[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for 'Game of Thrones.']
Game of Thrones is a show famous for courting controversy – from the beheading of Ned Stark in season 1 to the horrific Red Wedding in season 3 – but last night’s episode, ‘Breaker of Chains,’ was possibly the first to stir a more negative kind of controversy.
In this case, the controversy refers to Jaime Lannister raping his sister Cersei right next to their dead son, Joffrey – and the fact that it was less consensual than the corresponding scene in the book ‘A Storm of Swords.’
While fans of the show probably thought the scene was disturbing if par for the course, fans of the book (particularly fans of Jaime’s “redemption arc”) were far more angry and, indeed, perplexed. Had the show gone too far? Was this an unwelcome deviation from the book in a series that we’ve been told will deviate even more? Was this a betrayal of Jaime’s character?
Since then, the director of the episode, Alex Graves, has spoken out about the controversial scene to Hit Fix, saying that the interaction “becomes consensual by the end, because anything for [Jaime and Cersei] ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle.”
This only incited more controversy, because the end of the scene certainly doesn’t scream consensual as Cersei can be heard saying, “It’s not right, it’s not right,” and Jaime, who’s pinning her down, says, “I don’t care, I don’t care.” Though the director did go on to say that Cersei wrapped her legs around Jaime by the end – consensual? – he also told THR earlier in the day that Jaime “rapes her” and that it was “forced sex.” So…hmm.
It’s also worth noting that some fans of the book insist that the scene in ‘A Storm of Swords’ also implies rape. This is how the scene begins on pg. 851 of the paperback edition (hat tip to Reddit User BardsSword):
“There was no tenderness in the kiss he returned to her, only hunger. Her mouth opened from his tongue. ‘No…not here. The septons…’ ‘The Others can take the septons.’…She pounded on his chest with feeble fists, muttering about the risk, the danger, about her father, about the septons, about the wrath of the gods. He never heard her.”
Of course, she eventually does unequivocally say “yes” – unlike the scene in the show – but it does seem like the book scene begins nonconsensually as well.
Anyway – all this talk of altered scenes and book-to-show differences (that lead to Internet controversies) has begged the question: What does Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin think of all this? Fortunately, user LudivineDa asked him that very question of him on his LiveJournal. His response was as follows:
In the novels, Jaime is not present at Joffrey’s death, and indeed, Cersei has been fearful that he is dead himself, that she has lost both the son and the father/ lover/ brother. And then suddenly Jaime is there before her. Maimed and changed, but Jaime nonetheless. Though the time and place is wildly inappropriate and Cersei is fearful of discovery, she is as hungry for him as he is for her.
The whole dynamic is different in the show, where Jaime has been back for weeks at the least, maybe longer, and he and Cersei have been in each other’s company on numerous occasions, often quarreling. The setting is the same, but neither character is in the same place as in the books, which may be why Dan & David played the sept out differently. But that’s just my surmise; we never discussed this scene, to the best of my recollection.
Also, I was writing the scene from Jaime’s POV, so the reader is inside his head, hearing his thoughts. On the TV show, the camera is necessarily external. You don’t know what anyone is thinking or feeling, just what they are saying and doing.
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 am not sure it would have worked with the new timeline.
That’s really all I can say on this issue. The scene was always intended to be disturbing… but I do regret if it has disturbed people for the wrong reasons.
As with much of what’s going on here, there seems to be a lot of ambiguity in his response. For example, he points out that the book scene is told from Jaime’s point of view. Does that mean that it’s not all that consensual after all? His language is too vague to get a real read on his opinion.
Still, it’s pretty clear that he had no hand in the creation of ‘Breaker of Chains’ and wants everyone to know it. It even seems like he might have preferred that the producers retain some – though not all – of Cersei’s dialogue from the book, where she was far more vocally into the experience.
One thing that isn’t ambiguous is the success of this show, which this latest controversy is unlikely to change. According to EW, ‘Breaker of Chains’ had 6.6 million viewers tune in (possibly in reaction to the previous week’s episode, which featured the Purple Wedding). 6.6 million viewers is a tie with the series highest-rated episode, the season 4 premiere.
What say you, Screen Ranters? Should the controversial scene stuck more closely to the source material? Or do you think it worked fine as is? Drop us a line in the comments.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays @9pm on HBO.
Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.