Spoilers for last night’s episode of Game of Thrones ahead.
Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones ended with the horrific inevitability of a fairy tale: Though it was Sansa Stark who wore the wolfskin cloak, and Ramsay Bolton the red coat, there was no question which one of them was the monster. Would Sansa be a victim yet again, or would she be, finally, a wolf in wolf’s clothing? For fans hoping to avoid the worst, the long wedding march to Winterfell’s godswood was filled with mounting terror — if everything we knew about Ramsay didn’t tip us off that the worst was yet to come, Ramin Djawadi’s haunting score certainly did. And then, minutes later, we got the conclusion we dreaded: There was no dramatic rescue, no knife hidden in Sansa’s robes, just the latest wedding-night rape scene in Game of Thrones.
For many viewers, this was the last straw. Though the scene did exist in modified form in George R.R. Martin’s books, the victim there was a minor character seemingly created for that very purpose. And even though the book version is much more sadistic than what was onscreen (Ramsay forces Theon to perform cunnilingus on his bride before the marriage can be consummated) seeing it happen — and seeing it happen to Sansa Stark, a character we’ve grown to love — changes things. Fans erupted at the damage done to Sansa, who seemed like she was posed to finally become a major player. Martin was flooded with emails. Senator Claire McCaskill Tweeted she was “done” with the show after the “disgusting and unacceptable” scene. The Mary Sue announced it would stop covering GOT entirely.
It’s tempting to be cynical about all this — sound the #content alarms, Game of Thrones had another rape scene. But unlike last year’s controversial rape scene, there’s been no comment-section firestorms, no splitting hairs about what exactly consent means. The main feeling I’m seeing, from both detractors and supporters alike, is weariness. Fans who are upset about the scene know that it was in the books, and know that it was worse there — they’re just sick of seeing this same plot happen again. After watching the previews for next week, I’m confident Sansa hasn’t been stripped of her agency for good. But as a book reader who thinks there’s a lot of dramatic promise in the Sansa-Ramsay plot, and a viewer who’s inclined to give the producers the benefit of the doubt, this is one hill I’m getting tired of dying on.
I can’t argue with the fans who say they’ll boycott Thrones after last night. There’s no law that says a person needs to watch a TV show they don’t enjoy. But for the rest of us, we’ll just have to grit our teeth and keep watching, hoping they don’t mess it up this time.