Game of Thrones, episode 1×02

5 May

All right this review will contain two parts. At first we’ll talk about the Epic Fail, and then we’ll talk about the bits I actually liked.

Can someone explain to me why HBO thought it was a good idea to make one of the storylines on this show be “with professional help, you too can make your rapist fall in love with you!”?

Because I am MYSTIFIED as to why they decided that was just a SPLENDID THING to include in there.

So, in the books the idea of Dany’s POV is that this is a girl who’s been abused by her brother since birth, pretty much, who’s been a commodity, expected to be silent and pretty and sexually available and there has not been a single person of the people who’ve cared for her and raised her who has thought of her as anything else.

And we’re in her POV, so for example things like “and then my brother, you know how he gets, when I make him angry he tortures and humiliates me, but it’s my fault really, I should know better than to make him angry” sound, to the reader, as um, VERY BIASED, let’s put it that way. Dany is… very, very messed up at first, and we see the world through her eyes and cringe. LOTS. Which is also true for most of the other characters, for different reasons, and is part of why I found the series enjoyable.

So then Dany is sold to this ~dark barbarian~ who in the books is basically modeled after Genghis Khan (see also: Khal Drogo) and she has all these orientalist views and expectations of his culture and him and again we see that through her eyes and so we know it’s BIASED. And very quickly the book subverts her simplistic understanding and gives her new subjects layers, the culture becomes more nuanced, and ultimately, Dany comes to see it as much more… good, really, than the culture she herself comes from. WHICH IS NOT SURPRISING considering what her life has been, regardless of anything.

I mean, it’s totally still the trope of the white princess becomes queen of brown horde and leads them all to conquer a kingdom in her name, don’t get me wrong. BUT AT LEAST IT’S NOT ENDLESS RAPE RAPE RAPE BY BARBARIAN KING as it is in the show.

So, in the books, Dany’s wedding night is when Drogo takes her to a field away from anyone and, contrary to her expectations, is very gentle and understanding with her. It is still coercion – can she say no? No, she’s been sold to him and the price has been paid – but the book explores Dany’s own messed up relationship with this fact, and what she’s come to expect from the world and what she gets. Dany basically thinks THE BEST IN THE WORLD HAS HAPPENED TO HER that this man she was sure was going to rape her brutally is actually pretty gentle about it and doesn’t disregard her pleasure or autonomy. WE AS READERS, I will dare say, are not meant to her POV as problem-free, just as we weren’t meant to do so when she was all OH IT’S MY FAULT MY BROTHER KEEPS SEXUALLY ASSAULTING ME.

EVERYTHING that happens to Dany, especially at first, is colored by that brush. She is not (as none of Martin’s characters are) an objective narrator. It’s why the constant POV shifts are interesting, in the books. She’s blind to a lot of things, she has a skewed view of a lot of things. But ultimately, Drogo wants a queen. He didn’t buy himself a slave girl to fuck every night – he could have had that any day – he bought a bride who can eventually help him govern, to be a worthy other half for a great warrior.

And I mean, there’s that scene where Dany goes to one of her slavegirls and this slavegirl tells her how she’s been working as a prostitute since age 9 (I didn’t touch a man till I was 12 though, mistress!) and she knows ~all there is~ about how to make babies. And Dany asks her, how can she give the Khal an heir? And the slave girl basically gives her sex advice about what to do. Dany’s reactions to things like “I was sold into prostitution at age 9” are… not the reactions one might expect of the reader. Like with every other character, Dany’s standards are different than the reader’s, and she for example sees this not at all a horrifying statement. And through her eyes we register how DANY perceives this woman’s reaction to be to her own story.

There are layers of subjectivity here, and Martin plays with that lots.

On the show, all of that subjectivity is gone. Dany is also not looking to make babies, but to please Drogo sexually. Which, even for Dany, I find somewhat mystifying considering ON SCREEN we see him brutally rape her every single night for a month. Do not even get me started on how I think the show’s creators deserve to have their heads smashed in for actually making those scenes graphic and including nudity, for NO REASON, when Martin himself, in the most creepy, disgusting way made those scenes gratuitously detailed and I would expect an adaptation that already changed so many scenes to at least take care and be wary of THAT.

And the first person who starts going on about how this is HBO so of course there’s endless nudity will be invited to watch all the HBO shows of my choosing, all the shows I GREW UP ON that was were INVALUABLE to me in their portrayal of nudity and sexuality and all the HBO shows that have not a single shot of a naked body because it is not necessary for the plot. This is not a mark of Game of Thrones being “that kind of show” or “on that kind of network” this is a sign of FAIL on the part of the creators, period.

So, we have the scene with the slavegirl, and I swear I DID NOT BELIEVE MY EYES when she and Dany talk about being sold into prostitution at age 9 and all the happy sexy lesons this girl learned as a result and the show doesn’t even bother to HINT at how this might be problematic. Look, this girl is happy about it! Dany is happy, if not envious! Happy, sexy times! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME.

By taking the filter of Dany’s perception off these scenes you have made them “objective”. YOU MUST COMPENSATE in that case for the book’s unreliable narrator. YOU CAN NOT TELL THIS STORY STRAIGHT, ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS. Did you just SERIOUSLY put a sexy, happy slavegirl on my screen talking about all the sexy lessons she’s learned at that brothel she was sold to? Without qualifying this in ANY way? What is this, Showtime? D:

Look, this show is not about glamorous stories of empowermen. It’s just not. It’s about exploring the realities of oppression, from different perspectives, when Martin’s doing his job right. And I like that! I watch and adore Mad Men – I think stories of how people deal with opression, how it messes them up, how they struggle against it even when they don’t or can’t “win” important.

But, “and then she was raped for a month! But then she turned him around and they made sweet sweet love” is not that. It saps all the nuance, all the messed up ambiguity out of Dany’s story.

I was willing to give them slack after the wedding night scene. I was like, OK, they’re going for brutal rape because they want to make a point, because they want to give Dany a more dramatic starting point, because they want to explore things more in depth later.

But then this week… I want to say, you know what, AT SOME POINT we will start to have those scenes where Drogo and Dany actually communicate, and have their messed up but ultimately positive-for-Dany relationship, and we will come to see their partnership and why years later Dany still regards him as the kindest man she’s ever met. WE WILL SEE THIS. IT WILL COME.

But… I’m slowly losing hope. And between the graphic rape scenes which are just a disgrace, I’m sorry, to the fact that I am now honestly lost as to where they’re going to take Dany’s storyline and what they ultimately hope to show as the result of her marriage… IDEK. What is the point supposed to be, here? What? I’ve lost all the nuance of Dany’s fucked-up-state-of-mind because we no longer have her as a direct narrator and clearly the show’s not compensating for that in any way, so…?

Jesus fucking Christ.

All right, so I sort of feel like taking about the parts of Game of Thrones 1×02 that I did like? Because there were a lot of good parts! Most of it was not made of fail! I really enjoyed it! I need to flail a bit to make myself feel better.


OMG TYRION WAKING UP WITH THE DOGS. Tyrion bitchslapping Joffrey! OMG LOVE LOVE LOVE. I’d forgotten we once had THIS Tyrion, fun and carelessly assholish and not so much tragic (come on, in this series you know it’s just a matter of time before you learn how truly tragic EVERYONE’S existence is). I also love that he’s, just as he was in book 1, amgiuous in his political leanings. That is, he seems like an OK guy? But he’s also very shrewd and on Cersei and Jaime’s side and has no particular interest in being nice or saving anyone.

The family Lannister!

Oh, Tyrion.


Jon! My favorite bit with him was the scene by the fire or whatever, where he sits by those convicted rapists and Tyrion’s just like LIKE YOUR NEW BROTHERS, EH? And Jon just sort of looks at Benjen with a tiny sliver of hope – like, if he can only cling to him it’ll be OK, he won’t be disgraced, he won’t be harmed, he won’t have to live with the harsh reality of the Wall. He’ll still get to be noble and important and kind and do good work. Like uncle Benjen does. And maybe one day he’ll even rise through the ranks and BE uncle Benjen. And oh, wouldn’t that be glorious, a place for him at last.

I love that bit because it’s so reminiscent of the actual book – unlike the rest of Jon’s portrayal – where Jon was much more desperate and wrecked and in a state of despair over his future. At last we begin to see the true horror of what he’s been condemned to. Something between a prison colony and a monastery.


WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOE INTERNET you will never understand the true level of my hatred for Catelyn. So, I was really looking forward to the scene with her and Jon at Bran’s bedside because that is SUCH A KEY SCENE for both her and Jon and they went and changed it, ahahaha. I’m cool with the change, I mean whatever, they’re clearly cleaning up Catelyn’s characterization and she’s clearly this adaptation’s version of Aragorn – awesome in the movies, unbearable in the books.

FOR THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW, in the book Jon – who is 14, you’ll remember, and just been informed that without his consent he’s going to the Wall (actually I wish they’d kept in those bits where Ned and Catelyn decide who gets to go and who gets to stay and Catelyn basically tells Ned HELL NO she will not have Jon here while he’s away, he’ll have to send him somewhere) – comes to say goodbye to Bran and Catelyn’s there. Jon has this really tearful, sad goodbye speech, he basically has no idea if he’ll ever get to see Bran or the rest of his siblings ever again, and Catelyn looks up at him and goes “It should have been you, lying on this bed instead of Bran.”

And Jon just sort of silently takes it, and accepts, as in the books he’s MUCH less into defying and mouthing off to and about Catelyn than he in the show, and you realize THIS IS WHAT HE GREW UP WITH, this woman who has literally never seen him as anything but a stain on her honor, who wishes him dead, and you’re like WAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIL.

And I hate Catelyn so bad you guys. Not because she was mean to him – I’m not a huge Jon fan or anything – but because she’s… this assholish, prudish hypocrite who keeps going on about how she’s the ~perfect wife and mother~ when in fact she can’t see past her desire for a perfect picturesque life and just #TG#%Y$E%YT^$YGH CAN NOT. And her bullshit with Rob later on and how she’s always like ~BEING PROPER~ ugh, fuck that shit. We’ve already seen on the show how well that upbringing’s worked out for Sansa.

Anyway, clearly on the show they’re cleaning her up and making her way more awesome and more… misguided than an outright asshole, so. Whatever, it’s a characterization choice, I’ll roll with it.


OMG PERFEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECT. Sansa and Arya and Joffrey and Cersei and the butcher’s boy and Robert and Ned, stupid, impotent Ned, who for about 5 seconds came across as a powerful and brain-having father (but then it passed, don’t worry!). Oh Sansa, my heart aches for you. You are in for such an awakening, child.


LADY NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO D: DOGGIE DOGGIE DOGGIE! Ugh. I was really hoping, for about 5 seconds there, that this Ned would be something other than a dolt and find a way to save the direwolf. IT SEEMS NOT.

I love how Sansa’s all ;_____________________________; and Arya’s just like BITCH, ONE DAY. ONE DAY, JUST YOU WAIT. AS LONG AS I’M TALL ENOUGH TO REACH ALL THE DOOR HANDLES, YOU WILL PAY FOR THIS.


Jaime and Cersei


So, the story of Cersei’s first child being dead was not in the books. IDK if this means they’ve changed her characterization or if she’s meant to be lying – I’d say the former, personally, with a healthy dose of the latter. IDK IDK I’m sensing a story behind the story she told. And if not, it’ll be interesting to see how it fits into her characterization in later books.


Oh, Jaime, I love that they added that little scene with him and Jon. LOL poor Jon who’s not used to sarcasm (raised by morons, sorry to say) and so is just UTTERLY UNEQUIPPED for that battle of wits. But mostly I loved it because Jaime, who’s wearing his Kingsguard white, is mocking Jon who’s about to take on his Night’s Watch black.


I mean when Jaime goes: “Give my regards to the Night’s Watch. I’m sure it must be thrilling to serve in such an elite force. And if not… it’s only for life.” I’m not sure if he’s just mocking Jon, is bitter about the course his own life has taken or condescending Jon as one person in an elite force whose members forego title and progeny to another. The Night’s Watch really must seem like a pathetic version of the Kingsguard to Jaime? Poor bastards are doing the same thing only they’re stuck at the end of the world instead of being warm and politically situated in the capital.

One’s black and the other one’s white, get it?




And ok some scenery porn:


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