The most controversial thing about Game of Thrones season five wasn’t the lack of Ser Pounce or Hodor — it was “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” the episode that inspired a million think pieces. In it, Sansa Stark is raped on her wedding night by Ramsay Bolton while Theon Greyjoy watches. A U.S. Senator quit watching Thrones over the “gratuitous rape scene,” and author George R.R. Martin even weighed in, writing, “David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] and Bryan [Cogman] and HBO are trying to make the best television series that they can. And over here I am trying to write the best novels that I can.”
In the soon-to-be-released DVD commentary for “Unbowed,” Cogman, who wrote the episode, set the record straight about the scene, and why Sansa didn’t pull an Arya and take out Ramsay’s eye right then and there.
“Basically when we decided to combine Sansa’s storyline with another character in the books it was done with the idea 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 her path to reclaiming her family home and becoming a major player in the big overall story. That said, when we decided when 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.”
As for focusing the camera on Theon’s face, Cogman said he gets “why this criticism was leveled at us…that we took Sansa’s story away from her and made it all about Theon.” But, he counters, “I personally don’t believe that’s the case… If you really watch this scene, it’s played from Sansa’s viewpoint, for the most part. The main reason we cut away at the end, frankly, is that this was [Sophie Turner’s] first scene of this nature, and we didn’t want to show the attack. And so we cut to Theon to hear the attack.”
Cogman added that while it would have been “satisfying [for Sansa] to have a shiv up her sleeve and gut Ramsay,” that’s not who she is. “We can’t all be Arya,” he said. “Most people in that situation, they have to play a longer game.”
As long as that longer game involves Ramsey’s head on pike…