In Game of Thrones' latest episode titled The Door, the writers finally decide to confront the issue of sexual violence from the perspective of a survivor.
In the six seasons of Game of Thrones, audiences have witnessed countless acts of love, betrayal and violence. Nearly every episode, an innocent (or not so innocent) character is murdered in some grotesque way in a fight for the “throne.” While gore has become an inevitable and accepted part of the HBO series, many have been unsettled by the show’s depiction of sexual violence, specifically that directed towards female protagonists. These scenes have occurred with plenty of fan backlash but no gratifying scenes of agency or revenge.
Since the pilot episode, Sansa Stark has evolved from a meek girl with dreams of romance and royal grandeur to a jaded young woman. She’s been used as a pawn and cast from the hands of one abusive man to an even crueler one. In the latest episode of Game of Thrones, Sansa confronts Littlefinger for leading her directly into danger. In season five, Sansa was forced to marry Ramsay, a sadistic man who had taken over Winterfell, her family’s land right. During her time at Winterfell, Sansa was repeatedly raped by Ramsay.
When Sansa strolls into the barn to meet Littlefinger, she has Brienne -who towers over them both- by her side. (Female tagteam for the win!) When Littlefinger expresses how happy he is to see that she is unharmed, Sansa scoffs.
Would you like to hear about our wedding night? He never hurt my face… he needed my face …. But the rest of me, he did what he liked with the rest of me … What do you think he did to me?
She challenges Littlefinger, encouraging him to speak her truth and contemplate her the trauma she has endured due to his greed.
Instead, Little Finger avoids the elephant in the room. “He beat you … Did he cut you?”
At this point, I was ready for Sansa to read him for filth then command Brienne to kick his ass.
Instead, the GOT writers, much like Littlefinger, shied away and ultimately avoided the issue!
Even Sansa begins to retreat from her uncharacteristic boldness.
The other things he did, ladies aren’t supposed to talk about those things but I imagine brothel keeps talk about them all the time … I can still feel what he did in my body. Standing here right now.
While it was gratifying to see Sansa begin to take back her agency and speak about her abuse, it was frustrating that her experience wasn’t confronted head-on. In an episode that revealed a warty penis, it seemed odd that the act of rape could not be directly discussed. Game of Thrones is usually generous with graphic scenes but we can’t even get a verbal acknowledgement of the physical pain Sansa endured when she was raped. It felt like the writers copped out, when Sansa declared that she was too “lady-like” to explicitly discuss her trauma to the man who however indirectly, caused it. What the audience got was a potentially cathartic moment that was cut short.
Still, it was a step in the right direction for a character who desperately needs poetic justice. I'm feeling this new Sansa. Here’s to hoping that she’ll be the one to end Ramsay’s reign over Winterfell!