There are spoilers in this review for the show and some of the books. Duh.

I’m not sure what to say. This episode was deeply controversial for a variety of reasons, and it’s been discussed by most major news places by now. There are a lot of reviews, a lot of thoughts, and I’ve absorbed a lot of them while thinking about it myself. I have several friends who quit the show for good from here, and there was a moment when I considered it. I don’t understand fans who are upset at people who want to quit the show; people aren’t required to continue watching things that upset them. You keep watching if you want. I am going to, for now, but I’m teetering. I’ll get into that particular storyline at the end of this, and talk about the rest of the episode first. It’s not like any of it was particularly good, to be honest. Previously on Game of Thrones, Cersei allied with the High Sparrow, the leader of a religious cult focused on making the culture more “pure.” She’s doing this to stick it to Margaery, honestly, and the arrest of her brother Loras made that clear. Jaime and Bronn went to Doren to find his niece and save her, which is necessary since the Sand Snakes, Oberyn’s bastard daughters, want to murder her and start a war. Tyrion was captured by Jorah, and they’re on their way to see Dany. Arya found Jaqen and has been learning from him, although he told her she has to give up her identity in order to move on. Sansa was betrothed to Ramsay in order to get the North behind them.

Cersei isn’t a stupid person, but she lacks a certain type of foresight. Or she underestimates people severely, and that’s going to get her into trouble. I don’t think you need book knowledge to know that Cersei’s playing with fire. She’s encouraging the Sparrows to run rampant and arrest who they want. She’s enjoying that the Tyrells are suffering for it, with Loras arrested and then Margaery too for lying on behalf of her brother. The Queen of Thorns was not at all impressed, and pointed out that they can remove their support and money of the crown at any point. I know you hate them, Cersei, but you’re going to destroy your power at this point. In the books Margaery was taken down on suspicion of adultery, but they didn’t have any of her accused lovers on the show, so this was the best they could come up with. As if a squire/prostitute would be believed over royalty in this situation. Come on. Be careful, Cersei. If they won’t stop at the queen, what makes you think they’ll stop at queen mother? Meanwhile, the person she hates most in the world Tyrion is still wandering around with Jorah. He accidentally spills the beans about Jorah’s father dying from mutiny on the Wall, and to his credit is genuinely remorseful that he wasn’t more sensitive with the information. He doesn’t know that Jorah is currently infected with grayscale either, although that’s sure to pan out eventually. The two of them get captured by slavers and Tyrion is almost killed, but he manages to talk his way out of it. They’re on their way to Dany anyway yet again, so. Really this might be faster than the way they were walking.

game-of-thrones-02In Braavos Arya is impatient to start her real training, but Jaqen easily points out that she is incapable of becoming no one. Her rival, the other girl, tells her a pretty impressive and convincing story about her background as a nobleman’s daughter, which she then revealed to be a lie. Probably? Arya learns to tell a lie herself to a dying girl to give her comfort before poisoning her. Jaqen shows her a special room where they have faces for the Faceless men. She’s not ready to be one, but she’s at least to a new level. Over in Dorne, Trystane and Myrcella are in love, and those poor idiots. They are so not prepared for the situation they’re in. Jaime and Bronn show up and just … walk into the gardens to take her. Um. Where is security? Why is this a strategic idea? You seriously walked in and thought you could take her? This level of stupid is unbelievable, honestly. They needed the two of them to get there so they could face off against the Sand Snakes, but it makes everyone seem very incompetent instead. The Sand Snakes are there to take Myrcella, and they have a weak fight against Bronn. It disappointed me severely to see them give such a pathetic fight. It seemed laughable and I don’t believe them as warriors at all right now. They are supposed to be the best warriors in Dorne. This whole scene was frustrating. The point is Jaime and Bronn are now taken captive, because they’re stupid, and the Sand Snakes are arrested.

There’s no getting around it. Let’s talk about the scene everyone is talking about. Sansa and Ramsay get married. They go to their wedding bed and Ramsay rapes her while forcing Theon to watch. The camera goes in on Theon’s face as she screams. I’m angry about this from two points of view: a book fan, and a woman who is getting tired of them adding sexual violence where there is none. Yes this is a world where rape and murder happens. The difference is that you won’t see people beheaded every day, but sexual assault and rape are everywhere and it’s pervasive and constant in the modern world. If you can’t understand why them altering consensual scenes into rape ones is a problem, I don’t know what to say to you. GRRM never strayed from difficult and ruthless portrayals of violence, and there is rape in the books. The character Sansa is representing here is Jeyne Poole, and this truly happened to her. It was ugly and awful. People implying that we only care because it’s Sansa is foolish. There’s been an uproar every time they’ve changed scenes to include more sexual violence toward women. Yes it would be as bad if Jeyne was there, but it’s particularly bad because Sansa was never raped in the books. They are adding this to the character and they made the decision to go this way. Gleefully. What was added to the plot? Seeing Sansa victimized again when she was struggling to find power over her life? Ramsay being a psychotic bastard which we already knew? They added where there was no reason to add, no narrative reason, no good character development that isn’t already a tired trope.

And the thing is, Game of Thrones cares about shock value. They want the audience to squirm. They’re deviating from the books in several places, so why not deviate from the books occasionally in an empowering way? What would have been truly shocking is if they had Sansa pull out a knife and stab Ramsay. They’ve killed other characters who aren’t dead in the books. Everyone expected that this would be another violent experience for Sansa, so they had a chance here to do something genuinely shocking and unexpected. It would have been far more interesting than yet another display of sexual violence. Plus if they are using this for Theon’s redemption arc and he’ll save her, I will scream. They can change storylines enough to make Sansa in this situation, why not let her save herself? It’s just extremely frustrating to watch and for them to go to the cheap and easy route. If they really want to challenge and twist at the audience, they shouldn’t fall on tired old tropes and expected storylines. If they think this is daring, they’re wrong. This isn’t a breaking point for me, I’ll continue to watch the show, and I will hope like hell that Sansa does get to take control of her life. I was excited at the end of last season when it seemed like she was becoming a real player in the game. I don’t like that it would take a rape for her to get character development, but I’d still like to see her be more than the little bird. Let Sansa be empowered, save herself, and take over Winterfell. If you’re going to change whatever you want to suit your whims, why not use it in surprising ways? Not in this insulting and tired manner. We’ll see how it goes.


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