Warning: Contains a major spoiler about Sunday’s Game of Thrones
Twitter erupted with Game of Thrones fandom angst Sunday night as Sansa Stark was brutally attacked and humiliated on her wedding night by her sadistic new husband Ramsay Bolton. Across five seasons, audiences have watched as the character—played by Sophie Turner—grew up on screen, with Sansa shifting from a naive innocent pining for a storybook marriage to gradually evolving into a hardened survivor. But on Sunday night, the character lost her virginity to rape at the hands of the psychotic son of her mother’s killer, while her former childhood friend Theon was forced to watch.
We heard about this scene while on the Thrones set in October and were able to briefly discuss it with producer Bryan Cogman, who also wrote the episode (in addition we have an interview with Turner where she gives us her thoughts about the scene).
My first question to Cogman was what would he say to fans who ask: “How could you do this to Sansa?”
Cogman seemed to take this question very seriously and took a moment to consider his response. “This is Game of Thrones,” he said soberly. “This isn’t a timid little girl walking into a wedding night with Joffrey. This is a hardened woman making a choice and she sees this as the way to get back her homeland. Sansa has a wedding night in the sense she never thought she would with one of the monsters of the show. It’s pretty intense and awful and the character will have to deal with it.”
I also asked whether the scene would be as sadistic as the version in George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons, where Ramsay’s bride is played by a different character who is not in the show. In Martin’s novel, Ramsay forces Theon to sexually interact with his bride. 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.”
Cogman added that the scene is also “an important turning point” for Sansa. “She’s seen Theon and hated him and thinks he killed her brothers and betrayed them but she’s very conflicted by what she’s seeing there,” he said.
The writer producer also confirmed that, for those suspecting Littlefinger might have known about Ramsay’s sadism, that Baelish was definitely ignorant of the situation. “The difference between the Ramsay Snow of the books and the show is the Ramsay of the show is not a famous psycho,” he said. “He’s not known everywhere as a psycho. So Littlefinger doesn’t have the intelligence on him. He knows they’re scary and creepy and not to be folly trusted and it’s part of a larger plan.”
UPDATE: Bryan Cogman tweeted the following: “Hi all. Not going to comment further but I do want to clarify something from the @EW interview that was conducted on set a few months ago: The ‘choice’ I was referring to was Sansa’s choice to marry Ramsay and walk into that room. She feels marrying him is a vital step in reclaiming her homeland. Not trying to change anyone’s opinion of the scene (negative or otherwise) but that it what I was … Ok, LAST last word. In NO WAY… NO WAY was that comment an attempt to ‘blame the victim.’ If it seemed that way I’m deeply sorry.”
I also have something to add: I have zero doubt that Cogman meant exactly what he says he meant, especially since his comments on the set came on the heels of us talking about the reasons Sansa was paired with Ramsay in the first place (that interview was published separately, weeks ago). Though I thought his context was apparent above, I apologize if I didn’t make his meaning more clear.
We also spoke to actress Sophie Turner about Sunday’s scene. That interview is here.
My deep-dive recap of the episode has a plenty of thoughts about that Sansa scene.
And previously, EW exclusively revealed the showrunners’ reasons for departing from the books by marrying Sansa and Ramsay. That story is here.