The Tragedy of Sansa Stark’s Pointless Tribulations

GoT is not to everyone's taste. It's dark as fuck, and maybe it makes for a better critique against Disney-esque fantasy tropes of benevolent male-dominated monarchies than it does sexual violence against women. I've written about Sansa's rape in a previous post, but it's a vexing story line for me in other ways. Mostly because it's kind of uninteresting.

She doesn't change dramatically as a character at the end of Season five. Maybe a little. But even from the perspective of a story, what was her purpose at Winterfell? I may have watched that episode drunk but it was allegedly because Littlefinger told her to. She, and by proxy Littlefinger, accomplished literally nothing except marrying Bolton and reuniting with Theon. Presumably so she can be hunted all through season six? I hope not. I don't know-- the show has gone completely off book. The whole premise for her story (i.e. going to Winterfell) is fucking stupid.

Sansa-Stark-sansa-stark-34733427-2362-3543How on earth can she take back her home if she's married to the man she needs to kill? She's not an assassin. She's not a character who can use her beauty and wiles to lure him into a trap. There is in fact, no plan after she shows up aside from the candle in the window thing, which presents itself later. Incidentally that action accomplishes nothing because Brienne is off killing Stannis.

And maybe it seems stupid because it's not really her story. In the book, Theon was the main character at Winterfell and he escaped by jumping into snow with another girl, Jayne. It's really his story, which is much more interesting given the amount of dehumanizing mental abuse and torture he suffers at Bolton's hands. Jayne is a damsel-type character who spurs Theon to finally take action and reclaim some small measure of personal agency. It was never about Jayne. In the show, Sansa finds herself in the role of Jayne. The focus is on her when it's really about another character entirely.

Putting all of that in perspective, I want to have a satisfying resolution to her arc. We've followed her numerous trials and tribulations through five seasons now, all the while expecting some kind of payoff. There is no guarantee of that in GoT... She has every possibility of dying ignominiously at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. The debt of tragedy incurred is starting to look like it will not be paid.

But let's discuss the real elephant in the room. Sansa, sadly, is just not that interesting of a protagonist. You root for her, you feel bad for her, but you never really get to cheer for her. Yes she survives, and she is learning intrigue at a glacial pace. But nothing so far indicates that she will ever become as conniving as Littlefinger or as manipulative as Cersei. She certainly won't attain the badass gravitas of Brienne, Danaerys or Arya. Her defining attribute is her perseverance through quiet courage. So her story so far is just how much terrible shit can she put up with and this season added rape to the pile of horror she's endured.

In the books she's set to become Queen of the Aerie and retake Winterfell with an actual army. It's a bit of a snooze but she shows some talent at deception and the ever faintest a glimmer of hope at being a major player. Because the TV writers clearly want to condense the casting and convoluted subplots of the books, they sent her to Winterfell. It does not feel like an artistic decision, more than a constraint for a story that has outgrown its ten episode a year format.

That's what's really tragic... and why season five felt like a refrain of seasons 2 & 3.


Mike bode is the author of The Queen of Lies, the first installment in the ongoing series, Architects of the Grand Design. His next book comes out September. Sign up for the mailing list for more info.

Mike bode is the author of The Queen of Lies, the first installment in the ongoing series, Architects of the Grand Design. His next book comes out October. Sign up for the mailing list for more info. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest . (You can also follow him on Goodreads and even Amazon)

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