'Game Of Thrones' Has Officially Gone Rogue

If you've read George R.R. Martin's A Song Of Ice And Fire series, then your reaction to last week's episode of Game Of Thrones was likely somewhere along the lines of: "How the hell could Sansa marry Ramsay? THAT FAMILY KILLED YOUR BROTHER AND MOM!!!" The Twitterverse was up in arms over this particular development on HBO's adaptation of Martin's novels, seeing as how it's one of the biggest changes to the source material creators David Benioff & D.B. Weiss have made to date. The first three seasons of Thrones hewed remarkably close to ASOIAF; Season 4 began to deviate a bit (Yara's assault on the Dreadfort, Jon's attack on the mutineers at Craster's Keep) — but Season 5 is the first time these changes feel substantial. So it's natural to wonder whether the Sansa/Ramsay storyline will borrow from the books at all, or whether it will be invented wholesale for the show.

In Martin's fourth novel, A Feast For Crows, Ramsay does marry a Stark girl — although which Stark girl he marries is different... oh, and the wedding is actually just a huge sham. Ramsay weds "Arya," who's actually a young girl named Jeyne Poole dressed up in grey and white to look like a Stark. Readers may remember Jeyne Poole as Sansa's childhood friend, the daughter of Winterfell steward Vayon Poole. She'd been held captive in King's Landing ever since Ned Stark's execution and is shipped off to the Boltons for their masquerade. Since Arya Stark hasn't been seen in years, nobody can tell the difference... except for Theon, who knew Arya intimately.

Ramsay proceeds to lock his new bride in his chambers, where he uses and abuses her to his sadistic pleasure. Mance Rayder is dispatched from the Wall by Jon Snow and Melisandre to rescue "Arya"; he disguises himself as a singer named Abel and take six wildling spearwives with him dressed as simple washerwomen. They infiltrate Winterfell and recruit Theon in their scheme to free Ramsay's tortured bride.

Although having Sansa be the one who marries Ramsay is a drastic change, the rest of the storyline could still proceed as it does on the page. Simply switch out "Arya/Jeyne" for "Sansa" in the outline above and you could potentially have the plot of Season 5 in a nutshell. But is that really what viewers want to see? Sansa has been wed against her will to a member of a family she loathes already — what would be the point of seeing the Sansa/Tyrion plot played out all over again? Sansa is going to have to be a much more active participant in this story line if the writers hope their viewers will be satisfied by this turn of events.

When Sansa was ushered into her new chambers at Winterfell, an old serving woman told her, "The North remembers." It may not be clear to those who haven't read the books why that's significant, but that's basically the catchphrase of diehard Stark supporters. Northmen (and women) have a long memory and they haven't forgotten what the Lannisters and the Boltons did to their beloved Starks. Rather than simply being a victim, hopefully Sansa has learned enough about manipulation to use this Northern loyalty to her advantage. Sansa at the head of an uprising that obliterates the Boltons once and for all? Can you imagine? It's about time we got some vengeance for the Red Wedding, dammit.

But Sansa's agency isn't the only aspect of this storyline that should change: there's also the Littlefinger factor. In A Feast For Crows, both Sansa and Petyr Baelish are far from Winterfell, still in the Vale of Arryn, where Littlefinger is plotting to wed the Stark girl to the Eyrie's heir. The writers' decision to place him in such close proximity to the Sansa/Ramsay marriage is a powder keg just waiting for a spark. Littlefinger's creepy love for Sansa is pretty much the master schemer's only identifiably human quality. Does anyone think he'll be content to sit around and do nothing when he finds out that Ramsay's been torturing Catelyn's darling daughter? Anyone? Bueller?

There's yet another reason fans should hope Benioff & Weiss are planning to change this storyline. In the books, although Theon and Jeyne manage to escape Winterfell, Ramsay and the spearwives are captured in the attempt. At the end of A Dance With Dragons, Jon receives a letter from Ramsay that he has flayed all six women, locked Mance in a cage outside in a blizzard, and cloaked him only in the skins of the spearwives. Why is this troubling? (Apart from that particularly grisly image, I mean.)

On the show, the King Beyond The Wall has been burned alive and Brienne has abandoned her Feast subplot to follow Sansa north to Winterfell. So it seems likely that Brienne and Podrick will take the place of Mance and the spearwives on the show in attempting to rescue Sansa from Ramsay's clutches. If Benioff & Weiss are planning a straightforward adaptation of this storyline by simply replacing deceased/non-existent characters with living/existing ones, then there's a good chance Season 5 will end with Brienne locked in a cage, cloaked in the flayed skin of poor Podrick Payne.

I don't think that's something any of us want to see. So let's all keep our fingers crossed that the writers have some big changes and surprises in store for us this year.

Images: Helen Sloan/HBO (4); HBO