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'Game of Thrones': The Lannister Rape in the Sept

By Chris Baggiano,
Exploring the changes from book to TV and the reason fanboys aren't happy

Hell hath no fury like a fanboy scorned, if the internet’s latest uproar over HBO’s beloved Game of Thrones is any indication. I’m sure you all know the gist of what happened in the most recent episode entitled “Breaker of Chains,” no I’m not talking about the literal pissing contest outside of Meereen, but here’s a little refresher. While Cersei is mourning Joffrey in the Sept of Baelor (basically King’s Landing’s grand cathedral) her former lover, and brother, Jaime strides in and clears the room. Instead of comforting Cersei and mourning the death of his son, however, he ends up raping her next to the altar that their dead son has been laid.

But the actual act of the rape isn’t exactly what the fans are up in arms about. Instead what has caught the ire of fanboys is how the rape was changed from the book to the TV screen. And for that we’ll need a quick comparison between the book and the TV show.

In the book Jaime didn’t return to King’s Landing until the scene in which he found Cersei in the sept. There were many conflicting emotions that led to the characters having sex and it seemed that Cersei more dubiously consented to Jaime, where she wasn’t exactly against his advances but she also did not welcome them. It was clear in the book that the characters were overcome with emotion from being reunited for the first time in so long and that Cersei had noticed how Jaime’s appearance had changed and was unsure of who he had become. You can understand how the conflicting emotions of their reunion but also Jaime’s somewhat unrecognizable new self could have led to the characters having sex.

As portrayed in the TV show this sexual act is very clearly rape. Cersei had rebuked his advances multiple times in previous episodes and was clearly yelling no as Jaime forced himself on her. In fact, the rape doesn’t even seem to make sense in the context of the scene. Jaime comes in, seemingly unaffected by his son’s death, and offers some half-hearted comfort to Cersei who wants him to kill Tyrion because she believes he is the murderer. Jaime tells her the law will take care of it, which is a fairly unemotional response from the man who supposedly loves both Cersei and Joffrey. They both then kiss for a second, Cersei clearly overtaken by emotion, before she realizes what she has done and stops. Jaime then takes a confused few seconds to sort out what just happened and then calls her a “hateful woman” and forces himself upon her. Huh? Instead of forcing himself on her out of pure, raw emotion, he pauses for those few seconds – again, not showing much emotion – and actively decides to rape her.

What the scene actually does, however, is hammer the point home that Cersei is now powerless. At one point she was the main source of power over Westeros. She had control over Joffrey and her orders were taken as a ruler’s orders. Over the seasons her control over Joffrey diminished and once her father Tywin became the King’s Hand, any political power that remained was taken. With Joffrey’s death her power of a mother, to keep her children safe, was also taken from her. At the beginning of the rape scene we see Tywin beginning to mold Tommen, her other son and now king, into a ruler as Tywin offered the advice that a king’s best way to rule is to always heed the advice of his counsel of which Tywin just so happens to be a part. Tommen and Tywin exit the sept, clearly showing how Cersei has lost her other son to Tywin, as Jaime enters. The rape takes Cersei’s last remaining power, the power to control what happens to her and her own body, away from her and shows that she is now completely powerless. Her being raped at that moment by Jaime, the person she once loved and shared her life with, makes storytelling sense for Cersei’s storyline. But the problem isn’t with her character it is with Jaime’s.

It is clear that the TV show stewards, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, had put themselves in a bind. They knew how important this scene was in to the story and in the grander context of Jaime’s story but the way they had accelerated Jaime’s return gave the scene a whole different context. The fact that Jaime seemingly lacked any emotion in the scene only hurt our understanding of why Jaime is doing what he does. It would have been understandable if he was grief-stricken, or just caught up in the moment of their first kiss since his return, but instead it feels like he takes a few moments to actively decide to rape her, which even feels out of character for the Jaime we were introduced to in the series’ first episode. And since Jaime’s character had begun reforming his ways the jump from failing at comforting to raping Cersei feels even more out of character.

This is where most of the uproar has come. It isn’t the fact that Jaime raped her, it is the fact that his character had already begun the path to redemption and did something that was, perhaps, more heinous than anything he had done in his laundry list of past transgressions. The book’s scene feels right for the character at that moment of time whereas the TV’s scene feels like the complete opposite of where his plot trajectory was heading.

The scene also shows that TV is a different beast than a novel, which can create complications for Weiss and Benioff. They couldn’t have had Jaime finally return to King's Landing three episodes into the fourth season; there is only so much running through forests a viewer can take before their interest completely wanes – Bran’s lack of screen time is all the evidence you need. They needed to give one of the show’s better characters, and actors, something to do and so they allowed him to return to King’s Landing to begin his reforming ways and to witness his son’s death. Weiss and Benioff decided they would rather get a head start on setting up Jaime’s next character arc but didn’t fully understand the ramifications that these changes would have on the rape scene that, in the book, is a catalyst for Jaime’s and Cersei’s shifting desires and plot arcs.

Ultimately all that will change is our perception of who Jaime is at this time, not necessarily what he will do next. Instead of feeling out of place and unwanted because of how much he has changed, Jaime now may feel guilty for what he’s done and may not want the constant reminder every time he sees Cersei. Maybe he will feel indebted to her because of this and will ultimately decide to do her bidding as a sort of apology instead of as an excuse for his inner need to both prove that he can still be an effective soldier and because of the different treatment he has received because of his weakened state upon his return. Weiss and Benioff will make sure that this event does have consequences and reactions that make sense for what they have changed from the book but that won’t lessen how the context of this rape scene has changed from the between the two media.

For a show that, as recently as last episode, has shown a crazy person hunt a seemingly innocent girl through the woods and kill her for no reason, it is interesting that there is so much uproar over this event because of how it changes the book, not because of the event itself. It should be interesting to see how Jaime’s actions are explained in subsequent episodes. For now, however, view the scene for how it portrays Cersei’s loss of power and wait until we find out why Jaime did what he did – if we ever do.

 
 

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