Game of Thrones “Oathkeeper”

Well, don’t I feel like an ass now?

A week ago, I wrote a piece about that controversial scene from the Game of Thrones episode “Breaker of Chains”, in which Jaime Lannister angrily raped his sister/lover Cersei next to the corpse of their dead son (in a church, no less). I wrote about how I thought those calling this an out of character moment for Jaime perhaps had rather selective memories.

To me, the show was very clearly heralding the return of amoral season one Jaime, as a way of bringing his character full circle. It made perfect sense to me, confirming Jaime’s character as being defined by a cycle: he attempts to be a good person, has his efforts blow up in his face, and responds with bad behavior. I thought I knew exactly where they were going with this.

Then I watched the next episode. I totally did not know where they were going with this.

The article continues after this advertisement...

Nothing has changed. Nothing. The rape of Cersei has had absolutely no perceivable effect on the characters involved whatsoever. The following episode “Oathkeeper” is heavily Jaime-centric, and not a single scene has even a wisp of the previous episode hovering over it.

Cersei is exactly as cold and demanding of Jaime as she was before he raped her. Jaime is just as sheepish and whipped around her as he was before. And Jaime falls right back into his redemption arc as if nothing had happened. He’s still close to his brother Tyrion and standing up for his innocence. He’s still BFFs with Brienne, who he sends to find and protect Sansa Stark as a way to keep his promise to Catelyn Stark, who isn’t even alive anymore.

Jaime even gives Brienne a valuable sword which she names “Oathkeeper” in his honor, a reference to his reputation as an “Oathbreaker”. Jaime hasn’t gone back to being the “I don’t give a shit about anything or anyone” guy we knew in the first two seasons, the one who went through hell and at his lowest point slowly began to hope to regain his honor. His arc hasn’t circled back on itself, it’s just kept going. They could have cut the rape scene from last week’s episode entirely and it wouldn’t have changed a thing.

What in the Seven Bloody Hells in wrong with you, Game of Thrones?

Game of Thrones "Oathkeeper"

In retrospect, I might have seen this coming. I chose not to address this in my previous article, because it seemed somewhat irrelevant at the time, but in the original book (which I haven’t read), the sex scene in question was consensual. Kind of. Based on the snippet from the book passing around the internet, the scene is still kind of rapey, which to me is actually worse.

Instead of an uncompromising horrifying rape scene, the book gave us Cersei initially putting up a fight before giving in. Call me crazy, but I find myself less offended by an honest, transparent rape scene than by a no-means-yes “consensual” one. Nonetheless, the TV version (in contrast to the book) was very obviously overt rape, so surely this meant they were taking Jaime and Cersei in a different direction than whatever happened in the book, right?

Apparently not. Alex Graves, the director of “Breaker of Chains”, said in an interview that to him, the scene “becomes consensual by the end, because anything for [Jaime and Cersei] ultimately results in a turn-on.”

For context, this is the scene he’s describing in its entirety. You have a very scary definition of “consensual”, Mr. Graves.

Now, some of you might argue that authorial intent matters more than audience interpretation, and if the director says it’s not a rape scene, then it’s not a rape scene. I can’t support that. Authorial intent is not God. How viewers translate your film matters just as much, if not more, than what you intended, and if they misinterpret your meaning, there’s a good chance that’s your fault, not the audience’s.

If you film a duck and say it’s not a duck, it’s still a fucking duck. No thinking person in their right mind could look at this scene and call it “consensual”. If rape isn’t what you were going for, Mr. Graves, I suggest you go back and try again.

So the blame is partially on me for not seeing this coming. I was aware of Graves’s comments when I wrote my piece on “Breaker of Chains”, and I chose to ignore them. Sure, I was rather disturbed by the fact that a team of professional filmmakers and producers working on one of the most popular and high-profile shows on TV right now somehow shot, edited, and broadcast a rape scene by accident. But I was sure that it was all somehow some colossal miscommunication. Alex Graves is not the showrunner, after all, and the actual showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss described the scene as rape in no uncertain terms. Surely they knew what they were doing, and the episodes to come would provide context to the scene that would make sense.

But apparently that’s not the case. Apparently, Jaime raping Cersei isn’t going to matter to the story in the slightest.

It’s possible, however unlikely, that I’m jumping the gun here. There are still six episodes left in this season, after all. It’s possible that things will happen later in the season that will put everything into perspective. Perhaps this is exactly the reaction the show wanted us to have, and in some way that I can’t possibly conceive of now, it’s going to pay off later, and we’ll see they knew exactly what they were doing the whole time.

But I seriously doubt it. Right now, I feel majorly disappointed that the show would throw something so shocking and game-changing at me and then expect me to immediately forget it. I suppose I’ll have to if I ever want to enjoy Game of Thrones again. The episode is called “Oathkeeper”, and is ironically the first time the show has ever broken its oath, which is that everything that happens on the show actually matters.

TV Show: Game of Thrones

You may also like...

  • Personally I think the whole scene will just be cut out of the DVD release and never mentioned again. My interpretation of the book scene was that Cersei was worried that someone would walk in and see them but just decided ‘fuck it’ pretty quickly, so for me it was one of the most hilariously fucked up things I’d ever read and the show’s version just made me want to break things (namely the writers).

    I reckon that this series of the show will be looked on as a definite low point, especially with the introduction of the stupidly evil Night Watch deserters at Craster’s old place and the show managing to out-stupid-rape-scene Sucker Punch (a tremendous achievement although not one to be proud of). I’m surprised you didn’t mention them actually.

    • Alexa

      At least those were definitively rape scenes, just gratuitously in your face and pointless. Like we get it, these guys are evil and yeah we probably figured they raped Craster’s wives, you don’t have to prove it to us >:P

  • MichaelANovelli

    I haven’t seen the show or read the books, but while I appreciate where you’re coming from, I don’t know that I find “no-means-yes” sex scenes offensive on principle the way you do. After all, the so-called “rape fantasy*” is a pretty common one, at least here in the bondage community. Whether or not that’s what anyone involved was actually going for is anyone’s guess, but I think this is more a failure of execution, rather than concept. I guess we’ll have to wait until they revisit it to find out what her reaction actually was…

    I’m reminded of the controversy that follows The Fountainhead, regarding the initial love scene between Roark and Dominique. Even in the book, Dominique says many times that it was something she wanted to happen, and it’s only ever referred to as rape when Dominique is fantasizing about how shocked everyone would be if she ever told them about it. Context is important.

    *Still, they *really* should find a better name for that. Makes us sound weird…

    • The BDSM term for rape roleplay is consensual-nonconsent. The important thing with any potentially problematic subject matter in fiction is not what it is, but how it’s framed. ‘No-means-yes’ scenes are probably some of the hardest to do well as you have to specifically frame it as erotic but also distinctly differentiate it from actual rape, so that the audience never doubts that both characters are into it before the act even beings. If there is even the slightest idea that one party is initially objecting totally the scene ends up playing into very nasty ideas regarding consent that often form the mindsets of actual rapists (Blurred Lines being a perfect example).

      • MichaelANovelli

        I have never understood why people think Blurred Lines is “rapey.” Yeah, some of the lyrics bear a coincidental resemblance to the song Sex Type Thing, and that’s really dumb, but the actual content of the lyrics never goes goes beyond, “You’re really hot, I want to have sex with you, and I think you should sleep with me because your boyfriend doesn’t own you!” And yet Rick Ross put out a song last year where his character straight up admits to raping someone, and everybody’s just forgotten about it.

        And, thank you for that. I’d somehow never come across that term before. Now, I can seem respectable at dinner parties! ^_^

        • Immortan Scott

          I think the reason why Rick Ross’ song was forgotten about and why Blurred Lines gets called rapey is because the latter was mega hit and still gets radio play while the Rick Ross one wasn’t. I actually had to look up the title of that song (it’s called U.O.E.N.O.).

          • MichaelANovelli

            Just off the top of my head, I can think of at least one big pop hit that was arguably skeevier than Blurred Lines (Give It To You by Jordan Knight), and I don’t remember any big kerfuffle about that. Though, granted, it might be worse only because The Surreal Life showed us proof that Jordan Knight actually WAS as much of a creeper as he sounded like…

        • Thomas Stockel

          Yeah, I honestly never got why Blurred Lines got so much controversy. It’s almost as if it were some sort of campaign designed by the record company to get people to talk about it. Everything from that to the R-rated version of the video came across like some three year old screaming “Look at me!” at his parents. Honestly, I think the song sucks on every level.

  • Alexa

    Let’s just view Breaker of Chains as GoT first ever really bad episode, in terms of what we expect from the show. And yeah a bad episode can happen on any show, hell I don’t care what anyone says there was probably a bad episode on the The Wire, which everyone says is perfect, but I kind of doubt that. It was a major fumble on both the writers and directors parts. But all we can do now is watch the rest of the season and see what it holds. Because even though this is probably going to be viewed as GoT’s weakest season, its still way more engaging and compelling than most shows, even when it shows itself breaking at the seams. But it is a bummer realizing the show that you thought could do no wrong, can and did. Really at this point all we can do is move on.

  • Wizkamridr

    This is one of the many reasons I don’t watch this show or read the books. Some people can handle it because it isn’t real, it’s only acting. Some of us(like myself),feel you can have a mature story w/out the sex/ incest/rape. I’m not knocking fans, I just can’t get into it.

    • Gallen Dugall

      yup, it’s a gimmick either to pad out the story or to titillate the scandal obsessed masses. It doesn’t directly establish villainous characteristics anymore than having the character speaking their intent. I watch the show and roll my eyes at that and the mandatory pointless nudity they shoehorn (often very awkwardly) into every episode.

  • Nesses

    I haven’t seen any of season 4 yet ( I don’t have HBO, so I watch them when they come out on Netflix), but there was a scene in season 3 that I had a very similar reaction to in terms of there being a strong disconnect between what was intended and what was actually shown.

    It was the part where Brianne and Jamie’s captors make camp, and three of the goons drag Brianne off into the bushes to rape her, but Jamie negotiates with their commander to have them bring her back “unspoiled”. Thing is, the way it’s written says that the goons were called back before they were able to do anything. It’s even key to Jamie’s bargain with the commander that she not be raped if he wants to actually collect the promised reward. But the way the scene is staged, shot, acted, and edited plays very, VERY much like she actually was raped. The plot and dialog says she wasn’t, but the scene itself says she was.

    The whole thing had a strongly offputting meta-strangeness to it. Obviously there was a miscommunication or someone dropped the ball, but much like you with this scene, I didn’t understand how anyone could’ve possibly done it by accident.

  • E.Buzz Miller

    Yeah the problem is the makers assumed that that scene wouldn’t come off the way it did to so many people, and going forward with that assumption they took Jaime as being portrayed as such.
    It’s such a sticky situation for them, because they had no idea it seems this would remotely happen.

    • Thomas Stockel

      First, I love your icon. Second, it sadly does not surprise me that television producers at times can be so utterly out of touch and so ridiculously insensitive. :/

  • Dennis Fischer

    The show definitely respects the books, even though it does make small departures from them. I can tell you from the narrative that Jaime and Cersei remain estranged, that they never get back together, so their feelings for each other definitely have changed. I suspect the rape was intended as a motivator–Cersei told Jaime he had taken too long to get back to her, Jaime tried to “force” the issue, so to speak, but continues to be rejected by Cersei afterwards. The experience cements for Cersei her rejection of her brother/lover. However, things aren’t happily ever after for Jaime and Brienne either. Their departure scene is meant as a goodbye–she goes off to keep Jamie’s oath and they are unlikely to see each other for quite some time.
    Jaime is a bastard and has always been–he is, after all, his father’s son. However, by his own lights, he does have some honor in him. The king he killed was mad and deserved to die. He remains sympathetic to the much picked on Tyrion because Tyrion has shared in Tywin’s abuse. Jaime was the only member of wedding retinue who rushed forward to help Joffrey when he fell poisoned–none of the other guests or Kingsguard responded so quickly. But clearly Jaime did not love the horrible Joffrey the way Cersei does, and that Cersei cannot forgive.

    • $36060516

      Please post spoiler warnings before telling us things from the books that aren’t in the show. At this point in the show, we don’t know how Jaime and Cersei’s relationship will turn out, so the second sentence of your post was unwelcome to me.

  • $36060516

    “He’s still BFFs with Brienne, who he sends to find and protect Sansa Stark as a way to keep his promise to Catelyn Stark, who isn’t even alive anymore.”

    I haven’t read the books, so don’t know anything that hasn’t been on the show, but it seemed possible to me that he sends her on this mission with one story about why he’s sending her after Sansa, but is actually using her to find the girl his sister told him to find.