The wedding of Sansa Stark to the sociopath Ramsay Bolton and his subsequent brutal treatment of her, including a wedding-night rape, shocked and upset a lot of people — at least in part, because it seemed to be a narrative misdirect so great that it amounted to a bait and switch.
Prior to that, Sansa seemed to be on a path over several seasons of Game of Thrones. She’s a naive idealist, who thinks Joffrey is a good guy, until she learns otherwise and suffers horribly. Then she becomes cynical and ruthless, and learns from the master of manipulation, Littlefinger. Until the absolute unthinkable happens, and she finds herself brutalised more terribly than she ever was by Joffrey. Because she’s not a master manipulator, and Littlefinger either screwed up, doesn’t care or sees her as a dispensable pawn.
Of course, the show’s not over, and we still have yet to see where Sansa is going to end up. But this turn of events made her storyline feel worryingly circular, rather than an actual narrative progression. Now Bryan Cogman, the writer-producer who wrote that episode, has broken his silence about it, commenting on it on the commentary track for the season six DVDs.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Cogman says:
Basically, when we decided to combine Sansa’s storyline with another character in the books it was done with the idea that it would be hugely dramatically satisfying to have Sansa back in her occupied childhood home and navigate this Gothic horror story she’s found herself in and, of course, to be reunited with Theon — setting her on the path to reclaiming her family home and becoming a major player in the big overall story. That said, when we decided we were going to do that we were faced with the question: If she’s marrying Ramsay, what would happen on her wedding night? And we made the decision to not shy away from what would realistically would happen on that wedding night with these two characters, and the reality of the situation, and the reality of this particular world.
A reaction among some fans was that Sansa should have tried to kill Ramsay in the scene. “Yes, it would have been hugely satisfying [for Sansa] to have a shiv up her sleeve and gut Ramsay, but that’s not Sansa,” Cogman says. “We can’t all be Arya (Maisie Williams) and, in fact, most people aren’t Arya. Most people in that situation, they have to play a longer game. She goes [into the marriage] without the right information about Ramsay, she gets the sense that he’s dangerous, and when he turns out to be even worse than she thought, she’s not broken by the attack, she immediately sets to getting the hell out of there and planning her next move.
This is interesting, at least in part because Cogman still believes that Sansa is on a path to reclaiming her family home, which is not quite where I would have seen the storyline going after season five. I’m also interested in the idea that Sansa is “playing a longer game”, because she really doesn’t seem to have any plans other than escaping with Theon. Her ace in the hole was Stannis, whom she and Littlefinger misjudged almost as badly as they misjudged Ramsay.
I really hope that when we see the final episodes of Game of Thrones, we look at where Sansa ends up, and how her storyline pays off, and say to ourselves, “Well, that actually turned out to be worthwhile.” Because after this horror show, Game of Thrones is going to have to work twice as hard to make Sansa feel like a protagonist. At least Cogman is saying the right things about her long term direction. [via Watchers on the Wall]