Game of Thrones – 33

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“Breaker of Chains”

It’s not a spoiler if it already happened, right?

As you know if you’ve been reading these posts, I try not to dwell too extensively on the differences between the HBO version and the book version of Game of Thrones.  And of course, to avoid discussing things that haven’t happened yet in the TV version.  But the big event of this episode pretty much demands to be talked about for how it differs from the way it was presented by Martin, and of course, it happened in this episode so it’s not a spoiler in and of itself.  So you’ll have to bear with me – and if you comment, please do so without referring directly to future events that may be impacted by it.

I refer of course to the rape scene in the Sept at King’s Landing.   In a nutshell, I’m a bit aghast that Benioff and Weiss seem to have undone much of three seasons worth of character development for Jaime Lannister in one fell swoop.  In short, Jaime most certainly did not rape Cersei in the books – they did have an encounter in that incredibly inappropriate setting, but it was strictly consensual.  And an important point is tied in with another change from the books, which is that this encounter is the first time Jaime and Cersei have seen each other since his freedom from captivity.  In the TV version, Jaime has been back for a while and Cersei has, in effect, broken up with him as she told him he “took too long” in returning – stamping what happened in the sept that much more surely as rape.

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I don’t know what to make of this, really.  Weiss and Benioff have made some big changes and some have turned out better than I expected, but it’s hard to remember one nearly so intrinsic to an important character arc.  I’m just as much in the dark as anyone when it comes to Jaime now – I have no idea where the character is headed, but it’s hard to imagine the showrunners don’t have something very different in mind from the books.

There was all sorts of action going on in that sept this week, including yet another memorable scene with Tywin (who had two of them).  I’ve raved about this incredible cast over and over and they deserve every one, but Charles Dance may just delivering the most incredible performance of the bunch – what a fucking presence this man has.  Here we see him taking the opportunity of a meeting across Joffrey’s body (this ep was either the easiest or hardest work Jack Gleeson has ever done) to test his grandson Tommen’s mettle and give him a firm reminder of who’s really in charge.  It’s a fascinating moment as Tywin grills Tommen on what it takes to make a good King – piety?  Holiness?  Strength?  Tywin has a good answer for every one – and finally nudges the boy towards “wisdom”.  As in, the wisdom to listen to what his advisors (read: Tywin) are telling him.

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If you’re in the market for suspects in Joffrey’s murder (and you didn’t figure it out based on the hints in last week’s episode) this ep gives you plenty of grist for the mill, and there’s no denying that Tywin’s life is going to be easier with a King Tommen than a King Joffrey.  Young (though not so young as he should be, as HBO have switched to a too-old actor – Dean Charles Chapman – to play him this season) and malleable, Tommen also has the virtue of not being a psychopath.

No longer a suspect is Littlefinger – but only because he as much as admits to Sansa that he was involved.  Littlefinger never acts alone, of course, and poor Ser Dontos Hollard – who got an arrow in the brain for his trouble – was no more than a willing dupe.  He’d just smuggled Sansa to a ship where Littlefinger was waiting for her, casting that much more suspicion on Tyrion, who’s languishing in a cell awaiting trial.  His only visitor so far is Podrick, who smuggles in a bit of food and a quill and paper, and informs his master than he’s been approached with an offer of a knighthood if he’ll testify against Tyrion.  This is a rather powerful scene, as it really shows off Pod’s intense loyalty and the fact that Tyrion is actually deserving of it.  For his part Tyrion asks to see his brother (Bronn isn’t allowed in) and seems intent on playing amateur detective from inside his prison.  “The only one I’m sure didn’t do it is Cersei” he says, “which makes it unique among murders at King’s Landing.”

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There are a few scenes with the good guys in this episode, in fact, though Tywin’s other glamor moment hardly qualifies.  It’s a cracker, though, as he barges on on Prince Oberyn mid-orgy and proceeds to do a bit of bare-knuckle negotiating on the spot.  As Tyrion says, the death of a relative is not an opportunity Tywin is going to pass up, and he sees this as a chance to bring Dorne into the fold as a much-needed hedge against the Targaryen girl with the three dragons who’s out there somewhere.  One senses that Tywin never remotely believes Oberyn had anything to do with Joffrey’s death – he’s merely firing a shot across his bow.  These are a formidable pair, these two, and there’s not an ounce of give in either one of them.

Elsewhere, Arya gets a harsh reminder not to grow too comfortable with The Hound.  “There’s a lot worse than me.” he growls at her after robbing a father and daughter of their silver, and it’s surely true (look no farther than inside the Clegane family) – but make no mistake, The Hound is a hard man indeed.  Up North, the wildings are seen ransacking a small village, leaving only a terrorized young boy to bear witness to the Crows at Castle Black.  As for venturing forth to protect villagers, even Jon takes a practical view that it’s unwise – but when word comes that the turncoats are ensconced at Crastor’s Keep, Jon urges that a party go forth and slay them at once – because they can put the lie to what Jon told Mance Rayder about the strength of the force at The Wall.  And at Storms End Stannis is growing increasingly impatient with Davos and desperate to press his claim now that Joffrey is dead, but Davos has no answers – that is, until he visits Shireen for a reading lesson (always among the most heartwarming scenes in this bleak and dark series) and gets a flash of inspiration on how to turn Stannis’ fortunes around (literally).

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Finally, there’s Danerys – who occupies her by-now almost traditional place as the closer of the episode.  I don’t think much of her arc even in the books and it’s been changed more drastically in practical terms than anyone else’s, but it does provide grandiosity and spectacle.  Here, she’s marching on the slave city of Meereen, which sounds out its champion to take on hers in single combat.  It’s Dario who ends up fighting for her – and no matter what she says to justify it, you know Barristan and especially Jorah aren’t thrilled – and he literally wins the pissing contest.  The real message, though, isn’t in golden showers but in what the Unsullied fire over the city walls with their catapults – the chains of the slaves freed in Astapor and Yunkai.  There’s not a lot of interpretation needed here, and it’s not because Dany is such a hand at foreign languages…

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  1. k

    Er… okay, maybe I'm misremembering, but IIRC he did very much rape her in the books. In fact, the scene in the show played out almost exactly the same way it did in the book, except from an outsider's point of view whereas in the book we saw it through Jaime's eyes. I don't have the book atm so I can't quote, but even there Cersei resists and tells him to stop and that they shouldn't be doing it there and whatnot, and Jaime pretty much ignores her and proceeds anyway. If she stops struggling it's not because she's okay with what they're doing, it's because she just wants it to be over with. Clearly Jaime doesn't think it's rape – but that doesn't mean it really isn't.

    (This wouldn't be the first time where the show, with its third person view, shows a scene in a different light than how it may come across in the books, due to the characters' biased views. Hell, so much of what Stannis has been doing is like that.)

    Also, in any case, I don't see how this undoes any of Jaime's character development. Jaime is not a good man, and his character development doesn't mean that he's become a good man. It would be so easy to make him a redeemed hero, but that simply wouldn't be true. He's a fucked up person doing fucked up things, and just because he's been getting a bit less fucked up lately (in certain ways – more fucked up in other ways) doesn't mean he's a good man now who wouldn't do anything bad ever again.

  2. D

    The actual text is quoted in this AV Club article (which, despite the article's stupidly provocative name, is quite well-written):

    In effect, yes, Jaime pushes the issue, but Cersei's protests aren't genuine, and by the last paragraph it's pretty clear that this is consensual. You could maybe make the argument that this is from Jaime's POV and it's possible he's completely misreading the situation, but it's still *nothing* like the scene we got on the show last night, where Cersei is fighting him to the end, and even appears to be crying. The show took a moment that is, at best, questionable, and turned it into outright rape. Which significantly changes BOTH characters and their arcs.

    I'm willing to give Weiss and Benioff the benefit of the doubt and assume they're going to give me a good reason in the upcoming episodes for why they went this route, but it's the most troublesome change to-date, IMO, and has me both irritated and worried for the first time since the show began.

  3. k

    Thanks for the link, and augh yes, now I remember, and I still think it's pretty rapey and her consent is dubious at best. She protests, only gives in when it's clear that he won't stop (maybe that wasn't GRRM's intention but that's totally how it comes across to me – the fact that the scene remained in my memory as outright rape says a lot), and after they're finished she's not gentle at all, not even patient; and she even sounds kind of disgusted with him. Jaime is behaving horribly, he's physically overpowering her; and even if we believe that her consent is genuine and she really enjoys it, then yet again we have a moment of that ugly "she says 'no' but ends up being into it" – at least the show spared us of that.

    (Also, taking out the second half also makes sense since in the show Jaime has been in King's Landing for weeks with Cersei giving him the cold shoulder, while IIRC in the book he just arrived back.)

    But anyway, I still say I don't see how this changes anything for the worse. Jaime is still very much on the dark side of gray, far from any kind of redemption; his relationship with Cersei is still on the brink of ruin (maybe that's what the writers wanted to emphasize due to time constraints); and Jaime is still acting out of lust, frustration and desperation. They're speeding up the deterioration of their relationship, making it clearer in the process, that's all.

  4. S

    Here's an interview from Sepinwall with the director Alex Graves,

    (*) When I interviewed Alex Graves about "The Lion and the Rose," we also spoke briefly about the Jaime/Cersei scene and about how the encounter starts out as Jaime forcing himself on her, then turns into something else. This is what he said:

    "Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle…."


    So yeah, it's supposed to turn consensual at the end, which doesn't make sense at all. I mean, this is seriously one of the most inept job of directing I've ever seen if true, as in no way can that really be construed as consensual. There's the argument that since this scene is from Jaime's POV in the book, it's actually not as consensual as he might think, but the director's words strongly implies otherwise.

    The worst thing is, I don't even know what purpose the scene is supposed to convey. It's in the book, yes, but they already changed so much about Jaime's arrival that it wouldn't matter at all if they just remove this scene entirely. The only thing I can think of is that the 'theme' of this episode is that those lovable rogues you're rooting for in the previous episodes (Dontos, Ygritte, Jaime, Hound) are still assholes after all, but it still left a bitter taste that I don't think is what the director wants to happen.

    All the more shame since I think the rest of the episode is pretty great – Dance is the standout performer as mentioned, but it has been a long time since I've had an actual interest in Jon Snow's plot, Dany was great (no Belwas is a shame, but the chains in a barrel is really cool) and the Tyrion-Pod scene is very touching.

  5. k

    From what I understand in other interviews he explicitly referred to it as it rape, so… Maybe there was something lost in editing.

    Also, I think bitter aftertaste is exactly what was meant to happen here, or rather, the realization that we shouldn't take the "loveable rogues" for granted – this way also preparing the ground for certain incidents involving other fan favorite characters. Also it drives home a strong point about the state of the relationship between Jaime and Cersei, and how Jaime is in an incredibly bad place right now which leads him to do stuff like this (I hope they're going to address Cersei's side a bit more in the coming episodes).

    Frankly, I don't understand why people are upset. It's not out of character, it fits into the characters' dynamics, it fits into the development of their relationship, and despite what some people say, it doesn't destroy anything, and I'm pretty sure that it was supposed to make you feel uncomfortable, to see a character you've been rooting for do this and realize that you've been feeling sympathetic for someone who is capable of doing something as fucked up as this; that someone who you wanted to believe wouldn't do something like this actually did this.

    (By the way, about the loveable rogues, I rather appreciated how this episode brought some realism and sobriety back into the story. I've started to become rather uncomfortable with people being all "ding-dong the witch is dead, but why didn't he suffer more!!!" over Joff's death, or cheering for Arya and the Hound because they're fun and badass, without caring about Arya losing her morality at breakneck speed, and ignoring that while the Hound may not go around raping little girls he's still a violent thug.)

  6. People are upset because it is very much out of character – never mind with the Jaime at this point in the books, but with the Jaime at this point in the TV series. The context and particulars of the scene are totally changed from what happened in the novel. I'll wait and see if Benioff and Weiss have a reason for it, but at the moment it looks like a major misstep.

  7. t

    no means no and if Cersei said no in the books, it was rape.

  8. M

    Actually she doesn't. But in the TV scene the reason she says no is after recoiling at seeing Jaime's golden hand. That's why he responds with "you're a hateful woman". She uses the inappropriate setting (Joff) as a convenient cover for how she really feels towards her maimed brother. She hurt him, so he hurt her back. Bad mix.

  9. Z

    Ugh. What happened in episode 33 probably soils some people's view of Jaime, but not everyone viewed it that way.

    @Maxulous: That's what I thought too.

  10. D

    The more I see of HBO's Daario Naharis, the more I'm convinced a certain fan theory is correct. Pay attention to the hilt of his throwing knife.

    All he needs to do now is put on an eyepatch and jump on a ship.

  11. A

    Whatever the intent, Game of Thrones is not an attempt to "understand" rape culture, or whatever else we're obsessed with today, and nor should it be, either. It is a medieval fantasy set in a world of Machiavellian morality and brutal inhumanity.

    Adding characters that follow modern PC norms is a sign of failed writing or betrays a lack of artistic integrity.

  12. What does that have to do with anything that happened in the episode?

  13. R

    I….think he's trying to explain that the rape scene is in character for the type of setting for the story but unfortunately I don't think the setting of the world overrides the behavior of the characters.

  14. A

    Haha. 🙂

    It was not out of "character" in the slightest. Basically, GoT represents a world of stark violence, torture, rape, nudity and human behavior. The writers cannot make narrative decisions based on each person's "Q" rating, or arbitrary moral lines.

    In order to watch Game of Thrones, we must understand that we will be subjected to gruesome scenes, such as Jamie Lannister coercing his sister into sex.

    Like Chris Rock said: "That tiger did not go crazy. That tiger went tiger."

  15. In a word, bullshit.

    No matter what the setting, individual characters should still behave in a manner that's true to themselves. By your reasoning, it would be perfectly in character for Sam to rape Gilly because of the social mores of the time.

  16. A

    Actually that's not my reasoning. The principle of charity isn't popular on the internet but I do expect better from you.

    My argument is about the reaction of people against Jamie Lannister, that it's out of character. It isn't.

    He wasn't some Noble hero who committed some reprehensible but necessary act in the beginning and spend the rest of his life redeeming himself. He was an ambiguous, conflicted person. Reread the book.

    The scene isn't totally consensual. It was already borderline. I'll find the exact wording but I suspect your principle of charity doesn't extend that far.

  17. I don't need to re-read the book. I know the book. I remember that scene very clearly. There's no plausible grounds to claim it's not completely different in the novels than the TV series – it's night and day. It's a rape vs. a consensual sexual encounter. I can only assume Weiss and Benioff have a specific reason for that, which they haven't revealed yet.

    As for whether it was out of character, you're entitled to your opinion. But justifying your argument that it wasn't (which I obviously disagree with) by making vague statements about rape culture and the general gruesome nature of the narrative is completely specious. It's not relevant – Jaime is Jaime, and it's either in his character, or it isn't. And in saying it is, the TV has effectively said the last 32 episodes are a wash in his case.

  18. k

    How is a sexual encounter consensual when it starts with one party forcing himself on the other? Even if Cersei ended up liking it (which is another really ugly thing but let's not get into that), it still started with Jaime being forceful, overpowering her and ignoring her when she said "no".

  19. m

    How is raping a woman not out of character for a man who saved Brie from being raped?

  20. Not to mention having said how much he hated serving Lords who raped women themselves.

  21. j

    Regardless of that rape scene, the events that led up to it were all a bit funny to me.

    Tywin trashing on joffrey over his dead body (with those ridiculous eyes over his face!) then having his parents getting it on made me bust out laughing (before it became rape, which suddenly made the situation uncomfortable).

  22. w

    I'm very much relieved to hear that rape scene wasn't in the books. Jaime has had what I consider to be the best character arc in the whole series to this point, and it's really disappointing to see that all washed away in an instant. Also still don't get how Jaime sees anything good in Cersei, when she's telling him to murder her brother in what amounts to barely more than spite.

    The scene with Tyrion and Pod was so heartbreaking though, how Tyrion got to be as kind a man as he is among his family is a mystery. I don't know how the trial will go, but surely Tywin realises he's innocent? And say in the books he was found to be as such, surely they won't change that here?

    Also, I would gladly listen to Davos' stories of Bravos and his smuggler days any time.

  23. Z

    It's pretty clear at this stage that Lord Tywin views everyone as pieces on a chessboard – even members of his own family. What is one more lost pawn to him? Putting a lid on the scandal by using Tyrion as a scapegoat and grooming Tommen Baratheon are his immediate concerns.

  24. Z

    Even rejecting modern attitudes towards the subject what he did this episode didn't really do much to impact my existing impression of Jaime. I'm not even sure if coerced relations with someone you've previously had consensual relations with is even considered rape in Westeros. Book readers care to elaborate?

    Davos does pretty well for a semi-literate man I must say.

  25. k

    How is it out of character for Jaime? (Never mind "very much".) It's IC for both book!Jaime and show!Jaime. As for the novel, the context and the particulars may have changed in the show, but that doesn't mean that what happened couldn't have happened in the book if the context was the same. And as for in the show's own context, I seriously don't see how it's out of character at all.

    To me it seems that most people just really want to like Jaime after the last season, and so they don't want to accept that he did this. But the thing is, most of what happened in the last season wasn't Jaime turning good (or better), it was we learning more about him and having a more nuanced view of his character. But he's still the guy who threw a helpless little boy out of a window (also killed his own cousin, etc.).

  26. k

    Eh sorry, I meant this as a reply for Enzo's comment above.

  27. Jaime "turning good" isn't the point. In this of all series, good and evil are largely meaningless concepts anyway – I don't know anyone who'd call Tyrion a "good" man, but in context he has many admirable qualities.

    The issue is growth, and this is not the same Jaime who committed that heinous act at the beginning of the series. He's still deeply flawed, but the Jaime of the present (at least before "Breaker of Chains") would not have done what he did to Bran any more than he would have done what the TV Jaime did to Cersei. It's a question of a character arc, not of pushing a magic button and turning good or audience wish fulfillment.

  28. k

    But that's just it, Jaime didn't actually grow a whole lot in the past arc. We just feel like he did, because we know more about him at this point than we did back when he threw Bran out of the window, and because of that he's generally more likeable. But he's still mostly the same guy, and given his toxic and absolutely fucked up relationship with Cersei, and how it doesn't exactly bring out the best in either of them, I don't see how he wouldn't have done what he did in this episode, after everything that led up to that scene (re: basically everything going wrong with his life, and him being at an incredibly bad place mentally). It's not like Jaime was all "aww yeah, rape!" in the scene, or if the scene was meant to be anything other than horrible and sad.

    (By the way, re: Tyrion, funny that you should mention him, because as I remember from the book he also has moments of "I didn't want to rape her but my cock didn't listen, oh the pain~" and "maybe I shouldn't rape this frightened girl… nah, I'll do it because I don't feel awful enough today." This certainly doesn't take away from his good qualities, but goes to show that people can be decent most of the time, and still do horrible things at other times, even if they hate themselves afterwards.)

  29. B

    Hey Enzo. Long time reader, first time commenter.

    Apparently the director didn't think it was rape, but a messed-up force-turns-consent kind of thing (which, I am told, is what happened in the book). (See the citation in the link:

    GRRM himself said a little something about that scene ( He doesn't say if it was a good change or not, but points out the changing context relatively to the book.

    I see a lot of well reasoned opinions on this ; whether or not this was in-character, if it damages what we've seen before or even if it was at all necessary and not just for shock (in regard to the book as well). I honestly don't know what to think.

    Anyway, keep up the good work, Enzo!

  30. Thank you for that, Birdperson – interesting stuff. The director is certainly entitled to believe whatever he wants, but to me, that was inarguably rape.

    I think Martin is right in that the "Butterfly Effect" is in play here – hell, I've even used that terminology myself to refer to changes from the books in earlier posts. Jaime having just arrived back makes a huge difference in the context of the moment. A couple of interesting points Martin makes about the scene as he wrote it:

    She is as hungry for him as he is for her."
    If the show had retained some of Cersei's dialogue from the books, it might have left a somewhat different impression — but that dialogue was very much shaped by the circumstances of the books, delivered by a woman who is seeing her lover again for the first time after a long while apart during which she feared he was dead."

    I respect how diplomatic GRRM is being here, as well he should be – he's been involved more in the show than most writers have the privilege to be, though he goes out of his way here to say he had nothing to do with this episode or this scene. And that it was fundamentally a departure from the way he wrote it.

  31. B

    "The director is certainly entitled to believe whatever he wants, but to me, that was inarguably rape."

    I completely agree. Whatever the intent was – and that itself asks why the director didn't think Cersei never verbally consenting doesn't mean what happened was rape (creepy if you ask me), what matters is that, in the end, it unarguably looks like rape.

  32. It seems very clear that Graves' comments after the fact – "it was means to be consensual" – are causing as much controversy as the scene itself. And it's becoming more and more apparent that this amounts of a slip-up in execution more than a deliberate subversion of Martin's original intent. It really seems like Graves, Weiss and Benioff simply fucked up big-time – the scene didn't communicate what they wanted it to communicate. I hate to see the show sidetracked by controversy over this when it does so many things brilliantly, but frankly it's deserved – this was a bit of a debacle.

    I do suspect it will partially blow over as the story steamrolls ahead – but Jaime's arc is going to be an uphill challenge for the showrunners after what they did last night.

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