This past week saw a harrowing moment on Game of Thrones sparking debate on social media. Any seasoned fan of the HBO series will know Thrones prides itself at shocking audiences. For the past five years, the show has strangled the life out of any hope for justice in the fantasy world of Westeros. If you haven't watched the phenomenon that is Game of Thrones, you are doing yourself a disservice. To your surprise, you'll find it's much more akin to Sopranos or The Wire than the likes of The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. Its audience has come to expect character driven plots involving deadly political maneuvering and assassinations. We've watched season after season with main characters meeting a bloody end with no vengeance in sight. We've also seen a healthy dose of gratuitous nudity, subjugation of women, and the occasional rape scene.
*Spoiler Alert(s) for those who haven't watched up to episode 6 of season 5*
Having already experienced all the atrocities Thrones have thrown at its audience throughout the years, why the big fall out over the latest rape scene? Shouldn't we be desensitized or more understanding of the despicable actions regularly occuring in Westeros? That's really a question for audience members to think about and answer individually. Its significance could be colored by whether or not you've read the original novels the series is based on.
The particular rape scene being discussed on social media involves Sansa and Ramsey while Theon/Reek watches on. The face Alfie Allen depicts in character as Theon/Reek accurately reflects the anguish I felt while watching. With the scene slowly unfolding, the certainty of menace unveiled itself so uncomfortably. Sansa spent her wedding night losing her virginity to one of the sickest characters birthed by the imagination of George R.R. Martin, writer of the novels. Anyone who remembers King Joffrey, knows that's saying a lot and how dangerous these characters can be.
It's not fair to only focus on this one scene. The sixth episode of the season had some pretty incredible and hilarious moments. Everyone's favorite little assassin, Arya, finally made some progress at the House of Black. She's well on her way to murderous vengeance we're all dying to see. Grandma Tyrell is back in fine sassy form, putting the scheming Cersei in her place. The bromance between Tyrion and Jorah is solidified while facing slave traders and possible dwarf cock merchants. Outside of 'the scene' in this weeks episode, the only weak points were in Dorne. This whole season seems to be struggling to make Dorne's role in the larger narrative a compelling aspect of the series. We've had scarce time with the Sand Snakes and company. Their appearance comes off as both cheesy and muted when compared against the talented cast of actors elsewhere in Westeros. Daenerys' storyline in Mereen has been a drag for a few seasons, but things are looking more interesting heading into the tail end of the current season.
The direction of the show is diverging wildly from the source material, sparking ire amongst fans of the book. I can't help but think this plays a large part in the online outrage with what's happened to Sansa. In the books a decidedly more vicious rape scene occurs between Ramsey and another character he marries. Not only has the show deviated from its source material, but it's also gone out on a limb to set up a beloved character to once again be tortured and humiliated. We've seen Sansa barely escape Joffrey earlier in the series. We've seen her be manipulated by the calculating Petyr Baelish. We all know what to expect from Game of Thrones at this point, but good grief Thrones writers, give us some sort of hope.
I won't personally say this scene is a mistake. The frequency of rapes and abuse inflicted on women in this serious is ridiculous, even by HBO standards. However the scene worked in being impactful. Despite the horror Sansa faced in this episode, she had an earlier moment of triumph when confronting Ramsey's lover. She's showed a spark of resilience and even a cunning ability to 'play the game' before. The rape scene wasn't visually as brutal we know Thrones can be. But Theon/Reek's face mixed with Sansa's whimpers of terror was enough to make this one of the more difficult scenes of the series.
I can only hope this means vengeance is that much closer to happening for the Starks. There's no way the show writers can leave us with such a horrific scene without seeing a spectacular fall for Ramsey. Stannis is headed to Winterfell, Lord Baelish is promising to quell the remnants of the victor, and Daenerys is still planning to scorch out all her opponents in King's Landing with her dragons. Despite the epic struggles ahead, it'll be Sansa's rise I'm keen on seeing. Enough with being a victim already. We're all ready to see her become a real player in the Game of Thrones and stick it to Ramsey. His days on the show had better be numbered.