Warning: Here be spoilers (but no dragons) for books and seasons 1 thru 5.
Season 5 of Game of Thrones has moved into uncharted territory this season – in some places, it caught up with all the books had to offer for certain characters (Bran and the Reeds, for example, who are not in this season at all). In others, we may not have caught up yet, but we’re not far off, given that a glacier moves faster than A Dance With Dragons did. Even though every season has offered changes from the book for various reasons, this season was uncharted territory for us.
There are plenty of criticisms to make at the halftime show of S5 (mostly: BORING. Maybe they are adhering closer to books 4 and 5 in spirit, if not form?) but I am going to focus on everyone’s fave lemoncake sweetie, Sansa Stark, for two reasons: one, the ‘controversial’ Winds of Winter chapter, and two, the interviews with Alfie Allen (Reek/Theon) and Iwan Rheon (Ramsay).
First off, if you haven’t read the Alayne chapter GRRM released, it’s here. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Time to talk about the controversy. There isn’t any, you say? That’s probably because it’s been pretty unclear whether or not the Alayne chapter released is the same one that is “controversial”. The source in question has only read 1 Sansa chapter, which he’s stated to both be controversial to some fans, and enjoyable for Sansa fans. So two things a) this is not the chapter being discussed at all or b) it is, and the controversy stems only from the fact that Sansa haters are forced to face that she’s not stupid at all, and they’ve been wrong their whole lives. As a Sansa fan, I certainly found it enjoyable. It’s refreshing to see Sansa on her own, flirting with age appropriate young men, things that might have been if she hadn’t been part of the whirlwind in King’s Landing that consumed her family.
It’s too bad we’ll never see it on the show.
There’s been some good things about the changes to Sansa’s plotline. It’s certainly one of the most drastic deviations we’ve seen from the books – not just cutting out time, but re-rerouting her entire journey. The Eyrie is less a setting than it is a pit stop for Littlefinger’s aerial murder scheme; despite dying her hair as a disguise, neither Sansa nor LF make any attempts to hide her identity. Instead, they’ve woven her story in with a minor character who was cut out – her childhood friend, Jeyne Poole, disguised as Arya Stark and married to Ramsay Snow/Bolton.
This is a massive game-changer in two ways: one, he marries Sansa not Arya; two, he’s marrying the real deal, not a fake. This is a legitimate claim to the North we’re talking about here – and the North remembers.
Too bad all the remembering takes up precious space in Sansa’s people that could be better used for scheming. There have been a number of scenes where covert discussions were so breathtakingly lazy, it provided more tension than anything else. A serving lady meets with Sansa under the pretense of filling a water basin, tells her she still has friends in the North… and then leaves, without filling the basin. Brienne tells everyone on the continent Sansa Stark is in Winterfell, probably, in an attempt to help her.
Okay, someone might say, you’re being completely paranoid. And that’s justifiable. BUT: Sophie Turner has mentioned in interviews before the season started that she has a lot of difficult scenes, including one that was traumatic for everyone involved.
We all know Littlefinger is a creep, and his feelings for Catelyn lie over her teen daughter like a thin layer of slime. But he’s gone now. Sansa has been pushing the tiny rebellions – visiting her family crypts, eyeballing the Warden of the North seat, pushing away the wine when Ramsay toasts their wedding. She’s not stupid – she’s seen Theon, she has probably realized Miranda (a tip of the hat to Myranda in the books?) doesn’t have her best interests at heart. She hates the Boltons, and for good reasons, known and unknown. She knows what Roose did to her family, and what Ramsay did to Theon; she doesn’t know the extent of Theon’s damage, or Roose’s chilling story about Ramsay’s parentage.
Which leads to this interview with Iwan Rheon, where he says that what happened to Theon was nothing compared to the scenes he filmed that were so disturbing, he didn’t want to do it. Or how about this one with Alfie Allen, which states that he and Iwan film a scene that brings them up to the level of main villain, that people will be really unhappy with.
Short of creating a time machine that prevents the creators of the show from ever learning “show, don’t tell”, what’s a Sansa fan to do? Keep watching for her continued, admittedly awesome, character growth? Or give up, because the man who cut off a dude’s dick and pretended to eat it is actually worried about the scene with him, Sansa & Theon going too far?
We know Ramsay’s a monster. We saw all too much of his torture of Theon. But we knew Joffery was a monster too, and yet we were subjected to his degradation of Ros in brilliant, full colour. So I’m not holding out hope for a scene like the one in the books that we never witness, but is only referenced by sounds heard through a bedroom door, or Theon’s broken and disjointed memories. Whatever’s on the table for Sansa in the last five episodes, the show’s producers want to force us to watch.
This whole show is busted, and has been from the start. I knew that, knowing the source material, and what “adult” means for HBO.
I’m throwing in the towel. This is the breaking point for me. Goodbye Game of Thrones, we had a fun run, mostly in spite of what you were going for, rather than because of it.