It is impossible to avoid the ripples caused by Unbowed Unbent Unbroken, even if one is not usually following Game of Thrones: Internet was flooded with viewer’s reactions on the subject of Sansa Bolton nee Stark’s wedding night and the Sand Snakes’ story arc, the first one being the pivot of a lot of heated debate about feminism, shock value and broken characters.
It is my personal opinion that the quality of the series is slowly going downhill: I recently re-watched first season and was amazed of how different elements of exposition were present in almost every scene. Characters had integrity, arcs spanned across episodes with in clear cause and effect chains… On the contrary, Season 05 gives us Dorne and Sand Snakes with probably the worse introduction scene to date, or Mereen and Dany proposing to Hizdar seemingly out of thin air. Or Littlefinger’s move of wedding Sansa to legitimized bastard of the man who played a key role in murdering (part of) her family, having a pretty good idea of who he is (Littlefinger knowing little about someone playing key role in his machinations? please tell me you did not fall for that…).
I don’t know what show Littlefinger end game is with Sansa Bolton, truth be told I suspect the arc to be a miss-fire by the show’s writers as much as the horrible Dorne or bleek Mereen turn out to be (or King’s Landing… is there even a good arc this season?!), though I can’t fully judge it before it concludes. But what happened to Sansa is what had to happen to her if she was put in this situation. If you were hoping that she would “seduce Ramsay into being gentle with her” (seriously, wtf?) or hoped Theon would immediately snap when seeing her hurt, then you have not been paying attention.
The idea that the little hero always beats the big villain in all the stories is a fake trope that works of fiction used to lift spirits. There is nothing wrong with lifting spirits, but the wide acceptance of the trope means people keep on forgetting that terrible things happen to good people for no reason. Did the writers have to put Sansa in that position? Unfortunately, once they decided to put her in Winterfel instead of any fake Stark, then yes, they had to or they would risk undermining the integrity of their story even further. And since we don’t know how the arc concludes and thus can’t judge it’s quality, the rest of the judgement needs to be withheld as well. It is that simple, especially when reviewed against another rape scene that did undermine the established character development arc, one that made no sense whatsoever: Jamie and Cersei’s, a scene that made no sense when it happened.
As for the accusations of rape breaking Sansa’s development, my answer remains roughly the same: horrible things happen to good people for no reason; real world is full of people who have been horribly treated by fate and who rise stronger, as it is full of people who did not rise back at all. One way or another, I hope that when we learn the rest of her story, it will be written with integrity. We’ve already seen Sansa mature quickly in the dangerous situations she was placed into, realizing what a folly it was to believe in knights always appearing to save their fair ladies. She made a hard choice when she agreed to go to Winterfell and she is facing another monster (though one less likely to kill her, at least for the time being, than Joffrey), but I believe we will see her Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken in the end.