It was without a doubt the most controversial moment of Game of Thrones season 5, and possibly of the entire series: When the character of Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) was raped by her new husband, Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) at the conclusion of the season’s sixth episode.
While some Game of Thrones fans defended the scene as necessary to convey the evil of Ramsey, and to ultimately set up (satisfying) revenge for Sansa, others felt it was unnecessary development in the storyline of a beloved character - one they had watched grow from childhood over the course of many seasons. One pop culture site, devoted to a female audience, even declared afterward that it would no longer "promote" the series.
Now, with the Game of Thrones season 6 premiere weeks away, it appears better things are to come for Sansa Stark- at least, according to Turner. In an interview with EW - part of the magazine’s multi-covered Game of Thrones season 6 preview featuring the series’ female stars - Sophie Turner said “This is the season I’m most excited for. Sansa’s coming into her own and standing up for herself.” That's in line with what Turner said in an interview from back around the beginning of this year, calling Season 6 Sansa's "best season yet" on Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones co-showrunner, Dan Weiss, had more to say about what's ahead for Sansa, now that she has escaped Ramsay's clutches and is on the run with Alfie Allen's Theon Greyjoy (the man who betrayed Sansa's family all those seasons ago):
"Sophie really delivers this season. She’s an extremely phenomenal actor, and this year she gets to go to places she’s never gone.”
Yes, that Sansa scene from Game of Thrones season 5 was very hard to watch, as were the implications about what Ramsay did to her in the days that followed - making it clear Sansa’s abuse had continued over the remainder of season 5. For anyone who has been through anything like that in real life (or even remotely similar), I am sure that it was even harder.
Storytelling is storytelling, though, and sometimes difficult things are included as part of the story in order to make other, later parts of the story more satisfying. Might Sansa get her revenge on Ramsay Bolton, re-capture Winterfell for the House Stark, or possibly both? As with everything else with Game of Thrones this book-less season, we’re in uncharted waters.
Game of Thrones season 6 will premiere on HBO on April 24th, 2016
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