Ever since Game of Thrones debuted in 2010, the show has been no stranger to controversy, with iconic yet divisive events such as The Red Wedding and the Purple Wedding. The show certainly didn't skimp on shocking moments in Season 5, but one scene in particular was discussed and dissected for days and weeks after it first aired, and it may be the most controversial scene in the show's history. Entertainment Weekly got a hold of the Game of Thrones Season 5 Blu-ray, where they discovered an intriguing commentary track from writer-producer Bryan Cogman, where he discusses this divisive scene. Be warned, if you aren't fully caught up with Season 5 yet, there will be SPOILERS below, so read on at your own risk.
While most of the show's truly shocking moments don't happen until either the ninth or 10th episode, last season's sixth episode, Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken, written by Bryan Cogman, caused many fans to lash out at the show through social media. The episode in question featured the horrifying rape of Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) by her brutal new husband Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon). Many were disgusted by the episode, including U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri who took to her Twitter page shortly after the episode ended, revealing she's done supporting the show. While series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have largely avoided talking about this scene, Bryan Cogman speaks out about thee scene in detail.
"I'm going to hijack the commentary track for just a minute to talk about this subplot. I think it's important to talk about because of the response this storyline got. It's sort of 'damned if you do, damned if you don't.' If you don't talk about it, people think you're ashamed of it; if you do talk about it, everything you say is taken out of context. Basically, when we decided to combine Sansa's storyline with another character in the books it was done with the idea that 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 the path to reclaiming her family home and becoming a major player in the big overall story. That said, when we decided 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. Yes, it would have been hugely satisfying [for Sansa] to have a shiv up her sleeve and gut Ramsay, but that's not Sansa. We can't all be Arya (Maisie Williams) and, in fact, most people aren't Arya. Most people in that situation, they have to play a longer game. She goes [into the marriage] without the right information about Ramsay, she gets the sense that he's dangerous, and when he turns out to be even worse than she thought, she's not broken by the attack, she immediately sets to getting the hell out of there and planning her next move."
Maisie Williams herself was also on the commentary track, responding "Good for you," telling the producer that it's important for him to have his say "openly and honestly." Sophie Turner herself isn't on the commentary track, with the producer revealing she had a scheduling conflict with her work on the upcoming superhero movie X-Men: Apocalypse. While discussing the scene even more, the site reports that the writer/producer appears to get choked up a bit, revealing it was a difficult scene to write.
"It was a very difficult scene for me to write. I've known Sophie since she was a kid... I think it was the attack on our motives behind it that upset me. Because I love these characters. I've spent the better part of the last decade with these characters, and I love these actors - I'm getting emotional talking about it - I love Sophie, I love Alfie, I love [Maisie] and it's ... very personal to me and it's not an easy thing to put a character that I love through a scene like this. Another argument - and I get why this criticism was leveled at us - is idea that we took Sansa's story away from her and made it all about Theon [by cutting to his face at the end]. I personally don't believe that's the case ... Certainly Theon's redemption journey is an element of the subplot. But 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'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. I understand why many people reacted to that, [thinking] we were making this scene about Theon and not Sansa. I'm sorry it was viewed that way. All I can say is it's certainly not my intention when I wrote it or when we were producing it ... We could have stayed on her face of the entirety of the attack, that would have been a perfectly valid choice. To me it was about being respectful to Sophie."
Of course, Sansa didn't last too long in Winterfell, since, during the season finale, Theon Greyjoy finally stood up to Ramsay, leaping over the wall with Sansa as they fled from their once-beloved homeland. While we obviously don't know where she'll be going in Game of Thrones Season 6, the writer-producer revealed that this scene is actually a critical part of Sansa's story moving forward. Here's what he had to say below.
"It's an upsetting scene, it's a horrifying scene, it's meant to be ... [But] the accusation that our motives were [that we] just threw in a rape for shock value, I personally don't think the scene as shot, or as written, or as acted by our wonderful actors, supports that argument. Nor do I think the aftermath of the scene supports that argument. Not only in these episodes, but also in future episodes. This story is not over. This is a long ongoing story. Sansa has a journey ahead of her, and what happens to her in that room is a huge part of that journey, and one that we've thought through."
Many have wondered if Sansa will ever reunite with any of her family members. After taking last season off, Isaac Hempstead-Wright will return as Bran Stark, who has been honing his "greensight" by training with the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow). As for Arya, she's on the other end of the world, training at the House of Black and White with Jaquen H'gar (Tom Wlaschiha), who blinded her at the end of last season. What do you think about these new details? Stay tuned for more on Game of Thrones, which returns with Season 6 on Sunday, April 24. Fans will also be able to pick up the Season 5 Blu-ray and DVD set on March 15.