Two Sides of the Same Coin: Ramsay, Randall, Claire and Sansa.


** This post will contain spoilers about Episode 16 of OUTLANDER  and Episode 6 of GAME OF THRONES, as well as discussion of rape and graphic violence.**

As both an aspiring novelist and screenwriter, I pay close attention to the works of fiction I read and watch, hoping to glean some knowledge, some nuggets of storytelling gold. I make it a point to consider the motive behind not only a character’s actions, but the motive behind the writer or filmmaker responsible for the story. In other words, I rarely just watch or read anything anymore.


As seen on HBO

Watching the now widely discussed episode of Game of Thrones, Unbowed Unbent, Unbroken, I turned to my husband and said, “He’s going to rape her,” before Ramsay even, horribly awkwardly, kissed Sansa beneath the Gods Wood. It was absolutely in Ramsay Bolton’s nature to take Sansa — his new bride — into their wedding chamber and violently force himself on her. It was even completely logical for Ramsay Bolton to do this in front of Theon Greyjoy to further humiliate and demean a character he had already broken beyond repair. If you were expecting him to treat Sansa any differently, you were not paying attention to a few key things: who Ramsay is as a character and what kind of show these filmmakers are committed to create.

I think it’s important to tell you now, Game of Thrones is quite possibly my favorite current television show. You can judge me for that, as a female and a writer, even just on the basis of taste, but there it is. I love it hard, like a bad habit, I just can’t quit it.

The creators of Thrones have delivered, consistently, on the promise of showing us every dark and twisted part of human nature. So consistently that their thesis statement could very well be found in the line delivered by Cersei Lannister (my guilty pleasure favorite), “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

In other words, if they can show you a rape scene, they will show you a rape scene because they don’t do middle ground. And on that basis what happened to Sansa fit within their premise. I want to be clear, at no point in this statement am I agreeing with their decision for her character or the way they executed it.

I was shaken by the experience, but I wasn’t surprised, nor was I surprised by the Internet’s response. Still, it annoyed me that so many expected a show that has featured brutal violence and sex from season one — beginning on episode one — would make a different choice.

Then came Outlander’s season one finale. An episode, as a reader, I had been dreading and waiting for since I finished the book. After watching, hunkered into myself, hands covering my eyes, fingers spread just enough so I could see, I walked away with a startling realization.


As seen on Starz

Outlander captured what Game of Thrones missed. Not missed, like didn’t show me properly, because the sadism of Ramsay Bolton and Black Jack Randall are similar in execution. But where we watch Ramsay and feel rage, with Randall we feel a loss of humanity. We see not only the surface motive this character might deal with, but the very core of his soul. At times, Ramsay comes off like Sid, Andy’s toy torturing neighbor in Toy Story, not because the actor isn’t fantastic, not because the writing isn’t there, but in a show like Game of Thrones, this evil does not stand out as extraordinary.

On To Ransom a Man’s Soul, Randall became the embodiment of this concept, a living, breathing witness to how this affliction poisons the mind of one living with it. The character of Black Jack Randall is a microscope into humanity’s evil, as much as Jamie and Claire have been an examination of real love. And this, in no small way, is a testament to author Diana Gabaldon, as much as to the show runners.

It wasn’t that the Outlander scenes were more graphic — we have seen this kind of violence on Thrones — or that I felt more for Jamie than Sansa. It was the precision of filming, the focus with which the scenes were handled, and the fact that this whole season we have been building to that moment. We have watched Black Jack blossom into that man, we remember the moment Claire realized this was no ordinary villain, we experienced his deliberate pursuit, and then finally we saw him violently rape Jamie in a prison cell only steps away from a rotting corpse.

In this way, Outlander succeeds where Game of Thrones fails, not because the filmmakers aren’t capable, but because the nature of their beast makes that impossible. Thrones has too many players, too many plotlines and POVs, to ever dedicate the screen time necessary to thoroughly examine the black center of Ramsay Bolton. And so, the rape of Sansa Stark feels mishandled. Unnecessary. More of the same and not different enough to really hit us properly.

And I would argue, that they don’t really need to. We’ve gotten that from Outlander. We’ve seen shades of it with Joffrey. To me, the more interesting choice now is to focus the lens on Sansa. Here is a young woman who, until now, had managed to hold onto a piece of herself, to have kept her body and her sexuality within her power, her control, and now that, too, has been taken away. Don’t be outraged for Sansa the victim. Be looking for Sansa the hero.

In Claire Fraser, we saw a true female hero emerge. A true antithesis to Black Jack Randall, Claire is a caregiver, a nurse, and a woman capable of great love. Love that ultimately is the key to Jamie’s survival.

As the writers of Game of Thrones diverge further from the book’s plot lines, I hope to see more from Sansa than we have come to expect. I, for one, refuse to give up hoping. Thrones can’t give us elation in big doses until our villain and our hero emerges, until they narrow the playing field that much more.

Put my Patella Back

Writing Rambles

This year so far I have…

Busted up my face falling down a ladder

Been in a fender bender

And most recently, dislocated my kneecap. And it’s April.

That’s not counting the time my dog was attacked and nearly died. Or my husband was sick with strep throat so bad his tonsils swelled and his throat closed up. Or the bouts with hopelessness as a result of my seemingly never-ending stay in publishing limbo.

But back to my kneecap.

I’m going to warn you ahead of time, the story of how it happened is pretty lame. (I am working up a draft of a more interesting tale, for cocktail parties and public appearances. I’ll trust you guys not to give me away.)

I was sitting at Stephanie’s (my YouTube co-pilot and sister) kitchen table yesterday afternoon having an evil-genius planning session for our videos. We’d brought the dogs over since we were going to be gone most of the evening.

James, the dog I previously mentioned that nearly died earlier this year, got out somehow and was wandering around outside Stephanie’s kitchen window. He’s prone to making bad decisions, and so Stephanie went out to get him. Then, when he wasn’t coming to her, I jumped up to go help.

And that’s when I dislocated my kneecap. Was I chasing the dog? Nope. Did I fall down some stairs? You’d think, with my history, that was the case.

No, I hit my knee on the table leg.

That’s it.

That’s the whole story.


I slammed to the ground with a guttural scream. The kind women in labor make in  movies. I couldn’t move my leg without a blinding pain shooting through my entire body and making we wish for oblivion. But, of course, I didn’t pass out. No, not me. I stayed lucid and snarky through the entire ordeal.

I wanted to call 911.

My husband insisted we not because, despite my assertions, I was not dying.

Stephanie immediately called my mom because she is smart. Mom is always who you call in this type of situation. I am sure it’s the same with your mom, if not, you can always borrow mine for a small security deposit and the rights to your first-born.

Then we had to wait. My husband held my leg in place and kept me calm and sensible. He is my raven-headed superhero. “If only Claire Beauchamp were here, she’d know what to do,” he said. Sigh. My Soulmate.

Mom arrived, with my Asgardian-like brother, Isaac and his weight-lifting friend, Joshua and they hatched a plan to move me. I couldn’t actually move, so this plan involved strapping my legs together with a belt (which was accompanied by more movie labor screaming and maybe a few curse words and requests that Jesus take the wheel), rolling me without actually turning me over onto a sheet, pulling me like furniture across the floor and then securing me on a crib-base board as a make-shift gurney.

Fast thinkers, those guys. I was doing Lamaze breathing at this point. So I had found a freckle to focus all my energy on and was trying to get to my happy place.

They loaded me in the car and we began the way-too-bumpy ride to the ER.

Upon arrival we were told the place was packed. They wanted to put me in a wheelchair to which I responded, “If you shoot me with meds first, then sure. Otherwise get the hell away from me with that, dude.”

The second ER nurse they sent out, while they were trying to get a stretcher for me, asked me what was going on.

“I’m dying,” I told him. “Can’t you tell?”

“You’re in pain, which is how I know you’re not dying,” he replied, smiling.

I recognized the other nurse as a friend of a friend and then we were gold. If they didn’t treat me well, I’d tattle on them. Or, maybe it was the fact that they had to treat me right away because I couldn’t sit up. I don’t know, it went pretty fast after that.

They wheeled me into the hospital while I chagrined about my lame story, and they offered some more exciting alternatives.

Then my dad showed up and started to pray before he even got inside my room. Once he saw my knee, all whompy and turned on its side, he nearly passed out. Well, he couldn’t stay. So he and Mom left for the mall and some much needed retail therapy. My injury was giving him heart palpitations.

Vitals were taken. Blood was drawn. IV went in.

“Usually, when they do the X-ray, the patella just pops back in on its own,” the RN said as she looked at my knee. “We’ll get you some morphine before we try to move you though.”

I had never had morphine before, and if I’m honest, I wasn’t really excited about it. I kept having visions of the Morphlings in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and really didn’t want my skin to look like that.

I thought a lot about Jamie Fraser and his dislocated shoulder. This was therapeutic in many ways.

The lady with the drugs was next. She told me common side affects of Morphine are feeling flushed all over and a heaviness in your chest. That sounded like something that would give me a panic attack, so I told her, just in case.

“I have panic attacks sometimes, mostly when I’m getting dental work.” Though, it’s mainly the result of feeling trapped that triggers it.

“Honey, there are no dentists here, you will be fine,” my husband, the pragmatist, said.

She laughed and administered the category C opioid. I was not fond of it at first, and then, I imagine as a result of the drug, I didn’t care that I wasn’t fond of it. Then I started crying and wanted to take a nap, neither of which was helpful to anyone.

And when the X-ray tech came in, she shifted me over on my back and my kneecap promptly popped back into place.

“Usually, once the drugs are administered and people’s muscles relax, it just moves on it’s own,” she added, as an extra explanation.

“Honey,” I said to my husband, not the technician. “This is why Claire gave Jamie the whisky.”

My dad came back about 30 minutes later, right around the time I was starting to feel bored and needed a distraction. He was waving a bag with a cute outfit that he’d bought me (not on sale) in an attempt to deal with his anxiety. The RN came in to check on me and he jumped in.

“She’s my only daughter—”

“I’m thirty years old now—” I interjected.

“She pushes me over the edge,” he ignored me.

The RN looked at me. “But she’s so pretty.”

“And that makes it worse,” he paused to lift the outfit up so she can see. “I bought her this.”

“Oh, it’s nice. I’m just going to get the doctor,” she smirked as she left.

“I think the drugs have warn off,” I said. “When will they let me leave?”


I’m fine now. Mostly. They want the knee immobilized for a few days, and they are making me use crutches, and I am not pleased about any of it. But it’s okay, and it’s a good story, and that’s something to be thankful for in my world.

I get knocked down a lot. I get sidetracked and slammed, and usually it results in bruises that fade with time. When this kind of thing happens, my response is to roll with it. You can’t allow yourself to feel defeated, you can’t entertain your anger or play into pity. If you do, you run the risk of actually being defeated. And that is exactly what the Goblins on your path are hoping for.

Don’t let the Goblins win.