There’s something strange about discovering the moment at which HBO’s generally superb, but extremely graphic, “Game of Thrones” finally went too far for many viewers. Horrific violence, including torture, castration, and the violent murder of children? No problemo. Gratuitous nudity deployed during otherwise chilly blasts of expository dialogue, with such frequency that it became a cliche worthy of parody? Whatever. An extended scene of a bisexual orgy? Ho-hum.
Incestuous sex between a brother and sister whose illicit tryst was one of the major provocations for a devastating war, and whose (spiritually) hideous inbred offspring was well on his way to becoming a blood-slathered insane tyrant, before he got poisoned? Sure, why not… provided it’s entirely consensual. Not even having sex beneath their son’s corpse while he was lying in state was too much of a transgression, but when Cersei Lannister told her brother Jaime to stop and he didn’t, the line was finally crossed.
Quite a bit of controversy has developed around this scene, which played out differently than author George R. R. Martin envisioned in the original books, where the encounter was entirely consensual. He’s apparently uncomfortable with how HBO rewrote the scene, too.
The change was partially due to some tinkering with how Cersei and Jaime are reunited after his long, and very unpleasant, absence. The HBO writers put them at odds as soon as Jaime returned to the capital city – she blows him off by grumbling that he’s been gone too long for them to pick up with their creepy romance. Having established that relationship, the series writers decided he would have to force himself on her.
Maybe they also thought they had gone too far in making Jaime likable. He’s one of the very few characters in this grim tale who has anything approaching a redemptive story arc, but thanks to some good acting, great chemistry with one of the only white-hat good guys on the entire planet – the female knight Brienne, whose storyline is also mutating because her scenes with Jaime were so memorable – and audience sympathy for the loss of his hand, he was racing toward “reformed villain” status too quickly. On the other hand, Cersei has been too successful as a loathsome villain, and needed a bit more audience sympathy to make the next chapters of the story work.
Whatever the reasons, it’s interesting that nobody thought it would be a good idea to just skip the sex-in-the-temple scene because the altered narrative of the show had already driven Cersei and Jaime apart. And it’s refreshing to think there are a few taboos that still make a substantial number of viewers uneasy.