EDIT: here’s the link.
However, there wasn’t room for a full analysis of Alex Grave’s comments in the piece, so I’m linking to them here.
The showrunners’ problems with their response to the reactions to Episode 3 started with the now-infamous interview that Alex Graves did with Vulture in which he unpacked what he thought the scene depicted:
“Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle. Nobody really wanted to talk about what was going on between the two characters, so we had a rehearsal that was a blocking rehearsal. And it was very much about the earlier part with Charles (Dance) and the gentle verbal kidnapping of Cersei’s last living son. Nikolaj came in and we just went through one physical progression and digression of what they went through, but also how to do it with only one hand, because it was Nikolaj. By the time you do that and you walk through it, the actors feel comfortable going home to think about it. The only other thing I did was that ordinarily, you rehearse the night before, and I wanted to rehearse that scene four days before, so that we could think about everything. And it worked out really well. That’s one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever done.”
None of this came through in the dialogue, blocking, or shot choices in this scene; that’s my opinion, but it’s one I’ve seen echoed by the reviewers above or show-watchers commenting on a variety of internet fora. Graves is an experienced, talented director – so why didn’t it come through the way he intended? Well, things become much more complicated when Graves also describes this scene as “forced sex” – was he intending to have the scene be “consensual in the end?” Or was it supposed to be rape, as the writers and showrunners stated pretty conclusively in their Inside the Episode interview?
This inconsistency between interviews and between director and writers/showrunners pointed to something having gone very wrong in production – whether it was a lack of communication between the various parties about what was supposed to be happening in this scene, or something happening in the editing bay which changed the meaning and import of the action dramatically, or an overall lack of understanding about the characters, their relationships, and their character arcs.
A second interview has since provided more information, but rather than settling any controversy, only shines further light on some troubling facts.
- Graves says that “- “There wasn’t a lot of talk about it, to be honest. Everybody knew and then confirmed with each other this is a sort of animalistic, desperate escape moment in the middle of a tragedy that is twisted enough that only Jaime and Cersei could pull it off…they have sex. It’s the last place you think anyone’s going to have sex.” Given the extreme nature of this scene, and the issues involved, this scene should have been unpacked in depth before filming started; everyone should have been very clear about what their interaction was supposed to be and attuned to whether it came out that way on the screen. The fact that there wasn’t this conversation is really troubling, raising questions about how the production is being managed.
- There also seems to be a major problem with how people on the show understand consent. Graves describes the scene as “not consensual as it began, but Jaime and Cersei, their entire sexual relationship has been based on and interwoven with risk. And Jaime is very much ready to have sex with her because he hasn’t made love to her since he got back, and she’s sort of cajoled into it, and it is consensual. Ultimately, it was meant to be consensual…” As the reviewers cited above pointed out, depicting someone raping into consent is the original sin when it comes to Hollywood’s contribution to rape culture, going all the way back to the days of Gone With the Wind. Both the directors and the showrunners should have been aware of this so that they could have made sure that this didn’t happen in their shoot. Comments from Graves about how “anything for [Cersei and Jaime] ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle,” suggests that that awareness was completely lacking.
- A lot of the failures in this scene seem to come down to how it was blocked. Even if they’d gone with the book version, in which Cersei enthusiastically consents to having sex with Jaime, it would still have been an extreme scene. After all, it’s brother-sister incest, in a high holy place, next to the dead body of their child – there’s taboos going off left and right, even leaving out the period sex in the book – and that needs to be handled carefully to make sure that the already shocked audience can still interpret the scene correctly. However, Graves’ seems to have relied on insufficient guidelines to do this. As he puts it, “ the consensual part of it was that she wraps her legs around him, and she’s holding on to the table, clearly not to escape but to get some grounding in what’s going on. And also, the other thing that I think is clear before they hit the ground is she starts to make out with him. The big things to us that were so important, and that hopefully was not missed, is that before he rips her undergarment, she’s way into kissing him back. She’s kissing him aplenty.” A hand clenched onto a tablecloth, the position of the leg – these are very subtle and ambiguous blocking directions that are easily missed when the dominant visual of the scene is Cersei pinned on the ground and crying, as Jaime is gruntingly saying “I don’t care” to her demands to stop.
If the intent was to have a scene in which Cersei is initially reluctant but then consents to sex, there were many ways to fix that. The dialogue that Benioff and Weiss wrote showed Cersei refusing consent and telling Jaime to stop over and over again – a major screwup the showrunners are responsible for if they intended the scene to be consensual – so change it to something like the books where Cersei says “Hurry…quickly, quickly, now, do it now, do me now. Jaime Jaime Jaime…Yes…my brother, sweet brother, yes, like that, yes, I have you.” Barring a script changes, there are many ways to block the scene to make it resemble what Graves says he wanted – have Cersei undo her own garments or Jaime for that matter, have her get on top of him, have her make physical gestures of engagement and desire that can’t be easily missed. But then again, these are easy things for an experienced director to