Viewers of the popular HBO drama Game of Thrones have seen a lot. From graphic beheadings to a pregnant woman getting stabbed in the belly to a man getting castrated to your favorite characters getting killed off; the series simply isn't afraid to go there.
However, even for a show that clearly doesn't pay mind to crossing the proverbial line, last night's episode Breaker of Chains, may have contained the most disturbing scene yet of the entire series.
Many spectators probably thought that Game of Thrones would experience some sort of comedown after last week's surprising murder of King Joffrey in the episode called Purple Wedding. However, the writers clearly aren't interested in letting the audience take a breath.
For all the hateful vengeance held in Cersei's (Lena Headey) heart, she is certainly taking the death of her son extremely hard. As she is keeping vigil next to his body, her brother (and lover who is also Joffrey's biological father), Jaimie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) arrives and asks to be alone with his sister.
Since Jaimie's return after a long absence, he and Cersei have become estranged. She considers him half a man without the benefit of his right hand, and he is still madly in love with her despite how cruel she treats him. Jaimie and Cersei have a moment while they mourn their son together. They begin to kiss. However, when Jaimie's cold metal hand touches Cersei's face, she recoils and tries to push him away.
But Jaimie doesn't stop his advance. She begs him. She tells him no. There are times when she seems to give in, to want to make love, but she never stops pleading with him to stop. Jaimie ends up raping Cersei, right at the base of their dead son's grave.
It is a haunting and chilling scene, powerful enough for viewers to find a speck of sympathy for Cersei, a character who is so diabolical that she barely seems human.
"Game of Thrones" recap: One of the meanest episodes in the show's history http://t.co/2pBqIwNHx4
— The New York Times (@nytimes) April 21, 2014
Did Game Of Thrones Finally Go Too Far? http://t.co/qvNqeoMBar
— io9 (@io9) April 21, 2014
I'm gonna go ahead and assume Game of Thrones was the first show to have a brother rape his sister next to their dead son's corpse.
— King Joffrey (@King_Joffrey_) April 21, 2014
Alex Graves, who directed the episode, sat down for an interview with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss the incest-rape scene. He said, "The whole thing for me was about dead Joffrey lying there, watching the whole thing. I wanted to make sure I had Jack in there as much as I could. Of course Lena and Nikolaj laughed every time I would say, 'You grab her by the hair, and Jack is right there,' or 'You come around this way and Jack is right there.' "
Graves discussed the importance of Joffrey's presence in the scene, "He is their first born. He is their sin. He is their lust, and their love -- their everything. If he's gone, what's going to happen?"
Viewers spent much of the past three-plus seasons hating the cocky Jaimie Lannister. However last season, when he suddenly became the underdog who was being mistreated and abused, we began to root for him. Now, are we back to hating him again? Can we forgive a character who is so loathsome that he would rape his sister next to their son's grave?
George R.R. Martin's book A Storm of Swords, the source material for the episode, has the same scene between Jaimie and Cersei. The major difference is that in the book, the sex is consensual.
Here’s an excerpt:
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.” She kissed his ear and stroked his short bristly hair. Jaime lost himself in her flesh. He could feel Cersei’s heart beating in time with his own, and the wetness of blood and seed where they were joined.
We don't know why the writers chose to change that particular aspect of the book. Of course, there have been many alterations in the adaptation process. But the narrative turn to go from consensual sex to rape is an interesting one that has some viewers feeling turned off and many others feeling confused.
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