‘Game of Thrones’ Book Club: Sansa Stark still can’t catch a break
Each week, HitFix Harpy will be hosting the "Game of Thrones" book club. A safe space where readers of "A Song of Ice and Fire" can come to dissect the changes to the series and debate what will happen next. All without fear they'll accidentally spoil something for non-readers.
WARNING: SPOILERS ALL THE WAY THROUGH "A DANCE WITH DRAGONS" BEYOND THIS POINT. ABANDON ALL HOPE OF IGNORANCE, YE WHO ENTER HERE.
We all knew Sansa Stark had taken Jeyne Poole’s place as the sacrificial marital lamb and what that meant for her this season. Tonight, the horrific chickens came home to roost. But throughout the episode — whether Sansa, Arya, Myrcella, or Tyrion — each character remained strong and defiant in the face of their individual traumas.
#1. Sansa’s wedding night.
Image Credit: HBO
In the books: Sansa is still tucked “safely” away in the Eyrie. Her childhood friend Jeyne Poole (pretending to be Arya Stark on Tywin Lannister’s orders) marries Ramsay and is subjected to far worse than what even HBO would dare. In the novels, Reek is not merely ordered to watch, he’s ordered to prep Jeyne while Ramsay undresses. There is also a dog involved at one point.
On the show: Sansa forcibly loses her virginity to a sadist while the man who betrayed her eldest brother and (as far as she knows) murdered her youngest brothers watches. On its face, this is a terrible and unnecessary retread of what has come before. Sansa has already dealt with Joffrey’s sadism and her wedding night to Ramsay mirrors that abuse, right down to having her dress ripped off her back.
But I have a theory. I think something else is going on here. The title of the episode is “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.” Yes, these are the words of House Martell. But they may also apply to Sansa. At one point this week, she tells Myranda — and by extension the audience — “This is my home. You can’t scare me.” While in King’s Landing, Sansa was friendless and isolated in hostile territory with no working knowledge of how to play the game. That is a far cry from the Sansa Stark that married Ramsay Bolton. I am hoping “Game of Thrones” will reject the victim status of Jeyne Poole and allow Sansa to learn from her history and mete out some justifiable vengeance. With Robb gone, she’s the Queen in the North. None of her people would cry if the Bolton’s lost their power or their lives. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Stannis rolled up to the gates of Winterfell looking for a fight and found the head of Ramsay rotting on a pike instead.
In fact, if Lady Stoneheart is truly never putting in an appearance — a likelihood as Arya has never once had a vision through Nymeria’s wolf eyes — a stone-cold Sansa Stark sweeping south with her bannermen to rain down revenge on the Freys is the next best thing. The North Remembers.
#2. Arya sees the many faces of the Faceless Men.
Image Credit: HBO
In the books: Ayra is sent out to be “Cat of the Canals” and learn how to tell lies from the truth. She still hasn’t seen the room with all the faces and doesn’t until much, much later. Also, there is no need to trick people into drinking the water at the temple because everyone who comes there is actively seeking to die. Death is considered a gift, not something to fear.
On the show: After weeks of cleaning bodies and trying to convince herself that she’s ready to be no one, Arya finally helps a person accept the “The Gift” of the Many-Faced god by effectively lying to a young girl, keeping her calm and helping end her chronic suffering. Somehow this convinces Jaqen that she is ready to see what the Faceless Men do with the bodies. Interestingly, we don’t see any of the magic used to change faces. Based on promo images we know Arya will at least be taking on the clothing — if not the face — of the girl she just helped into the arms of Death. Perhaps “Game of Thrones” will take the “Dead Like Me” approach and Arya will only look different when looking at her reflection?
#3. Jamie almost rescues Myrcella.
Image Credit: HBO
In the books: NONE OF THIS IS HAPPENING. Jamie and Bronn are not in Dorne. The Sand Snakes are still imprisoned at Sunspear. However, what transpires in this week’s episode could very well be the HBO version of what sends Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene into glorified prison. If so, we won’t be seeing much of them until Arianne shows up (hopefully next season).
On the show: Everything comes to a head as Jamie sneaks into the Water Gardens to save his “niece” from imminent danger. A snag appears when he comes across Myrcella and Trystane snogging in an alcove. As Myrcella is too young to have a romantic subplot in the novels, this is an interesting monkey wrench. Myrcella doesn’t want to go. The Sand Snakes show up and dangerous hilarity ensues until Areo and the guards to put a stop to it. If HBO maintains that girls can inherit in Dorne and that Trystane is still younger than Arianne, the plot to put Myrcella on the Iron Throne may turn out to be her betrothed’s idea.
#4. Loras Tyrell’s sexual inquisition.
Image Credit: HBO
In the books: Loras is never imprisoned. Instead, Cersei sends him on a fool’s errand to retake Dragonstone in Stannis Baratheon’s absence. Last readers heard, Loras had been gravely injured. Instead, it is Margaery’s that is imprisoned. Cersei trumps up whispers that perhaps Loras isn’t the only Tyrell that prefers the company of the same sex. This probably had to be changed as Margaery still being a virgin after three husbands was the main evidence against her in the novels.
On the show: After accidentally perjuring themselves on the stand, Loras’s most recent lover comes in to throw the Tyrell children under the bus. The elaborate play is orchestrated by Cersei to remove all rivals for her son’s ear and affection. However, what she doesn’t seem able to grasp is that people in incestuous houses shouldn’t throw Faith Militant stones. Her upcoming trauma should set off another firestorm of debate on “Game of Thrones” treatment of women.
#5. Capture of Tyrion and Jorah.
Image Credit: HBO
In the books: Tyrion, Jorah, and Penny (the female dwarf not in the show) are sold into slavery when their ship is boarded. They’re bought by a the servant of man who collects “unique” people. It is at this point Tyrion saves Jorah by saying the man is a necessary part of their comedic acting troupe and their new master will be disappointed to only get part of the show.
On the show: Jorah and Tyrion are captured after losing their boat in Valyria. Instead of being sold to Yezzan zo Qaggaz, Tyrion convinces the slavers to take Jorah directly to the recently reopened fighting pits in Meereen.
With the death of Ser Barristan — and now Tyrion and Jorah skipping over the need to defect to the sellswords — it seems the Yunkai seige of Meereen is a plot point that will either be removed or kicked down the line until Dany has ridden Drogon into the sunset. But who will lead Meereen’s military forces in her absence?
Odds & Ends
• Littlefinger’s return to King’s Landing gives a hint to his long con. Apparently he wants take the men of the Eyrie to Winterfell, kill whoever is holding it, and marry Sansa. Carving out a kingdom, one piece at a time.
• The return of the Queen of Thorns is always a bonus! I’m so glad she’s back from Highgarden. If I were a betting gal, I’d say she’s the reason the Faith Militant will turn on Cersei.
• Leaving out the last line of “The Dornishman’s Wife” has to be so it can be revealed at the most appropriate moment later, right?