Game of Thrones writer defends controversial Sansa Stark and Ramsay Bolton scene

Spoiler and trigger warning

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For many, series five of Game of Thrones went too far. The fantasy series has always been dark, but complaints about the show’s relentlessly grim tone, not to mention its frequent scenes of violence against women, became hard to ignore, even as ratings soared. One scene in particular proved controversial: the wedding night of Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon).

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Now writer and producer Bryan Cogman has used the commentary track for the upcoming DVD release of series five to defend the scene.

“It’s sort of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t.’” he explains in a transcript provided by Entertainment Weekly. “If you don’t talk about it, people think you’re ashamed of it; if you do talk about it, everything you say is taken out of context.” 

“It was a very difficult scene for me to write,” an emotional Cogman went on. “I’ve known Sophie since she was a kid. I think it was the attack on our motives behind it that upset me. Because I love these characters. I’ve spent the better part of the last decade with these characters, and I love these actors …[it’s] very personal to me and it’s not an easy thing to put a character that I love through a scene like this.” 

Much of the criticism stemmed from the fact that Sansa – who has already suffered at the hands of one stunted sadist – was not paired with Ramsay in the original books by George RR Martin, making the scene a creation especially for the show. 

However, Cogman insisted the change was necessary.

“Basically, when we decided to combine Sansa’s storyline with another character in the books it was done with the idea that it would be hugely dramatically satisfying to have Sansa back in her occupied childhood home and navigate this Gothic horror story she’s found herself in and, of course, to be reunited with Theon – setting her on the path to reclaiming her family home and becoming a major player in the big overall story.”

Yet in pairing Sansa with the sexually violent Ramsay, they were forced to face the consequences. 

“When we decided we were going to do that we were faced with the question: If she’s marrying Ramsay, what would happen on her wedding night? And we made the decision to not shy away from what would realistically would happen on that wedding night with these two characters, and the reality of the situation, and the reality of this particular world.”

The ‘reality of this particular world’ was Sansa being forced into sex while her adopted brother Theon was made to watch. Even by the standards of Game of Thrones, it was an extreme and upsetting scene, but Cogman argues it could not be sugar-coated. 

“Yes, it would have been hugely satisfying [for Sansa] to have a shiv up her sleeve and gut Ramsay, but that’s not Sansa. We can’t all be Arya and, in fact, most people aren’t Arya. Most people in that situation, they have to play a longer game.”

“She goes [into the marriage] without the right information about Ramsay, she gets the sense that he’s dangerous, and when he turns out to be even worse than she thought, she’s not broken by the attack, she immediately sets to getting the hell out of there and planning her next move.” 

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That next move will come when Game of Thrones returns on 24th April 2016.