Quitting Game of Thrones

After some careful thought, I have decided not to review Game of Thrones on this site any longer.

My patience for this show has run out. I’m tired of the cycle of blind optimism followed by plotlines that literally make me feel nauseous. I’m tired of all the rage I go through — from finding out what will happen, to anticipating the episode, to watching things I know I don’t want to see, to thinking about it afterward and reading other responses. As much as I love the characters, it’s unhealthy to go through that so often for a fictional show.

When people responded to the criticism of Sansa’s plotline with “well you never complained before,” I realized just how many times I have been horrified by this show before. Cersei and Jaime. Events at Craster’s Keep. The treatment of Ros. Things that my selective, wanting-to-enjoy-Game-of-Thrones memory has forgotten, but which contribute to this picture of sickening misogyny in the show.

I can only enjoy the show now through a sort of selective amnesia, where I ignore problematic past plot points in favor of whatever is happening on screen right now. And that makes for terrible commentary. It creates commentary that forgives the show for its issues and is as inconsistent as the show itself. Yet how can I do the opposite without sounding like a broken record? Every Sansa post from now on would either say “She’s a victim here again,” or comment that she gained character growth and independence from being tortured and raped. I can’t possibly appreciate any part of her plot line from now on unless I ignore or forgive that fact, and although that’s a perfectly fine coping strategy for watching the show, it’s not acceptable for reviewing the show.

But because I’ve stayed with the show through so much, I watched the latest episode, The Gift, to see how I felt about reviewing it. And here’s what I saw:

Sansa as the broken waif, in a white dress and a tear-streaked face. Sure, she showed personality and strength here, even in just trying to convince Theon to help her, but there was something so symbolic about that dirty white dress — like the innocent girl destroyed so she can rise from the ashes, strong and in control of her own destiny.

Gilly being almost raped in a violent scene to so that Sam could demonstrate his love and strength of character — and then sleeping with Sam immediately afterward.

One of the sandsnakes stripping to taunt Bronn for no apparent reason, in a scene that doesn’t seem to contribute to the plot.

Brienne standing uselessly outside Winterfell, doing nothing until Sansa manages to give her a sign — despite the fact that if Sansa was in real trouble, she wouldn’t be able to give a sign.

It’s all old and familiar. Rape as a plot-device. Pointless nudity and sexposition. Terrible characterization. The emotional fetishization of female pain. All in one episode. An episode that was not particularly awful in comparison to many others. Why do we have any hope for this show any more, when this is what we see?

I may still watch the show, because I remain curious about what will happen to the characters, even though I know it won’t be anything I like. I may occasionally write about it, if I keep watching and feel like I have something new to say. But I won’t be doing weekly reviews any more, and there’s no guarantee I’ll comment on any other significant developments in the future.

I’ve gotten a lot out of writing about this show, and I really appreciate everyone who’s been reading my thoughts. But it’s time for me to step back, for now at least.

And in lieu of show reviews, maybe I’ll start writing about the books again. I definitely need to write about Margaery for my women of ASOIAF series. And a reread might be in order, in the hope that Winds of Winter comes out sometime this decade.

27 Replies to “Quitting Game of Thrones”

  1. Melisandre is another character I would like to read your views on. She is difficult to sympathize with, but she believes that she is doing things for the greater good.

    Olenna Tyrell is an interesting character with both assets and restrictions. She is intelligent and cunning, born a Redwyne and married a Tyrell, sense of humor and easy to like, the last one is a political asset which I believe made Sansa trusting of her and convinced her to confirm Joffrey’s cruel nature. But the patriarchal society makes her headstrong but less competent son Mace the head of her family, and she can’t openly work against him.

    The real middle ages had both spiritual women with political influence and wives and widows with influence, which of cause depended a deal on their men.

    As for Winds of Winter Martin has said he wants to be done the next year. I am looking forward to see what happens to Sansa, the Tyrells, Samwell, Melisandre and if Jon somehow survives.

    1. I would love to write about both Melisandre and Olenna Tyrell — they’re fascinating characters, as you say.

  2. I understand your reasons for not reviewing the show anymore, but it’s still a shame. I will miss your recaps! But it’s nice that you’re still going to watch. By the way, what did you think of Tyrion finally meeting Dany? You’ve got to admit that was awesome, right?

    1. I think I’ll miss writing about it too. There are always interesting scenes, and a lot to analyze, but it felt like the time to stop.

      That said, I was so excited to see Tyrion meeting Dany! I assume this is where the books are going eventually, but one of the reasons I still want to watch the show is to find out what’s going to happen there. Although I think it’s a shame they left out Penny (or maybe not, considering the show’s track record with female characters), it’s definitely streamlined his plot, most likely for the better.

  3. Your decision is completely understandable though I’m sad to hear it. I’ve been looking forward to your analysis after every episode, but I understand why it would be hard to review without saying the same thing every time. Sansa’s storyline was not only horrific, but it made no sense at all. Littlefinger, Sansa, Brienne, and the Boltons had to act illogically to force it to happen, and it led nowhere. What was Sansa planning exactly? To rally the Northern lords to her cause? To gain friends among the household staff? To seduce Ramsay? To gain the Bolton’s trust by using her courtesy armor? She didn’t try anything at all. And now she wants to escape, and it’s good that she’s trying, but what was the point of the whole thing? Now I don’t want her to stay in Winterfell, but I also don’t want her to escape, because then nothing would be accomplished and the whole storyline would be completely pointless. At this stage there is no way her story could be resolved in a satisfying way.

    Completely agree on Gilly and the Sand Snake. It’s disappointing because the episode was quite enjoyable otherwise and some great thing happened, but it’s hard to praise the good after everything.

    On the positive side – book reviews! Yay! Looking forward to the Margaery article.

    1. My only consolation during the Sand Snakes scene was the epic eye rolls from Obara and Nym. At least I could pretend they were rolling their eyes at their scene being a blatant, forced excuse to look at Tyene’s boobs.

      I heard about Gilly’s scene ahead of time and skipped it. I can’t believe the writers dropped such a stereotypical example of “Nice guy saves girl from rape…so she rewards him with sex!” Just….ugh. I can totally believe Gilly would under normal circumstances want to be with Sam, but a woman who has been sexually abused her whole life narrowly escapes being abused again,, and RIGHT AFTER is when she feels down for consensual sex? bullshit.

      On the plus side, I liked how Myrcella’s telling off of Jamie was a lighter/happier reflection of Cersei’s conversation with Tywin. “Um, no, I already was bartered off like cattle once and obeyed our society’s stupid customs that a high-born girl has to go marry whoever her elders tell her to, did it once, and now I’m actually happy with a fiance who loves me, and I’m not going to let you yank me around anymore”.

      1. The eye rolls were probably the best piece of characterization the Sand Snakes have gotten so far. I had high hopes for them as I love Dorne on the books. They could have been as epic as last season’s Oberyn, but instead we get bloodthirsty Sand Snakes that have no problem taking their revenge on someone innocent. And how come all three of them and Ellaria have exactly the same motivation and no one challenges the plan?
        Oberyn: We don’t hurt little girls in Dorne.
        Sand Snakes and Ellaria: Let’s mutilate and kill Myrcella! For Oberyn!
        Sigh.

        There were many ways to give them different motivations. One could want peace. One could want to crown Myrcella. One could want revenge, but only on the ones responsible and demand proof that the Mountain is dead. And another could want war. In interviews with the actresses, I keep seeing things like “Tyene is the one with the knives. Nym is the one with the whip.” Is that the difference in their personalities? Their choice of weapons? I still want to see more of them, but I have little hope it will be good.

        I think Sam and Gilly had the potential to be one of the few non-creepy relationships, and it wasn’t so hard to do it right. Instead, we get a scene where:
        1) Gilly wants sex right after she is almost raped. Really? I still remember Shae telling Tyrion in Season 1 that a woman would never do that. The writers got it right once, but seem to have forgotten.
        2) Gilly’s attempted rape is used as characterization for Sam. Ugh.
        3) The sex scene happening right after Sam “saved” her came off as the Nice Guy getting sex as a reward.

        I guess the writers wanted to show how bad things are for Sam and Gilly now that both John and Maester Aemon are gone, but there were better ways to do it. Probably the scene is supposed to serve as motivation for Sam to go south, but it doesn’t make sense. Sam has plenty of motivation — now that Aemon is dead, the Watch needs a new maester, and he is the best suited. He has enough reasons to go south; there was no need for any of that.

        Yes, Myrcella telling Jaime off was one scene where the writing actually made sense. I hope we see more of her.

    2. It doesn’t seem like Sansa was planning anything, other than to wait for things to happen — things which blatantly didn’t make sense. It was just such lazy writing, to manoeuvre her into the role of Jeyne Poole.

      I wonder if Sansa is going to somehow help Stannis take Winterfell from the inside… but that feels unlikely. I guess she’ll either escape (in which case, yes, the storyline has basically achieved nothing), or she’ll be saved by Theon when he has a change of heart (in which case it’s his story). Maybe she’ll kill Ramsay… but it depends on how much the show is willing to move away from the books, and even then, that’s a bit disappointing to me. Not because vengeance stories can’t be interesting, but because that’s so different from who Sansa is supposed to be. It’s making her “strong” by putting her into the blood-shedding fighter mold.

      I’m sure I’ll find a lot more problematic things in my reread than I saw the first time, but even so, it has to be a million times better than the show!

  4. You’re the third reviewer so far (as far as I know, they may be more) who decided not to cover the show anymore. First the Mary Sue website announced they would not be covering the show anymore, then Matt from Podcast Winterfell announced he didn’t want to either support or watch the show anymore because of the cheap way they use rape for shock value, and would only cover the books from now on (and he started off as an Unsullied who then read the books, and used to really like the show). There are also reviewers like Miles from the Tower of the Hand/co-host of Unspoiled podcast, who is only going to finish this season because of the obligation he has to review it, and then stop watching the show.

    Me, I stopped watching after episode 3 (I tried watching episode 4, but I realized it was a real chore), so I get all my info from recaps, gifs, reviews and comments… and what I see makes me think it was really fortunate I stopped when I did. I hope to be able to completely stop following even the news of the show in season 6. Although, right now, I am enjoying my friends’ rants, and the deserved criticism the show is getting.

    The ratings for the latest episode have been the lowest since the season 3 finale. We’ll see how the rest of the season fares.

    In any case, if they wanted to boost ratings with Sansa’s rape, they made a big mistake.

    1. I’d heard about the Mary Sue, but I didn’t know about the other reviewers. I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s had enough.

      To be honest, this season has been a bit lacking in general. It’s had some great scenes (heck, even this week’s interaction between Sansa and Theon was wonderfully acted), but it doesn’t feel like much has really happened after all that screen time. I know a lot *has* happened, but it isn’t flowing right.

      And wow, I kind of thought Game of Thrones’ ratings would just continue climbing forever. I really do hope it’s this sensationalized violence that is driving people away.

  5. I completely understand and see where everyone is coming from with giving up hope on this show and holding back from putting anymore time, effort, and energy into something that doesn’t seem to put half the energy we do into their own show. I will miss reading your reviews because I usually always spread them like wildfire within my friend circle and quote (and credit) them regularly in a discussion with fandom. but I would really like to see you continue your women of asoiaf series with the characters feminist analyses because you ALWAYS hit the feminist nail on the head for me and take the words out of my mouth with your understanding of the books. I just don’t know how much more I can take with the show. I’ll probably watch it right to the end (or at least until a few of my favorite characters (if they) die, because I really wanna be spoiled on the fantasy events of the show (war of the white walkers, dany conquering westeros *if she even does at all*, R+L=J, etc.) but I probably won’t be watching it legally or putting any money into HBO’s pocket with fan merch or anything. but even if you’re not reviewing the show anymore, I’ll always be a loyal subscriber to what you have to say Rhiannon 🙂 I’m a big fan of your work.

    1. Thank you so much! To be honest, I’ll probably be watching until the end too (or at least until we get spoilers about another scene like this Sansa one — I almost didn’t watch that episode at all when I heard), but much more casually. I can’t stop wanting to know what happens, even if I don’t trust the show writers at all.

  6. I gave up on the GoT show somewhere around the middle of last season. I was actively feeling dirty for watching, and realized I was paying for premium cable just to watch it. I cancelled HBO the next day, and never looked back.

    I did read all the books, and keep up with the TV show via recaps like yours, but everything I read, especially over the last week, cements my decision.

    Life is just too short to give so much time and attention to things that aren’t worth it.

  7. *applause*

    I gave up in Season 2. I used to love the books (although, on re-reading them I found them very problematic) and was keen to watch the series, but after Season 2 the misogyny, male-gaze, & rape was too much. I’m not surprised it has gotten worse (which is saying something!).

  8. rosehustle1 says: Reply

    I totally understand your decision. I didn’t watch this week’s episode. I only looked at recaps and everything I read from those on the message boards, made me glad I didn’t watch it.

  9. I’ve been reading you for a while, but I was to lazy for comment. I agree with you about everything, after see Sansa’s rape I thougt for the first time in quitting the show, I didn’t care about the bad adaptation or te innecesary nudity and sex, but the rape is something enterily different and I couldn’t stand. In the end I will continue seeing it, but I give up with a coherent character development, some good story or something even a little feminist. I’m also tired of waiting and hoping and be dissapointed.

    I realized I have selective memory too.

    I don’t know, maybe you could try Penny Dreadful if you are into fantasy, vampires, witches and victorian age. It has an amazing chapter about witches and maybe you like it. Also, I’d like to read your opinion about Mad Max and as someone said in other comment, a rant about Melisandre would be great.

    Hugs!

    1. Oo, thanks for the recommend! I wasn’t really aware of that show before, although I think I’ve heard of it, but the description sounds great. I probably won’t be writing about Mad Max while its in theaters (I’ve been seeing a few too many movies recently!), but I will definitely write about Melisandre once I’ve figured out my thoughts!

  10. I gave it another shot after Sansa’s rape and the fallout was, predictably, disappointing. So I’m right there with you, I can’t see the show finding its way back. The writing is poor, the character arcs have been obliterated in favor of easy drama and shock tactics… and I just. don’t. care.

  11. Somehow, reading this post makes me feel a little bit better. I decided to quit the show after this episode. I can’t take it anymore. Like you say, it is unhealthy to go through this for a show. With these last two episodes it seemed to hit home for me that this show is telling me that, as a woman, I am only good for getting abused, tortured, raped and looked at when naked. It always felt that way in the back of my mind wheb watching GOT, but these 2 episodes have really pounded it into my skull now.
    I am done. And just when Danearis meets Tyrion too. But I don’t care enough anymore to keep watching. Not now that Tyrion has become another one of my favourite characters that I now hate (I will NEVER forgive him for killing Shae).
    Anyway, thank you. I always value all your reviews and posts a lot, and somehow it calmed my rage and nausea down to see you putting your fut down right at the same time.

    1. Thank you! 🙂 I wish it hadn’t come to this, but, as you said… the show doesn’t respect or care about female characters, or its female audience, so why should we continue to care about it? I probably will keep watching, because I am so intrigued about what is happening with the Dany and Tyrion plotline, but… I don’t have high hopes.

      1. Yeah, me neither. I will just check in on recaps to see what will happen there. But I don’t have much hope anymore that enough storylines will be interesting enough to stomach all the bad stuff. Because as lots of people are saying, this season is not all that interesting yet.

  12. Sharon Casey says: Reply

    I hope you change your mind and do still write and continue to review GoT. I’m a lazy feminist with lots of internalised mysogny that I only find myself becoming aware of when I read the intelligent and insightful reviews and commentary of younger more savvy women like yourself. Left to my own devices I uncritically sit back, enjoy the drama, and seldom think about the wider implications. I think I first read you with Sansa Stark does not kneel …..and loved your take on the difference between the books and the TV show. To me this season feels like the show is trying to speed towards a climatic finale and that short cuts galore are trying to build a crescendo that’s very different to the books.

    In my bad feminist way I wasn’t too disturbed by the wedding night. The episode before I was on the edge of my seat with fear for her at the prospect …but once she said her vows…I didn’t think there was anywhere else to go. Having Theon there was unnecessary….but she’s submitted to marrying the enemy. She wasn’t exactly going to enthusiastically bed him. They might have gone didn’t the path of having her ‘lie back and think of England/the North’, or have her choose for her wedding gift the padlock which will make her a prisoner in Winterfell and left it at that…..but that would have been too subtle for many I suspect.

    I do hope that George might have a twist to her arc that doesn’t involve her murdering Ramsay (she did pick up something and hide it in her sleeve before being taken to view her communication channel with the outside world in the following episode…so it does strongly hint the predicatable self defence strength thing). Except they’ve mostly written out warging from the series, my hope is for Sansa to hear a direwolf from her tower, and to find herself seeing through its eyes……and to lead a pack that hunts Ramsay down the way he did his victims. For it to be nymeria …And for her to wake to the news she is a widow…and never quite know if she was actually there or just dreamed it….but also wondering aloud for the first time in the series if Arya is still alive…and to grieve the connection that even sisters who have little in common with each other always have. Or even, to decide that she needs to actively find her sister, and to recruit Brienne to do that.

    1. George does not have a twist for her arc regarding her marriage to Ramsay because Sansa does not marry Ramsay in the books, of course. Sansa in the show is absolutely nothing like the Sansa in the books and certainly would not do something as absurd as marry Ramsay (not is the book!Littlefinger a moron to think that would be a good idea). In the show, they’ve not only destroyed her arc, but also every bit of her characterization, since they have no grasp on her characterization at all and never had.

  13. I have finally watched the “rape episode” and it was less horrible and violent than I had expected, but still extremely unneccessary. I understand your reasons for quitting this show, though I will miss your reviews on it.

    It´s not just Sansa´s plot line that has gone wrong. Some things in the show are still interesting and worth watching. But it has so many other flaws by now. For example, it seems like the creators don´t even bother to hide anymore that they have female nudity just for the sake of it, not for the narrative. It has become one of the show´s marks, they don´t have to excuse themselves or pretend anymore. Why else the silly scene between Bronn and the sand snake woman?

  14. I have to say I’m kind of glad you’ve reached this decision because I was about at the decision to stop reading this site. While I love most of your other articles and the earlier game of thrones one, the preoccupation with rape was making me more and more angry and frustrated for days afterwards. I dislike the stereotype assumption that rape is always horrifically traumatising and the woman will forever be abused and weak because of it. Rape happens, its a sad fact of life, but as someone who has experienced it personally, it is not always this huge horrific thing that takes away from who you are as a person. I think the show conveys that amazingly. Rape can be a big deal but like any negative thing it can actually help you grow and become a better, stronger, more confident person. It only makes you a victim if you decide you are a victim (or allow others to force that assumption on you). Whenever you talk about sex in Game of thrones both consensual and otherwise you seem to be conveying that sex takes away from women, that it belittles them and makes them weaker. This is stereotyping women and I can’t stand it. I know most here won’t agree with my opinion but it just goes to show that you can’t lump all women into one category, we’re all different in our views and experiences, plenty of people are finding Sansa’s story relevant and interesting (along with the Sand Snakes and various other female characters) and not making assumptions about characters worth based on their sexual actions.

    1. I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that sex belittles female characters or makes them weaker, and I’m sorry my words came across that way. I think that the way the TV show *portrays* female characters and sex is very problematic, because it often treats them as objects, rather than the agents of their own sexuality, or else makes it so that almost *every* female character is either a chaste fighter or uses sex to manipulate. I think it’s dangerous to start thinking of characters as real people with free will, because every one of their “decisions” and “choices” is put in place by the writer or writers behind them, and so they have to be viewed in a different context from a real person’s actions. But I am sorry that my writing on the series angered and frustrated you so much.

      I do take issue with your claim that women must choose whether or not to be victims in their response to sexual violence, as I strongly disagree that someone who is traumatized by the experience is choosing to be so, or is weak for having that reaction. As you say, all people are different… and again, it’s how the writers choose to portray it that I’m really frustrated with here, rather than any individual’s trauma or lack of trauma in response.

    2. I’m very curious, what exactly about the story of the character they call Sansa on the show (although she’s been so inconsistent in characterization that I have no idea who she is supposed to be, she bears no resemblance to either of her earlier characterizations on the show) I do you find interesting, relatable, or, for that matter, plausible and logical? And what exactly do you find interesting or relatable about the characters, if they can be called so, of Sand Snakes?

What do you think?