Monday, May 5, 2014

RECAP: Game of Thrones 4x03 - Oh I Am Pissed the Hell Off

I'm afraid I'm actually pretty behind on these recaps. It turns out that real life isn't super conducive to weekly episodic writing. Or viewing, for that matter. So, here's the Game of Thrones recap for episode 4x03 - you know, the one that aired two weeks ago. 


The episode starts rather unsurprisingly not even seconds after the last one ended. Joffrey is dead, and Cersei is screaming for Tyrion's head on a pike, while Sansa and her gallant rescuer flee the city. As well they should, because, you know, Sansa kind of had the sort of motive that you'd have to be completely daft to ignore.

But, as we know, Sansa didn't do it. Nope, the act is actually being claimed by Petyr Baelish (Littlefinger), who ordered Sansa rescued, then shoots her rescuer, and proceeds to be a total and complete creeper while keeping Sansa "safe" on one of the ruined ships in the harbor left over from the battle of King's Landing. And apparently Petyr plans to take Sansa home with him and live out his weird thing for Catelyn, so there's that.

Meanwhile, Margaery is stuck wondering if she's cursed, you know, because her husbands keep dying before they can make it to the bedroom. Of course, this probably wouldn't be an issue so much if she stopped trying to marry guys who have deep and meaningful emotional problems. Or are gay. Mostly, though, I think Margaery might want to try marrying someone who doesn't want to be queen. Longer lifespan.

It is worth mentioning, though, that in this version Margaery doesn't know about the murder. Pretty sure she does in the books. And I don't like the idea that Margaery is some wincing flower. Please. Girl is made of steel and ambition. I'm pretty sure she's not really mourning Joffrey. Relieved that now she only has to wed Tommen - the sane one.

Tommen is a bit apprehensive about this whole "being king" thing. Understandable, since his brother was a psychopath and his father was a drunk. Not a whole lot of good role models there. He gets a rousing speech about what makes a good king from his grandfather, Tywin, while standing over his brother's corpse, and as grody and intense as the scene is, it actually made me like both characters more. Because Tywin might be a jerkface, but he's not wrong. The best king is a wise king - and wise kings do listen to their advisors.

But then the scene derails obscenely when Jaime comes in and he and Cersei have a "moment" over Joffrey's dead body. Jaime is ostensibly there to comfort his sister, but he's also mourning his son, except Joffrey was a terrible person and Cersei is psychotically mad at Tyrion now, and blech.

The blech is the part where Jaime basically goes, "I know you're grieving and all, but I think the best solution to this is to have sex. Right now. Next to our dead incest child. In a church." And when Cersei is pretty reasonably not into the idea, he forces her. He rapes her. The writers can prevaricate all they want, saying it's not really rape, but it totally is. She's telling him to stop, telling him no, he's ripping her clothes and screwing her, and telling her she's a "hateful woman". 

It's rape. And I am so not okay with this.

Then, of course, there's a complete and total tonal shift, and we're following Arya and the Hound while they waltz around the countryside. When a farmer catches them totally trespassing on his land, Arya saves them from getting the law called on them, and manages to sweet talk them into a place for the night and a warm meal. But the Hound, cuddly bear that he is, is a total dick through the meal, and in the morning, he murders the father and steals their silver. Because of course he does.

Arya is pissed, but the Hound does make a reasonable point. That family was going to starve, and they need silver. Honor never fed a man. He hammers it home for her by reminding her of exactly how many Starks honor has gotten killed.

Not a nice lesson, but a practical one.

Next we see Sam and Gilly, back at Castle Black. Gilly's happy to finally be in a place where there are no White Walkers or incestuous rape fathers, but Sam is terrified that the men of the Night's Watch are going to lose control and gang rape Gilly. Which, you know, not really the most unreasonable thing to fear, given that most of the men of the Watch are conscripts from the prisons, and a lot of them are rapists. So...

Still, his decision to bring Gilly into town and house her and baby Sam in the local brothel, demanding that she be given lodging only for cooking and caring for the children but NOTHING ELSE, OKAY? is a little bit awkward. Gilly's not exactly stoked to live with a bunch of whores, and she's pissed at the idea that Sam thinks he can't or won't protect her.

They are so married it's adorable and I want it.

Oh, and we got a nice reminder that Sam did manage to kill that White Walker - I hope he remembered to bring the spearhead with him. I can't imagine trying to go back and find it. That would suck.

Stannis and Davos have a fight, mostly because Stannis is mad because Davos was nice enough to free Gendry, and now he doesn't have a bastard to use for blood magic rituals anymore. Stannis is creepy. But Davos has an ace up his sleeve: Stannis' daughter, Shireen, his tutor. Shireen helps him think of a clever plan which involves a bank. I'm not entirely sure what the plan is, but that's cool. I can wait.

Oberyn and Ellaria continue their...sampling of the wares in King's Landing (they have a lot of sex, okay? kinky, kinky sex), until they are interrupted by Tywin Lannister and an unusual request. He wants Oberyn, noted hater of the Lannister family to be the third judge at Tyrion's trial. He also wants to know if Oberyn was the one to poison Joffrey, but Oberyn swears he isn't. If he was, he'd be a lot more proud about claiming the deed, which makes sense.

Down in the cells, Tyrion is totally miserable, poor baby, but his squire, Podrick manages to sneak in some food and a quill and parchment, which is good of him. He also announces the news about the trial, and reveals that he's been asked to testify for the prosecution, in exchange for a lot of money and knighthood and lands. It's a good offer, but Pod is too honorable to take it. Tyrion tells him to flee the city. It's a sad moment.

Also they discuss whether or not Sansa actually did it, because dang did she have motive, but Tyrion is pretty sure she didn't. Reasonably sure. Kind of. Did she? (No, she didn't, but give her time. She'll get to the poisoning her rivals stage at some point, I have no doubts.)

Back in the North, Ygritte and her Wildlings (who are we kidding? they're totally hers) attack a village and make sure that the Night's Watch know about it. The Watch is all set to ride out kill some Wildlings, but Jon Snow actually lives up to his potential and points out the very important facts: Mance Ryder is coming, and he's bringing an army. They have got to shore up the Wall. 

Then some of the men Castor (Gilly's evil weird father) kept captive return. They've been tortured and hurt, and they've given up some crucial information: how many men there are at Castle Black. 

Aww, crap.

And then, hurray! We're back with Daenerys and her giant army of freed slaves, facing down the evil city of Meereen. Meereen isn't stupid, so they've closed the gates, but her giant freaking army does send a loud message. The message only gets louder when Meereen challenges her champion to face their champion. It's a funny moment, with all of Dany's advisors begging for the chance to murder someone for her. She sends Daario, who does a great job of murdering their champion and spitting in Meereen's face, and then Dany does what she does best. She gives an epic and inspirational speech to all of the slaves in Meereen, fosters revolt, and then sends barrels catapulting over the city walls.

Barrels full of the broken collars of the slaves who are now free and in her care. Damn. Girl knows her public relations.

Okay, so that's what actually happened in the episode. But what did it mean?

Well, for me, there are really only two things of note in this episode, and that's Cersei's rape and Dany's speech. And, it may surprise you to hear me say this, but both of them are problematic, in their own ways.

Let's talk about Dany first, because the Cersei thing is going to be a lot longer. So while I love Daenerys so freaking much and I am stoked for the dragons to finally be fully grown so that she can blaze through Westeros, claim the throne, and then sear the White Walkers and save the world, her narrative arc is kind of troublesome. And not just the whole child-bride thing. The part where she, a white woman who is in fact mostly visually notable only for how freaking white she really is, marches through a foreign land, civilizing the brown people.

Do you get why that's a little bit problematic? No? Okay, let me explain it further. It's not that Daenerys is doing anything wrong. It's really not. She's an awesome character, and her motivation in freeing people is great, her actions are superb, and she's pretty much the only truly regal character on the show. That's not the issue. The problem is in the writers. The writers, both George RR Martin and the showrunners, who have decided that Daenerys should do all of this and be a white woman.

In other words, it's not so much that Dany shouldn't be out there freeing the slaves, but why didn't they make her something other than white? Because if they had, they would have completely avoided this incredibly uncomfortable "I must civilize these wretched brown people" thing they've got going. I'm all for Dany being a savior, but I'm less cool with her being a White Savior. And when you get down to it, that's entirely a writing choice.

Like, why does Dany have to be white? We know from the story that her family comes from far away, and came to Westeros to conquer it. She doesn't really share a bloodline with most of the people of Westeros, and that's emphasized by the fact that her family is hella inbred. Plus, she's "blood of the dragon", right? Well why does that mean she should have white blond hair and blue eyes? Wouldn't a dragonblood be a little, you know, darker?

I'm just saying. It's not Dany's story that's the problem, it's the sociopolitical and racial implications it raises about the writers that's the problem.

And then there's the other really truly deeply troubling part of this episode. The scene where Jaime, who has spent the last two seasons becoming more and more endearing and sweet, viciously rapes his sister over their son's dead body.

What. The. Hell.

I shouldn't have to tell you that this isn't in the books. Creepy as Cersei and Jaime's relationship is there, it's never this bad. George RR Martin himself even responded to the episode pointing out that this is not how he wrote it. And it just plain doesn't make sense. Why would Jaime Lannister, who got his own hand cut off for defending Brienne from rape, then turn around and rape his own sister, whom he professes to love?

I honestly don't know. But I suspect, and I hate suspecting this, that it is all to do with rape culture and how gross our society is, and the simple fact that the actor, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and the writers didn't see it as rape. They saw it as intense sex. Which is gross and terrifying. And also deeply uncomfortable, not just because of the rape, but because of what this says about how they view Cersei.

So Cersei obviously isn't the nicest character, but I would argue that she's a lot more interesting than the one note bitch the show seems intent on portraying. She's a fiercely protective mother, has been horribly abused her whole life, and is wildly ambitious and talented, but constantly told the only thing she's good for is popping out children. No wonder she's a bitch.

The thing this scene highlights, though, is that we're not supposed to think about Cersei's complexity. As the next episode will show, we're not supposed to be horrified and sympathize with Cersei during her rape. We're supposed to sympathize with her rapist. When Jaime calls her a hateful woman (for refusing to have sex in a church next to their dead son, for the record), we're supposed to agree with him and think he's right to force her.

I'm sorry, what? Wait, no, I'm not sorry. I'm royally and ragingly pissed the hell off. That is not okay. That is so far from okay that it's not even on the same continent. Cersei is not a bitch for invoking her human right to deny her consent. And Jaime is not a lovable rogue for raping her.


Just absolutely the hell no.

And all of this is just more fuel to the fire of the fact that the Game of Thrones television show has a really big problem. They keep using sex and violence and sexualized violence to "spice it up". Well, here's a newsflash guys. This story doesn't need spicing up, and all you're doing is contributing to a culture that suggests that a woman, simply by existing in a space, is asking to be raped.

I hope you hear Cersei's screams while you try to sleep tonight, writers. And I hope they never leave your ears.

Cleanse your palate with some Khaleesi.


  1. Thank you for this. My personal problem with the scene was not so much the scene itself (though it was disturbing) but the gross implications and the complete derailment of character, not to mention the reactions of the actors, writers, and director. To add insult to injury, I am a person who would have proudly ranked Jaime amongst my favourite characters, but it's much harder to do that now, outside of the context of the book.

    1. Oh man - the reactions of everyone involved really make me uncomfortable. Like, how can they not see it? And I was definitely digging the Jaime redemption arc up until this point. Now that this has happened, but they're leaving his arc as is, that bothers me sooooo much.

    2. They're treating it as if it never happened, which is ugh. Especially since he saved Brienne from being raped last season (and, you know, killed and eaten by a bear). The dissonance is just too much. This is by and large my favourite blog on the internet by the way.

    3. I can't even fathom the cognitive dissonance it takes to write this story arc. Blargh. Also, thank you so much! :D

  2. Having seen it now...

    [Tommen] gets a rousing speech about what makes a good king from his grandfather, Tywin, while standing over his brother's corpse, and as grody and intense as the scene is, it actually made me like both characters more.

    It's weird to think of this as Tywin's best moment, but in a lot of ways it is. I like the way he greets each of Tommen's answers with affirmation - because they were good answers - but then gives examples of how they're not enough, to guide Tommen to the actual right answer. It's one of the very few moments that he shows care for his actual family over his theoretical one. It was good teaching.

    The writers can prevaricate all they want, saying it's not really rape, but it totally is.

    I have to note, I can't remember seeing anything from Lena Headey about how it totally wasn't a rape scene. Only the men involved in it.

    1. Oh gosh yes. Like the moment we realize, oh, Tywin could have been a great parent, if he weren't so busy being a jerk. And it's really interesting to see Tommen's potential spelled out for us. It's quite likely that this kid is going to be another casualty of war and turmoil, and for once that's hard to take because he actually would make a good king if people let him.

      I haven't seen anything from Lena Headey on the subject, and I feel like they might have very intentionally been keeping her mum so she tows the party line.