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Monday, April 21, 2014

Game of Thrones Recap: "Not Cool, HBO" Edition

Posted by Joe Streckert on Mon, Apr 21, 2014 at 11:14 AM

Game of Thrones pissed me off last night, and not in a “they killed a character I like” sort of way. I highly enjoy this show, but last night it crossed an unacceptable line. Ideally, these recaps would just be me bloviating about dragons and fake politics, and not musing about sexual assault.

There's a recap after the jump. There's also a long rant about rape.

Things are about to get heavy. To lighten the mood somewhat, heres a picture of Tormund Giantsbane running like a dork.
  • Things are about to get heavy. To lighten the mood somewhat, here's a picture of Tormund Giantsbane running like a dork.

Before getting into the frivolous business of recapping a TV show, we need to talk about that one scene.

Jaime, left alone in the sept with only Cersei and the body of their son, raped his sister.

Depicting rape and sexual assault can be done well. Showing it on screen can serve a larger story. Here, though, that does not seem to be the case. Cersei is a generally unlikable character whom we’re supposed to root against or, at the very least, feel a certain degree of pity for. Jaime, despite being a guy who attempted to murder a child in the first episode, is mostly portrayed as a sympathetic character.

During last night’s episode I was slightly unsettled thinking about all of the terrible, misogynistic male fans that a show like Game of Thrones will inevitably have feeling some kind of terrible, scumbag joy at seeing an unlikable woman get raped. Depicting sexual assault in way in a way that could be construed as “deserving” on the part of the victim is not, I think, a responsible thing to do.

And, I know what you’re going to say, hypothetical person who’s reading this and disagreeing. “What’s your problem, this show has murder,” and “people get raped in the books all the time” and “it might have been consensual.” Strawman reader, here are my issues with those points:

-For the most part, our society has agreed that lopping people’s heads off with swords is not done. Murdering someone with a medieval weaponry is, nowadays, a transparently unacceptable. No one tries to justify it in real life. However, plenty of people try to justify the type of rape that was depicted on Game of Thrones last night. Jaime’s line “Why did the gods make me love a hateful woman?” pretty clearly illustrates that he’s acting out his hatred for a given woman in a sexual manner. People do that in real life. They fantasize about it. They try to justify it. They try to excuse it. I seriously doubt that watching violence on TV inspires people to actually murder. However, watching shit like this can add fuel to the fire for people who already hate women.

-Yes, people get raped in the books all the time, but it mostly happens off screen and is used to illustrate the horrors of war. GRRM mentions rape in the same breath that he mentions rotting corpses and crow-pecked bones. In that context, it is specifically presented as horrific. This scene was too much about a nasty character getting a perceived comeuppance. No one has it coming. Not even Cersei.

-Cersei said “no.” In fact, she said it multiple times. That means it wasn’t consensual, and therefore rape, which, again, no one deserves to have happen to them.

I am (obviously) a pretty big Game of Thrones fan, and I hope that the show deals with this in a deft or interesting way. I hope that it recovers because, damn do I enjoy TV filled with battles and dragons. I have my doubts, though. I suspect that the incident will just be swept under the rug. Jaime and Cersei will glare at each other. Cersei will continue to be unreasonable and unlikable. Jaime will continue to develop. We, the viewer, will be expected to empathize with a rapist.

Ugh.

On to the rest of the episode.

Of course Littlefinger is involved with Joffrey’s death. Sansa got spirited away to a boat at the beginning of last night’s episode, where she found none other than Lord Baelish, one of Westeros’ premier schemers. He said to Sansa “We’re stronger than you know,” making it quite clear that a large, systematic conspiracy is at work in Westeros. A conspiracy which very obviously includes:

The always fabulous Queen of Thorns. Margaery seems more put out that Joffrey’s dead, rather than in actual mourning. Her grandmother, Olenna didn’t so much console her, as she assured her that Joffrey’s murder was all for the best. “You may not have enjoyed watching him die, but you enjoyed it more than you would have being married to him,” she said, and added that her next husband “should be easier.” Between this and Littlefinger’s dialogue, it’s now highly clear that the Lannisters are no longer calling all of the shots. Lord Tywin is not as in control as he thinks he is.

Tommen exists now. Did you remember that there’s another Lannister kid? Of course not. No one does. But, his brother is dead and he’s king now, so Tommen’s suddenly relevant.

Tommen is a naïve child who wants to be a good king, and received a basic lesson in politics from his Grandfather Tywin. With examples from Westrosi history, Tywin assured his malleable puppet that it wasn’t holiness, it wasn’t justice, and it wasn’t strength that made for a good king. It was wisdom. More specifically, the wisdom a king displays when he listens to his advisors. Advisors like Lord Tywin, for instance.

This little pep talk is happening over Joffrey’s corpse, which is weird.

Tywin, ever the practical politician, quickly discards Joffrey and immediately starts working on his next puppet king. Starts giving Tommen the talk about where babies come from. “It’s all very straightforward,” he says, as they walk out of the sept.

And then that scene happens. UGH.

Just in case you were starting to like the Hound, here’s a little reminder that he’s still an asshole. Arya and the Hound found a farmer, stayed at his place, and then the Hound stole the guy’s silver, justifying it by saying that the farmer and his daughter wouldn’t live through the winter. People in this show are terrible.

Meanwhile, up North. Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch talked about the Wildling threat. Yawn. Sam and Gilly had a spat and he tried to get Gilly hired as a housekeeper in a brothel. Yawn.

Why the fuck does anyone live up North? Seriously, people. It does not seem to have a lot to offer.

Hi, again, Stannis’ giant Westeros Risk board! I really like Stannis’ big map table. I kind of want furniture like that. Stannis brooded about Joffrey’s death and not having sufficient forces to march on Westeros proper. Just a thought, Stannis, but maybe you’d have more people flocking to your banner if you didn’t, you know, burn people alive. Just a thought.

Davos had a touching scene with Shireen, Stannis’ daughter. Both the young girl and the old smuggler have to live in the shadow of a hard, imperious man, and it was nice to see the two of them share some common ground. Davos’ line about how “if you’re a famous smuggler, you’re not doing it right” was clever, and he quickly started dictating a letter to the Iron Bank of Braavos, the institution from which Littlefinger (and therefore the Lannisters) have heavily borrowed. International financial shenanigans!

Look, a foursome! No wait. It’s a fivesome. Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand were enjoying themselves in a brothel with some ladies and a dude when, suddenly, Tywin showed up to spoil the sex party. Because Tywin is the kind of person who just interrupts your pansexual orgy instead of, you know, waiting until people have pants.

Tywin wants Oberyn to be a judge at Tyrion’s trial and serve on Tommen’s small council, despite the fact that Houses Lannister and Martell do not like each other. Oberyn wants vengeance for the death of his sister. Tywin wants to keep his enemies close. I’m sure that this will all turn out great for everyone.

Detective Tyrion is on the case! One of the better scenes in last night’s episode was watching Tyrion, in his jail cell, attempting to puzzle out who could have killed Joffrey while talking to Pod. The scene played out very much like a detective musing about a murder to a sidekick, and ended with everyone’s favorite dwarf sending Pod on his way. Tyrion refused to have Pod stay in King’s Landing to testify or advocate for him in any form or fashion. “There has never lived a more loyal squire,” he said. AWWWWW!

Oh, and Bronn’s under investigation. I hope the show finds something interesting to do with him. He’s become far too good a character to just fade away.

Just in case you were starting to like the Wildlings, here’s a little reminder that they’re still assholes. The Wildlings raided a village with the aid of the cannibalistic Thenns. They arrow-ed a guy and then a Thenn said to a kid “Open your eyes. I am going to eat them.” This has been your little reminder that the Wildlings are not, in fact, lovable ice hippies. They are dicks. Dicks who ally with cannibals and arrow people.

And finally, a literal pissing contest. Daenerys and company rode up to Meereen, aka Fantasy Babylon in an effort to free its sizable slave population. In response to their presence, Meereen sent out a single rider to mock them with insults and urine. He yelled at them, insulted them, and peed in their general direction. We got to see his penis. Peeing. A penis that had pee coming out of it. It’s not TV, it’s HBO.

Daario, powered by balls and insanity, took down the rider after knifing the guy’s horse in the face and then slicing his head off. Then Daario peed in the general direction of Meereen. “Men are weird,” said a female member of my viewing party.

Dany gave a speech to the slaves of Meereen, appealing to them to overthrow their masters. Catapults with shots full of broken chains and slave collars hit the wall, and that was a neat bit of propaganda. The episode ended with a slave looking maliciously at his master.

You know what that means, though? Next week, Meereen will be free. The battle and liberation will happen off screen. That’s a whole bunch of action sequences HBO won’t have to pay for.

Everything is terrible. If you’ve read to the end of this, thanks for bearing with me. See you next week.

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