Game of Thrones not only struggles with its lighting, but also with its writing of women.
Sunday's episode, "The Last of the Starks," gave us a trifecta of trope-y moments. To many, Daenerys's descent into "Mad Queen" feels sudden and lazy. Brienne bawling in the courtyard over Jaime was somewhat out-of-character.
Most distressingly, however, was when Sansa Stark appeared to express gratitude for her abusers.
At the post-battle, post-funeral victory feast, Sansa reunited with Sandor "The Hound" Clegane. It was their first conversation since the end of season two, back when The Hound was King Joffrey's security guard in King's Landing.
The Hound made a disgusting, glib comment about Sansa having been raped by Ramsay Bolton, who she was forced to marry thanks to Littlefinger.
Sansa refrained from punching The Hound in the face, even though he totally deserved it.
The Hound mentioned that none of it would have happened had Sansa accepted his offer to flee King's Landing with him in season two, but she said that she has no regrets.
"Without Littlefinger and Ramsay and the rest, I would have stayed a little bird all my life," she said.
Jessica Chastain, who stars opposite Sophie Turner herself in this summer's X-Men movie Dark Phoenix, objected to this take that being raped and abused was somehow a character-building exercise.
"Rape is not a tool to make a character stronger," Chastain tweeted. "A woman doesn’t need to be victimized in order to become a butterfly. The little bird was always a Phoenix. Her prevailing strength is solely because of her. And her alone."
It's not because of "Littlefinger and Ramsay and the rest" that Sansa is smart and strong—it's because of Sansa.
The post prompted a debate in the comments, as most things do.
Tell them!! This season has been a joke and of very bad taste, they butchered all the female characters, because the writers just don't know how to write them, while the men are getting everything just because they have a c*ck as they literally said in the past episode pic.twitter.com/VsSWGXpLtX— Stefany ︽✵︽ (@SttefyG) May 7, 2019
Game of Thrones has long been criticized for its depictions of sexual assault. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss included scenes of rape that were intially written as consensual in the books, including one in which an on-the-road-to-redemption Jaime Lannister raped his sister-lover in the Sept next to their son's corpse. Khal Drago and Daenerys's relationship began violently, yet we're supposed to view them as true love. The Ringer called the episode in which Ramsay rapes Sansa as the worst episode of all time.
"There's a case to be made for confronting the audience with Sansa's suffering by demonstrating the horrors of her wedding night at the hands of Ramsay Bolton," Alison Herman wrote. "That the final shot of 'Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken' frames that suffering in terms of Theon's relatively minuscule discomfort is inexcusable. For many fans, this was a deal breaker — and who could blame them?"
Imagine what this season could be if it had at least one female writer.