Is Game of Thrones parodying itself? Is it trying to be as offensive as possible to annoy its critics? Because those are the only reasons I can think of why someone would think that some of the scenes in this episode were OK.
What is most disappointing is that Walk of Punishment was generally a gripping, eventful episode. Daenerys traded in a dragon, Theon tried to escape, the Wildlings are attacking the wall, and Jaime lost a hand. The dialogue was on-point, and the scenes were well done, with occasional humor, powerful lines and lots of emotion.
Except, of course, for the brothel scenes. The show has to condense a huge book, with many plot turns and endless characters, into ten to twenty hour-long slots, including developing characters, like Theon, who are actually “off screen” in the books at this point. Time is tight, and there are always characters (like Sansa last season) who get the short end of the development stick as a result. Yet apparently the show does have time for a prolonged brothel scene, where naked women are revealed and paraded around like dogs at a show, before contorting themselves into even more revealing postures to make sure that we got the point. I thought the first two women we saw in this scene where bad enough, but the third woman really pushed the bar for how much a naked actress can be exploited before it officially becomes porn. I thought Game of Thrones had already reached the pinnacle of achievement in this area, but they managed to push things even further! Bravo to them.
This wasn’t even sexposition, because we learned nothing important or even new during these scenes. These women were rewards for Podrick’s loyalty to Tyrion, and they were thrown in almost as if the writers had noticed we hadn’t had any naked women for a while, so they’d better add a bunch in before people lost interest. There was no reason for it, not even a thinly veil of plot. It just… existed. For the fun of it.
Worse was the fact that this all came in an episode that focussed a lot on exploitation and rape. I had to pause the episode to take a breath several times, particularly during scenes with Jaime and Brienne, but those scenes, horrible as they are, were in the books, and they’re part of the narrative. They serve a purpose, in developing characters, and showing the brutality of the world. The scene where Theon was nearly raped seemed unnecessary, but this is a story of Theon going through intense physical and psychological torture. At least he’s a sympathetic character here, and we are on his side against the way he’s being abused and exploited by others. And even in non-sexual terms, the episode raised questions regarding slavery, and the suffering of those dying men that Daenerys saw. It was well told, but very difficult to watch.
And in the middle of all that, we pause the action, the plot, the character development, and the uncomfortable, horrifying exploration of these kinds of exploitation to exploit a few unspeaking female characters. Except not exploit, of course, because they enjoyed it. The three women were so pleased with Podric that they refused to accept his payment. This second, also unnecessary scene seemed like an even greater insult, as though sticking up the middle finger at anyone who finds the brothel scenes inappropriate or troublesome. These women actually enjoyed it, the episode seems to say. They don’t even want to be paid for it! It’s not exploitative. It’s all just good fun!
Except that “good” would be telling a dark, serious, complicated story without having to throw a few naked actresses in every few scenes. It would be exploring sensitive and very real subjects like rape, slavery and exploitation without then assuming that the viewers want to see other, less important female characters being exploited for their own viewing pleasure. It would be assuming that the story can just be a good story, with sex and nudity and the rest of it when necessary, but not just for the heck of it. It would be treating female actors and characters equally to male actors and characters, and not assuming that the whole audience are dudebros who care less about seeing characters evolve and interact, and more about seeing naked women on their TV screen.
God, Game of Thrones. I don’t want to quit the show, especially when the other parts of the episode were so darn good, but if it can’t respect the audience and a story that in general seems to argue against misogyny and female exploitation, then I don’t know how I can continue to support it.