"Game of Thrones" has never been what one would call a "family show" -- even if it does feature quite a few families competing for the throne. Brutal and, often, gratuitous violence has always been a hallmark of the HBO series, but during the recently concluded fifth season the show seemed to be the focal point of more outrage than ever. However, that does not seem to worry HBO programming president Michael Lombardo.
Speaking Thursday at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Beverly Hills, California, Lombardo defended the show's choices.
"This show has had violence as part of one of its many threads from the first episode. I can’t speak to any single person’s particular taste...I think the show is phenomenal," said Lombardo, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "It hit 20 million viewers this year. And I’ll be honest you with you, I think there are no two showrunners who are more careful about not overstepping what they think the line is [than David Benioff and D. B. Weiss of "Game of Thrones"] — and everyone has their own line, I understand — but [Benioff and Weiss are] doing things that are critical for the storytelling and I support them fully artistically."
As Lombardo points out, the first episode of "Game of Thrones" featured the attempted murder of a child, but it seemed to be the increased level of sexual violence in Season 5 -- particularly the rape of Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and nude "walk of shame" for Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) -- that drew fans' ire. After the episode featuring Sansa Stark's sexual assault at the hands of Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) declared that she would no longer watch the series.
Ok, I'm done Game of Thrones.Water Garden, stupid.Gratuitous rape scene disgusting and unacceptable.It was a rocky ride that just ended.
— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) May 19, 2015
If more fans join Sen. McCaskill and cut into Lombardo's alleged 20 million viewers, HBO might have to take notice.
As for the eternal "is Jon Snow dead" question, Lombardo kept to the company line, denying that the character is alive, but shying away from any definitive statements about his potential return.
"In everything I’ve seen, heard or read, Jon Snow is indeed dead," said Lombardo.
Will Season 6 of "Game of Thrones" be a respite from the violence or will it double down on the gore? If pasts seasons are any indication, things will only get bloodier, but fans will have to wait to find out. "Game of Thrones" will return to HBO in spring 2016.