Today’s review will, in its entirety, be dedicated to the last minutes of Game of Thrones‘ sixth episode, which Benioff and Weiss, as it turns out, unfavorably (not to say mockingly) titled “Unbowed Unbent Unbroken”. The reason for this decision is simple – the act of Sansa Stark’s rape.
A STORY DRIVEN BY THE SHOCK VALUE
Given that rape (and violence in general) has become the norm of this series, or the rule rather than the exception, this review will not discuss rape as such, as controversial, barbaric act of violence, but as a narrative element that completely abolished long-lasting construction of a complex character. Having said that, we must make one thing clear, the problem of this episode is not the fact that we bore witness to yet another rape (Daenerys, whores Joffrey mistreated, Theon, Cersei, Craster’s daughter-wives, Sansa, just to name few); the problem is that of all characters it was Sansa Stark who got raped. Now let’s make another thing clear, by singling Sansa out I am not taking HER side, I am not DEFENDING HER (while neglecting or downplaying the pain and horror Daenerys or Jayne etc. went through), I AM NOT condoning rape or any act of violence directed towards a character other than Sansa, for I am simply not. I am not a rape apologist. To draw such conclusion would be false and it would mean that you are completely missing my point.
So, what is my point then? What am I chastising or condemning here? It is rather simple – the production/writing choices. I am condemning the fact that we have spent three seasons of painstakingly slow character development – from the ultimate girl victim to almost a woman grown, courageous, strong and fit to finally fend for herself – for nothing. All our investment into said character has gone to waste because, after all character growth done in the past few years, Sansa Stark remained what she’s always been – a victim. All other female characters, which were luckier than Sansa in every respect, have made a considerable progress. Daenerys, a timid girl, sold to a savage and raped on her wedding day, has found strength in her newfound position as a khaleesi and has ultimately “gave birth” to dragons, which is a pretty huge deal. Thanks to these dragons she is now in possession of an army, slowly conquering the world. Arya Stark, who, just like Sansa, witnessed or experienced the slaughter of her entire family, has learned how to fight, how to fend for herself, and was blessed with the league of extraordinary men who, in their unique way, guided her, saved her and took care of her, starting from Syrio Forrell, Yoren, Jaqen, Gendry, Thoros and Beric, The Hound, ship captain and now Jaqen again. Spending time with these men Arya evaded certain death several times and gained a necessary experience along the way. Using the aforesaid examples one could argue that Sansa got the short end of it. Not only did the boy she foolishly fell in love and was betrothed too ended up being a psychopath boy-king who could’ve gotten away with almost anything – killing his Warden of the North in front of his daughter (some will even go so far to argue how Sansa got Ned killed which is utter nonsense), beating his future wife second hand and abusing her for everyone to see and then discarding her as the alleged traitor, just to name few.
Her suffering did not even end when she was forced to marry Tyrion Lannister, member of the family directly responsible for the Red Wedding and a dwarf at that. No, despite this marriage she was still Joffrey’s to torment. During that time she was beaten, humiliated, constantly threatened, imprisoned and nearly raped.
The horror only seemingly stopped the day Joffrey choked on a pie, a death she was deemed guilty off, which is one of the reasons she was forced to flee the capital. Ever since that time she was falsely lead to believe that Petyr Baelish is her friend and a man who would take care of her. Little did she know that Baelish was, together with her aunt Lysa (who tried to kill her), responsible for the whole mess starting with Jon Arryn’s death, over Tyrion’s arrest and trial in the Vale, Ned’s head on the spike, events that among other things caused the war, and ultimately Joffrey’s death among some other things. She was used over and over again by the people she believed were her friends. But during that time she slowly started to learn how the game of thrones was played. And she learned from the best. She started to grow and become less of a victim with each passing day, or episode, whichever you prefer. Her descent down the stairs in Vale at the end of the last season announced the birth of new Sansa (labeled as Darth Sansa by fans) fit and ready to play the game.
With the last episode, however, all that work just went down the drain and in a single scene. Why? Because Martin didn’t finish The Winds of Winter? Because Benioff and Weiss didn’t know where they are going with this character? Or, because Sansa made one, single mistake that day when she said nothing about the incident that happened between Arya, butcher’s boy and Joffrey? If so, how long this little girl has yet to suffer, how much suffering must she endure, how many psychopaths must she weather in order to atone for her one and only sin – being a foolish teenage girl infatuated with the wrong boy she naively believed was her prince charming. Please, no more.
On the other hand, if the point of this episode was the creation of yet another controversy, shock or whatever it is that became the synonym for Game of Thrones, something the fans on the Internet will buzz about for days, months, years, then I must say the creators have absolutely succeeded. However, the controversy here is not the rape in question but the fact that the creators of the show keep failing to understand not only the text they are using as the base for their story but also their own newly established narrative. That aside, we have to ask ourselves is the story, driven by the shock value factor, really the point of this series? Have the forced drama and spectacle become the only aspect of this series we value? Should the story (and its logic) suffer at the expense of said spectacle? Absolutely not. I don’t think I need to further elaborate on that. And if I do, then we are all in big trouble.
With this episode the quality of Game of Thrones, series full of potential, is now ruined. I know, most of you will not agree with me, but if we wanted a melodramatic story created with the sole purpose of constantly shocking the audience now accustomed to sensationalism, which cancels the previously established narrative, thus undermining its own credibility, we could’ve watched some soap operas and reality shows we already have in abundance. Game of Thrones is based on an extraordinary text, it fancies itself as a smart and original series, and it pushed the boundaries in terms of television making; for these reasons the producers/writers shouldn’t have allowed themselves these types of mistakes. How could this happen, how could they ruin a perfect story in such a strange and illogical way, I do not know. I guess all of those changes they made earlier in the story have now finally came back to haunt them. I don’t mean to sound like a disappointed “book snob”, because that’s not what I am… Most of you know that I have defended the show for the longest time but this time it is obvious that we are talking about the episode I cannot defend, understand or justify. Not because I am stubborn but because I am trying to stay objective.
Since the episode aired all hell broke loose online. Some people claim this was not the rape. Let’s make one thing clear – this was a rape. She never said no. She had no choice. Just because it was not graphic it doesn’t mean it was consensual. Some people are happy about it because “the bitch deserved it”. These people are exactly the reason what is so wrong and terrifying about humanity in general. Some people are wondering what was the alternative here – Ramsey being kind to her? No. If Ramsey was kind to her then that would be the exact same reason I find this episode problematic in the first place, because, you know, it is out of Ramsey’s character just as it was out of Sansa’s character to get raped. Stay with me. Ramsey is not kind. Ramsey is a psychopath. Sansa used to be a victim. But Sansa is no longer a victim, except, she is. This does not work. Sansa is not a Schrödinger’s cat. She cannot be a victim and not be a victim at the same time. She is or she is not. And, given the context laid out for us during the last season, she stopped being a victim. So, once again, the problem of this episode is not the rape, as such, but the fact that the show creators made a decision of destroying the character they invested three years and 30 hours of television program in. Why? Because just 3 minutes before said rape, Sansa handled Miranda like a pro. That is what they built her for. That is what she is or was suppose to become – a person capable of handling all kind of people, Ramsey included. So in best case scenario Sansa should’ve seduce him and mess with his head. NOT BECOME A VICTIM again. Days of her victimization were over and done with in 2014. Going back to it, moving backwards is a narrative suicide, respectively. So, if you think that act of rape is what THE problem here is, I am forced to notice that you have totally missed the point. This is Game of Thrones, a series that made its name on rape, incest, bloodshed, injustice and all kind of other atrocities and if you cannot handle these atrocities, if you are outraged because a girl/boy/woman/man got raped, then I don’t know what to tell you except, perhaps, that you should go and watch Glee.
Anyways…Sansa lost her virginity. With Ramsey, who raped her. This happened because apparently she is not Arya. Sansa, against all odds and Martin’s efforts, and due to some inexplicable reason, is still not capable to fend for herself. I can only assume that this inexplicable reason is why she must carry on with her role of victim even though this has no narrative sense whatsoever. If we are to look back and analyze everything that had happened to her we could argue that Tyrion was, by far, the best thing that happened to her. Retrospectively speaking, Tyrion was her jackpot. Or perhaps it could’ve been The Hound. Thinking about it now I can recall the moment when he came to her room during the Battle of Blackwater, and begged her to run away with him. I remember myself thinking “Go Sansa. The Hound will take care of you. He will keep you safe.” When a cold blooded killer is seen as the means of salvation and the only probable possibility for happiness then you know that something is really off. What can I tell you, now I know that my gut was right all along – she should’ve escaped when she had the chance. To make things even worse, Theon Greyjoy, man who played a significant part in Stark downfall, witnessed the rape. Should I mention how disturbing the scene was? So yes, she got raped and it was disgusting. Now what?
What was achieved with this “controversial scene” apart from the “shocking ending”? What can possibly happen now that can justify this brutal scrutiny done to her character? Another, better and improved edition of “Darth Sansa” with a better, stronger and more valid reason to avenge her family? I thought we got the improved Sansa last year?! And besides, wasn’t chopping Robb’s head off, suturing direwolf’s head on Rob’s mutilated body and parading him around, cutting Catelyn’s throat open, Jon’s attempted murder, Winterfell occupation, massacring pregnant Talisa and her unborn son, Eddard Stark, enough of a reason already?
North Remembers Sansa Stark and the mummer’s farce is almost done. Hopefully the White Walkers will freeze them all.
Worst of the episode:
-“Cock merchant” moments
-Every time Obara speaks
-Downplaying and flattening of Loras Tyrell’s character
-Fabrication of Sansa’s storyline
-Nothing happening in Braavos
-Miranda washing Sansa’s hair and getting rid of the color which was suppose to hint that the weak girl is back…I guess? I mean what else since everyone already knew she was Sansa anyways. Dyed hair or not, which, you must admit is yet another ridiculously missed point….
-Where was Faith Militant when Ned lost his head in the Sept of Baelor?
-The ridiculous fight in the Water Gardens
-And the overall presence of Sand Snakes…perhaps they recast all of them like they did with Daario? Or lock them up in the cell and throw away the key? Yes, please.
-Painful predictability of the episode
-Male redemption and (his) character development through female victimization and sexual violence
Best of the episode:
-Baelish finally revealing what everybody suspected – his ultimate goal is the North, Winterfell, and title of the Warden of the North, everything that once belong to Ned Stark, respectively. Still, the plan, as presented to us, is an utter nonsense.
-Cersei’s decent into madness
-Jorah learning how his father died. Poor Jorah.
-Sansa’s confrontation with Miranda
-Bronn summing the entire episode into four words: “Oh, for fuck sakes.”
“I am Sansa Stark of Winterfell. This is my home. And you can’t frighten me.”
Text written by: Monika Ponjavic