How can they top this?
It's unlikely that Ramsay will ever be more hateable than he is right now. There's not much he could do to get any more villainous. Maybe he could murder his dogs. Maybe he could capture Brienne and do even worse things to her than he did to Sansa. Maybe he could move to Dorne and force viewers to watch more boring Dorne shit. The problem is, anything terrible he does from here on out will be overkill.
We get it. Ramsay is pure, unadulterated evil. He has zero redeeming qualities. And because we get that, the show's creators, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, have backed themselves into a dramatic corner by having Ramsay treat other characters like chew toys.
In some ways, this was inevitable. Part of the fun and anxiety of watching a zeitgeist-chasing water-cooler show like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, or The Walking Dead is anticipating the ways the show's creative brain trust will discover new ways to excite, shock, and, yes, occasionally horrify you. The "now top this" quality has been an essential part of GoT's DNA ever since the pilot ended with Jaime Lannister having sex with his sister and shoving wee little Bran off of a tower. "Damn," you probably said to your friend back in the innocent days of 2011. "I can't believe they went there."
That action set a precedent early on, and the show has gleefully topped it with acts of cruelty that make Jaime look like Andy Griffith. (For real, though: he's now the show's most reliable dispenser of problematic fatherly advice.) But that type of Evel Knievel storytelling can lead to ridiculous moments like last night's Ramsay plot, one of the few missteps in an otherwise thrilling episode.
It's not that the killing of Lady Walda and her baby crossed some sort of ethical or moral line this time that the show hasn't trampled before -- don't forget that Talisa Stark was brutally stabbed in the womb during the Red Wedding. But the positioning of Ramsay as the show's Big Bad is disappointing from a larger storytelling perspective. Without his father around to torment him, the character has no worthy foil and very little motivation beyond a nebulous and under-explored quest for power. There's no gradation with Ramsay. No shading. No depth.
Obviously, not all villains need to have rich, complex backstories -- the head-squishing shenanigans of Gregor Clegane don't require flashbacks to hit home. But GoT's best villains, like Tywin Lannister, are never just psychopaths. As the show's characters continue to spread across the map and the good guys slowly amass more cause for hope, it's become increasingly clear that Game of Thrones has a villain problem. The unfortunate death of Joffrey left a void that the show has struggled to fill, and Ramsay and the High Sparrow's sadistic violence and religious fundamentalism just haven't been compelling-enough substitutes.