I fear I’ve come across as too negative. As a reminder of why we watch Thrones in the first place, look to the scene with the High Sparrow confronting Cersei. Note the writing, how it roots his character in the history of the realm, keys into real-world dynamics with regards to faith, and bridges the High Sparrow’s seemingly humble nature with the violence that his followers have inflicted. And check out Jonathan Pryce’s face, how it slowly hardens from conviviality to menace. When Cersei’s taken away, she’s finally facing the consequence of her reckless plotting. Hopefully, the show itself won’t eventually be in the same sort of situation.
Amy, what’d you think?
Sullivan: I’m reluctantly sticking with the show to see where it takes these new storylines through this season’s finale, but this week didn’t do much to restore my faith in the showrunners. Other than the very welcome addition of plenty more Lady Olenna. Her expanded role—like that of Tywin Lannister—has been one of their best calls in adapting the books.
As for the backlash to last week’s final scene, I can speak only for myself, but it certainly wasn’t the case that my exquisite, delicate sensibilities were offended by the mercifully less-than-explicit treatment of marital rape. Nor would I like to pretend that medieval relationships were all love matches or that sexual violence wasn’t rampant. Believe me, when I play the “when in world history would you have wanted to live” game, no era other than our own is even vaguely appealing for a woman of any class. Everywhere in the world, they have always hurt little girls.
The portrayal of Catelyn and Ned Stark’s marriage was fascinatingly realistic along these lines. She was upfront about the fact that she didn’t want to marry him initially; she had been promised to his older brother, Brandon, who died in the rebellion; and she has never forgiven him for bringing the bastard Jon Snow into their young family. And one imagines that their wedding night was not a passionate affair, and could even have been the kind of marital rape that characterized so many domestic unions.
But Benioff and Weiss haven’t decided to marry Sansa off to a nobody nobleman in order to portray the loneliness and abuse in the average Westerosi marriage. They paired her up with the biggest sociopath in this fictional universe. Was violence and abuse to be expected once we knew that match was Sansa’s fate? Of course. But they chose to invent this plot for her. And with that narrative choice comes some responsibility to make sure that the payoff isn’t just more torture porn and unrelenting punishment of a female character.
Spencer, you asked to what end is this Sansa storyline going to the darkest place. I hesitate to point out, pace Theon, that it can always get worse with Ramsay. But even if it doesn’t, the only thing this has accomplished is giving more urgency to Stannis’s campaign to take Winterfell. Sansa plays the game of thrones whenever she has the chance, but her agency is extremely limited, and she is—as has been the case since late in the first season—completely and utterly alone.