Nov 21, 2019
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.
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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?
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.