In a discussion of the rape scene in last week's "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken", Miodrag Zarković made a distinct point about Sansa's arc which I find worth exploring:
The critics were, however, okay with the nonsense from the pilot. Just like, until the very last episode, they saw no problem in Sansa marrying Ramsay. I’ll repeat once more: some of them were even congratulating Benioff and Weiss on a job well done!
I’d really like to know how would those critics solve the wedding night. Would they choose to make it ridiculous by having Ramsay act normal and omitting the rape? Ramsay? Normal? Do they really think that would cure the mess created the moment TV Littlefinger sent a raven with the marriage proposal to the Boltons?
I still think the problem isn't sending Sansa up North, because what is happening here is a total flaw in the argument. I think it's a Black-and-White-fallacy. Therefore, let me take up the challenge.
The idea that a rape "has to happen" as soon as Sansa goes down the "marry Ramsay"-plot road is inherently wrong. Writers are able to choose between different options. They chose this one, and, to quote Indiana Jones, "they chose poorly". It is true that many people anticipated this (or something in this vein) was happening, but I have to confess that I really expected it not to precisely because it didn't seem that good storytelling to me. So, let me quickly lay down the structure of Sansa's plot this season.
Sansa has emancipated herself a bit from Littlefinger, but at the same time had thrown her lot in with him at the end of season four, which, given that she didn't know the Vale lords, was probably a wise move. Littlefinger now coaxed her into accepting to be a cog in his new (entirely stupid) plan to marry Ramsay, but only so she was in position to take over the North herself by proxy of Stannis Baratheon. That's the part of the story that makes more sense. Stannis would still not make her Wardeness, but any husband after Ramsay would be one she could entirely dominate - a theme that seems to be coming with Harry the Heir in the books, too. What Sansa doesn't know is a) Ramsay's total psychopathy, b) that a tortured and breaking Theon is there and c) that Brienne is out there, plotting her escape.
Now, the most boring version of this story is by her getting imperiled by Ramsay and rescued by a Theon who finds back to his old self, by Brienne or a combination of the two. This would be bad because it removes the agency Sansa started to gain and negates her story arc, as I explained in my review. The rape is definitely laying the groundwork this version could build on, and I didn't expect them to go down this somewhat lazy route.
What I expected them to do was on the one hand to divert Brienne's quest once more. Stannis is on the way down, and they established (again) her deep hatred and thirst for revenge against the guy. I expect for her storyline to get tempted to kill Stannis but to actually reconcile with him in the face of greater threats, thereby maturing. With Sansa, we get at the heart of the argument I hinted at earlier: there is absolutely no discernible need to rape her. None. It would have been possible to give Ramsay some reason not to consumate the marriage. Let me outline just two ways for this.
Roose Bolton, aware of the PR problems his son causes (as established in the dinner scene of episode five), forbids him to do anything brutal to Sansa. Ramsay, who obviously isn't a guy to enjoy normal, consensual sex, isn't in the mood to play the nice husband. From here, we have several possibilities. For example, he could pull a Tyrion and seek solace with Myranda or, more in line with his characters, take the lemons and make lemonade out of them by reimagening the twisted things from the book in forcing Sansa to partake in some naked or otherwise sexual stuff including Myranda and, if you want to get really sick, even Theon.
And don't tell me this would be unrealistic or not in character. Joffrey never raped her, either, despite being hot on the idea, and in the books, Margaery survived several marriages without consumation and isn't the only one to do so. And please, don't imagine any of those scenes as graphical. As in the actual episode, there is no need to show any of this in detail. But all of it allows Sansa to keep her virginity intact, and it can be done in such a way as she capitalizes on the lessons from King's Landing and denies Myranda and Ramsay any joy in it (like it was already established in her bathing scene), thereby aborting the scene before it really starts. It would contribute to really elevate Sansa and to put Ramsay into place.
And this is just out of my head.