Everything you need to know about Sansa Stark

19 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Everything you need to know about Sansa Stark.

Game of Thrones is famous for its tragic weddings, but last night the show pushed that into even darker territory with what fans have dubbed ‘the Black Wedding.’ In the closing scene, Sansa Stark—whom viewers have watched grow up on the show—was forced into a second marriage against her will. The sixth episode of the fifth season, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” concluded with one of the darkest moments in the show’s history: Young Sansa Stark being brutalized on her wedding night by the sadistic Ramsay Bolton. But this time, the wedding night took a stomach-turningly grim turn as Sansa was raped by her new husband, Ramsay, while the brainwashed Theon was forced to watch, unable to intervene. In this space two weeks ago, I suggested that Bronn would be a big fan of the easy-listening Westerosi standard “The Dornishman’s Wife.” And when we re-encountered Bronn tonight, what was he singing?

The character of Ramsay is no stranger to barbaric acts – who can forget the grim scene where he cut off Theon Greyjoy’s penis as part of a torture ritual? Thrones producers shifted this minor character’s ordeal to Sansa to get the Stark heroine back to her home of Winterfell and to give actress Sophie Turner a challenging and compelling storyline this season. “Let me reiterate what I have said before,” Martin told his readers. “How many children did Scarlett O’Hara have? The show is the show, the books are the books; two different tellings of the same story … There have been differences between the novels and the television show since the first episode of season one. He gets to demonstrate his pipes a bit with this amiable cover of “Up on the Roof”; and while he’s mostly backup on “Unchained Melody,” the video makes touching use of footage from David Lean’s intimate masterpiece Brief Encounter. It’s Sansa’s wedding day, and her barely concealed frenemy Myranda arrives to help draw her bath, and give her “helpful” warnings about making sure she pleases Ramsay so that he doesn’t murder her with dogs.

Small changes lead to larger changes lead to huge changes.” Martin then went on to defend producers David Benioff, Dan Weiss and Bryan Cogman’s overall faithfulness to his novels. “There has seldom been any TV series as faithful to its source material, by and large (if you doubt that, talk to the Harry Dresden fans, or readers of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, or the fans of the original Walking Dead comic books),” he wrote. “But the longer the show goes on, the bigger the butterflies become. Not counting the dozens (and dozens) of characters sent to an early grave, she has been uniquely brutalized – and that was long before clapping eyes on Ramsay.

Sansa’s no fool anymore, and immediately sees the game being played; she asks Myranda how long she’s been in love with Ramsay, and tells her to get out. “I’m Sansa Stark of Winterfell,” she says, sounding more like Catelyn than she ever has before. “This is my home, and you can’t frighten me.” She breaks down a little after Myranda leaves—which is fair enough, since she is in enormous danger—but it’s still a wonderfully fierce moment where we see her projecting the kind of strength we’d expect from her father, her mother, or any warrior we’ve seen holding a sword. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.) Frequent visitors to the roundtable will have a pretty good idea about how I feel about the episode’s closing, wedding-night scene. (Short version: Stay classy, Benioff and Weiss.) But let me table that for now and return to it once my nausea has receded.

Sansa witnessed the sadistic execution of her father on the orders of cackling fiancé Joffrey, then had to live among her enemies, concealing her hatred behind a smile that seemed to turn sharper at the edges with each fresh humiliation. In last week’s excellent episode, the show did a nice job of limiting its vistas: two related plotlines in northern Westeros, and two related plotlines in Essos. Tonight there was substantially more jumping around—we skipped the Wall and Meereen, but touched down almost everywhere else—and this helped lay bare some thinness of plotting.

David and Dan and Bryan and HBO are trying to make the best television series that they can … but all of us are still intending that at the end we will arrive at the same place.” GRRM’s full post can be read here. We begin with Arya at the House of Black and White, bathing corpses and no doubt having second thoughts about her earlier gripe that “I didn’t come here to sweep floors.” She has a surprisingly pleasant tete a tete with Mean Girl No One, who it turns out is also(!) a noble born Westerosi with a tragic backstory. Erstwhile protector Littlefinger has planted more than one predatory smacker on her lips and – did he forget to mention? – arranged for her to walk down the aisle with Ser Ramsay Nutjob. Or was it a lie?” Arya impressively gets the hint. (It can’t hurt that she now looks to be about 20 years old.) When a brokenhearted father shows up with his suffering, terminally ill daughter, Arya takes the lesson to heart, telling what is, without doubt, the Most Generically Effective Lie of All Time: “I understand completely. It has a tendency to use rape sensationally and frequently, not to mention the troubling incident last season where a director filmed a rape scene and didn’t even realize it.

The same thing happened to me.” Her reward is a visit to the living-mask collection of the Faceless Men. “A girl is not ready to become no one,” Jaqen H’ghar tells her. “But she is ready to become someone else.” Intriguing! Sansa has spent most of the show suffering and being a victim, and her arc over the last season was satisfying because she finally achieved escape trajectory.

Even in the books, where Sansa’s abuse at King’s Landing was more unpleasant, the gauntlet of humiliation and violence stopped when she finally got free of the place. That was the triumph at the heart of the moment last season when she emerged at the top of the stairwell in black, announcing her arrival as player rather than pawn. Forcing her back into the role of victim and sexually humiliating her at the hands of yet another sadistic fiance adds nothing that we haven’t seen before, and indeed, feels regressive.

It reminded me of Stannis’s comments to Sam last week regarding the latter’s militarily brilliant (but paternally horrible) father, Randyll Tarly. She urged her parents to agree to Robert’s proposal and was thrilled when her father announced he was to bring his two daughters to King’s Landing, where (to his considerable reluctance) he would assume duties as Hand of the King. And second, for the only time in the history of the English (and probably any other) language, we got to hear the sentence “The dwarf lives until we find a cock merchant.” So much for Essos. After Ned’s execution, it’s implied that she’s sent to one of Littlefinger’s brothels to be prostituted; whip scars are found on her back before Ramsay ever gets to her. I missed King’s Landing last week, and it’s never looked better—or evidently, smelled worse—than when Lady Olenna makes her long-awaited reappearance, looking down from her carriage in the hills above, to remark “You can smell the shit from five miles away.” Indeed, the nation’s all-pro schemers seem to be succumbing to the gravitational pull of King’s Landing, with Lord Petyr Baelish returning, too. (Can Varys be far behind?) Littlefinger is greeted by Brother Lancel “Don’t Call Me Lannister,” who seems to have developed a severe case of self-importance after carving a sunflower on his forehead.

So I guess the scene with Sansa could have been even more terrible, but that’s like saying it was merciful for the Bolton men to decapitate Robb Stark and sew the head of his direwolf on his corpse, when they could have taken his head and used it to play kickball outside of the Twins. She received a valuable lesson in the random cruelty of life when Queen Cersei insisted Sansa’s direwolf Lady be slaughtered as punishment for Joffrey’s injuries, in place of Arya’s missing pet Nymeria. Now that their wacky road trip has been derailed, Jorah and Tyrion hike up the coast, and finally stop attacking each other verbally and physically, and start talking. However, this demonstration of Joffrey’s wickedness, did little to cool Sansa’s ardour for marriage and the escape it promised from provincial drudgery.

At King’s Landing, her head was turned by the glamour – as underlined by her cruel put-down of Septa Mordane, who had looked after her since she was a baby. After some mournful expressions, the conversation turns to something brighter: Jorah’s massive crush on Daenerys and why he follows her so devotedly. “Do you believe there’s a plan for this world?” Jorah asks. Still infatuated with Joffrey, she inadvertently helped her father unmask the princeling’s true identity as incestuous son of Jaime and Cersei when she declared he would make for a great king and ‘Golden Lion’.

If peasant uprisings were this simple—and that’s what, Lancel notwithstanding, the Sparrows’ movement is—there would never have been such a thing as a kingdom. (And while we’re on the subject, why doesn’t devout, suddenly powerful Lancel send Cersei to the black cells by confessing that he, her cousin, had personally fulfilled her sexual needs on many occasions?) Littlefinger’s plot, too, comes into clearer—but not necessarily better—focus. Having set up Sansa to wed Ramsay Bolton, he now pretends to Cersei that he’s uninvolved and eager to march the knights of the Vale against whomever is left standing after the upcoming Stannis-Bolton smackdown. Stripped bare, Petyr’s pitch to Cersei is essentially: 1) You have no strength or ability to enforce your will in the North; and 2) So, if I win the North, will you give me the title—already explicitly useless coming from you—of Warden of the North. The two sneak into the Water Gardens dressed as Dornishmen—we’re one short step away from a cross-dressing comedy here—snag Myrcella, and at exactly that moment the Sand Snakes show up for combat (and dialogue) that would not have been out of place on Xena: Warrior Princess.

What could possibly go wrong?) Let’s start with a small thing: When you’re a noble lady about to be married, and someone shows up at your door to say, “Hey, remember me? I’m just guessing, but it seems like a smart way to achieve the dream that has burned inside him since he was a boy: Taking the seat of the Stark lord he jealously hated and marrying the beautiful auburn-haired girl that should have been his. Where the hell are my serving women?” Now, it was nice that Sansa had a moment of fortitude after Myranda tried to scare her by explaining that those who “bored” Ramsay were likely to end up like poor Tansy, hunted down and eaten by dogs. Lady Olenna, meanwhile, has arrived back in King’s Landing to deal with the huge headache that Cersei created by getting Loras arrested for the crime of gayness.

In a conversation that feels like the verbal version of Minesweeper, Lady Olenna asks Cersei if she has really thought this through, since King’s Landing is still completely dependent on Highgarden for gold and food. But the moment you see Olyvar enter the room, you know how this is going to play out: He immediately sells out Loras as his gay sex friend, no doubt for generous compensation from Cersei.

Sansa feared the worst as Tyrion drank himself into a stupor at their wedding and Joffrey, crueller than ever, hinted at the humiliations the dwarf would inflict on his bride in the bed-chamber. The only possible surprise (and, yes, I was hoping for it) would have been Benioff and Weiss not following this storyline to its extraordinarily ugly yet entirely foreseeable conclusion. In the books: Sansa never leaves the Eyrie and the girl who marries Ramsay is a fraud pretending to be Arya, but Cersei was completely on board with the deception to help her Bolton allies. But I’ve rarely, if ever, felt less enthusiastic about the show than I did tonight, when the screen faded to black to the sound of Sansa’s groans.

With the wedding celebrations providing a noisy distraction, Olenna slipped the lethal trinket into the king’s cup and condemned him to an excruciating death. Amid the ensuing panic, Sansa was spirited away from King’s Landing to a ship belonging to Littlefinger, where she learnt the truth about Joffrey’s demise. “I’d risk everything to get what I want,” he said. “What do you want?” wondered Sansa. “Everything,” leered Littlefinger. Rather than a plot to harm Myrcella, there was a plot to prop her up as a Dornish rival to Tommen, although this too failed spectacularly—and cost Myrcella an ear in the chaos. This led to a confrontation between Sansa and a jealous Lysa, resulting in Littlefinger pushing the Lady of the Eyrie to her death through the Moon Door. Jaime and Bronn never went to rescue her, although the Kingsguard knight assigned to protect her gets recruited into the scheme by Doran’s daughter Arianne, and killed by Areo Hotah while attempting to smuggle the princess out of Sunspear.

She dyed her distinctive red hair black and swapped her courtly finery for a functional dark ensemble. ‘Goth Sansa’ was born, the naive young girl who had swooned so helplessly over Joffrey gone, never to return. As they negotiated a rutted back-road in a rickety carriage, Sansa inquired as to their ultimate destination. “A land so far from here even Cersei Lannister can’t get her hands on you,” replied her protector, never one to speak plainly when twinkling obfuscation was an option. The severe blond-haired young girl slams it shut, and when Arya demands to know what they do with the bodies, she says that Arya will know when she’s ready, and not before. In an underplayed irony, they passed a pouting Brienne of Tarth, plunged into an ongoing existential crisis since another Stark sister, Arya, refused her oath of protection last year.

Having come teasingly close to meeting, Brienne finally crossed paths with Sansa – before crossing swords with the Stark heiress’s heavily armed retinue. In the middle of the night, Jaqen returns to play yet another round of the game, the one Arya crossed the sea to play—not of thrones, but of faces, of lies.

Weiss and David Benioff think they’ve developed Sansa into a character who controls her own destiny, who has used her time with Baelish to carefully study his skill at maneuvering and manipulation others. We’re supposed to see her as having agency, reluctantly accepting this alliance, enduring the unpleasantness for the chance to potentially exact vengeance on the Boltons. She looks up indignant, insisting it was true, but he knows better: “A girl lies, to me, to the Many-Faced god, to herself.” Arya demands that they stop playing the game, but Jaqen offers a hard truth: “We never stop playing.” Just ask Littlefinger. If you’ll forgive me for mixing shows for a moment, this isn’t Joan on Mad Men going to bed with the slimy Jaguar guy, using the only advantages she believes she holds as a woman to secure a partnership and financial security.

Rather than mercy killing a child, Arya undergoes a different sort of initiation before she is allowed to enter the chamber of faces, although it could still happen on the show as well. Chuckling, he announced to the Stark princess that the Ironborn traitor, whom she believed responsible for the death of two of her brothers, would walk her up the aisle. Yes, he’ll say anything, sacrifice anyone, do anything in the service of his favorite cause—himself. (He did marry wackadoodle Aunt Lysa, after all.) So maybe his relationship with Sansa has just been a very long game, maybe he finally saw a way to play that card to his advantage and did so.

A servant informed Sansa that, should she ever be in danger, she had only to light a candle in the tallest tower in the keep – coincidentally the same tower from which Bran was pushed all those years earlier. Nothing we’ve seen would lead us to expect that Baelish would knowingly hand her over to a sociopath to be raped and tortured in the name of political marriage. Sansa was to marry Ramsay Bolton, a political alliance arranged by Littlefinger which she had agreed to on the understanding it would help the Starks reclaim Winterfell. As she soaped down her romantic rival, Myranda reeled off the names of the paramours Ramsay had broken and cast aside after they had started to ‘bore’ him. I’m thrilled to see Lady Olenna back on the scene for so many reasons, not least because she’s the only one who can speak sense to Cersei, not that the Queen Mother is inclined to listen.

It was his idea that Sansa marry Ramsay; now that the younger Bolton’s crazy side is coming to the surface Baelish is, characteristically, nowhere to be seen. Just as Jaime’s rape of Cersei in the sept poisoned our view of his character’s evolution—and signaled that the showrunners can be very clumsy in their handling of sexual violence—this development may give Baelish the lifetime claim to Most Awful Person in Westeros. Gratuitous sexual violence is bad enough, but gratuitous sexual violence in a ridiculous storyline that not only doesn’t advance our understanding of key characters but rather makes us more confused—that may be the greatest sin of all.

How screwed up is it that after all the atrocities Thrones has served up, I’d feared that Ramsay and the Stark princess’s first intimate encounter would be even worse—more violent, more graphic—than what we saw? In an interview with EW, this episode’s writer Bryan Cogman clarified that Baelish’s does not have the intel about Ramsay’s proclivities— “He’s not known everywhere as a psycho.” Um, what?

Like you said, Amy, Littlefinger has files on everyone, and surely someone would be gossiping about the trail of dog-devoured women left by the northern warden’s son. Marriage in this world basically makes women into men’s property, and this woman has, after a few near-misses, finally been sealed in a very scary deal.

A thousand miles south, Westeros’ savviest marrier, supposedly the most powerful woman in the land, was taken into custody by overserious monks while her royal boy husband just stared feebly. In the meantime, we can at least enjoy the fact that this somewhat baffling storyline has necessitated the the return of Lady Olenna, who sees right through Cersei’s attempt to recapture Tywin’s gravitas via quill (what a great touch to have Cersei put the pen down as requested, but only when Olenna’s out of sight). As acting head of House Tyrell, she has real leverage against the crown, and she appears unafraid to use it even if it means civil war. “As for your veiled threats…” Cersei begins at one point, to which Olenna cuts in: “What veil?” The Vale, discussed moments before in the very same chamber, is another threat Cersei doesn’t quite understand. If nothing else, the scene made clear that Qyburn’s a better necromancer than he is Master of Whisperers: Cersei seemed to be hearing for the first time the news of Sansa at Winterfell, and perhaps of Stannis marching south. I’ll root for Cersei to stay alive so Lena Headey can act till the Doom swallows all the land; Cersei’s delusions, though, are getting very tough to sit through.

I am all for Thrones defying expectations for what happens when a band of sisters enters on a revenge mission, and for what happens when two likable knights go to rescue a stranded princess. But these parties’ clash and the arrival of Prince Doran’s guards came off not as reality crashing in on fantasy narratives, but instead just as a wannabe-badass fantasy narrative in itself.

Which is kind of insulting to viewers, considering how preposterous the timing, Jaime and Bronn’s infiltration, and Ellaria Sand’s lack of preparation were. Arya might finally see some benefits to the secret society she’s joined, but first, she has to recount her entire Thrones storyline to Jaqen H’ghar.

He was like a very painful lie-detector test, smacking her for not admitting to nursing a friend-crush on the Hound and for claiming to be ready to give up her identity—though deep down that’s not what she, and probably a good portion of the Thrones audience, wants. Jorah, we’ve known for a long time, is not quite so principled, though we do get a glimpse of genuine idealism from him in his explanation of why he wants to serve Daenerys.

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