Quite a few of the wonderful essays concerning Sunday’s Game of Thrones have focused on how wildly different from the book the Jamie/Cersei scene is (even George RR Martin has noted how different it is). Some essays have criticized this approach, noting that the show is an adaptation and things have been, and will continued to be changed.

As I consider myself consummate television critic I suppose it would be inappropriate of me to take the same approach (please read that sarcastically because that is what rape apologists are saying and I’m trying not to give them any more ammo–also if you are a rape apologist I hope you didn’t read these parenthesis). So, let us unpack the scene using only the show, and interviews with its creatives, to guide us. Clearly a trigger warning is in effect. Please do not proceed if you find discussions of rape triggering.

Jaime Lannister has not had it well for the last few seasons. After crippling a few Starks and helping start the War of the Five Kings he found himself crippled, humiliated, and finally back home where no one–from his dad to his girlfriend/sister–appreciated him.

It’s a hard life being the prettiest, most physically power Lannister and having your dad offer to make you his sole heir if you’ll just give up trailing after you sister who doesn’t want to give you the time of day lately because she’s furious, jealous and just a jumble of really bad hot mess emotions.

When he walks into the sept to comfort his sister over the loss of their child he’s not particularly on edge. Sure things have been rough, and yes he’s lost a child, but he was never crazy about the kid to begin with. Walking into that sept his one concern is to comfort his sister. A sister he was once so close with it was if they were two incestuous halves of a whole.

As much as Jaime has changed, and as much as he has learned to grow fond of people beyond his family tree Cersei is still the woman he loves.

And Cersei loves him too. But while Jaime has spent the last two seasons on a long slow rise to redemption Cersei has fallen lower and lower. Always bitterly angry over the perceived failure of her sex Cersei has turned to alcohol and the machinations of her children’s’ lives to give her some small comfort. For her Joffrey was her life and his loss, as great as it is for us at home, is devastating to Cersei.

Before Jaime comes in Cersei watches over her dead son’s body with her father and last living son, and Tywin, savagely and cleverly snatches Tommen from Cersei’s influence it one of the best moments of the episode. His lesson about being a good kind, is, on the surface, simply a lesson for Tommen, but the significant looks he shares with Cersei speaks of the underlying lesson to Cersei. She had her chance at guiding the next king of Westeros, and she will have no more as far as Tywin is concerned.

So when Jaime walks into that sept Cersei has lost one son to poison, one daughter to politics, and her last child to her father’s influence. She is alone and bitter and angry and Jaime’s mere presence, cool and unaffected by all the loss, picks at the scabs she’s earned over the last two seasons.

And then Jaime rapes her.

Director Alex Graves doesn’t mean for that to happen. Even as Cersei cries out “no” and “stop” over and over again Graves means for it to be a moment of passion and for Cersei’s protestations to be theater. He means for it to be a moment where two lonely and lost people come together. Where one lover emotionally tears apart the other so she can properly grieve and move forward.

But that isn’t what happens. What happens is a man who has been made powerless attempts to reclaim his power by violating the one thing his sister has left, her physical autonomy.

And it isn’t something Jaime can so easily come back from. Not after this season introduces the heroic (if hypersexualized) Oberyn Martell, who likes to repeatedly declare that the worst sin a man can commit is the rape of a woman in the presence of her child.

Jaime, who has been one of the show’s most arresting antiheroes, is now firmly in the seat of the villain.

  • crowTrobot

    I didn’t think they could top the botched Catelyn/Robb storyline but, boy, did they ever. I always thought Jaime’s character development was one of GRRM’s most impressive feats. Oh well. We’ve seen the footage of Jaime giving Brienne Oathbreaker and the armor. Instead of thinking that that’s pretty cool, I’m going to be, “[email protected] you, you rapist pig.” Why can’t we have nice things?