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Game of Thrones Has Lost Its Way

Note: I followed the 48-hour rule in posting this, but know that there are some significant plot points from Monday’s episode discussed below. If you haven’t seen the latest episode of Game of Thrones (which is not necessarily something that I recommend you do), then SPOILER ALERT ahead.

So, I guess we need to have a talk about this, y’all. I’m going to go ahead and dive right in. I want to focus on two things from last night’s episode, and we’ll start with the least obvious:

The first is Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers. In the books, he is famed all across Westeros as one of the most skilled, ferocious and fearless knights and battlefield leaders in the Seven Kingdoms. He’s also universally adored by the women of Westeros – he’s basically the George Clooney of King’s Landing. Like, if everyone would stop murdering each other long enough to let someone with half a brain invent the printing press, Ser Loras would be on the cover of Westerosi People magazine as The Seven Kingdoms’ Sexiest Man Alive. Women throw themselves at him. He is a god: not only is he brave, strong and skilled, but he’s the most handsome man most of them have ever seen. We know this becasue the women of King’s Landing line the streets as Ser Loras rides out to assault and capture Dragonstone, a task bestowed upon him by the crown because A) he can fucking do it and B) Cersei is scared to death of him because he’s a dang superhero, and she hopes that he’ll be injured while he’s off slaughtering fools in The Reach.

If you haven’t read the books, this probably doesn’t sound like Ser Loras to you at all. We don’t really ever see Ser Loras in combat, since 90% of his scenes are in the dang bedroom, and he’s certainly not accompanied by a bunch of ladies in there. That’s because very contrary to Goerge R.R. Martin’s subtlety with Loras and Renly’s sexual preferences, Game of Thrones trotted him out there wearing a Lady Gaga T-Shirt and an iPhone loaded with every episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I mean for pete’s sake they basically stamped “I’M GAY” across his forehead and had him bash all of our heads in with a rainbow colored, cock-shaped foam hammer. Do you know there were people who read all the books and didn’t even know Loras was gay until the watched the TV Show? Seriously.

HBO has turned Ser Loras, a bad ass new god who might just happen to like a nice cock every now and again, into a mewling gay cartoon character who needs his effing grandmother to save him from the lunatic mother of his 13-year-old king. Martin’s Ser Loras wouldn’t have been meekly arrested for fornication by the Sparrows and the High Septon, mostly because Benioff and Weiss have made that entire damn storyline up: there is no homosexual witch hunt in George R.R. Martin’s books since Loras is busy, you know, being a knight. HBO made it all up, ostensibly because they can’t have a gay person running around being dope and kicking ass. Even if the Loras HAD been there, there’s no way he’s going to let a bunch of bald, self-mutilating weirdos take him without a damn fight, and if he were to be taken by the Sparrows (not bloody likely), he certainly wouldn’t have sat there crying and screaming “YOU’RE A LIAR!” at some whore during his farcical trial. Get the eff real.

And now we come about the 1000 lbs. direwolf in the room. What in the ENTIRE HELL was that ending? Let’s just get one damn thing straight: this wasn’t some terribly horrific scene that the show had to get through because it’s a major plot point in the novels and you just couldn’t tell the story without it. Ramsay and Sansa never get within 500 leagues of each other in any of GRRM’s fiction. This entire storyline, like 75% of what’s going on in the show now, is, if not a complete departure from the source material, certainly a major change in direction. So if you’re thinking that maybe Benioff and Weiss did the best they could with a difficult subject … nah. They chose to go there because they effing wanted to.

Part of the lure of Game of Thrones has always been the brutal, unfeeling way it’s main characters are treated in the show. This isn’t a place for tidy happy endings or on-time UPS deliveries of justice, and it’s part of what we love about this show. But there is a limit to the patience of your audience as far as what they’re willing to put up with. For me and lot of other people, Benioff and Weiss blew past that limit with “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”. Nothing about about that scene was necessary, and the argument that “it’s how the show is, it’s how it’s always been, if you don’t like it don’t watch” doesn’t hold any water. If the show’s direction requires that Sansa endures that, there’s a way you can do it without making it feel gratuitous. I felt sick to my stomach watching and hearing that last scene, and I’ve never been a victim of any sort of sexual violence. I can’t imagine the horror those who have might have gone through as we watched Sansa face pushed down into the bed, saw Ramsay tear her clothes, and listened to her screams as the camera zoomed in on Reek’s horrified face.

Andy Greenwald over at Grantland sums up my feelings better than I ever could when he says, “Five seasons in, Game of Thrones is long past the point of earning gold stars simply by showing us the worst possible thing. There’s a fine line between exposing the dirty truth of the world and wallowing in it.” Again, Benioff and Weiss blew past that proverbial line on Monday night. It was horrific, totally unnecessary, and it has me seriously considering walking away from a show that I’ve spent the last five years falling in love with.

One would have hoped that after the backlash the show received in response to the overly rapey scene between Jaime and Cersei a year ago, HBO had learned it’s lesson. Obviously that wasn’t the case. As Jason Concepcion, also of Grantland, points out in his mailbag posted today, it doesn’t seem like they’ve learned anything this time, either: they were dismissive of the outcry, painting Sansa as “a hardened woman” doing what she felt she had to, and suggesting that Littlefinger didn’t know what sort of monster he had promised her to. Uh, is that the same Littlefinger that orchestrated the deaths of Jon Arryn, Ned Stark and Joffrey Baratheon without lifting a damn finger? Nope. Tear that one out of the playbook, son, it’s a loser.

Where do we go from here? Can we trust them not to put us in that position again? No. Does that mean it’s time to walk away? I don’t know. There is so much awfulness in this fictional world to focus on: dragons, slavers, murderers, zombies, the fact that no one, NO ONE has punched Cersei in her awful, awful face, etc. Let’s try looking in on some of that bad assery for a while, and maybe the showrunners can work through their rape fantasy issues on their own time.