Much of last night's Game of Thrones was about taking things that don't belong to you in the most violent, brutal and dishonorable ways possible, whether it's by stealing money, marching on a new territory or — in one particularly cruel scene — raping a woman next to the corpse of her dead son. Per usual, spoilers ahead.
That particular incident — when Jaime rapes his sister on the floor of the sept where she's been mourning the recently deceased Joffrey — overshadowed the entire episode, which is too bad for many reasons. First, it distracted from some other moments that we'd probably all enjoy discussing (Tyrion's conversation with his steward Podrick, Arya and the Hound's continued reluctant teamwork and the return of Littlefinger to name a few) and second (and more importantly), the scene was completely unnecessary.
Since his evil beginnings in season one, Jaime has been consistently on the up-and-up, going from the type of villain who (consensually) has sex with his sister and shoves little boys out of tower windows to a gallant hero who fights alongside the likes of Brienne of Tarth, even helping to protect her from her own rape in season 3. That, coupled with Jaime's trademark charm, has turned him into fan favorite and it's easy to see why.
Which is a part of what made last night's attack on Cersei come as such shock. As we unfortunately know all too well from real life examples, being charming or admired and being a rapist are not mutually exclusive. And if anything, our trust in Jaime only made the horror, pain and hurt of what he did to Cersei (someone who trusts him more than anyone else) all the more relatable. But here's the thing — that rape wasn't in the book. It's an addition made entirely by the show — the rapey cherry atop the already rapey sundae
Here's George R.R. Martin's version of events:
She kissed him. A light kiss, the merest brush of her lips on his, but he could feel her tremble as he slid his arms around her. "I am not whole without you."
There was no tenderness in the kiss he returned to her, only hunger. Her mouth opened for his tongue. "No," she said weakly when his lips moved down her neck, "not here. The septons…"
"The Others can take the septons." He kissed her again, kissed her silent, kissed her until she moaned. Then he knocked the candles aside and lifted her up onto the Mother's altar, pushing up her skirts and the silken shift beneath. She pounded on his chest with feeble fists, murmuring about the risk, the danger, about their father, about the septons, about the wrath of gods. He never heard her. He undid his breeches and climbed up and pushed her bare white legs apart. One hand slid up her thigh and underneath her smallclothes. When he tore them away, he saw that her moon's blood was on her, but it made no difference.
"Hurry," she was whispering now, "quickly, quickly, now, do it now, do me now. Jaime Jaime Jaime." Her hands helped guide him. "Yes," Cersei said as he thrust, "my brother, sweet brother, yes, like that, yes, I have you, you're home now, you're home now, you're home." She kissed his ear and stroked his short bristly hair. Jaime lost himself in her flesh. He could feel Cersei's heart beating in time with his own, and the wetness of blood and seed where they were joined.
Sure, it's still period sex between brother and sister, but at least it's consensual. Apparently, that wasn't graphic or disturbing enough for showrunners, though. They'd rather have Jaime push Cersei to the floor and force himself inside her, all while she attempts to fight him off and and cries for him to stop.
As a reminder, this is not the first time that the show has just thrown in a rape for no apparent reason. As Sonia Saraiya at The AV Club points out, they also turned Daenerys Targaryen's wedding night to Khal Drogo from a consensual sex scene on the page to a horrible rape scene on screen.
In the book, it appears like so:
He stopped then, and drew her down onto his lap. Dany was flushed and breathless, her heart fluttering in her chest. He cupped her face in his huge hands and looked into his eyes. "No?" he said, and she knew it was a question.
She took his hand and moved it down to the wetness between her thighs. "Yes," she whispered as she put his finger inside her.
And somehow the show translated this to Khal Drogo forcing a crying shivering girl onto all fours and raping her on a cliffside.
But why? In general, I'm not against depicting rape on television as long as it serves the story and treats the victims with a modicum of dignity, but I have little patience for it when it's seemingly unnecessary or added because — what? — the showrunners think it's more entertaining this way? Because they think we haven't quite grasped that the night is dark and full of terrors? We have. The first gazillion rapes to take place in Westeros already proved that, so we don't really need them adding more.
Alex Graves, the director of the episode, spoke with True Hollywood Reporter about the rape scene, saying, "I'm never that excited about going to film forced sex."
Well, I should fucking hope not. He also went on to explain what he attempted to accomplish with the scene ("The whole thing for me was about dead Joffrey, played by Jack Gleeson, lying there, watching the whole thing. I wanted to make sure I had Jack in there as much as I could...He is their first born. He is their sin. He is their lust, and their love — their everything. If he's gone, what's going to happen?"), but he hardly provides a good explanation of why it had to be there:
"Jaime is still trying to believe as hard as he possibly can that he's in love with Cersei. He can't admit that he is traumatized by his family and he's been forced his whole life to be something he doesn't want to be. What he is — but has to deny — is he is actually the good knight, like Brienne."
Actually, he's not the good knight. Any chance he had of being the good knight flew directly out of the sept's skylight last night as he violently overtook his grieving sister and the mother of his children as she begged him not to.
The fact that showrunners might be asking us to overlook this for the sake of character development is downright insulting and says a lot about how we treat victims, especially the ones who come off as unlikable. Sure, Jaime's now a rapist, but he's also handsome, funny, occasionally valiant and the woman he took advantage of is a real bitch, so who cares, right? Well, guess what? I care, motherfuckers, so if the people writing Game of Thrones for HBO ever want me to give a shit about Jaime again, they're going to have to work a lot harder than they did with Khal Drogo — because, seriously, that was some despicable shit.