Game of Thrones: Walk of Punishment

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.

18 comments on “Game of Thrones: Walk of Punishment

  • Foxessa , Direct link to comment

    Whatever would producers, show runners and writers do without WHORES?????? Clearly no one was able to create anything in previous years in novels, television or movies because there were either NO WHORES or HARDLY ANY WHORES.

    How fortunate for producers, show runners and writers that NOW THERE ARE WHORES!

    This is seriously outraging me now. Deadwood, which I loved, has wrought a terrible thing for women and for women in the business of television and movies.

    I realized this when a production teams sent us a Bible for an HBO-sort of show they hoped to get into development. Set in early 19th century New Orleans, they wanted our input. We read the first scene, and guess what that first scene was?\

    Why yes, a whore-slave was getting beaten in the front of the women of color whorehouse (for what reason? that wasn’t given — it was just background for one of the protagonist’s first appearance, swaggering down the street), nekkiid of course, because whores are always nekkid heheheheheh.

    We declined to work with these people, just on those grounds alone.

    They were completely baffled by our objection to this sort of thing.

    Love, C.

  • Nastasya , Direct link to comment

    What you said. I can understand wanting something light-hearted considering how brutal everything was, but that’s what the moving chairs scene was for (at least I found it very very funny). There’s just no excuse for the brothel scenes at this point, and it feels like a slap on the face when stuck in the middle of an episode that features sexual violence against characters so heavily.

    And it’s even more infuriating because the rest of the episode was so SO good. Urgh.

  • Sean C. , Direct link to comment

    I recall the director of “Blackwater” (I think it was) saying that there’s some HBO executive who styles himself as representing the “perv demographic” or something like that (basically suggesting that the SNL skit is more accurate than you’d have thought). There’s nothing wrong with the show being sexy; the books have a fair bit of sex in them. But the sex has become noticeably disconnected from the story as the show goes on, as if the writers have given up trying to fit it in as anything other than obligatory pandering.

  • Vanessa , Direct link to comment

    Urgh, I was so disgusted with that scene and even more with the fact that the prostitutes didn’t take the money because their job was so much ~*fun*~ … Didn’t Littlefinger actually threaten Ros last season over refusing to have ~*fun*~ with a client?. Why not have a glimpse at Sansa instead? Or use the time to flesh out Jons story better. Or show more of Riverrun…?

    Earnest question: Do men, in the time of the internet, where you don’t really have to look hard to find naked flesh, really still fap to naked breasts who are on screen for a minute in a tv show? Like… what are they for? I don’t understand? I can barely grasp the concept of so called ‘sexposition’, so why this scene had to be there completely eludes me.
    (For the record: I’m not advocating for no nakedness or anything… just when it makes sense and please a bit more equally contributed.)

    Well, I guess this scene in particular was aimed at the guys who identify with Pod (Do they think that’s the majority of their audience?)… to show that you don’t have to be a strong manly man to have women throwing themselves at you?

  • Mark , Direct link to comment

    Its a waste of time. They have so many story arcs and are adding scenes for Theon, Margaery, Cersei, Joffrey, and Stannis. The episode was written and directed by the showrunners, so it appears that the director of “Blackwater” was right when they say that at least one of them is pushing the nude scenes.

    I didnt mind the Theon almost rape scene because it was a contrast to what Jaime was telling Brienne about rape. For Jaime, rape was only a possibility for Brienne.

    • Foxessa , Direct link to comment

      The pervy continguent shares the GRRM perv delight. It’s fundamental to the books too. It’s just that the books’ bloated logorrhoea tend to obscure just how much of it the books contain.

      • Sici , Direct link to comment

        Characterizing GRRM as pervy is incredibly misguided, if you ask me. There’s a significant amount of sex in the books but it’s nowhere near as gratuitous as on the show. It’s there for character building purposes, usually. Sure there are a few lines in the books that make me roll my eyes but the sex is never alienating the way it is on the show.

        • Mark , Direct link to comment

          There is a lot of rape though. “off screen” of course, but it seems like that threat is always around. Then there are the Ironmen and the Dothraki…

  • Michael , Direct link to comment

    The showrunners are dudebros. They don’t want complicated stories or characters, and they have zero respect for the audience.The Podric scene was straight up trolling of the fans who dared to criticize the shallow use of sex in the series. At this point I only watch for the fantastic acting and the hope that something good will slip by these two . If you want a laugh you should read some reviews of Troy, David wrote the screenplay. Troy is what D&D are trying to recreate, something basic, shallow and filled with cliches.

  • Rhys , Direct link to comment

    Game of Thrones is exploitative in its need to show nudity for 10 minutes. A few other shows on cable are like this but it really is contrived in this show. However, the reviewer is a fool if they don’t believe something is afoot with Podric, especially given Tyrion’s arc in the book.

  • Azor Ahai , Direct link to comment

    I’m pretty sure the implication is that Tyrion paid the women in advance so they could pretend to refuse the money.

    He owes Pod and a Lannister always etc, and a little confidence is a far better repayment than just some throw in a brothel.

    I seriously doubt the intended takeaway is that the women really refused payment because they enjoyed it so much.

  • Foxessa , Direct link to comment

    It also infuriates me no end that, judging by what we’ve got so far in terms of the books, Jaimie can have an arc of redemption, but Cersai’s arc is that of spiraling downward, to an abyss of humiliation and punishment.

    These are the choices the author consciously made. They didn’t just happen. This indicates how much dislike and resentment these men have for women generally, which is what allows the noble woman who gets humiliated and the whores who are always humiliated as just about the only role for women in these so-called stories.

    Love, C.

    • Sici , Direct link to comment

      You know there are female characters other than Cersei, right? She isn’t the only woman in the series who’s had multiple sexual partners. What a narrow judgment of the series.

      • Foxessa , Direct link to comment

        Of course I know that. I was speaking of the Cersai-Jaimie twin pairing, how one is allowed redemption — the male — and the other, the woman, is not.

    • Sean C. , Direct link to comment

      Martin making Cersei a villain is not in and of itself problematic, given how many female heroes he has. And if you’re talking about the show, the showrunners have made Cersei far, far more sympathetic than the book version ever was (whether this is a good thing or not is subjective).

      • Foxessa , Direct link to comment

        How many of his female heroes are not deeply humiliated in some way? Theon’s sister (at least so far). Arya — who is a child. What will happen to her when she achieves femalehood? Dany? I’m not sure — we’ve ridden awfully close to the edge on that.

  • Annalyn , Direct link to comment

    So far (including the books), Arya, Theon’s sister, and Yrgritte (and maybe some of the Dornish women) are the only female characters who aren’t punished for being female. They are the only ones who don’t suffer for their sex. And Arya is the only one who isn’t sexualised at all. So far.

  • Dora , Direct link to comment

    THANK YOU! It’s a relief to see all the stuff I was feeling while watching this episode expressed so well, because I was pretty much rendered speechless with rage (I’m way behind on watching this show, I know)…

    I think I’m done with GoT now. That leg-spreading bit — and as you say, especially against the backdrop of sexual violence that was such a strong thread in this ep — was just the last straw for me. It really did feel like a big middle finger to anybody who has problems with the gratuitous nudity– so if the show’s saying f*** you to feminists, I guess I’m gonna say f*** you too… Makes me sad to give up on it, but I don’t like my TV-watching to fill me with anger 🙂

What do you think?

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