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Dear "Game of Thrones": You Blew It

by Sam Adams
April 28, 2014 3:47 PM
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Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in "Game of Thrones'" "Oathbreaker"

There were a lot of smart things said about last week's "Game of Thrones" episode, "Breaker of Chains," but one of the dumbest came from someone who worked on the show -- specifically director Alex Graves, who told HitFix's Alan Sepinwall that the rape between incestuous lovers Jaime and Cersei Lannister "becomes consensual by the end." It certainly didn't play that way on screen, and since directors don't have the last word on individual episodes, there was a chance that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss might have overruled him in the edit room; if anything suggesting Cersei's eventual consent was shot, it certainly didn't end up on screen. (There are, of course, still people who will claim that she could have gotten away if she'd really wanted to, or that her failure to do this or that indicates some kind of attenuated consent. Those people are wrong.)

So all eyes were on this week's episode, "Oathkeeper," to see what the fallout from Jaime's actions would be, and frankly, "Game of Thrones" blew it. The single scene between Jaime and Cersei is awkward, but no more: Jaime's conscience seems relatively clear, and Cersei is too numbed by grief and wine to register much of anything. That's not to take anything from Lena Headey's performance as Cersei, or Nikloaj Coster-Waldau's as Jaime; both are object lessons in how actors can make characters more complex than they appear on the page. But after a certain point, it becomes hard to reconcile the show you think you're watching with the one its creators intend. For an episode or two, it's possible to part ways. But in a world where, dog-eat-dog morality notwithstanding, actions still have consequences, the way those actions are defined matters a great deal in the long run.

In a sense, the Sept of Baelor scene may be to "Game of Thrones" what Walt's last phone call to Skyler was to "Breaking Bad": a referendum on the differences between the way the show is seen by the way the people who make it and the people who watch it. There are still six episodes in "Game of Thrones'" fourth season, which is ample time for Jaime to reach a reckoning for his acts. But at the moment, it doesn't seem like the show is headed that way, an error which will be compounded by every week his behavior goes unaddressed.

More reviews of "Game of Thrones'" "Oathbreaker"

Scott Meslow, the Week

Graves' description is fundamentally in conflict with what actually happens on screen -- but based on "Oathkeeper," it seems like that's the interpretation "Game of Thrones" is going with. And that puts fans and critics in an uncomfortable position. Do we take the creators' intentions for the scene as the basis for Jaime's character, and ignore the (apparently unintentional) act of clear-cut sexual assault he committed? Or do we judge him by the actual text of the show, and attempt to reconcile what the rape means for our understanding of Jaime -- who seems positioned, in every other way, to be one of Game of Thrones' biggest heroes?

James Poniewozik, Time

From the evidence of "Oathkeeper," which doesn't overtly address the incident, my guess is now that the makers meant the scene not to be rape -- intended, maybe, an encounter of angry sex between two damaged lovers -- but utterly botched getting any of that complexity on screen. We're weighing, in other words, the scene we actually saw with our guesses at what scene we were meant to see -- and that's the difference between complexity and confusion.

Alan Sepinwall, HitFix

It's a complicated thing that happened last week between Jaime and Cersei, not just because different people associated with the show had such different takes on what exactly that scene was meant to convey, but because the audience had such an overwhelming consensus on it: that Jaime raped Cersei, no ifs ands or buts. And in an episode where Jaime is very prominent in many scenes, he comes across as exactly the guy he was before that scene last week: charming, conflicted, caring more deeply for Brienne and Tyrion than you would expect a man in his position to, and wanting to accomplish something good on the matter of Sansa Stark and the oath he made to Lady Catelyn.

Eric Kain, Forbes

There’s nothing said of last week's event, and while Cersei treats Jaime with a certain extra iciness, it's hardly out of character or unexpected, since this is exactly how she's been treating him since his return. In other words, last week didn’t really happen -- or at least not the way it seemed to happen. We’re still given a version of Jaime that's increasingly noble, and Cersei is every bit as hideous as ever.

Alyssa Rosenberg, Washington Post

It is a striking, curt little speech, and it leaves unsaid what could be a fascinating dynamic between the pair. Less interesting than the gap between the showrunners’ and director’s description of the rape scene is the one between Cersei and Jaime. Disturbing as it might be, it seems entirely possible that Cersei believes she was raped, while Jaime believes that what happened between them was consensual.

Michael Hogan, Vanity Fair

From a character-development perspective, Jaime raping Cersei should undo much if not all of his progress from "guy who pushed Bran out the window" to "guy whom Brienne understandably rather admires." But the latest episode doesn’t register the rape in any meaningful way. Instead, it's as if nothing happened: Cersei is still chugging cabernet and hissing, "Off with their heads," and Jaime is continuing to rebel against her -- in a way that we are meant to see as admirable.

Marlow Stern, Daily Beast

That’s the only semblance of awkwardness between the two after a scene that very much depicted Jaime raping Cersei next to the body of their dead son. Instead of a reckoning, we're treated to a wine-drunk Cersei in full-on fang-bearing mode (as is her wont) mocking Jaime's apparent loyalty to the Stark clan and questioning why Catelyn decided to let him go, before demanding Sansa’s head.

Neil Miller, Film School Rejects

There’s a lot to hate about Jaime Lannister, but there’s some to like, as well. It’s nice to see the writers continue to make him a nuanced character alongside the very nuanced (and still charming despite prison) Tyrion. To see Jaime part with the gorgeous sword and turn against Cersei’s plans to bring Sansa to justice is to see the realization of his internal struggle. It doesn’t forgive what he did last week, but he is wrestling with the same sort of emotions about himself that the audience is feeling.

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More: Game of Thrones


  • DB | April 30, 2014 2:44 PMReply

    if you had read the book, you would know that this was not how it was portrayed in the book... in the book it was consentual (albeit not the right place as Cersei says- but still goes with it). I think that specific scene was not represented well by the book's standards.

  • konstantine | April 30, 2014 2:32 AMReply

    Jon Snow has committed no transgression and will be the only one who survives
    the bastard is the hero !!!

  • LT | April 29, 2014 9:37 PMReply

    Jame has killed a king he was sworn to protect and bore three illegitimate bastards out of wedlock, through an incestuous relationship with his twin sister. Hes even thrown a kid out of a window. But "raping" the formentioned lover damages his character? There are no heroes in GoT. Jamie, tyrion, dani, arya, Jon snow, sansa. They are all incestuous murders, rapists, thieves and liars who's wickedness will soon be cleansed of this world with ice and fire. Winter is coming.

  • Joe H. | April 29, 2014 8:17 PMReply

    I'm pretty sure indiewire wanted Jamie to be crucified or something.

  • Jo | April 29, 2014 8:16 PMReply

    Wow, indiewire is obsessed in finding rape where there was no rape. At most, Cersei's bahavior in that scene varied between passive acceptance and reluctance. There's more than enough rape in HBO programming to tell the difference. Scene was actually pretty tame considering. For example last episode's rape scenes north of the wall in Crastor's camp (albeit brief) were much more intense and disturbing.

  • Ada | May 1, 2014 4:44 AM

    She was saying no. She was actually saying no. And if she was reluctant, it was rape. That's what rape means. She was saying no.

  • Roger D | April 29, 2014 7:09 PMReply

    Dear critics, you are the ones who blew it by not understanding the scene, the characters or the world they live in.

  • bonnie | April 29, 2014 2:59 PMReply

    Cersei is a person who lost everything by now. Underplaying it, and showing her only as a descpicable person, misses a few points from the books.

  • Anna | April 29, 2014 2:01 PMReply

    Do you really want GoT to be PC? I sure don't. Real life is one thing but a medieval fantasy show is quite another. I love flawed characters trying to be better and Jaime is definitely that. Redemption is never a straight path. That's what I loved about Breaking Bad. I noticed Cersei recoil when he touched her with his metal hand and that also set him off. He was more loyal to her than she was to him. He was also angry with her for not recognizing what he went through to get back to her. He is seeing her selfishness and growing insanity with new eyes.

  • Drewanzus | April 29, 2014 6:32 AMReply

    Think Medieval for god's sake. Girls are forced to sex on a regular basis, in this episode, all Crasters wives/daughters were.

    Also, all this is perfectly logical from a narrative perspective. Jaime was mad in love with Cersei and she had despised and blamed him for being "late" and loosing his hand as if it was his fault. This is crueler still since all that was in his mind was her through all his misdeeds (attempting to kill Bran included). Jaime was clearly and justly frustrated and enraged with this woman. They didn't have sex untill that scene, in which in fact Jaime wanted to comfort Cersei at first, and yes, maybe he raped her at the end. But that isn't less ethical than her unfair behavior towards him, he has choose never to marry for her, he has become crippled and killed for her! If we are defending women rights here, don't you think Cersei is already more dominating than Jaime? he is submissive to her in everything. Sex was his only revenge, and it was in the heat of passion not planned. They are just lovers at war with each other, in Medieval time, get over it.

    This episode continues his character development perfectly. Jaime rape scene was a catarsis for him to discover he was in love with the villain and realize everything that is good in him was in fact found with Brienne. From this moment on, he is starting to disobey her orders which are insane (like killing Tyrion and Sansa). Raping her was part of his redemption, ugly but true, if you can't accept this because of your narrow mind, stop watching this series.

  • Dannos | April 29, 2014 12:57 AMReply

    There is a brief moment in the confused sex-scene where Cersei's hand clutches willingly to Jamie's jacket...maybe was missed by some people? She is a despicable person as is her twin - to me the scene was more like a couple having a serious disagreement, feeling the depth of their betrayal and needing an outlet for there self-loathing ie: confused sex.

    The history of women on earth is replete with all forms of depravity and abuse yet in the 21st century we seem to think the hard-fought for standards to improve the lives of women should suddenly be reflected in fictional works set in fantasy worlds.
    This would be a denial of the reality of women's historical place in male dominated societies - even fictional ones.
    The only reason people are getting to see GoT is G.R.R.Martin wrote an epic that parallels what we see as believable - even in a fantasy setting. The potency of his story has been acknowledged by virtue of the TV series existing and its popularity.

    I hope people learn to appreciate this epic tale for what it is rather than what they wished it was.

  • Slen | April 28, 2014 8:05 PMReply

    It's official. Indiewire needs to stop talking about GoT.

  • Film Runner | April 28, 2014 7:36 PMReply

    These episodes are shot and edited months in advance of when they are shown on TV, it is impossible for an episode to react to something that was unintended by the writers while the show is airing. If anything comes of that scene it will be next series, but I expect them to just cut it from the DVD release and declare it non-canon.

  • JJ | April 28, 2014 5:20 PMReply

    "But after a certain point, it becomes hard to reconcile the show you think you're watching with the one its creators intend." - I'm confused about WHY these things need to be reconciled at all.

    "There are still six episodes in "Game of Thrones'" fourth season, which is ample time for Jaime to reach a reckoning for his acts." - Also confused, why this should need to happen. Isn't the last thing said in the first trailer for the whole season "If you want justice, you've come to the wrong place."?

  • jawsnnn | April 28, 2014 8:36 PM

    Thank you. The writers of IndieWire seem to forgive all the bitter things that happen in GoT, as long as it plays within their rulebook of 21st cent. ethics. "...ample time for Jaime to reach a reckoning for his acts"... I mean, are we even watching the same show? This is not a world where causality works in sow --> reap fashion. Just because Cersei was raped does not mean punishment will be meted out.
    I do agree that the interaction between Jaime and Cersei seems a little anti-climactic, almost nonchalant - perhaps validating the director's statement that what happened before was not rape, but something that did not come across as intended on screen.

  • shelly | April 28, 2014 5:16 PMReply

    As awful as that scene was applying a modern sensibility to the medieval-esque culture of the show where woman are basically property just doesn't really work. Cersei is already being forced by her father to marry someone she doesn't love a second time. She has no say in her destiny.

  • LS | April 28, 2014 4:20 PMReply

    Yeah because it not being addressed directly in the very next episode, mean it will never truly influence anything again, even though Cersei's growing contempt for Jaime was clear.

    As for how you feel about Jaime, that's up to you, they don't need black and white villains, the fact you consider him redeemable after the attempted murder of a 10 year old say more about you than the show.

  • TRANSTEMPORAL | April 28, 2014 10:47 PM

    Exactly. The fact that Jaime did some nice things doesn't mean that he's now suddenly a "good guy". He's still basically a scumbag.

  • Jason | April 28, 2014 6:08 PM

    And apparently it's ok to be sleeping with ur twin sister as well....WTF.

  • Terrence | April 28, 2014 4:20 PMReply

    So what you're saying is that we can all deal with heads being cut off, mass murder, penises being cut off, children being pushed out of windows, torture, babies being stabbed in the neck, etc., but America thinks the rape scene went too far? This is insane, ridiculous, and just a little bit stupid. This is an R rated show. Don't be a hypocrite. Grow up and grow some thicker skin or don't watch the show.

  • jawsnnn | April 28, 2014 8:39 PM

    Don't forget that this was far from the first rape that happened on this show. This is a show that has practically one rape scene per episode. Apparently rape by villains/side characters is ok for Indiewire, but by characters that are supposedly "redeemable" is not.

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