By now, you’ve seen the ending of episode 6. You may have also read George R.R. Martin’s response telling people to judge the show on its merits and the books on theirs. I’ve also read some reactions to this episode and its closing scene (The Atlantic’s response comes to mind) that really tear it apart. I am certainly not going to argue that Sansa’s wedding was not brutal and sadistic. What it was not was surprising or jarring in any way. Which is pretty much what I would say for that entire episode. What this episode did have was the dropping of masks.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Sansa is visited by Myranda to have a pre-wedding bath (Some have complained that the kennel-master’s daughter wouldn’t give Sansa a bath, but recall, Winterfell is basically abandoned with only a skeleton crew of servants. In such a situation, a kennel-master’s daughter just might do double duty), but actually offers Sansa something of a warning about Ramsay. In the process, Myranda washes the die out of Sansa’s hair, unmasking her as the Stark child that she is. Nonetheless, Sansa clearly had misgivings about her new husband, but his mask is only really dropped in the bedroom. That brutal scene will (hopefully) drive her to Brienne, or at least to try to escape. The preview at the end of the episode seems to indicate as much, but she’s trying to go to Theon for help, and he’s not ready yet.
All of this brutality seems to be leading somewhere, but even if it doesn’t, that’s kind of the point of the show. People are brutal to those who are weak and powerless. Ramsay knows that he has control over Sansa, so he will do what he pleases. He knows his own father approves of that brutality. So, Sansa needs to either find the strength to climb out from under his rule or give up like Theon. The scene was necessary to show Ramsay’s true self to Sansa, and actually tamer than it was in the novel. There, he forced Theon to “warm up” Jeyne Poole for him using his mouth. Neither Theon nor Jeyne wants to do this, but he does it anyway. A watching Theon and a less-than-graphic scene have less grotesque impact than the equivalent action in Martin’s world.
In addition to this, Jorah and Tyrion open up to each other, and to the slavers. Littlefinger’s plan has been uncovered a bit, although he’s still playing chess against Cersei, who’s playing checkers. Cersei’s big move to hurt the Tyrell’s is now known, but this is going to explode in her face pretty quickly. She’s like a drowning rat holding on to the last piece of wood floating by. She’s a terrible ruler fueled only by anger and pride, which handicaps her in playing the game.
Side note: Why does the subplot in Dorne fucking suck? Seriously, what the hell are Jaime and Bronn doing there? They added literally nothing to that plotline tonight. Without them, the Sand Snakes try to kidnap Myrcella and get stopped by Areo Hotah. We reach the same exact spot and leave Jaime in Westeros. It’s just kind of a train wreck.
Most interestingly, though, Arya is uncovering the world of the Many-Faced God, finding herself by giving herself up. And here, the game is to take on personae like others put on make-up. There’s the little game against the blonde girl, the more serious version with Jaqen and a switch, and the version where Arya plays to help the girl find peace. But she is not yet no one. Jaqen shows her the many faces of those that have died. They carry with them all the hopes, fears, desires, and hatred of the people who lived those lives. Because every human face is a mask. By learning to be others, she can find herself in the emptiness that exists beneath all our façades.