Recap: With One Brutal Scene, Game Of Thrones Betrayed Every Viewer’s Loyalty
"Cheap", "exploitative" and "repulsive" are the appropriate keywords. [spoilers].
This is a recap of the most recent episode of Game of Thrones. Spoiler alert.
Daenerys Targaryen adopts the same PR strategy as the Howard government. By flinging barrels of empty slave collars into the city, she’s pitching herself not to the masters of Meereen but to the hearts and minds of their human chattels.
Oh, and Daario Naharis has swiftly dispatched the city’s champion and his poor dumb horse. Of all the men who’ve chosen to link their destinies to Daenerys — Grey Worm, Ser Barristan, and desperate, lovestruck Ser Jorah Mormont — Daario may find himself chained a little closer now.
This episode was about the perils of loyalty. We saw people yanking on the chains of old allegiances, or caring too much to unchain themselves. New loyalties look uncertain too, like the alliance between Houses Tyrell and Lannister, and Tywin Lannister’s tantalising offer of vengeance to Prince Oberyn Martell. Have Margaery and Oberyn imprisoned themselves in chains of their own forging?
And then there’s the chain around Sansa’s neck. That heirloom necklace was not, after all, a token of Ser Dontos’s loyalty (welcome to the desert of the real, Slavoj Žižek), but part of a plot concocted by the devious Lord Petyr Baelish, whose accent seems especially thick with lilting evil right now.
This, let’s not forget, is the guy who sees Sansa as Catelyn 2.0 — her mum being the only woman Littlefinger ever loved. He’s been creeping on Sansa since Season One. I love how in one breath he can remind her that in King’s Landing, everyone’s a liar, and then in the next tell her, “You’re safe with me, sailing home.”
You’d think Stannis Baratheon would be thrilled by Joffrey’s death, but no — he berates his lieutenant Ser Davos for freeing Gendry last season. Who knows how many more deadly leeches Melisandre could have barbecued with Gendry’s bastard blood?
As things stand, Davos can’t even collect enough soldiers to raid a pantry! It’s enough to make an Onion Knight cry, but instead Davos has a brainwave — he’ll cut off the crown’s line of credit from the Iron Bank of Braavos. Take a letter, Shireen…
The grim co-dependence of Davos and his mean boss is an intriguing mirror to everyone’s favourite miserable vaudeville duo, Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane. Just as Stannis seemingly has no other purpose in life than joylessly striving for the Iron Throne, the Hound doesn’t really know what to do now he’s off the leash (certainly not farming.) And just like Davos, Arya is struggling to be the moral conscience for her casually cruel fellow traveller. Will she succumb to pragmatism, as Davos has?
The men of the Night’s Watch share a fraternal bond, but they’re not the kind of brothers you can trust. Only Jon Snow seems to have any sensible ideas about handling the impending wildling invasion… and returning beyond the Wall to mop up the traitors at Craster’s Keep is not even that sensible.
Sam and Gilly’s bond grows fragile now that they’re back at Castle Black. Gilly makes Sam feel heroic, like the warrior he’s always failed to be. He saved her from the carnage at Craster’s Keep, and she saw him ice that White Walker with the dragonstone dagger — a feat for which he should rightly be celebrated, but which only earned him the mocking nickname ‘Sam the Slayer’ among his disbelieving brethren.
But Sam wants to be Gilly’s only hero, although he can’t quite bring himself to say as much to her. His paternalistic decision to exile her to that gross northern brothel (did you catch the shot of someone rinsing out a condom?) is a weird attempt to stay loyal to her, and ensure she’s loyal to him. But ironically, she perceives it as a betrayal.
I have to say I don’t find the question of who killed Joffrey very interesting, but then I am not in a cell awaiting trial for the crime. Things are looking pretty bad for Tyrion at the moment, but he’s still playing a kind of incarcerated Sherlock Holmes, with Podrick as his Watson. “There has never lived a more loyal squire,” Tyrion says, realising even his sternest voice won’t persuade Pod to testify against him.
I think Tommen has the makings of a good king. For a start, he’s not a complete psychopath. (Urgent question: will we soon be introduced to Tommen’s three kittens, Boots, Lady Whiskers and Ser Pounce?) He also earns Lord Tywin’s approval by agreeing that wisdom means listening to your grandfather’s counsel, even on… intimate matters. Oh gods, the gruesome prospect of Sex Ed with Tywin Lannister!
And so to this week’s biggest betrayal of loyalty: Jaime Lannister’s rape of his sister beside their son’s corpse. It’s already think pieces at fifty paces, but let me reiterate that in the novel, this sex scene was consensual — albeit narrated from Jaime’s point of view.
For perhaps the first time, I felt sympathy for Cersei. And it’s repulsive that my sympathy was bought with her bodily violation. Sketching power dynamics and communicating ideas of tragedy and trauma should not require sexual violence against women, especially as Game of Thrones has spent an entire season taking Jaime on a complex moral journey that this scene has now completely disavowed.
“Why have the gods made me love a hateful woman?” Jaime snarls, all because she flinched at the touch of his golden hand. And, like the hand, it feels so artificial. I began this recap with a song; here’s another.
And if you don’t love me now
You will never love me again
I can still hear you saying
You would never break the chain
Game of Thrones has been criticised for its sexploitative elements — I mean, this week’s episode featured the tip of a guy’s dick and an extreme closeup of a woman’s arse. But this scene didn’t only dramatise the final breaking of the chain that binds the Lannister twins; it betrayed viewers’ loyalty to story and character, and it fettered my heart.
Game of Thrones airs on Showcase at 3.30pm on Mondays, fast-tracked from the US.
Mel Campbell is a freelance journalist and cultural critic, and author of the book Out of Shape: Debunking Myths about Fashion and Fit. She blogs on style, history and culture at Footpath Zeitgeist and tweets at @incrediblemelk.
Follow her Game of Thrones recaps here.