Jeremy Podeswa directed two episodes of Game of Thrones in Season 5. One of them, “Unbowed, Unbend, Unbroken,” ended with Sansa Stark being raped by Ramsay Bolton, her new husband. The scene was very controversial. Many fans were upset, and some outlets resolved to stop covering the show.
In a later interview, Podeswa claimed that Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss “were responsive to the discussion and there were a couple of things that changed as a result.” He didn’t specify the nature of those changes, but some fans assumed that the producers would alter Season 6 storylines involving female characters. For example, Sophie Turner recently said that Season 6 would find Sansa “coming into her own and standing up for herself.” Might Sansa’s newfound confidence have been the result of the producers beefing up her role in the wake of the controversy?
Entertainment Weekly, which had access to Benioff and Weiss while preparing for its recent double-issue, reports that this is not the case. Here’s what Dan Weiss said when asked if Season 6 was affected by fan criticism:
No…I can literally say that not one word of the scripts this season have been changed in any way, shape or form by what people said on the Internet, or elsewhere.
Game of Thrones is a complicated show with a ton of moving parts. Storylines have to be planned far in advance, so from a logistical standpoint, it would be difficult for producers to alter something in an upcoming season based on criticism of the prior season. As to what Podeswa could have been referring to in his interview, Weiss wasn’t sure:
Jeremy is fantastic. It’s hard to know what the context was – whether or not that’s exactly what he said or he said something adjacent to that and the words got shuffled around because whoever typed it up liked the way it sounded better. Who the hell knows? He’s made completely outstanding, wonderful episodes, and is also a wonderful human being. So I have no idea if he said those actual words, but that’s just not a factual statement.
David Benioff concurred with Weiss, and expanded on the role of criticism in general:
The thing that’s slightly frustrating is the idea that we’re responding to criticism from last year, so therefore we’re going to beef up the female roles – that’s blatantly untrue. What happens this year has been planned for quite some time and is not a response. We can take criticism – and certainly we’ve gotten our share of it – but hearing people look at a middle chapter of a story and make claims about the story as a whole … it’s not in any way a response to online criticism, or any other type of criticism.
In addition to his Season 5 duties, Jeremy Podeswa also directed the first two episodes of Season 6. The premiere will air on April 24, and we can all see for ourselves how the story progresses.