There were a lot of smart things said about last week’s “Game of Thrones” episode, “Breaker of Chains,” but one of the dumbest came from someone who worked on the show — specifically director Alex Graves, who told HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall that the rape between incestuous lovers Jaime and Cersei Lannister “becomes consensual by the end.” It certainly didn’t play that way on screen, and since directors don’t have the last word on individual episodes, there was a chance that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss might have overruled him in the edit room; if anything suggesting Cersei’s eventual consent was shot, it certainly didn’t end up on screen. (There are, of course, still people who will claim that she could have gotten away if she’d really wanted to, or that her failure to do this or that indicates some kind of attenuated consent. Those people are wrong.)
So all eyes were on this week’s episode, “Oathkeeper,” to see what the fallout from Jaime’s actions would be, and frankly, “Game of Thrones” blew it. The single scene between Jaime and Cersei is awkward, but no more: Jaime’s conscience seems relatively clear, and Cersei is too numbed by grief and wine to register much of anything. That’s not to take anything from Lena Headey’s performance as Cersei, or Nikloaj Coster-Waldau’s as Jaime; both are object lessons in how actors can make characters more complex than they appear on the page. But after a certain point, it becomes hard to reconcile the show you think you’re watching with the one its creators intend. For an episode or two, it’s possible to part ways. But in a world where, dog-eat-dog morality notwithstanding, actions still have consequences, the way those actions are defined matters a great deal in the long run.
In a sense, the Sept of Baelor scene may be to “Game of Thrones” what Walt’s last phone call to Skyler was to “Breaking Bad“: a referendum on the differences between the way the show is seen by the way the people who make it and the people who watch it. There are still six episodes in “Game of Thrones'” fourth season, which is ample time for Jaime to reach a reckoning for his acts. But at the moment, it doesn’t seem like the show is headed that way, an error which will be compounded by every week his behavior goes unaddressed.
More reviews of “Game of Thrones'” “Oathbreaker”
Scott Meslow, the Week
Graves’ description is fundamentally in conflict with what actually happens on screen — but based on “Oathkeeper,” it seems like that’s the interpretation “Game of Thrones” is going with. And that puts fans and critics in an uncomfortable position. Do we take the creators’ intentions for the scene as the basis for Jaime’s character, and ignore the (apparently unintentional) act of clear-cut sexual assault he committed? Or do we judge him by the actual text of the show, and attempt to reconcile what the rape means for our understanding of Jaime — who seems positioned, in every other way, to be one of Game of Thrones‘ biggest heroes?
James Poniewozik, Time
From the evidence of “Oathkeeper,” which doesn’t overtly address the incident, my guess is now that the makers meant the scene not to be rape — intended, maybe, an encounter of angry sex between two damaged lovers — but utterly botched getting any of that complexity on screen. We’re weighing, in other words, the scene we actually saw with our guesses at what scene we were meant to see — and that’s the difference between complexity and confusion.
Alan Sepinwall, HitFix
It’s a complicated thing that happened last week between Jaime and Cersei, not just because different people associated with the show had such different takes on what exactly that scene was meant to convey, but because the audience had such an overwhelming consensus on it: that Jaime raped Cersei, no ifs ands or buts. And in an episode where Jaime is very prominent in many scenes, he comes across as exactly the guy he was before that scene last week: charming, conflicted, caring more deeply for Brienne and Tyrion than you would expect a man in his position to, and wanting to accomplish something good on the matter of Sansa Stark and the oath he made to Lady Catelyn.
Eric Kain, Forbes
There’s nothing said of last week’s event, and while Cersei treats Jaime with a certain extra iciness, it’s hardly out of character or unexpected, since this is exactly how she’s been treating him since his return. In other words, last week didn’t really happen — or at least not the way it seemed to happen. We’re still given a version of Jaime that’s increasingly noble, and Cersei is every bit as hideous as ever.
Alyssa Rosenberg, Washington Post
It is a striking, curt little speech, and it leaves unsaid what could be a fascinating dynamic between the pair. Less interesting than the gap between the showrunners’ and director’s description of the rape scene is the one between Cersei and Jaime. Disturbing as it might be, it seems entirely possible that Cersei believes she was raped, while Jaime believes that what happened between them was consensual.
Michael Hogan, Vanity Fair
From a character-development perspective, Jaime raping Cersei should undo much if not all of his progress from “guy who pushed Bran out the window” to “guy whom Brienne understandably rather admires.” But the latest episode doesn’t register the rape in any meaningful way. Instead, it’s as if nothing happened: Cersei is still chugging cabernet and hissing, “Off with their heads,” and Jaime is continuing to rebel against her — in a way that we are meant to see as admirable.
Marlow Stern, Daily Beast
That’s the only semblance of awkwardness between the two after a scene that very much depicted Jaime raping Cersei next to the body of their dead son. Instead of a reckoning, we’re treated to a wine-drunk Cersei in full-on fang-bearing mode (as is her wont) mocking Jaime’s apparent loyalty to the Stark clan and questioning why Catelyn decided to let him go, before demanding Sansa’s head.
Neil Miller, Film School Rejects
There’s a lot to hate about Jaime Lannister, but there’s some to like, as well. It’s nice to see the writers continue to make him a nuanced character alongside the very nuanced (and still charming despite prison) Tyrion. To see Jaime part with the gorgeous sword and turn against Cersei’s plans to bring Sansa to justice is to see the realization of his internal struggle. It doesn’t forgive what he did last week, but he is wrestling with the same sort of emotions about himself that the audience is feeling.
(There’s no good reason to share this here, but how can you not.)