The New 'Game Of Thrones' Season 7 Photos Tease The Rise Of Sansa Stark As A Powerful Player

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With just about one month to go until the new Game of Thrones season premiere, the teases for the next chapter in the song of ice and fire just keep coming. This Monday, that takes the form of a new crop of Game Of Thrones Season 7 photos; released by Entertainment Weekly, the exclusive pics tease everything from Daenerys' landfall to the Lannisters' map-making skills, from Arya taking direction to a snowbound Beric Dondarrion looking all eye-patchy and scowly. But perhaps the most intriguing photo of the bunch is a photo of Jon Snow and Sansa Stark, which at first glance may seem innocuous… but could also tease Sansa's own rise to power and her dynamic with Jon Snow in the upcoming season.

The relationship between the two half-siblings (or cousins, technically, as the R+L=J revelation reveals) is one of the most intriguing aspects of Season 7. While the pair were understandably relieved to be reunited in Season 6 — as far as they know, they're the last Starks standing — that doesn't mean everything will be sunshine or roses for them from here on out. In fact, a popular theory holds that Jon and Sansa will come into conflict in the near future, perhaps as Littlefinger manipulates Sansa into believing she's the rightful heir of Winterfell over Jon.

That tension between Jon and Sansa is what makes this Season 7 photo so interesting:

Not exactly the most dramatic or thrilling picture, right? Wrong. Just look at all the subtle ways the composition of the image creates divisions between pair: both are looking at different places; one is standing while the other is sitting; one is in focus while the other is slightly out of focus; one of them (the Targaryen) is backlit by the flames of a fireplace while the other (the Stark) is backed only by the cold stone walls of Winterfell. These contrasts between the two supposed allies speak to the gulf that will perhaps begin to grow between them as Season 7 begins.

The other thing to note is Sansa's wardrobe. While previous Season 7 photos have shown her mostly swaddled in her outdoor furs, here the viewer gets to see what she's sporting underneath them for the first time… and it's very interesting. The shoulder pads and studded leather vest make it look as though Sansa is ready to ride into battle at a moment's notice. The direwolves on her lapels draw conspicuous attention to her direct Stark lineage — bragging rights that not even Jon Snow can claim.

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But most notable is the jewelry she's wearing. The ornamentation below her direwolf lapels (a necklace? a broach?) is a single heavy ring. Not only is the ring a symbol of power cribbed from another popular fantasy series, but it also draws direct parallels to the most iconic piece of costuming that Sansa has worn on the show: the circular necklace she first donned at the end of Season 4, as she climbed down the staircase in the Eyrie to show off her makeover to Littlefinger, and that she continued to sport through some of Season 5.

That necklace — and all of Sansa's bold new look — signaled the character's shift from victim of the game to player of the game; and after a couple of seasons spent victimizing her again (at the hands of Ramsay Bolton) and seeing her recover from that trauma, the return of a circular necklace surely signals the full-fledged return of the master manipulator Sansa audiences got a tantalizing glimpse of in Season 4. Also notable is the fact that while her first circular necklace was literally divided by a crosshatch (perhaps indicating some inner conflict), Sansa's new circular necklace is completely whole and uninterrupted (perhaps indicating her new surety of purpose).

HBO

But her own necklace isn't the only piece of costuming Sansa's new outfit is reminiscent of; it also brings to mind this memorable ensemble from Daenerys' wardrobe. The regal echoes of the khaleesi's costumes that have found their way into Sansa's current clothing could very well tease the fact that Sansa will soon come into her own power in the way that Dany has over the past six seasons.

Is it Sansa's new ambition to supplant her own cousin and be crowned Queen of the North in his stead? Does her choice of attire hint at the idea that she will prove herself to be an expert student of Littlefinger's school of manipulation? Might this photo spoil the fact that a wedge will be driven between two of the last remaining Starks, paving the way for a heartbreaking conflict in Season 7? Only the July 16 Game Of Thrones premiere will reveal the truth…