Political Analysis of HBO’s Game of Thrones, Season 5 Episode 6, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”

So yeah…that episode happened. I wrote an essay about it for Salon.com. Mostly focusing on the things I found interesting about the episode – the theme for this week is the uses and mis-uses of betrayal – but I do touch on the big controversy.


73 thoughts on “Political Analysis of HBO’s Game of Thrones, Season 5 Episode 6, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”

  1. winnie says:

    Thank you Steve for so eloquently dissecting everything about last night’s episode.

    I didn’t catch it when watching it but you’re absolutely right about how smoothly Doran handles everything without ever leaving his chair. It will be interesting to see what he does next.

    Agree that Littlefinger’s move seems clever so far but I think once he gets the Vale knights up North it will all backfire on him.

    And WORD to everything you said about Cersei. She has no understanding of how alliances work OR how desperately she needs the Tyrell’s. On the show it seems like the Great Western alliance is about to disintegrate even more quickly than in the books. And it’s never wise to get on Olenna’s bad side.

    And judging from fan reaction so far you’re not the only one who thinks D&D betrayed the viewers. I honestly don’t know what they were thinking.

  2. Brian says:

    Very good take as always, Steven.

    One thing that always struck me about Doran Martell was the quote about how he was the grass to Oberyn’s viper. He uses the “frail old man” persona for all it’s worth and makes himself a formidable player indeed. Plus, he also is mindful of and cares about the consequences of his actions and what price will be paid, which is more than I can say for most of the other major players.

    As for the rape scene…I’m pissed enough that it happened to my favorite character, but the gratutiousness is out there even for D&D. What was the point, and were they smoking when they came up with it?

  3. David Hunt says:

    Steven, I’ve got a question. Given what we know about Ramsay, once they marry Sansa to him, I don’t see how he’s not going to be…well, himself on their marriage night. The show removed any doubts I had about that last week when he paraded Reek in front of her and inserted him into the wedding ceremony. After that, I gave up any hope of him being able to restrain himself. Are you saying that I’m wrong in that assessment? Are you saying that the scene wasn’t necessary in that we didn’t have to see the beginning of the horrors that I think were inevitable once we got to the marriage night? Something else?

    p.s. Yes that scene was awful to watch and I didn’t want it going there. I didn’t see how we weren’t going there give who Ramsay is.

    • winnie says:

      Well they didn’t have to have the marriage to Ramsay ever take place. Even in the storyline Sansa might have fled beforehand or they may have planned to hold off on the ceremony until after they dealt with Stannis.

      • JT says:

        Sansa wouldn’t flee. Her purpose there is to get revenge. Also, the Boltons wouldn’t wait – they *need* her as part of their family to unite the North against Stannis.

        • How is she getting revenge, exactly?

          • JT says:

            Beats me. But when Sansa learned where she was going in episode 2, Littlefinger told her she didn’t have to go through with the wedding if she didn’t want to, but this would be her chance to get revenge on the people that killed Robb and Catelyn. Sansa got back on her horse and told the party to head north. So she must have some sort of revenge plot in mind…

      • Or they could have Sansa have her own storyline, instead of making up a completely illogical and convoluted storyline where none of the character motivations make sense, so she could be shoved into the role of a minor character and get raped.

        • haplo6 says:

          Totally agree. When Sansa is heir to Winterfell she has power. Once she gets hitched, it all goes to the husband. A move for revenge would be to marry an Umber, Karstark or Manderly and use her Stark name to lay claim to the North. As much as folks of the North hate the Boltons, an uprising would certainly toppled Roos and Ramsay.

    • Fiona Fire says:

      I disagree. Ramsey has consensual sex with Miryanda. No reason why he couldn’t have consensual sex with Sansa. He is sadistic but not always. Sansa could also have done something to keep him from “getting bored.”

      • John says:

        Well, I mean, Sansa is a virgin who doesn’t actually want to have sex with Ramsay. So it’s going to be kind of rapey no matter what. I do think they probably could and should have gone in the direction of “stoic acceptance” on Sansa’s part instead of “agonizing rape.”

        • That wouldn’t have made it any better, since it would’ve been completely unrealistic. At least this is a realistic depiction of her reaction (but the problem is that nothing else about this storyline is… most of all her agreement to marry Ramsay). The only way a “stoic” reaction to being raped would be plausible would be if she were someone who’s become dead inside after being repeatedly raped all the time, like the sex slave in Volantis that Tyrion rapes in ADWD.

          There is no “good” way to do a story where Sansa comes to Winterfell to marry Ramsay and gets raped by him. You simply do not do this story, since it’s stupid, illogical, massively OOC, offensive, disruptive to her arc and blatantly exploitative, and did I say illogical?

    • It probably was inevitable, given the decision to have Sansa be Jeyne Poole.

      I’m just saying I don’t think we needed to see it happening.

  4. LA-MJ says:

    Isn’t Littlefinger also Lord of the Riverlands on the show as well as in the books? That would give him control over 3 kingdoms not two. That is ludicrous of course. As Ned points out about Jaime no one man/family should ever hold such power.

  5. Keith B says:

    I don’t see Littlefinger’s treachery as well-executed. Usually he tries not to leave witnesses behind, but in this case the Lords of the Vale know Sansa was with him. How can he be sure they’ll keep quiet? His fingerprints are all over this one.

    It’s surprising that the Tyrells would leave their most precious assets, Loras and Margaery, in King’s Landing without more backup. The Red Keep should be swarming with Tyrell guards and retainers, enough to protect them from the Faith. If Cersei then tries to use her Lannister troops and the City Watch, she loses all plausible deniability.

    • Grant says:

      This also raises the question of how no one wonders about why he seems to be the only man to know where Sansa went.

    • Three lords of the Vale, all of whom hate the Lannisters more than they hate LF, especially as he’s not around to bug them anymore.

      As for the Tyrells, didn’t help Margaery in the books, did it?

  6. haplo6 says:

    Nice analysis as usual SA. However, I still doubt the validity of Show Littlefinger’s plan as it involves an invasion of the North by Vale knights known to not be crazy about his leadership. He clearly duped Sansa into thinking marrying her reviled enemy, and thus capitulating to the systemic male dominated power structure, was a good idea. It now appears he is simply using her presence with the Boltons as pretext for conquering the North. It’s also curious that folks in the show seem to be ignoring the fact Sansa is a Lannister, giving the Iron Throne (made up of Houses, Baratheon, Lannister, and Tyrell) dominion over Winterfell.

    And, (sigh), the show seems to be relishing the “shocking” scenes as a way insight Twitter buzz. Who now will rescue poor, trapped, tormented Sansa?

    3-2 odds it’s Brienne
    5-1 odds it’s Theon
    25-1 odds it’s Stannis
    50-1 odds it’s Mance
    500-1 odds it’s Sansa

    I’m also curious how relevant Doran Martell can actually be since the show has cut Young Griff and Quentyn.

    • winnie says:

      He could be relevant if he has a plot to kill Tommen and/or marry Trystane to Dany.

    • Fourten says:

      You are missing one set of odds there. Littlefinger’s at 1:1

      He knew what he was getting her into (there is no way he really didn’t know about Ramsey’s proclivities). No matter who wins between Stannis and the Boltons, LF will be there for his pet. He’s bet one of the only 2 things he care about (Sansa) to win the other (Power) and he means to collect them both.

      • Sean C. says:

        LF’s own plan involves waiting until the battle is over, so he won’t be the one rescuing Sansa.

      • Sean C. says:

        Also, Bryan Cogman explicitly confirmed in his EW.com interview that Littlefinger genuinely knows nothing about Ramsay.

        • Which would especially make sense in book continuity, where Ramsay’s only been at the Dreadfort for two years. Bastard of a lesser House in the North who hasn’t been around a long time could pass under the radar.

          • Winnie says:

            True. LF does seem generally ignorant of affairs in the North, which is the only explanation for why he (and Varys too!) completely missed the ARMY OF THE DEAD BEHIND THE WALL.

          • Sean C. says:

            It doesn’t, though. Ramsay has been riding around the North flaying people openly. He does that to the lord and lady of a major house in the same episode Sansa gets to Winterfell. Sansa and LF would have had to ride past Castle Cerwyn to even get there. How, after traveling hundreds of miles through the North, did they hear absolutely nothing about this?

          • Fourten says:

            From LF’s perceptive, the longer she is there, the better for him.

            It’s disappointing to hear Cogman had to explain a critical fact like that on a website and not in the show, the problem seems to be that LF has no real confidante to give exposition to. He actually only said on the show that he didn’t know anything about Ramsey…to Ramsey, who is the first person you’d expect LF to lie to about that fact.

            He needs a Bronn, but then again don’t we all?

        • MoreRoycesNeverABadThing says:

          My not-so-great TV headcannon is that Roose’s legitimate son was squired at Runestone rather than Redfort (both castles have a lord with a lot of sons) and Yohn Royce tells Littlefinger how great that Bolton was and he hoped for his own daughter Ysilla to marry him before he died so that Littlefinger can at least have a motive for believing Sansa will be safe since Lord Royce is an honorable man who wants the best for his own daughter and also thinks how different could one brother be from another.

    • illrede says:

      Doran can accomplish the same thing he is positioned to accomplish in the books; He can fail to secure peace.

      (Brienne, Theon, Stannis for a photo finish. Independent of all other considerations, I very much would like to see the leap off the walls televised.)

    • John says:

      You think Littlefinger is telling Cersei the truth?

    • Well, Ep 7 clarifies the situation.

      I’ll put a dollar on Sansa. And how much can I bet against Mance?

  7. CoffeeHound14 says:

    Yeah, my girlfriend and I were really upset about the rape scene, and we’ve been having long conversations about why we think it was a terrible choice. Where I have been getting hung up, though, is with the question of why I didn’t feel the same about the scene in the books. Yes, it’s a minor character in the books, but that doesn’t make it any less exploitative. And the scene in the books is much more explicit. All I can come up with is the fact that the book makes it more about Theon’s arc, and I do think that redeems the scene in the book somewhat, but at the same time, you still have Jeyne Pool being used as Theon’s “woman in the refrigerator”.

    Help me out here. Is the scene in the books just as bad? Am I just overly protective of the books? Or is the show’s rendition inherently worse in its reformulation of the scene?

    • Winnie says:

      The scene in the books was if anything even *worse*.

      Frankly, I think I’d have liked it better if they’d skipped the whole thing altogether.

    • David Hunt says:

      The scene in the books is more horrific in my opinion. I speculated some about this at the LGM companion to this thread. The closest I came up with is that we’ve been in Sansa’s head and been “around” her much more, so we have much more empathy for her. When it’s Jeyne suffering, we can more easily mentally protect ourselves by emotionally distancing ourselves from Jeyne’s travails.

      Also, it’s told from Theon’s POV, so we’re not seeing it from the POV of the main victim. Plus one of the Reek persona’s most defining traits is the assumption that he’s utterly powerless, especially against Ramsay. So in the book scene, we(via Reek) don’t have any hope that things aren’t going to be totally horrific. With the TV scene and Sansa, we don’t have that. We see Sansa trying to maintain some sense of power and/or dignity through the buildup right up to the last moment. So it hurts more when that hope dies.

      Finally, depending on how long it’s been since you read it, there might be some dulling of the horror by time.

    • Grant says:

      It’s something that I’m very conflicted over. It certainly is within Baelish’s character to do that sort of thing to a woman and times of vicious civil wars ripping across society can certainly be a bad time to be a woman, but on the other hand what at all was added to the plot by implying she was tortured until she agreed to do bestiality?

      In some ways just as problematic, its final impact seems to be little more than pushing Theon to seek redemption. A good thing to be sure, but there were any number of ways that could have been done.

    • JT says:

      The books are definitely way worse.

      The preview for the next episode shows Sansa outside her room in Winterfell, which is a step up from Jeyne Pool who doesn’t leave her room again, spends all of her time crying, and tells Theon that she’d rather have sex with Ramsay’s dogs than make Ramsay mad again.

      Ramsay is also (amazingly) much less sadistic in the show. In the books, he’s so overwhelmingly sadistic and id-driven that he’s amazing nobody has pushed him down a flight of stairs. In the show he’s at least capable of acting innocent around Littlefinger and being nice to Walda Frey.

    • medrawt says:

      I don’t usually apologize for length, but this turned out pretty long-ish.

      I think in the books it’s bad, in the sense that I think GRRM leans way too hard on using sexual violence to color in this world; I think he could’ve understood that he established What It’s Like In Westeros after the first couple of books, and done much more alluding and much less showing for the rest.

      But that being said, GRRM sets up pretty logical trajectories leading to that point. The Bolton desire to procure a Stark for Ramsey to marry is logical, and Jeyne Poole has been being “prepared” for such a moment. Which means that Poole has, off the page, been undergoing an incredibly tragic story of her own, and as terrible as it is, being thrown to the Boltons is a logical extension of the role she already occupied in the series. Ramsey’s awfulness is a lot more foregrounded and detailed in the books than it has been on the show, to the point that you doubt his ability to treat ANYone normally. And since Jeyne is both a fake and a broken girl, while Roose admonishes Ramsey that he has to treat her well in public, she herself probably holds less power in the Boltons’ minds. So I didn’t like it in the books, as symptomatic of something I don’t like about the books, but I think the design makes is “easier” for the reader to gloss over.

      On the show Sansa is areal Stark, and widely recognized as such. If the Boltons don’t see how much potential power she has inherently they’re fools; it seems more important, as a matter of prudence, that Ramsey shield Sansa from his depredations than that he do the same for Jeyne. I also think Show Ramsey, as awful as he’s been shown to be, seems like someone more capable of “passing” in the sense of hiding his physical cruelty (he clearly can’t contain his emotional cruelty, as shown in the scene where he makes Sansa confront Reek last week, for which Roose reprimands him). There was no getting around Ramsey and Sansa having sex on the wedding night, but I think it could’ve been presented very differently. The writers could have had the consummation be a much more mutual, if perfunctory and loving, act – a willingness to play the role she’s been assigned for Sansa, a willingness to restrain himself for pragmatic reasons from Ramsey. This wouldn’t have to betray either character as developed so far on the show.

      And I think it matters a lot that we’ve seen Sansa have a very un-Jeyne-like journey on screen. This ISN’T real life, it’s a fiction, and these things matter. The way the scene played out seems, right now, as though it undermines the positive direction of a character that has gone through a lot of terrible things, survived them with strength, and started to gain more control of her circumstances and behavior. And the idea that sexual violence might become a catalyst for her, or Theon, or a rapproachment between them, feels like something that’s been done with such shallowness so many times that it’s hard to spin a truly good, positive story out of it.

      What I’m left with is that the writers just didn’t have to do it this way. (Neither did GRRM, but …) They’ve radically rearranged the trajectory of Sansa’s character but apparently decided that sexual violence was an indispensable component of whatever scaffolding they’re still beholden to. I don’t buy it. I think as the show has gone on they’ve gotten really clumsy about what happens when they rewrite all the details while adhering to the (increasingly unknown) skeleton GRRM laid down.

      • medrawt says:

        UGH! I meant to write “perfunctory and unloving” in my third main paragraph. Obviously.

      • In short: book scene makes narrative and character sense, show scene makes none, and neither does the entire Sansa-marries-Ramsay storyline. No, making it appear consensual wouldn’t have saved the storyline either, because it makes zero sense for Sansa to willingly go into the clutches of the Boltons and marry into a family of enemies that have murdered her family members, again, after finally having escaped the same predicament. It makes zero sense to claim that Sansa is “empowered” by being raped, and that this is the progression of her character, after having survived and avoided rape during the time when she was not being “empowered”. (Please, showrunners, can I not be an empowered woman, if that’s what empowerment means for you?) This is what’s most infuriating, that they let Sansa be in a more powerful position than she is in the books – having the support of the Vale lords, not being at the mercy of Littlefinger, and then they have her act stupid so she could be put in a helpless position again, victimized and raped, but now viewers can say her own stupidity lead her there, because for some unexplainable reason she agreed willingly to marry Ramsay Bolton.

        Neither does anything else about the storyline. They just wrote it so they could have Ramsay rape Sansa. It reads like a bad fanfic.

      • Allenips says:

        That final scene has a lot of weight to it, and hopefully the show runners will be leveraging that properly from this point on.
        As we’ve seen, LF and Sansa were expecting some form of sexual act when they concluded that this means of action need be taken, with Sansa making it clear to LF, and to the Boltons, that she has no intimate interest in this arrangement but for the sake of politics will bear with it.
        From Ramsay’s end, his father’s rebukes and guidance has forced him to keep his tendencies in check for the sake of politics, but as the audience nows, pleasure comes before politics to Ramsay Bolton. Viewers believing that he wouldn’t take an opportunity to torment anyone within his power were naive. He’s been trying to push Sansa’s buttons from the first, while trying not to get in trouble with father dear. Who’s not to say that Roose isn’t going to chide his son again for his actions in the next episode?
        But the biggest implication this brutal act has is that it catalyzes the more heroic and dynamic actions that the show needed setup for; the redemption of Theon, the revenge of Sansa, and the arrival of Brienne on the scene, showing that her hunch was right that LF and the Boltons are bad news. The price of revenge has its due, and now Sansa, and the audience, will have their fill going further into the season.
        Unless the show runners want to troll us that is….

        • And why exactly did we need Sansa to be raped for any of these developments?

          Brienne was going to arrive anyway. You don’t need to be a genius to know that the Boltons are bad news, you just need not to a complete idiot.. Hello! They flay northerns and ironborn alike, Ramsay hunts and kills girls, he tortures and multilates and castrates people for pleasure!
          Theon can find strength and redemption without Sansa being raped, no?
          And most of all… why, why would Sansa need to be raped to want revenge against the Boltons?! The betrayal of her family, the murders of her mother and brother are not enough?!

          I’m wondering how the Batman franchise has been able to survive for decades without Bruce Wayne getting raped so he could get “empowered” and start fighting for justice. Because, you know, the murder of his parents should not be enough of a motivation.

          • Seriously. Horrific in it’s flagrant gratuity. Utterly pointless. Also, far too potent for simplistic insertion as a plot device without regard to its impact on the story and/or viewing public.

            I wonder, are we simply trying to traumatize the audience here? Is that the ticket to high viewership, this kind of proxy trauma/sensory abuse?

          • Allenips says:

            From my observation of the books and material, revenge never comes without a cost to those seeking it, and that’s the reason why in the dark world of Westeros Sansa paid such a price. Manderly has his pies, and then his throat slit. Doran is moving to get his vengeance, at the cost of his family life, his son, and his brother. Robb set out to avenge his father’s murder, and brought his ruin on him. Revenge doesn’t seem to come cheap by the gods, although men my have a right to it.
            Brienne was going to arrive, yes, but Sansa had no inclination to trust her when she came. It would be the tavern all over again, Brienne comes to save the day, and Sansa asks her what she thinks she’s doing when Sansa is hoping to keep the Boltons in Winterfell so Stannis can get them. The violence and horror she’s managed to avoid up until this point while in the Bolton’s presence would assure her she doesn’t need the likes of Brienne, let alone this random Northern conspiracy going on that she’s found no need to tap into.
            And as I said, it gives Theon a better motivation to redeem himself. Since his downward slide, he’s made it known his real family members were the Starks of Winterfel, and witnessing the abuse of his almost sister has to stir feelings as we saw by his face. The bit of Theon that exists within Reek may find the drive to assert himself and more importantly redeem himself.

            As for Batman, besides him being from a super hero universe and for most of his history being bound by the narrative of comic book hero protagonists, it can be said that Bruce has paid his own price in his quest to stop the violence in Gotham. He lost years of what could’ve been a normal life after his parents death devoting himself to dangerous and rigorous training. He’s forsaken any love interests or chances at a normal, happy life to wage his daily war, and its slowly breaking him piece by piece. His conviction that he is the only one to do it and must do it so long as he lives is a testament to the truth he knows in the back of his head that when he dies, the cycle is likely to continue, with perhaps the only difference being the stories his deeds will generate after he’s gone.

            And timetravelingbunny, I assumed that you would have some class and candor when we discuss these matters, or at least try to keep all of your prejudice and bias to yourself. I’ll gladly share my views and notions and respond to your in like, but there is no need to throw ridiculous straw men, or batmen, into this discussion of Game of Throne/ ASOIAF material.

          • Allenips says:

            I will concede this, if by seasons end the narrative weight of Sansa’s rape isn’t utilized properly, then it was indeed gratuitous and sexist and violent, and whatever other derogatory word may be said of it.

            @Rickard D. Owens: Your post does have me worried and said if thats the case. If the writing for the show devolves into simply a matter of sheer controversy and negative attention, then GoT is no longer a show worth watching and enjoying. I really appreciated the work they did in writing and producing the first two seasons, and found myself at first not quite liking all of the episodes of season three and four on my first viewings, but after watching the whole season and going back, I’ve come to accept and understand the directions they’ve gone. Presently, that is the position I am stuck in when it comes to condemning this episodes ending. By next episode or season end, the overall intention of it will hopefully become clear, and the marked difference from this and the Jaime/Cersei rape scene seems to be the writers intended this to be a rape scene, while the show runners totally botched the Jaime and Cersei, which I recall them even admitting.

          • John says:

            Sansa has to have sex with Ramsay after she marries him, because anything else wouldn’t make sense with Ramsay’s character. It didn’t necessarily have to be as rapey as it was – Sansa was obviously expecting to have to have sex with Ramsay. But ultimately it’s going to be a rape-like experience regardless, so I’m not sure why the way they depicted it is so outrageous.

          • No, the outrageous thing is that they wrote the absurd, OOC and offensive storyline of Sansa agreeing to marry Ramsay. The idea that Sansa would agree to marry the son of her brother’s and mother’s murderer, and to have sex with him, is completely insane, let alone under such ridiculous premise. And it’s also outrageous that they clearly wrote and ignored every bit of logic just to justify a Sansa rape scene.

            As I wrote on the TOTH yesterday:

            Sansa marrying Ramsay doesn’t make sense on any level. It also doesn’t make sense that a marriage by the High Seoton can just be handwaived with no annulment because someone says it was not consummated – there would be bigamists all over Westeros if that’s the case. It also doesn’t make sense for Roose to alienate his allies just to try to placate the northern Lords… who barely seem to exist in the show. It doesn’t make sense for Sansa to reveal herself to the Lannister allies, or for LF to reveal to a Lannister ally that he has the #1 fugitive with him… why wouldn’t Roose just show the letter to Cersei?

            Most baffling at all, why on Earth would Sansa marry Ramsay?! Why does Sansa need to be there at all and put herself at incredible risk both from the Boltons and Stannis’ army? Why not wait for Stannis to defeat them? Or rally the North to help him against the Boltons? Or come with an army from the Vale, rally the North and join with Stannis? Why would she ever think that the right way to get revenge on the Boltons is… to marry into them?! Marriage with Sansa is a weapon now?! Are we to believe that this 15 year old girl who has been through a terrible experience of being a prisoner, hostage, powerless, abused by a psycho, forced to marry into the family of her family’s murderers, and finally escaped that, is going to say: “Yes, I’m going to marry the son of my brother’s and mother’s betrayer and murderer! I will let them legitimize their claim on my family’s home! I will lose my virginity to him! I will possibly get impregnated by him! I will live with them in my family’s home! But it will all be worth it! What a great Stark revenge that will be!… and that’s my best possible future, if they don’t rape, torture or kill me, or turn me over to the Queen to be executed, after I have walked there like a lamb to the slaughter, and remained at their mercy. Or maybe I will find myself in the midst of a battle when Stannis attacks and get killed.”

            And how exactly is she to get revenge on her own? Is she a Faceless Man? Master poisoner? Ninja warrior? Is her body a weapon of mass destruction? Why doesn’t she ask LF to hire an actual assassin, or use one of his lackeys, or assassinate/poison the Boltons himself?

            If she is to hope for a Stannis victory, why doesn’t she contact him and help him win over the northern Lords? How is marrying Ramsay Bolton going to win her any points with Stannis or the Stark loyalists? Points she already has anyway, being a Stark. How is it going to win LF any points with Stannis that he gave Sansa to the Boltons?

            Did Baelish even tell her any plan? I saw no such thing. She needed 2 minutes of convincing that consisted of some abstract talk about justice and no mention of what exactly is supposed to happen.

            And since when does Sansa trust Baelish? Last season it was established that she doesn’t, she just sees him as a “devil you know”.

            The only way it could have made sense from her perspective would be if she had Vale soldiers protecting her all the time in Winterfell, she had already gotten in touch with the northern Lords, and the wedding was just a ruse (ha!) where, preferably before the ceremony and definitely before any bedding could take place, they went all Red Wedding 2.0 on the Boltons.

            But nope.

            It’s blatantly obvious the writers made everyone act illogical and OOC and made Sansa lose all of her brains, just to arrange the situation where she could be raped by Ramsay, and probably saved by Theon.

    • ” And the scene in the books is much more explicit. All I can come up with is the fact that the book makes it more about Theon’s arc, and I do think that redeems the scene in the book somewhat, but at the same time, you still have Jeyne Pool being used as Theon’s “woman in the refrigerator”.”

      I have been seeing this bandied out online. This whole, why is it tolerable to read about the rape of a minor character but its an uproar when it happens to a main character. I find this entire questioning absurd in the extreme. The fact is the Sansa and Jeyne storylines aren’t combined like say Jorah and Jon Connington to create an organic character progression between two similar characters that makes sense in the adaptation. It’s Sansa having been taken outside her own story to serve the needs of the show, and trigger Theon’s redemption.

      If Theon had rescued Jeyne Poole, a false Princess but a damsel truly in distress, and moreover a girl he once looked down as Sansa’s lackey in his former arrogant days and decided to save her and by doing so he can reclaim his sense of self, that is awesomely heroic in a real sense. He’s not doing it to be a hero, he’s doing it because it was the right thing to do. On the show, its Theon rescuing the main character and so audiences will forget he murdered two miller’s boys and killed Roderick Cassel and never own up to those actions because torture at Ramsay’s hands absolve all, and he saved the heroine, so easy redemption.

      And you know the set-up of the scene is demeaning in the extreme. You had several episodes of the build-up and suspense, wondering will the show go that far or is this a swerve? You had Sansa in the crypts saying Lyanna was raped (and boy that’s going to be awkward on a rerun) and then in this episode, Sansa was warned by that Myranda girl and she dismissed him and then she insults Theon…and at the end, its like yes that proud girl didn’t watch the signs and paid the price and that is beneath contempt.

      • Yes. That’s why it is so infuriating. And that’s without getting into those misogynistic sickos who are saying that she is going to learn to appreciate Tyrion now. But the show has always promoted gross Nice Guy perspectives, which the novels subverts.

        And in addition to destroying Sansa’s character arc, and making Roose Bolton and Littlefinger morons, they even managed to miss the point of their favorite character Theon’s storyline. He never explicitly thinks about the guilt for the death of the miller’s boys in ADWD, but the parallel between them and Jeyne is obvious. It’s the fact that he rescues someone who is “not important” and that no one would be sending rescue parties for if they knew her real identity, that’s important for his character development and that makes his story so poignant.

        • I mean that’s why I don’t get why people think we’d be more upset at rape happening to a “main character” or what they mean a “good character”. The fact is you should be upset about it happening to anyone, its the act itself that’s bad. I get upset when I read in AFFC about Cersei being raped by Robert. I certainly got upset at her big scene in ADWD, even if she’s a bad person in every respect and a murderer herself, she didn’t deserve that and that’s actually a more important point, nobody deserves that. And you know the idea that Sansa should be raped because that’s part of medieval society, that’s kind of implicit in so many justifications, is even more absurd and not part of the books we read at all. I don’t think all fictional victims of rape are interchangable and then there’s the thing that its because Sansa isn’t a badass like Arya and I don’t know.

          I wonder if they do Mercy this year, where Arya plays Sansa in a play about Tyrion (a la Richard III) and seduces Meryn Trant to his death, how that’s going to play out.

      • CoffeeHound14 says:

        Just to be clear, I wasn’t saying that as a justification of the show, but rather as an interrogation of my having been OK with (albeit horrified by) that scene in the books.

        • artihcus022 says:

          I mean its a question (investment in side characters versus main characters) that comes from the right place and sometimes its worth asking in other contexts but I don’t think its right to be used as justification. Especially not a deconstructive fantasy like A song of ice and fire, with multiple characters and protagonists of different kinds and where dramaturgically there is a sense of equality between characters. Probably the greatest speech in the books comes from Septon Meribald in AFFC, and he’s not been cast in the show yet (pity because he and the Elder Brother are admirable worthy priests which counters the High Sparrow) because he’s a side character right. There aren’t small parts in the books, almost everyone gets something or the other.

      • John says:

        Sansa doesn’t have her own story in the books! She pointlessly moons about the Vale. While I’ll say I don’t fully appreciate the intricacies of Littlefinger’s plot here, I don’t think the basic idea of sending her off to marry Ramsay is any more senseless than giving Jorah greyscale.

        • Uh, yes, she definitely does have her storyline in the Vale, one that makes some sense, and does not “pointlessly moon about the Vale”. Maybe you completely forgot her chapters and did not read the newest one?

          But really, even if she were “pointlessly mooning about the Vale”, it would make far more sense than pointlessly walking like a lamb into slaughter into Winterfell.

          I guess you could say that Arya has been “pointlessly mooning about Braavos” and Bran has been “pointlessly mooning about Bloodraven’s cave”. You probably think they don’t have their storylines either, and that it would be cool if show had Arya go back to the Twins to marry Walder Frey, and Bran travel to King’s Landing to marry Cersei.

    • Andrew says:

      The difference between the scene in the books and in the show is that in the books, GRRM at least has it happen off-screen. All we get is “Reek bent to his task,” nothing more after that sentence. The showrunners could have gone that route, and had it gone off-screen.

      Also, the focus of the scene is Theon’s pain watching not Sansa’s as she is assaulted.

  8. David Hunt says:

    On reflection, one of the sources of my problems with that horrific last scene stem from having read the Sansa preview chapter from TWOW the GRRM released just before the season started. In that chapter, you get a real sense of how precarious her and LF’s positions are in the Vale and that Sansa has real worries that could have everything crashing down around her. Still, she’s got real hope. She has the ability to exert some influence on how events are unfolding around her. She’s assembled a bit of a personal powerbase through her relationships that she’s fostered at the Gate of the Moon. She even comes off as HAPPY in places, like her interactions with Miranda Royce. The last times I remember Sansa happy were, in reverse order: when she thought she was going to marry Wyllis Tyrell (a total stranger) because it meant getting out of King’s Landing, when Joffrey put her aside for Margaery, ensuring that she wouldn’t have to marry Joffrey. Before that I think we have to go back all the way to AGOT when she’s at the Hand’s Tourney, and that was a child playing a child’s game. Yet I think it was the last time that her happiness didn’t involve the hope of escape from abject misery

  9. Allenips says:

    I love what they’re doing in the capital. The show runners handling of things is provide abundant fruits, it seems. With the arrival of Olyenna Tyrel, which I assume everyone loves to see on the screen, we finally get to see a heavy weight politician try to lesson Cersei in the enormity of her actions, which ShowCersei is increasingly starting to mirror BookCersei in her arrogance and short sightedness. Cersei’s assumption of a religious shield and the threat of the Tyrels going against the crown fall on flat ears, given that everyone knows Cersei’s behind the Sparrows ascent and the fact everyone else hates the Lannisters that isn’t family, so the Tyrels departure will leave the Lannisters and the Throne alone on the political, military, and economic playing field.
    The other big thing that Cersei didn’t seem to put together is that the HS is throwing his punches further up the power structure. The arrest of a lord paramounts son was high enough already, but the HS is now going after the ROYAL FAMILY! As much as Cersei is enjoying the brief victory over her successor as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, the difference between their titles are just a few words. When Cersei falls, her empty headed, weak willed son will do nothing, and Cersei’s reality check will be all the more sweeter for it.

  10. KrimzonStriker says:

    They took a bit of a convoluted path to essentially get to the original plan Little finger had in the books all this time. I suppose he could use a “Knights of the Vale, evil Boltons kidnapped Sansa” excuse but it’s clunky if anyone in the Vale actually thinks about situation when they last saw her while creatibg an incredibly resentful Sansa and who he still needs to HOLD the North no matter what happens, along with a suspicious Cersei now waiting for the girl’s head. With so many dishes being made in this kitchen at the same it feels more like Little finger boxes himself in here, and that he should be more like his book counterpart and commit himself to an overall policy, him at the top, and work within that scope instead of hedging himself to the greedy but still subservient role working within the system for advancement but never quite pushing to overthrow it.

    • KrimzonStriker says:

      As for the last scene, well between Harry the Heir and the actual Winterfell wedding I had a bad feeling it would happen, I was still hoping they might not need to go that far and this one hits me in the feels though. Boy I need Winds of Winter now to get me out of this depressing quagmire.

  11. jpmarchives says:

    I think what’s most telling is where my anger lies. In a work of fiction in which a character is abused by the other character, I am usually angry with the aggressor, but that’s not the case here.

    Because the leaps in logic and motivation reach a crescendo in getting Sansa to Winterfell, my anger is placed squarely upon Cogman and D and D. They bent time and space to make this plotline happen whilst they exorcised Brienne and Sansa material. Putting all appeals to the “reality of the world” aside, it has to be telling that in two books as bloated as AFFC and ADWD, the one plot that the showrunners couldn’t bear to lose was a rape.

    • artihcus022 says:

      What’s weird is the weird Ramsay love-fetish they have. TV!Ramsay is kind of this charming sociopath a la Alex de Large and Heath ledger’s Joker. Book!Ramsay is ugly and repulsive and not glamorous at all. And you know the whole Myranda love-slave angle is totally weird because in the books, those weren’t sex slaves but women raped and brutally killed.

      And you know the whole point is that the books make the sexual violence part of a longer story. The North want to restore the Starks because when they ran, common women could walk down a road without fear of being attacked. Jeyne Poole’s story is part of the longer bit of violence going on. And ADWD deals with it, because it shows what Bolton rule over the North means and implies and why people will go for it. What we see in the show is gratuitious and lacking in context. Then they also remove a character like Barbrey Dustin, a complicated character who Ramsay Bolton hates and detests but Roose points out that he can’t attack.

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