Bryan Cogman, who came up with the idea of sending two major characters to Dorne in Season 5 and also wrote its most controversial Game of Thrones episode (Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken), has given a detailed breakdown of Sansa Stark’s rape scene on the Season 5 DVD commentary track. The scene caused worldwide outrage as it showed sadistic Ramsay Bolton raping Sansa Stark on their wedding night while forcing Theon Greyjoy to watch.
“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 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 her path to reclaiming her family home and becoming a major player in the big overall story. That said, when we decided when 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.”
Some fans wanted Sansa to show some guts and at least attempt to kill Ramsay in that scene. Cogman adds:
“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 joins in Cogman’s support:
“Good for you. It’s important to have your say openly and honestly, and not just through headlines and Twitter and things like that… there is so much more to the whole sequence than people are allowing.”
Cogman gets emotional and a bit choked up:
“It was a very difficult scene for me to write. I’ve known Sophie since she was a kid… It 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.”
He also addresses the final shot in the scene where the camera cuts to Theon’s horrified face as he watches Sansa being raped:
“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.”
Cogman teases Sansa’s storyline for Season 6:
“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.”
Williams tells EW:
“He was really sad, he was heartbroken. He loves these characters and all the actors on the show.”
Cogman and Williams actually say a lot more about the scene in the full commentary. Game of Thrones Season 5 DVD and Blu-ray also features the complete season, deleted scenes, a documentary on European history that served as inspiration for George R.R. martin, audio commentaries and much more.