold in the political game. Together, they capitalized on their respective strengths to achieve upward mobility.
They’re the most striking example of female solidarity, but they’re not the only pair: Shae watched Sansa wed Tyrion, the love of Shae’s life. Yet both woman relied on each other for survival: Shae needed Sansa to hide in plain sight and avoid the watchful eyes of Tywin and Cerei, and Sansa — her mother dead, her sister M.I.A. — needed a staunch protector and female companionship. For now, at least, both have been able to avoid death by Lannister hands, a rare accomplishment in Kings Landing. And then there’s Cersei. Cersei trusts no woman, and she is steadily losing her grip on the throne. No matter how hard she tries, she cannot control the men in her life: her brother Tyrion outwits her, her brother/lover Jaime rapes her, and her father won’t accept her as a power player. She’s surrounded by men who refuse to value her. Would she be better off if she could find female confidants?
Natalie Dormer, the actress who plays Margaery, seems to think so: “In another world, if Margaery and Cersei were playing for the same team, they would be a formidable force as teammates. They would probably like each other, because they’re so well-matched.”