This isn’t a comment on the portrayal of sexual violence in the media. This isn’t about the tact of A Game of Thrones. This is, however, a defense of the character Sansa Stark.

I’m not sure we’ve given her enough credit after last week’s episode, Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. We being, by and large, the Internet: the fans, the commenters, the watchers (or previous watchers), of the show.

Spoilers ahead.

The ending scene was horrific to watch. It left my stomach in a twist, a feeling that didn’t relax until long after the screen had gone black. I reiterate: that is not a comment about the integrity of the show. My reaction had nothing to do with that. It had everything to do with the horrific scene. It was brutal. No one has argued that it wasn’t.

Now, let’s rewind. There’s the scene where Sansa is in the tub and Myranda is warning her about Ramsay’s past tendencies. We get a brief view of Sansa’s new and improved character with her line, “And how long have you loved him, Myranda? I’m Sansa Stark of Winterfell. This is my home, and you can’t frighten me.” It’s awesome. I cheered a little when I heard it. She’s so far removed from the little girl who confessed her love for Joffrey and dreamed of having his blonde haired children.

Okay, fast forward to the wedding. Sansa is hesitant, very hesitant, throughout the ceremony. She even takes her time saying the North’s equivalent of “I do.” She doesn’t have to say it. I’m not sure what would have happened if she hadn’t. But Ramsay’s face sure showed he would not have been happy had she declined him. He seemed to think she could have. That makes me think he doesn’t have much power over her. Yet.

Nonetheless, Sansa made a decision. She weighed the information she had. She saw a glimpse of Ramsay’s cruelty towards Theon in the dining room. She was warned. She’s seen the shaking, stuttering, mess Theon has become under Ramsay’s ‘care.’ Sansa knew, to an extent how, awful Ramsay really is. And she made a choice. It was a dreadful decision, but a choice nonetheless.

Remember her hesitation. What was going through her head? Her options, of course.

Okay, fast forward further. At the beginning of that dreadful scene when she starts to tug at her sleeve, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one hoping she was going to pull a knife out of there. The new and improved Sansa Stark would become a murderer, a gruesome choice, but the monster Ramsay Bolton would be stopped from enjoying any more hunts ever again. Yes, it would have been lovely. But then… what? Roose Bolton wouldn’t just let her have Winterfell after she’d killed his son. So, she escapes? How? Could we really expect Theon to just be released from his crippling torment now that Ramsay is gone? That’s a bit ridiculous, don’t you think? Could we expect Bolton to let her run off? No, there’d be hounds, there’d be mounted knights, there’d be a very thorough search sent on her heels. And where would Sansa be able to run to? No, she would have to kill Roose too, and quickly. So she sneaks into his guarded bedroom (Winterfell is full of people who hate the Bolton’s remember) and slits his throat too? Come on. Killing the Bolton’s would never be that easy. That’s part of why we like Game of Thrones isn’t it? It’s realistic because it’s complicated.

Sansa hesitated. She weighed her options. Saying no would severely affect her position at Winterfell, as would killing Ramsay. She was alone, with little help around her. The Starks may still have friends at Winterfell, but that’s hardly a safe bet against the Boltons. So, with her choices in mind, did Sansa run from what little positional power she had?

No, Sansa was playing the game.

I’m not suggesting Sansa chose to be raped. I’m offering that she understood the world she lived in enough to know what she might be putting herself through. And she knew the man she was marrying was not a good one. The marriage night she would undoubtedly have to suffer (though the magnitude of that suffering I think may have come as a shock, Theon bearing witness etc.) was part of the consequences she expected. I think she made a calculated decision. She could have hidden a knife up her sleeve, she probably even thought about it. And I have no doubts that she would have used it. Nope, none at all.

Sansa isn’t just the victim anymore. We just need to give her the time and space to prove it.

Now, if I can step back into the broader plot for a moment. Littlefinger left her in a despicable position. And though I’m sure he didn’t not know the circumstances he left Sansa in, (he is Littlefinger after all) I’m not sure he knew how much it would cost her, and by consequence, what it would cost him.

We all know he’s a creep, most of Westeros does too. I’m not entirely sure Sansa knows it, but whether or not she does, this is surely going to be a serious point of contention. He left her with the Boltons, and with very few options. She needs to get away from Littlefinger, and eventually she will. I think this might be the catalyst to that.

Sansa is becoming an independent thinker, an independent player, and I don’t think Littlefinger realizes it. He might, though, when he comes back and her own planning, her own resources, have had time to take root and his no longer fit in with hers. What’s more, she won’t care.

However it happens, it’s going to be a beautiful moment when she’s an autonomous mastermind of her own. And my point is that it’s coming.