This post contains SPOILERS for all aired episodes of Game of Thrones, including last night’s Season 4, episode 3, “Breaker of Chains.” Enjoy!
If you'd told me before Episode 4.03 of Game of Thrones that neither Littlefinger re-enacting the plot of Lolita with Sansa nor a wildling telling a little boy that his mama and papa are about to be the main entree in a cannibal feast would be the most disturbing thing I would watch last night, I would definitely not have believed you!
We open in the immediate aftermath of Joffrey's death; after Dontos the Fool gets Sansa away from the disastrous Tyrell-Baratheon wedding, he delivers her to a rowboat, and from there to a ship shrouded in fog and creepiness, where we learn that Littlefinger knew that Joffrey would die, since he sent Dontos for Sansa. He proves that Dontos was only in it for the gold he'd get, since Littlefinger provided the family heirloom (the necklace) that Dontos gave Sansa. Now Pedofinger has Sansa all to himself because she too is in danger of her life for being unwittingly involved in the murder. Poor Sansa! I bet she never thought she’d look back to the good old days when Joffrey was showing her Ned’s head, huh? Littlefinger ties up a loose end by having someone shoot Dontos, because “Money buys a man's silence for a time, a bolt in the heart buys it forever.“
Meanwhile, Sansa’s sister Arya is still traveling with the Hound, when they encounter a farmer and his little daughter who makes a mean rabbit stew. Arya manages to get them in for a meal without any bloodshed, and the farmer even offers the Hound a job protecting him, his land, and his little daughter from marauding Freys. For a moment, it looks like the Hound will take the man up on his offer, but after finding out the farmer has a stash of silver coins, instead, the Hound hits the guy on the head and steals his money. When Arya yells at him about that, Sandor tells Arya that the farmer and his daughter will be dead before the winter. Which is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, really. Arya calls Sandor the biggest shit in the Seven Kingdoms (highly debatable, considering other things that happened in this episode) but follows him anyway.
In King’s Landing, Olenna and Margaery have a little conversation about Margaery’s bad luck in staying married. (To paraphrase Lady Bracknell, to lose one husband may be regarded as bad luck, but to lose two smacks of carelessness. Or else the fact that your grandmother is a poisoner.) Margaery really wanted to be Queen, but Olenna reminds her that the Lannisters really need this alliance, and hey, there is actually another Lannister-Baratheon King who is not married, and it’s not like it would be hard for Margaery to move on from Joffrey.
Tywin has also moved on from Joffrey, telling Tommen in front of Cersei (and Joffrey’s corpse) that Joffrey was a terrible king; poor Cersei is alone in actually mourning her dead kid. (He was a horrible kid, of course, but still hers and so this is surprisingly sad.) Tommen (recast from Season 2‘s Tommen) is really cute, and surprisingly knowledgeable about things like piety and justice. It’s weird to think he’s Jaime’s and Cersei’s kid, to be honest. Tywin takes Tommen away for a little bit more instruction about married life. I smell another wedding in the offing. At least poor Tommen doesn’t seem malicious enough to earn a date with a poisoned necklace, eh?
As Tommen is leaving, Jaime enters the Sept, dismissing the various attendants, and now Cersei’s day goes from horrible to even more horrible. At first, it seems like Jaime has come to comfort her in her grief for their son (Jaime himself seems conspicuously not grief-stricken at all); then Cersei urges Jaime to kill Tyrion, whom she blames for Joffrey’s death. Jaime urges her to wait for the trial, but Cersei is adamant, and Jaime eventually tells her that she’s “hateful” and that the gods cursed him to love a hateful woman. Nice way to abdicate your responsibility there, Kingslayer!
And now I need to say something about that scene. You know, the one where Jaime Lannister rapes his sister/lover next to the body of their dead incest-child. I’ve been a huge Jaime Lannister fan for a dozen years, since I first read A Storm of Swords, and although I normally don’t like to compare the books to the show, in this instance, I feel I need to make it clear that I haven’t been the fan of a rapist all this time.
One thing about Book!Jaime is that, while he’s not a good man by any stretch of the imagination (I think throwing a kid out of a window pretty much sets the seal on his not-goodness), he is also almost unique amongst the men of Westeros in feeling pity and empathy for rape victims. There are at least a couple of other characters who punish rapists harshly, whether by execution or castration (in contrast to, say, Tywin Lannister who is perfectly happy to use rape/rapists like Gregor Clegane as tools to control his son or the hostile territory); but only Sam Tarly (with Gilly) and Jaime Lannister (with his sister, with Aerys’s unfortunate Queen Rhaella, with Pia, a character who’s been excised from the show, and with Brienne, of course) actually don't blame the victims of rape for bringing it on themselves and feel pity and compassion for them. It's a low bar, but one that almost every other nobleman in Westeros doesn't pass.
In Jaime’s case, this empathy is possible because of his life-long bond with his twin sister; Jaime really has walked a mile in a woman’s shoes (he and Cersei exchanged clothes when they were younger, after all) and it makes all the difference in the world (which is why some of us were upset that in last season’s arc, they didn’t include Jaime’s line to Brienne that if he were a woman, he’d be Cersei and instead had him talk about crying like a “bloody woman”). In the books, rape is a particular form of villainy that Jaime Lannister, twincestuous Kingslayer and child-murderer though he is, abhors, which is why it’s a shame that the show decided that he should “punish” Cersei in this way for rejecting him, and for asking him to kill Tyrion.
While it’s true that there is a scene in the books in which Jaime and Cersei have sex on an altar next to the body of their dead son, and it is also exceedingly disturbing (altar, corpse, etc.), it doesn’t play out in the same way that it did on the show.
First of all, in the books, Jaime and Brienne return after Joffrey’s death, so this scene occurs immediately following Jaime's arrival in King's Landing. Neither he nor Cersei have seen each other for over a year, and in the interim, they’ve undergone much grief, fear and humiliation, and each endured this alone, without the comfort of his/her twin. When the scene takes place, Jaime and Cersei have each suffered a recent and devastating loss (Jaime lost his hand; Cersei lost her son—in the books, Jaime thinks he’d gladly trade Joffrey for a new hand. Heh!) Since Cersei is just seeing Jaime again, she hasn't rejected his attempts to renew their relationship or scorned his stump for weeks before Joffrey's death. And most importantly, though Cersei initially starts out reluctant to have sex given the setting (altar, dead body of incest baby), she subsequently consents, and is even enthusiastic about having Jaime back.
“You shall,“ Cersei promised. ”There's to be a trial. When you hear all he [Tyrion] did, you'll want him dead as much as I do.“ She touched his face. ”I was lost without you, Jaime. I was afraid the Starks would send me your head. I could not have borne that.“ She kissed him. A light kiss, the merest brush of her lips on his, but he could feel her tremble as he slid his arms around her. ”I am not whole without you.“
There was no tenderness in the kiss he returned to her, only hunger. Her mouth opened for his tongue. ”No,“ she said weakly when his lips moved down her neck, ”not here. The septons . . . “
”The Others can take the septons.“ He kissed her again, kissed her silent, kissed her until she moaned. Then he knocked the candles aside and lifted her up onto the Mother's altar, pushing up her skirts and the silken shift beneath. She pounded on his chest with feeble fists, murmuring about the risk, the danger, about their father, about the septons, about the wrath of gods. He never heard her. He undid his breeches and climbed up and pushed her bare white legs apart. One hand slid up her thigh and underneath her smallclothes. When he tore them away, he saw that her moon's blood was on her, but it made no difference.
”Hurry,“ she was whispering now, ”quickly, quickly, now, do it now, do me now. Jaime Jaime Jaime.“ Her hands helped guide him. ”Yes,“ Cersei said as he thrust, ”my brother, sweet brother, yes, like that, yes, I have you, you're home now, you're home now, you're home.”
Even if we accept that this is all narrated from Jaime’s point of view and maybe he just wants to believe that she still wants him so much, we are later given Cersei’s POV and she never once thinks that Jaime raped her, though she frequently remembers Robert forcing himself on her. So I think, on balance, that the book version of the scene is not a rape, but rather a discomfiting, unsettling scene because it shows just how ugly and twisted Jaime’s and Cersei’s relationship really is and how, despite their physical connection in the moment, they no longer have an emotional connection. And frankly, I’m completely at a loss to understand why, if the show wants us to care about Jaime at all, they eliminated the final paragraph I quoted to make it clearer that this is not completely against Cersei’s will.
Last week, I was happy to watch Brienne admit (if only with her eyes) that she loved Jaime; after this week, I just want to warn her away from him. The man she loves doesn’t exist any more, and that makes me so sad and disappointed and worried for Brienne. And I’m still puzzled about why it was so important to trash all the hard-won toleration for Jaime that some people developed last season in order to ... add more disturbing sex scenes to this show?
Okay, so now back to the actual happenings of the episode: also in King’s Landing, at Littlefinger’s brothel (which seems to run itself) Oberyn and Ellaria have the orgy that was interrupted in Episode 1 (because again, what this show needed was surely more faux-lesbian makeout scenes and bare breasts). All I got from this scene was that Oberyn likes men and women, which, fair enough, but we could have done that with a lot less “purely for titillation” moments. The orgy is (again!) interrupted by a Lannister (no wonder Oberyn hates them so much!) This time it’s Tywin, who’s come to ask Oberyn to serve as the third judge at Tyrion’s trial (the other two are Mace Tyrell and Tywin himself. Things aren’t looking good for Tyrion, are they?) Tywin makes nice with Oberyn, disclaiming responsibility for the deaths of Oberyn’s sister Elia and her children during the sack of King’s Landing, throwing the blame squarely on Sandor’s brother Gregor Clegane.
Meanwhile, Tyrion languishes in prison, where Pod is apparently his only friend. Shae and Sansa are both MIA and Bronn has been banned from seeing Tyrion at all. When Pod tells Tyrion that someone tried to bribe him with a knighthood to sell out Tyrion, Tyrion realizes that Pod’s loyalty and sweetness are very present dangers to his life, and urges him to get out of King’s Landing and save himself. Awww, poor Pod! Tyrion also urges Pod to get Jaime into see him, but I guess Jaime is too busy raping his sister to visit his brother in prison.
Up at Castle Black, poor Sam is also worried about the potential of his Night’s Watch brethren, a shifty lot at best, raping poor Gilly. They have a number of interminable scenes (or maybe it was just one interminable scene) in which Sam says he’s worried and wants to protect Gilly and Gilly says that he just wants to get rid of her. I love Sam, but really, this just all went on for far, far too long! Sam’s solution to the problem of unwanted sexual advances towards Gilly is to stick her in a whorehouse in Mole’s Town, where clearly no one believes she’s just there to clean and cook. Nice going, Sam!
Elsewhere in the North, a peaceful village is attacked by Ygritte, Tormund, and the cannibal Thenns, who have decided that they need to earn their “wildling” title. The Magnar of Thenn tells one little boy that he should go to Castle Black and report on the attack that took his parents’ lives before settling into a feast of stringy villager. I really hate that guy! Alliser Thorne, who seems to be the de facto Lord Commander, figures out that this is a ruse by the Wildlings to get the Night’s Watch to split up and try to defend these villages, and he and Maester Aemon remind everyone the Night's Watch has one job: protecting the Wall. (Protecting the villages is kind of the job of the lords of the lands, in this case, probably the Starks, so thanks for taking them out of the equation, Theon Greyjoy, Roose Bolton and Walder Frey!)
Not long afterwards, Grenn and Dolorous Edd finally make it back from Craster’s to report on the mutineers’ activities there. Jon Snow points out that the only thing keeping Mance from attacking immediately is that he lied and said there were 1000 men at Castle Black. The mutineers will immediately disclose this lie to Mance, and therefore need to be dealt with. I sense an expedition to deal with them. I wonder who will lead it and if he has black curly hair. Hmmm!
On Dragonstone, Stannis is still sitting around looking forlorn. Although he’s excited that the leech magic worked on Robb and Joffrey (look out, Balon Greyjoy!) he’s also miffed that he can’t take advantage of the chaos in King’s Landing to take the Iron Throne. Davos tries to wow Stannis with all the houses he’s won to Stannis’s causes, but that only makes Stannis gloomier (but also hilariously sarcastic.) He huffs that he doesn’t have enough of an army to crash a party, let alone take the Iron Throne and that Davos’s suggestion of hiring sellswords won’t work because the key part of “sellsword” is “sell” and Stannis has no money to buy.
Davos goes off for another reading lesson with Shireen (can I just say again how much I love Shireen on the show? She’s kind of a non-entity to me in the books, but Kerry Ingram is just delightful onscreen!) Shireen is a harsh taskmistress, who gives Davos a long book about the adventures of some dude from Braavos, and *LIGHTBULB!* Davos proves why he’s a valuable Hand for Stannis by having Shireen write a letter to the Iron Bank of Braavos purportedly from her father. I think I’m officially on Team Davos and Shireen at this point. (I like Stannis, but the whole “burning people alive because your sorceress/shadowbaby mama told you to” thing is a barrier to my support for his kingship.)
Meanwhile, the One True Queen of Westeros (or at least the one who has the dragons) has finally reached Meereen, which looks like the biggest and most powerful of the slave cities we’ve seen so far. The city sends out a champion to challenge Dany’s champion, and he gets all insulting about Dany’s army of eunuchs and pees in her general direction to show his manhood is unaffected. Wouldn’t it actually be more effective to maybe put poison on that long lance of his and try and scratch Dany with it or something? (The Tyrells can always start up a consulting firm on how to get away with murder!) I guess the Meereenese never got a chance to talk to Kraznys from Astapor about the efficacy of insulting Dany (probably because her dragon burnt Kraznys to a Krisp) and they think their champion is absolutely hilarious.
Grey Worm, Barristan and Jorah all beg Dany for the honor of killing Meereen’s champion, but she tells them all they’re too valuable to her. Which leaves Daario, who is totally cool, collected and handsome! (I really like Nu!Daario) He takes down the Meereenese champion and then Dany addresses a speech to the slaves of Meereen, promising them that she is not their enemy but only the enemy of their masters. To show that she means what she says, she has her army fire catapults with wooden barrels over the city walls. As they break open, I wonder if Dany’s invented the concept of shrapnel, but in fact, the barrels are full of the slave collars from the former slaves of Yunkai and Astapor. One of the Meereenese slaves picks up a broken collar and looks at it with wonder in his eyes. Hmm, I think Dany might just have gotten herself another city.
Next week on Game of Thrones, your recapper hopes there will be 100% less rape and 100% more awesome Dany moments. Or Jon moments. Or Arya moments. Or really, ANYONE’S moments so long as they don’t involve ... y’know ...
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current tv shows, and a hopeless romantic.