Game of Thrones: Well, We're Talking About Rape Again


Game of Thrones! What a romp! Sorry, did I say “romp?” I meant rape. What a rape. That’s right! We’re talking about this again!

Whoever titled last night’s episode “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” has a grim sense of humor and solid sense of irony. While many our beloved (and not so beloved) characters began the hour in positions of power, they finished it in absolute subjugation.

Margaery Tyrell, having so recently assumed that she had bested Cersei by becoming queen, gets outplayed by the wine-soaked Queen Mother and thrown in prison for lying under oath on behalf of her brother. (Tommen, the kitten king, does nothing to help her.) Ser Jorah goes from captor to captured when he and Tyrion are kidnapped by slavers who—wouldn’t you know it?—are headed to Meereen. Convenient, no? It’s like hitching a ride with friends! Kick back and relax, Jorah! All you have to do is chip in for gas/maybe lose your life in the fighting pits!

Fighting pits? More like snake pits! Snake pits? More like sand snake pits! Jaime and Bronn are in Dorne to rescue Jaime’s daughter/niece Myrcella, but they’re not the only ones looking to get a hold of her. There’s also a Dornish prince who’s getting veeeeery handsy (Myrcella, it’s worth noting, is getting veeeeery handsy back) and the three vengeful daughters of Oberyn Martell (better known as the Sand Snakes) who want to kidnap her and use her for revenge. The battle between the Sand Snakes, Jaime, and Bronn feels anticlimactic once it’s broken up by Dornish guards, but—BUT—Bronn did leave the fray with a scratch from a blade and we all know how those Martells like to tip their blades in poison. Pray 4 Bronn.

In Braavos, Arya goes deeper into the House of Black and White, where—just like tiny Fairuza Balk before her—she meets the heads of Princess Mombi and—unlike Fairuza—further enters the tutelage of Jaqen H’ghar. He is slowly training her to embrace humility, a trait that—after years of straightening her spine and toughening up—will be hard for her to submit to (and honestly, I hope she never does).

Saving the most difficult for last, we visit Sansa in Winterfell where she’s married off to Ramsay Bolton in the dead of the night, brought back to his chambers, and brutally raped by her new husband as Theon is forced to watch.

This is a series with an unfortunate and well explored history of using the rape of its female characters to shock, entertain, and force character development. In a brief walk down Memorape Lane, we have Season One when Daenerys is—much like last night—raped by her husband on their wedding night, and Season Four when Cersei is dragged to the floor as she cries “no” and is raped by her brother and sometimes-lover, Jaime. But while last night’s sexual assault was absolutely disturbing, it relied more on sound than on visuals, was shot with a lot of care and respect given to a very young actress (you can read Sophie Turner’s thoughts on the scene here) and made arguably more sense, plot-wise.

The idea that Sansa’s life would improve upon marrying Ramsay Bolton—that she would somehow get a gentle and romantic wedding night—is naive and foolish. Ramsay is a quintessential sadist. He literally feeds his ex-girlfriends to dogs and once cut off Theon’s dick for fun. The only thing we can reasonably expect from him is violence and ugliness. Which isn’t to say that’s Sansa’s rape was inconsequential—only that it, unlike the others, seemed like a natural (and not entirely unnecessary) progression in the plot.

While the episode ended with Sansa being violated, I’m still optimistic that she’ll remain unbroken. “I am Sansa Stark of Winterfell. This is my home. And you can’t frighten me,” she, earlier in the episode, snaps at Ramsay’s sidepiece Myranda. She has gone through hell and high water, things will get worse before they get better, but at least she is home and—watch your ass, Ramsay—winter is coming.

Image via HBO.

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