It has been the talk of the web the past week, as dear Sansa, tragic Sansa, victimized Sansa -- was just put through the grinder. Yet again. Damn, that was a hard scene to watch, and one I'm sure I'll never watch again.
Almost everyone now knows that this scene was not in the books, but this is no mere tweak to streamline the show. This horrible scene might have ruined the delicate work author George R. R. Martin have been doing for years on Sansa's whole character arc.
It seems the HBO show creators backed themselves into a corner and left themselves with no options but to write in that sad, sad rape scene. In the books, it was a fake Arya character that was married to Ramsay and then raped, but D.B Weiss and Dan Benioff gave that story to Sansa to give her more screen time and avoid adding yet another new cast member to the show.
On paper, that makes sense. But Sansa getting raped? That's not only horrible, that's also counter productive for where the character is going.
Lest we forget, up until that fateful scene, we were witnessing Sansa turning from a perpetually passive wide-eyed little girl with dreams of gallant knights and beautiful princes into an active player in the game of thrones. She was watching, learning, thinking, manipulating.
That character arc made sense, it was interesting. It made her suffering pay off for us viewers. Her arc also made historical sense.
Martin has not been shy about drawing his inspiration from history, and the starting point for the story, the Stark-Lannister war, was famously inspired by the War of the Roses in the late Middle Ages in England.
One of the unintended results of this English civil war was the rise of minor House Tudor and eventually the ascension of an unlikely woman to the throne -- Elizabeth, who eventually became one of the finest rulers of the last 1,000 years.
Those who looked for an Elizabethan character in the story pointed to Daenerys, but Martin is not the kind of writer to have the obvious front-runner and crowd favorite win it all (just ask Ned, Robb, Catelyn and Oberyn).
If you look carefully, you'll find many similarities between Elizabeth and Sansa, of all people:
- Both had a parent beheaded for treason
- Both were hostages at court during a civil war
- Both had red hair
- Both had creepy mentors who taught them the ropes (Littlefinger and Seymor)
- Oh, and both were virgins
For a full Sansa-Elizabeth comparison see our Game of Thrones Academy video on the subject.
Elizabeth never married and was dubbed the virgin queen. And Sansa was the story's ultimate virgin, narrowly escaping sexual attacks at every turn: she was almost raped in season 2 by a mob, almost raped later by the hound, Joffrey threatened to do it and Tyrion could have taken her after their marriage, but didn't. This series of close calls was not an afterthought.
So we start off Game of Thrones season 5 with show Sansa sprinting ahead in her arc, leaving book Sansa lagging behind (which is probably why Martin released a Sansa chapter from the yet-to-be-released Winds of Winter). She was learning the ropes on her way to getting closer to a ruling role: Wardennesse of the North.
And now that arc took a beating and she's the victim, yet again. Does that make sense story-wise?
Oh, and she's no longer a virgin. There was a reason Queen Elizabeth was a virgin -- that was the only way for her to rule. Remember, all Sansa ever wanted is to be a king's wife and bear his children, so making her a ruling virgin queen, with no king by her side -- that's vintage Martin.
Being a virgin has political consequences in this Medieval world, and the show creators wrote in a defining moment for a character that not only does a disservice to the story, but it downright undermines it. That's a fail, no two ways about it.
Check out Gil Kidron's YouTube channel Game of Thrones Academy for unique content about Game of Thrones and history