Like any season before it, Game of Thrones season 5 was by no means lacking in shock value, from the sweeping battle at Hardhome north of the Wall to that ending. But if there was one sequence in particular that kicked the hornet’s nest, it was the one involving Ramsay Bolton and Sansa Stark of Winterfell.
During “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” the unhinged and wholly evil Ramsay rapes Sansa while the dishevelled and broken Reek (Theon Greyjoy) watches on in horror. While it didn’t collide with the dark and unforgiving world of Westeros, some fans argued that the scene in question was gratuitous, while others wagered that by focusing on the reaction of Reek – who was essentially acting as an audience surrogate – undermined the role of Sansa.
Whichever side of the fence you find yourself on, these criticisms haven’t fallen on deaf ears, as director Jeremy Podeswa – who helmed two episodes of Game of Thrones season 5 – offered his thoughts on the divisive rape scene while talking to Fox Studios Australia (via Forbes).
[Benioff and Weiss] were responsive to the discussion and there were a couple of things that changed as a result. … It is important that [the producers] not self-censor. The show depicts a brutal world where horrible things happen. They did not want to be too overly influenced by that [criticism] but they did absorb and take it in and it did influence them in a way.
In Podeswa’s eyes, although the act itself is deplorable, the execution of the scene was handled as delicately as possible, given that it largely kept the two characters in question off screen.
It was a difficult and brutal scene and we knew it was going to be challenging for the audience. But it was very important to us in the execution that it would not be exploited in any way. To be fair, the criticism was the notion of it, not the execution. It was handled as sensitively as it could possibly be; you hardly see anything.
How exactly this change of tact will filter into Game of Thrones season 6 – if at all – remains to be seen – but HBO’s fantastical drama is expected to return to the small screen in April.