This post contains “Game of Thrones” spoilers.
Poor Sansa Stark can’t catch a break. And fans are taking to social media to express their outrage following the latest atrocity inflicted on Sansa in last night’s episode of “Game of Thrones.”
Sansa, portrayed by 19-year-old Sophie Turner, has survived horror after horror in the hit HBO fantasy series. From losing her direwolf Lady, to witnessing the beheading of her father Ned Stark, to suffering the brutality and humiliation inflicted by Joffrey Lannister, to being attacked by a riotous mob, Sansa’s lot only seems to worsen over time.
And after fearing sexual assault by Joffrey, by the Hound, by the mob, by Tyrion and potentially even by Littlefinger, Sansa is raped on her wedding night by her new husband, the psychotic Ramsay Bolton, as a tearful Theon Greyjoy, a.k.a. Reek, is made to watch.
In George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series, on which the show is based, it is another young woman Ramsay weds and assaults, in a scene even more graphic and twisted.
But fans found the scene in the show — which frequently uses sex to illustrate power dynamics — particularly troublesome considering Sansa’s series-long journey from naive child to savvy survivor; after being victimized at the hands of those who murdered her family, Sansa has emerged from hiding this season as a woman ready to reclaim control of her story. Equally troubling is the fact that the scene focused primarily on Theon, leading viewers to wonder if the show’s writers planned Sansa’s rape for the benefit of Theon’s character arc.
In fact, producer Bryan Cogman, who also wrote the episode, told Entertainment Weekly that the scene marks “an important turning point” for Sansa’s relationship with Theon. “She’s seen Theon and hated him and thinks he killed her brothers and betrayed them but she’s very conflicted by what she’s seeing there,” he said.
He also argued that Sansa’s circumstances are the result of her agency.
“This isn’t a timid little girl walking into a wedding night with Joffrey,” Cogman said. “This is a hardened woman making a choice and she sees this as the way to get back her homeland.”
As for Martin, who has received “a flood of emails” about the episode, the author took to his blog to iterate that the characters are fictional, and that differences between the show and the books are inevitable and will only increase.
“There have been differences between the novels and the television show since the first episode of season one. And for just as long, I have been talking about the butterfly effect. Small changes lead to larger changes lead to huge changes,” Martin wrote. “And yes, more and more, they differ. Two roads diverging in the dark of the woods, I suppose… but all of us are still intending that at the end we will arrive at the same place.”
This is hardly the first time “Thrones” has stirred up controversy with its depictions of rape; last April, a sex scene between Cersei and Jaime Lannister was interpreted by many viewers as nonconsensual. And in the following episode, mutineers from the Night’s Watch raped the women living in Craster’s Keep, north of the Wall.
Here's a sampling of fan reaction to last night's Sansa scene::
‘Game of Thrones': Women in a ‘difficult world,’ say show runners
‘Game of Thrones': Twitter reacts to Cersei rape scene
‘Game of Thrones': Viewers react to (more) rape