Adapting an epic series like A Song of Ice and Fire to the small screen is no easy task. Apart from a few notable missteps, Game of Thrones has done an admirable job so far, managing to capture the spirit of the source material while meeting the demands of a different medium. However, on Game of Thrones Season 4, Episode 3 ("Breaker of Chains"), the show made a change that is not only perplexing and ill-advised, but completely ruins one of the best character arcs in the series. We're talking, of course, about Jaime's (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) rape of Cersei (Lena Headey).
The internet is already abuzz about this scene, and for good reason. While it's not the first time the show has added rape to the story, it's the most egregious example and the one that has the most profound effect on the character arcs involved.
In the book, Jaime and Cersei do have sex by the body of their dead son, which is plenty dark and twisted already — but the sex is consensual. Cersei begins the scene by expressing concern about being caught, but she quickly switches to clearly consenting, literally saying, "Quickly, quickly, now, do it now, do me now. Jaime Jaime Jaime... Yes, my brother, sweet brother, yes, like that, yes, I have you, you're home now, you're home now, you're home." Problematic, because if someone says no you should stop, period? Yes. But also consensual by the end, in a way that makes sense for Jaime and Cersei's twisted relationship. The show may have started the scene in a somewhat similar way, but by having Cersei protesting and even crying throughout, it turns the moment from a lustful reunion between unhealthy intertwined lovers to clear, inarguable, and stomach-churning sibling-on-sibling rape.
Of course, this is far from the first time this show has portrayed sexual violence, so why does this scene bother us in a way others have not? Simple: Unlike the use of rape in the past, this unquestionably alters both characters' arcs — and in Jaime's case, completely destroys everything the story has been working towards.
Jaime started the series as the Kingslayer, Cersei's lover, Ned's arrogant foe, Bran's attempted murderer. A villain, through and through. But over the course of the last two seasons — and especially during Season 3 — we watched him change and learned enough about his backstory to see much of what he'd done in a different light. Nothing excuses trying to kill a child, but Jaime was effectively transformed from pitch-black villain to grey anti-hero with the potential to move to true hero over time.
And then they went and made him a rapist.
Unsurprisingly, for many fans this move erased the goodwill toward the Kingslayer that had been so painfully bought. We thought he was becoming a better person, but it turns out he's the kind of guy who will rape his sister/lover beside the corpse of their dead son. That is Ramsay Snow levels of effed up. It's the opposite of becoming better.
To fans of the book series, this change is all the more gutting because hating rape is actually one of Jaime's most noble character traits. We got a taste of this on the show, when he went out of his way to save Brienne from her captors; in the book series, we also have Jaime reflecting on how much he hated having to stand by while the Mad King Aerys raped his wife. It's one of the things that makes him so likeable. Now that, too, is gone.
And to what end? How is the story helped by making Jaime a monster again? Why throw away a season's worth of hard-earned character development?
It's not like this scene does Cersei any favors. Sure, it might evoke momentary sympathy, but it does so by stripping her of agency. For fans of the much-maligned queen, one of the best things about her is that she's a woman who has learned to use her gender and sexuality to whatever advantage she can in the highly misogynistic world of Westeros, and seeing that agency stolen from her by Jaime, of all people, is a slap in the face. As for the people who weren't fans of her before, let's be real — if she continues to target Tyrion, she's quickly going to lose any sympathy points this scene earned her.
This change is not like turning Dany and Drogo's first night from dubious consent, as it was in the books, to clear rape in the series premiere — whether or not you approved of that change, it's understandable. It streamlined Dany's story and highlighted her arc from helpless pawn to empowered Mother of Dragons. Nor is it, say, Joffrey torturing whores — perhaps unnecessary, but at least used to emphasize exactly how sadistic the character was.
No, this scene completely changes how we see both Jaime and Cersei, and it's hard to see how the show will recover, especially with Jaime. Are fans supposed to ever support him again? Because we have a feeling many people are off Team Jaime for good.
We'll have to wait and see exactly how the show handles the aftermath of this event to make a final evaluation, but for now we think it's the worst change Game of Thrones has been made.
What did you think of this scene? Sound off in the comments below.