Warning: There are spoilers ahead if you’re not caught up with “Game of Thrones.”
“Game of Thrones” fans will probably be waking up Monday morning hoping the end of Sunday’s episode was just a bad dream.
Unfortunately, the nightmare was real.
In the episode, Sansa (Sophie Turner) goes through with her wedding to Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon). While it goes off without a hitch — unlike most weddings on the series so far — things quickly unravel as Bolton violently rapes his wife as a hysterical Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) is forced to watch.
The kicker? It wasn’t even as bad as it should have been. The book version of this scene was much, much worse.
First, let’s remember that Sansa should not even be in Winterfell with the Boltons, let alone marrying Ramsay. This was a big divergence from the book canon, and fans of the written series were immediately concerned for Sansa’s future. They knew what happened to Ramsay’s book-bride, and hoped the same fate wouldn’t befall the Stark daughter.
Their hopes were dashed on Sunday the moment Ramsay uttered those awful words — “Take off your clothes.”
Ramsay then instructed Theon to stay and witness Sansa lose her virginity. Unimpressed with Sansa’s slow disrobing, Ramsay ripped her gown and bends her down over the bed.
From there, the showrunners opted to only zoom in on Sansa’s horrified, tearful face as it’s pressed into the bed. The shot switches to Theon, who is in emotional anguish as he watches Ramsay defile Sansa. The episode faded to black with no nudity or explicit rape visual, but it’s clear what is happening.
The scene was among the worst we’ve seen yet on the series, and sadly there have been plenty. Last season, there was a tense sexual encounter between Cersei and Jaime, when he assaulted her right next to Joffrey’s dead body. This caused quite a bit of uproar among viewers.
Sansa’s scene, however, was actually toned down a lot from the source material. Here’s how the worst possible scenario would have played out.
In the books, Ramsay marries a young girl who is being posed as a fake Arya Stark. The wedding takes place in the Godswood, where Theon/Reek gives her away in the Godswood. Ramsay orders Reek/Theon to bring “Arya” up to his bedchambers, and then to stay in the room.
So far, this is all exactly how it happens in the show.
When Reek/Theon asks why he is supposed to stay, Ramsay makes him cut both her dress and undergarments away. The girl stands there, naked, and almost moves to cover herself. Theon mouths “no” to her, as a warning, and she stops. Ramsay grins, and asks Theon (using highly explicit language) if he’d like to have his way with the bride first.
Clearly HBO felt that nude humiliation and crude language weren’t needed to convey this atrocity. It was bad enough already.
Next, Ramsay instructs his new bride to get on the bed. He soon slaps and chastises her for not being aroused.
“I was told that you’d know how to please a man. Was that a lie?”
“N-no, my lord. I was t-trained.”
By trained, she means sexually assaulted and raped repeatedly in order to prepare her for the wedding night. George R.R. Martin held nothing back in explaining the awfulness of this girl’s experience.
Ramsay rose, the firelight shining on his face. “Reek, get over here. Get her ready for me.”
Since Theon’s gentleman parts were flayed and cut off a while back, an impatient Ramsay instructs him to use his mouth instead. Terrified of the consequences if he refuses, Theon moves to the bed begins the sexual assault on the girl who has already been beaten and raped repeatedly, in order to prep her for a sadistic and psychotic new husband.
The scene ends before we can see what damage Ramsay inflicts.
You can see why book fans were so worried for Sansa, and why they breathed a small sigh of relief at the conclusion of the show’s adaptation. It was difficult to watch the television version of the scene, which was stunningly acted and full of skin-crawling moments. Fans were immediately flipping out about the atrociousness of yet another rape scene.
But it was better than the darker alternative, and for that everyone should be grateful — even if we were left feeling exactly like Theon, faces smushed in anguish at the sight of Sansa being brutalized.
Entertainment Weekly spoke with the writer of this episode, Brian Cogman, and asked him if he thought the scene should have matched the book’s sadism. “Cogman looked somewhat horrified at that idea. ‘No!’ he said. ‘Lord no. No-no-no-no-no. No. It’s still a shared form of abuse that they have to endure, Sansa and Theon. But it’s not the extreme torture and humiliation that scene in the book is.'”
Thank goodness for Brian Cogman.
Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa on the show, also spoke with EW about this scene. Surprisingly, she admitted that she “kind of loved it.” But this isn’t the first time that Turner has explained her love for acting out a good, old fashioned trauma. The actress hinted at this scene last December during a brief interview at the British Film Awards.
“There was one scene which I did do which is super, super traumatic, and I love doing those scenes” she said. “It was just really kind of horrible for everyone to be on set and watch but, those kinds of scenes are what feed me. That’s why I started acting, to do all the crappy horrible stuff.”
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