Game of Thrones: Oathkeeper

Well, that was unexpected.

Kudos to the show for making Bran’s endless trek north interesting for once. As someone who spent parts of this episode going, “Wait, why does Jon know about Bran?” and “How did they get past the Wall??” (two things that I’ve been assured are well-explained in the show, but which I have zero memory of), I appreciated that the show actually made me sit up and pay attention during his scenes this week. Since the show has changed so much already, in smaller and more frustrating ways, it’s fun to see it dive straight into “AU fanfic” territory and be completely surprised by the plot.

Although clearly my standards for the show have become pretty low, since I was relieved and pleasantly surprised when Meera Reed wasn’t explicitly threatened with rape at the end of the episode. But then, I suppose there’s always next week.

As for the episode’s final moments in the Land of Always Winter, it was pretty dramatic stuff. I must admit, I care about the White Walkers about as much as the Lannisters do, so the appearance of their homeland and their apparent king didn’t send me scrambling for the theory boards, but it was definitely a cool moment, and it’s exciting to have something positive to discuss and dissect in the world of Game of Thrones for once.

Of course, the show couldn’t allow it to be entirely positive. We also saw the return of the Night’s Watch’s mutineers, and apparently their evilness wasn’t clear enough from the fact that they killed the Lord Commander, drink wine from his skull, capture Bran, and mock and torture Hodor. No, no. For us to know that they’re really evil, their scenes had to be accompanied by perpetual rape. Multiple girls, mostly off-screen, their cries punctuating all other conversation.

Beyond the use of violence against women as a narrative crutch, this setup is problematic for two reasons. Firstly, the show uses sexual violence to let the audience know that a character is really, really bad — canonically with Ramsey Snow, but also with Joffrey, with the torturers that Arya killed in the first episode of this season, and now with the mutineers. Their evil is incomplete without rape. Yet not only has the threat become so ubiquitous as to lose all impact, but the show also undermined its own message of “this is what evil people do” last week with Jaime. He raped Cersei last week, but the assault remains entirely unaddressed. We’re certainly not supposed to think less of him. In fact, Cersei is still presented as the cold, cruel, vicious woman, while he’s the noble man striving to do what’s right.

So much for rape being the mark of an evil man. It doesn’t seem to have set back Jaime’s redemption at all.

And that’s the second problem with these scenes. Sure, rape is supposed to be evil, but parts of this episode made me think that we were also supposed to enjoy it. Why else would the show be using background rape scenes to fulfil its nudity quota? As fully dressed men rape naked women who fill up the entire screen? Is that supposed to evoke our sympathy for the girls, and increase our hatred of the mutineers? Or are we just supposed to appreciate it?

Luckily, the episode did have other strengths. The scene between Greyworm and Missandei was fascinating, and it was a powerful and positive change for the show to spend time with some of the slaves that Daenerys is attempting to free, and for us to hear their thoughts and concerns from themselves.

The Queen of Thorns also continued to be amazing, and although some people have criticized the show’s lack of subtlety in solving the mystery of Joffrey’s killer, I did like that it made explicit that it was a woman from one generation protecting the interests of a young woman from another. Yes, crowns matter, but Margaery’s safety matters too, and even she could not have ensured her continued favor in Joffrey’s presence. Of course, I’m disappointed that Olenna is now going to disappear from the show, since she’s a fierce and capable female character who hasn’t been sexualized (the perks of being elderly, I suppose), but perhaps it’s best to get her out of the way before her characterization can be ruined as well.

Because then we turn to Margaery. I have mixed feelings about her being completely oblivious to the plot against Joffrey. On the one hand, the book never confirms how involved she was or how much she knew. On the other hand, the show’s portrayal of Margaery so far suggested to me that she would be involved. She’s a schemer and a manipulator, with a lot of personal ambition and a talent for self-preservation. It seems unlikely that she’d be utterly clueless while her grandmother plotted murder on her behalf, or that she wouldn’t have had plans in place to deal with The Joffrey Problem from the beginning. It seems slightly contradictory for the show to emphasize what a scheming deceitful schemer she is for the first two seasons, and then turn around and say she was 100% willing to marry Joffrey with no thoughts of murder now.

Meanwhile, Margaery’s scenes with Tommen moved her from “intelligent self-possessed schemer” to “creepy child predator.” Yes, Margaery needs to win over Tommen while Cersei is distracted. But did she really need to do it at night, while he’s in bed, telling him their meetings will be “our little secret?” and moving as though to kiss him on the lips? Ageing Tommen up from an eight-year-old to a twelve-ish-year-old only made it even creepier, in my opinion, because it encouraged the writers to play the scene more sexually, rather than have Margaery take the motherly role she does in the books. Although Margaery doesn’t actually do anything to Tommen, the entire vibe of the scene was skin-crawl-inducing, and one again seems to play into the idea that sexual abuse and manipulation are evil, unless they’re done by main characters we like, in which case they’re completely valid ways of gaining power.

But hey. Ser Pounce was cute.

As the episode was called Oathkeeper, I feel like I should address the Oathkeeper scenes between Jaime and Brienne. But frankly, I don’t think I can. Were they a good translation of the scenes in the books? Was there are a strong emotional connection between Jaime and Brienne? Was it poignant to see them say goodbye? I have no idea. I could barely watch. I feel like the show is pushing a Jaime/Brienne romance, and that should leave me babbling in incoherent delight, but I tuned out of most of their scenes. Because Jaime raped Cersei. He defends Cersei to Tyrion by telling him her son just died, but leaves out the fact that he also raped her by her son’s corpse. He made Brienne a suit of armor based on her guessed measurements, and that becomes creepy, because he raped Cersei. He defies Cersei by sending Brienne out to rescue Sansa, setting them up as the good woman who is fighting for his honor and the bad woman who stole it. He calls her “Brienne,” and she looks back over her shoulder, and it should all be very emotional, but it isn’t, because she should be running far, far away, because he raped Cersei.

The show might want us to forget it, but I’m sure as hell not going to. A character can’t be a rapist in one episode and part of an emotional, reluctant, blossoming love story in the next. The show can’t use rape as the sign of evilness one week, and then also insist it’s “no big deal.” It’s not only insulting and misogynistic, it also makes no sense from a narrative perspective. And if you’re going to be misogynistic and change characters into rapists, you should at least do so with some narrative consistency. At least have it have a point.

15 comments on “Game of Thrones: Oathkeeper

  • Dina , Direct link to comment

    About the Cersei rape, which I also found shocking: I’ve read pages and pages on the forum of Ice and Fire. Among hundreds of distressing posts with men (?) failing to see the scene as rape, or thinking it’s not a big deal, I found out that apparently the directors *did* intend to shoot a consensual scene, because Cersei was supposed to help unbuckle Jaime’s belt while saying “no”.
    Of course, that would still have been problematic, but better that what we saw. Apparently, one could see her moves contradicting her words if one played that scene in very slow-motion and paid careful attention at the same time.
    So now many people on the forum are saying the rape was a result of very poor directing.
    If that is true, it leads to a disturbing conclusion: that the directors would rather appear as rape apologist than admit that they f****d up that scene.
    (I should also add that seeing this naked woman being raped in this episode felt really unwelcome after last week’s controversy. )

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      It’s really confusing. The director said he intended to shoot a consensual scene, but then the executive producers said in a featurette that it was rape. And now I can’t find the featurette on the official Youtube channel. So there seems to be a lot of confusion and a lot of backpedalling.

  • Dina , Direct link to comment

    About the Cersei rape, which I also found shocking: I’ve read pages and pages on the forum of Ice and Fire. Among hundreds of distressing posts with men (?) failing to see the scene as rape, or thinking it’s not a big deal, I found out that apparently the directors *did* intend to shoot a consensual scene, because Cersei was supposed to help unbuckle Jaime’s belt while saying “no”.
    Of course, that would still have been problematic, but better that what we saw. Apparently, one could see her moves contradicting her words if one played that scene in very slow-motion and paid careful attention at the same time.
    So now many people on the forum are saying the rape was a result of very poor directing.
    If that is true, it leads to a disturbing conclusion: that the directors would rather appear as rape apologist than admit that they f****d up that scene.
    (I should also add that seeing this naked woman being raped in this episode felt really unwelcome after last week’s controversy. )

  • Lars Sjöström , Direct link to comment

    The rape scenes at Craster’s keep are in ASOS, trouble is all the other raping and the similar brothel scenes makes it to much a usual thing on screen. In the book the rapes have a strong impact because men whom a few appearances back swore to ride to fight the wildlings and thus defend the realm, suddenly mutinied over food att then begin to rape. It happens all at once and then disappear. But in the show they make targets for a strike from the besieged black brothers, that is a plot twist for more excitement, and armies about to be besieged have striked first at times.

    In the books rapes are mentioned to be committed by soldiers of every army, including the slaves who revolted for Daenerys, she punish them with gelding. Stannis army rapes few and those who do are gelded, but lords Bolton and Tywin encourages rape. Message: many of the soldiers behaviour is dependent on the commander on site, and his or her ability to inform them of what is expected of them and the consequences of disopediance.

    For the Margaery/Tommen scene it was unneccesary, but they were good at displaying the feelings a twelve year old boy might have for an attractive several years older girl. Unfortunately it also makes Cerseis fury over Margaerys behaviour to predictable. In the books she gave Tommen valid tutoring, making Cerseis fury a better plot twist and a declaration of her declining sanity.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      Yes, rape is definitely a major theme in the background of the books, showing the true horrors of war, etc. But I do think the show revels in it, rather than treating it with any sympathy or gravity.

  • Mark , Direct link to comment

    I think it makes sense in the show that Margaery didnt know about Joffrey given her history. She married someone she knew was gay, then offered a threesome that included her brother. I think her reasoning was that she would get pregnant, and after she had a son, she would get rid off Joffrey. She wants to be queen no matter what. That is her motivation and her weakness.

    As for the books, I think the only one that didnt know was Mace Tyrell because he is a idiot. Olenna might’ve taken the poison from Sansa, but I dont think she sat near Joffrey. It had to be Garlan or Margaery.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      That’s a good point, although I think her confidence in herself could mean that she could kill off Joffrey and still believe she could become queen through Tommen. Or perhaps expect that they would kill Joffrey, but not yet, and only be surprised that her grandmother had acted so soon. Her utter disbelief that her grandmother could have poisoned Joffrey seemed to me at odds with how insightful and involved she’s been so far — I think she might have been AWARE of something, even if she wasn’t directly involved herself.

      But then, I suppose the show needed a way to make the murderer explicit somehow, and Olenna would hardly tell anyone else that she was involved.

  • Rory , Direct link to comment

    I agree with you entirely on Jaime(which I hate, as I share your fondness for book Jaime), but I disagree with your assessment of Margaery/Tommen. She knew he was young, but was expecting a younger version of Joff and so thought that using her sexuality was her best hope. As soon as she saw how innocent Tommen was she changed tack. It’s entirely possible they’re going to go down an entirely gross route with this(they do have previous), right now it seems they’ll keep her as a nurturing influence for him.

    Also, it’s a little unfair to laud Olenna and then attack Margaery for doing exactly what her grandmother told her to. Again, she thought it’d be necessary.

    Incidentally, has it been established in the series that Myrcella is older than Tommen?

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      That’s a good point about Margaery, but if that’s the case, I have to wonder why they had the weird moment of her almost kissing him, and then switching to kissing him on the forehead at the end. A clash between the script/director and the actress’s intentions, perhaps?

      Did Olenna tell Margaery to sneak into Tommen’s room at night and have a weird sexual predator vibe with him, though? I don’t know. They’re both schemers, but I think this was another misstep in writing and direction… Margaery wasn’t MEANT to appear creepy when she won Tommen over to her side, but that’s how it came off to me.

      Not sure on Tommen and Myrcella. I don’t think the previous child actors had many (or any?) lines or were discussed much.

  • Linda , Direct link to comment

    The problem is that the producers claim it wasn´t rape, that the scene has been missunderstood. And therefore, they didn´t need to follow it up. According to them, Jamie and Cersei had “wild, twisted sex” next to their dead son´s body, just like in the book, where Cersei is reluctant at first but then willing. The problem is, in the TV-series it doesn´t look like she is willing at all. Somehow they manage to leave that part out?

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      It’s all very confusing, since the director said it wasn’t rape, but then the executive producers said that it WAS rape in the Inside the Episode video (which now seems to have been taken off the official channel). So everyone seems completely confused. I’m not sure which I’d rather believe, to be honest: that they intended to make it consensual and really screwed up, or that they intended it to be rape and then just didn’t bother to follow up on it.

  • Kat , Direct link to comment

    I’ve decided to take a pragmatic approach to last week’s scene in the sept. Huge, offensive, horrifying mistake in every possible way, but I’ve decided to blame the decision makers for that and not Show Jaime. Part of the problem with people (who should have known better) making such an awful decision (and not even realizing it was bad, which is worse) is that they have already filmed the season and don’t even have the option to course correct. They are behaving like a rape didn’t happen because they didn’t intend for their audience to interpret it that way. They are accountable, but I don’t think the character really is. Maybe doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I like Jaime’s character. I’m not about to shut that down because of some stupid misogynistic, rape apologist jerks.

    The scene at Craster’s was awful though. Really, all the bouncy breasts? They were trying to titillate, and it’s inexcusable. But the weird hive mind chanting was worse. I thought, how could you possibly de-humanize these women more???? Then they did. Ugh.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      That makes sense, as a way to keep enjoying a generally great character. Since the scene could be lifted out of the show and no one would know the difference, it’s much better to imagine that that scene was some really misguided filmed fanfiction without any weight at all. But I do feel strongly that I should keep that scene in mind at least when reviewing the show, because we were shown it as part of show!Jaime’s character development, and the implications of it are pretty severe.

      Oh god, the creepy chanting was incredibly weird. They kind of made them into a cult, without actually exploring the characters of these women or what might have brought them there. Seems like a misstep in line with Selyse’s “fetuses in jars” from last year.

  • Maddy , Direct link to comment

    I was so looking forward to Jaime’s scenes with Brienne but it just made me ill. It was so jarring it was unbelievable. I can’t help but think they’re setting up Cersei as this evil woman that ‘made’ Jaime rape her, while Jaime goes on this redemption arc. JUST NO. It was like it didn’t even happen, like it was no big deal. WHAT. And it’s not something I can forget, even if the show seems to want me to, like it’s no big deal. I can’t believe this show has made me happy to see Brienne ride as far away as possible from Jaime.

    Also – I don’t think we needed them literally using naked women being raped in the background as set decoration to get the point that they were evil. HE WAS DRINKING OUT OF MORMONT’S SKULL.

    I actually didn’t think the Margaery/ Tommen scene was that creepy? It seemed like she saw how young he was and was treating him like a big sister. There are definitely more predatory vibes than there were in the book because they aged him up and they’ve made Margaery a much more overtly sexualised character, but I really didn’t get that vibe in that particular scene. Not saying those vibes weren’t there but I think the actors toed the line on that pretty well.

    At least we got Sansa showing her intelligence and calling Littlefinger on his bullshit. I have such low expectations now that I am just going to take the small thing where I can.

  • Maddy , Direct link to comment

    It says a lot that I was freaking out that Meera was going to get raped. I seriously wouldn’t put it past them.

What do you think?

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