“Game of Thrones” Latest Deviation Goes A Bit Too Far

For fans of “Game of Thrones,” there has been a pretty serious divide between readers of the books and fans of the show. Most of the time bickering between the two sides is due to spoilershaving a conversation online about any plot point not already portrayed by the show is met with angry show-watchers, while those who have read the books love to remind us all that the series of epic novels has been out for years now. Book readers also lament changes made by show writers David Benioff and Dan Weiss, changes that may not be noticed by followers of the show but have massive repercussions for future plot points and character development.

“Game of Thrones,” like the books upon which it is based, enjoys a widespread and obsessive following, so it’s no wonder that deviations from the books can cause tremors throughout the fandom. It’s something we’re almost used toit’s not possible to cover the kind of ground laid out by George RR Martin without switching things around and reworking characters. But in Sunday’s episode, the show pushed the boundaries too far when they showed Jaime Lannister raping his sister, Cersei.

The scene is a huge change from how it was originally written In the books, Jaime has just returned to Kings Landing to find Cersei mourning the death of their first born son. The scene is still very taboo and uncomfortableincestuous and on the altar of their dead son in a sept. Their reunion is charged with a great many things, from it being the first time they have seen each other since Jaime was captured to Cersei’s grief for their lost son. Some have questioned whether the book features consensual sex, and despite Cersei expressing fear of being caught, I felt Martin made it clear that it wasthe bulk of the scene itself is Cersei’s encouraging Jaime while in the act. Although far from a tender love scene, it speaks to the urgent need both of them have to connect with one another after so much time has passed and so much has happened.

But the show threw all that out the window in favor of outright rape. Fans of both the show and the books are rightfully upset about what happened. Not only was the scene extremely disturbing, but a needlessly huge change to an already well-developed character. Jaime Lannister was originally introduced as the Kingslayer, of dubious morality and willing to push children out of windows to be with his sister. But the show and books went far over the course of the series to show that there is more to Jaime than just that one dimensional “Bad Guy Lannister” persona he himself is willing to play into.

This scene is completely at odds with what we know about Jaime, primarily because of the two most pronounced character points from both the show and the book. The first thing we know for a fact about Jaime Lannister is that he is devoted to his sister. Yes, the relationship is incestuous, but Jaime’s love for his sister is one of the most pure loves in the series. He, unlike most other characters, has never slept with anyone but the woman he loves. Despite being a handsome and celebrated knight, he gave up his right to Casterly Rock and the chance to marry by joining the Kingsguard so that he could be with Cersei in King’s Landing. His life revolves around her.

But the relationship isn’t equal. Cersei, particularly in the books, sets the rules and calls the shots. She decides when they are together and in what capacity. She doesn’t share his dedication, using her sexuality to get what she wants from numerous other characters. To Jaime, their connection is sacred, but not so to Cersei. The power dynamics between these two are totally different from the usual dynamic between man and woman in the series, and from what one would expect given Jaime’s traditionally masculine persona earlier on. His dependence and deference to Cersei plays a huge role in key plot points yet to come. But now that Jaime has raped Cersei, the nature of their relationship is entirely turned on its head. The show has made Jaime much more like any other man in the series, rather than the conflictedly moral yet immoral character he has been.

Secondly, Jaime’s redemption has largely been based on his attempts to stop rape from taking place. In the books it’s made clear that Jaime was revolted by the rape of Rhaella, the Mad King’s sister, when he had to stand guard outside the door and do nothing to stop what was happening. He lost his sword hand after lying to save Brienne from being raped, and went back to Harrenhall to save her again after Qyburn tells him they will likely rape her repeatedly before killing her. Numerous lines and comments from the books make clear that Jaime finds rape and assault abhorrent. Jaime may be a lot of things, but one of the most pronounced of those is a strong opponent of violence against women, be it sexual or otherwise.

Sexualized violence isn’t new to the show, which relies heavily on gratuitous nudity and sex. They include it at random, with little rhyme or reason, out of what I can only believe is the assumption that viewers aren’t intelligent enough to enjoy a complex story without the concession prize of tits. Jaime Lannister’s character assassination isn’t even the first time they took a complex sex scene and made it vicious rapethe same thing was done with Khal Drogo, who rapes Daenerys on their wedding night in Season One. In the books, the scene is very different, but the show cast Drogo early on as a savage and barbarian rapist, because apparently that’s more interesting than the juxtaposition of a warlord showing a more gentle side.

There have been scenes in the past that made me sit back and wonder if the show is really worth watching. When it’s good, it’s very good. But it seems that the more the writers deviate from the source material, the more needlessly violent and horrific it becomes. Part of the draw of “A Song of Ice and Fire” is the complexity that comes with many of the more disturbing scenes, not just the torture-porn the show wants to play up. There are a great many things in the books that could have stood in for scenes like Roz’s unnecessarily gruesome death in Season Three but were left out of the show. Instead, writers have chosen to rewrite the series to feature far more misogyny and far less depth, which does no justice at all to the world created by George RR Martin.

To me, Jaime Lannister will still be the Jaime who fought against the rape and torture of women. If the writers of “Game of Thrones” choose to shift Jaime’s character away from that once strong moral code, no longer tuning in may be a step I decide to take. Choosing to write the scene as they did raised so many questions, but the loudest and angriest in my mind is “Why?” Why continue changing the story just for shock value? Why do they think the story as originally written isn’t interesting enough to draw an audience? As George RR Martin has made clear, “Game of Thrones” is Benioff and Weiss’ interpretation, not his, and they have a great deal of material to synthesize for TV. Too bad their vision is becoming a cheap imitation rather than an apt homage.

View Comments (4)
  • So glad that you remembered that they did the SAME thing to Khal Drogo. That was really disappointing to me because it changed the character and relationship FOR NO REASON.
    I’ve read all the books but stopped watching the show because some of the choices bothered me. Figure I can re-read the books instead. :-)

  • 100% agree with this. In my mind it really throws off Jamie’s entire redemptive journey, one of the most fascinating and gratifying story lines in the series for me. The scene itself is disturbing enough without that extra layer added to it.

  • I agree with everything you have said. I loved the books and encouraged my non-reader friends and family to watch the show. Now I am having to defend myself and explain that I would never have sugested they watch, if the books had been like this. I have concluded that these guys are bad at thier job and will not be watching the show anymore. Although I will probably still have to fill in all the background information as the show is so badly written and confusing for those I watched it with.

    I have read a lot of reviews and outrage about this scene, as catharsis, but….
    I have not seen a single person yet discussing how this affects Cersei’s character or arc. (Beyond the expected, sadenning comments that she deserved to be raped).

    I understasnd that this is a huge deal for Jaime’s character, and that was also my first thought. But I think the lack of discussion of the impact on the victim is another problem that this episode has exposed in the larger community.

    I do not mean this to disparage your input to the conversation, I think your post is brilliant. I would rather encourage it. See, I wonder why we are all focusing solely on how this change affects Jaime? What about Cersei?

    They have changed the female characters a lot, removing the edges, their agency, even giving their ideas to the men. And here they seem to have used the tired, tactic of a rape to perhaps make her more sympathetic (although the director seems confused about what he filmed), like losing her children isn’t enough.

    Considering the balance, clarity and respect you have treated the subject with in your article and your interest in feminism and HBO programming, I was wondering if it might interst you to start a conversation on your platform about how this change/scene may impact Cersei’s character or arc. Or more pointedly, why the victim seems to have been largely ignored in the discussion about this scene, and what that says about us as viewers/readers/society.
    Obviously, I am not trying to imply you should do this, and I am sorry if this is rude (I mean to be respectful) I just thought the topic may be in your spehere of interest. :)

    Thankyou for your thoughts on this, and sorry for the long post.

    • Thanks so much for your thoughts! I’ve thought about Cersei as well, and I think part of why I didn’t go into what the scene meant for her is that she’s not a character I feel totally comfortable talking about. Whereas my thoughts were insta-organized for Jaime, they feel more muddled for Cersei. Honestly, I’m still trying to get a tight grasp on them. Jaime has been a POV character in the books for so much longer, and I feel like I have a better grasp on him as a person. Cersei, on the other hand, I have a harder time wrapping my head around. I saw someone on some review mention that she would never let that happen to her, and although I hate the wording it was kind of my first thought given their dynamic. I hate even thinking of Cersei as a victim because it’s so against everything that she stands for and sees herself as. She’s a daughter of the Rock! It’s so out of character for him to do something like that and so out of character for her not to literally murder him for violating her that the entire thing is just a big ball of “How?”

      After seeing so many comments by people tied to the show suggesting the scene was not intended to be rape (ughhhhh) I’m not even sure if we’re going to be given a sense of any fallout between them. Are they going to move forward with their story as it happened in the books? I’m not sure what I would want more — for the story to play out as it was written or for them to change things around to accommodate this huge mistake they made.

      I wish I had something more articulate to say!

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