'Game Of Thrones' "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" Gets Emmy Nod For Direction, But Sansa's Rape Episode Shouldn't Be Rewarded

It's the most wonderful time of the year: 2015 Emmy nominations time! When the nominees were announced bright and early on Thursday morning, there were no surprises — at least when it came to Game of Thrones. The HBO series picked up an amazing eight nominations in the acting, writing, and directing categories alone, and for good reason. Game of Thrones is consistently one of the most intensely watchable shows on the air, and while it certainly has its share of problems, the acting is stellar, the storylines are complex, and overall, it's just a damn good show. But there was one curious Emmy nomination GoT received that was stood out to me, and that was the Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series nod for "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" (the Season 5 finale, "Mother's Mercy", also received a nom, which is much less perplexing). 

In case you need a refresher, "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" was the sixth episode of Season 5 and, while interesting, was in no way remarkable on the surface. The episode saw Arya training with the Faceless Men, Myrcella and Trystane planning their marriage, Jorah and Tyrion being captured on their way to Meereen, and Baelish returning to King's Landing. In other words, it was a somewhat low key episode in which not much of importance happened. It was entertaining to watch, but in the grand scheme of things, it was much ado about nothing, really. Oh, wait — did I forget to mention that one tiny detail? This episode is also the one in which Sansa is wed to and then brutally raped by Ramsay Bolton. Are we on the same page, yet? 

It's hard to imagine what the Emmy voters saw as award-worthy in this episode. Sansa's rape is seen by many (myself included) as gratuitous and over-the-top, particularly since it didn't even happen in the books. To see a female character that had worked so hard to save herself, who fought back when her entire family and everything she's known had been taken from her and who managed to escape from King's Landing with her life (and virginity) intact, destroyed in such a vile and violent way was not only disappointing, it was downright disgusting. 

It almost seemed as though Sansa's rape by her deviant husband was written in for shock value, which you could say is a problem for Game of Thrones as a whole. There's something to be said for tragedy and its value as a storytelling device, but it must be earned if it's going to be meaningful, and this just wasn't. Given that this scene was the only stand-out scene of the "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" — and certainly not for a positive reason — it seems a logical conclusion to draw that it earned an Emmy nod because of it (though I certainly hope that I'm wrong), and I'm not sure I'm OK with that. 

Of course, the cast and crew have no real say in what is written in the scripts, and I suppose the episode's director, Jeremy Podeswa, should be lauded for at least handling the scene with as much dignity as such a thing could allow. It's just difficult, as a fan of the show, to see this Game of Thrones episode highlighted and even lauded, when I'm pretty sure it's one most of us would like nothing more than to forget. 

Images: Helen Sloan/HBO

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