Ladies: give it up for the men.
Game Of Thrones presents a strangely traditional representation of gender roles as the men woo the women in an episode dedicated principally to three storylines.
Let’s bitch it out…Some of you may argue with me about how women are represented on Game Of Thrones, but I would argue that this show is one of the most “women friendly” on TV. Yes, it features its share on sexposition and bared breasts, but I see the sex and nudity as a realistic part of a world that is fixated on power. And sexuality is an integral form of power, one that women (and a few men) know how to expertly exploit. It’s strange then to see the show present such a traditional portrayal of gender roles: men saving & wooing women.
Wedding bells are ringing for Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), but the likable imp goes easy on his child-bride. After oogling her in a drunken stupor, Tywin turns knight in shining armour, allowing Sansa to retain her virginity (and appeasing Sibel Kekili’s Shae). This isn’t exactly new behaviour for Tyrion – he’s always been the nicest of the Lannisters and he clearly sympathized with Sansa’s situation when she was still betrothed to snotty little shit Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) – but it once again positions Sansa as a woman desperately in need of saving. For Sansa, unfortunately, this is nothing new: she’s still dangerously naive about how things in King’s Landing. At this point Tyrion is the third man who’s stepped up to save her skinny ass: first, The Hound during the battle of Blackwater, then Baelish (who may or may not have had the purest of intentions in whisking her away for his visit to the Aerie) and now the imp. At this point, we need to see Sansa take control of her own destiny; she’s been in the capital for over a year now. It’s time she learned how to play the game…or risk losing her head for good.
Far more frustrating is Dany’s (Emilia Clarke) storyline, which infers that the only reason she isn’t murdered by the Second Sons, a 2000 sell sword army, is because she has a hot bod. While I’m accustomed to Cersei (Lena Headey) using her sexuality to get what she wants (or try to get what she wants) in King’s Landing, this feels disappointing for Dany. Hers is the story of a girl who becomes a woman that takes on the world thanks to a combination of smarts and fortuitous luck. Obviously her appearance plays into this, but I would argue that Dany downplays this more often than not (often others misjudge her because of her youth and beauty, at which time she usually sets them on fire).
The suggestion that new character Daario Naharis (Ed Skrein) is willing to go against the other Second Son leaders for a glimpse of her nude body in the bath feels strangely pedestrian. Perhaps others will interpret this more as a commentary on men and their inclination to think solely with their member (like Mark Killeen’s Mero, who insults Dany and loses his head). I would have much rather seen Dany deal with the misogyny and stupidity of these men on her own, though, rather than needing “saving” by a love (lust?)-struck Daario.
At least we know what we’re getting into when it comes to Melisandre (Carice van Houten), the red witch who doffs her clothes at the drop of a hat if it means gaining an inch of favour with the Lord of Light. After successfully snatching Gendry (Joe Dempsie) from the Brotherhood a few weeks ago, the pair arrives at Dragonstone so that Melisandre can perform a blood spell using his kingly bastard penis blood. This is more akin to the kind of representation of sex and gender that we’re accustomed to: women using their superior wit (and bodies as distraction) to gain the upper hand against stupid men. Of course, it’s hard to overcome the whiff of impropriety about this sex scene – not simply because we anticipate Melisandre to pull a Sharon Stone circuit Basic Instinct and ice-pick the poor blacksmith after she hog-ties him to the bed. Let’s be honest, Gendry is a bit of a lad in comparison to Melisandre, whose lady fruits have clearly fully matured. Either way, whether you were hoping for a bit more camera pan as she tugged off his pants or were clutching your pearls, the end result – a trio of bursting blood leeches speedily cooked over an open flame – clearly spell trouble for several men: Balon Greyjoy, Joffrey and Robb Stark (an unseen Richard Madden).
Good luck to them!
- A cacophony of characters sit the episode out, include the aforementioned Robb, Catelyn, Brann, Jon Snow, Ygritte and Theon (thank god!). This allows the show to dedicate more time to the three principal storylines and really let them simmer. The scene that benefits the most from this approach in the understated wedding of Sansa and Tyrion. As Joffrey and Sansa walk down the aisle, the camera tracks ahead of and behind them, pauses and cutting occasionally to frame the various wedding guests’ reactions in close-up as they walk past. It’s simple, but effective because it takes its time to reinforce the discomfort both parties feel in front of this random assortment of guests, none of whom wish them well
- While I worry that actor Jack Gleeson is in danger of being assaulted by passionate fans in real life, his innate ability to infuse pure ass-hat-ery in Joffrey is a marvel. Something as simple as removing Tyrion’s footstool, thereby making a mockery of the dwarf in front of the wedding guests, is so evil that I just want to hiss at Joffrey with malice whenever he appears on-screen (Never mind the fact that he threatens to rapey-rape Sansa on her wedding night – that alone should guarantee a painful, wooden cock related end)
- That said, the interplay between Tywin (Charles Dance), Tyrion and Joffrey as the feast concludes is delicious. Say what you will about the Lannisters, but they sure do give good insult (I’m also partial to Cersei’s quip to Loras – so devastatingly quick and brutal the poor boy barely knows what hit him)
- The scene between Arya (Maisie Williams) and The Hound (Rory McCann) that opens the episode is perfectly executed. It’s brief and a little expository (hey kids, remember that Edmure Tully is getting hitched at the Twins? Now you do!), but these two work so well together, it’s like watching the early days of a budding buddy-comedy. How is it that Williams brings out the best in all of her co-stars?
- More unexpected comedy: Dany discovering that her Dothraki kinda sucks. I wonder if Emilia Clarke was just remembering trying to wrap her tongue around the imaginary language back in S1 when she played this out
- Guess Clarke wasn’t the one who refused to do any more topless scenes after all? (Or perhaps this refers to episodes after this season is finished?)
- On the flip side, I’m left as cold as a White Walker with Sam’s (John Bradley) closing scene. Clearly the discovery that his knife can kill the scariest creatures North of The Wall is integral, as is the creepy relationship between Gilly’s baby and the crows in the Godstree…and yet I can’t muster any enthusiasm (still!) for this storyline. After Theon’s torture scenes, these are my least favourite characters to follow (Side Note: Yes, Sam left behind the dagger…because he’s Sam and he’s stupid)
- Finally, our history lesson for the episode is the tragic tale of the House that dared to fly too close to the sun: House Reyne. They climbed to the top of the foodchain above the Lannisters and paid the price with their lives as the men, women and even children were slaughtered by the Lannisters and left to publicly rot for a particularly hot summer. It’s clearly a warning to Margaery (Natalie Dormer) about the perils of getting too cosy at the top of the food chain, but since the downbeat hummer is also the name of the next episode, I can’t help but read into things a bit. Thus far episode nine of each season has been the barn burner, so if anything insane is going to happen, it’s a safe bet that it’ll come to pass during ‘The Rains Of Castamere’. Hold tight, Game Of Thrones fans!
- Tyrion (to Sansa): “You won’t be a prisoner after today – you’ll be my wife. Though I suppose that’s a different kind of prisoner”
- Cersei (to Margaery): “If you ever call me sister again, I’ll have you strangled in your sleep.” Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters…
- Cersei (when Loras tries to engage her in conversation): “Nobody cares what your father once told you.”
- Tyrion (after Joffrey tries to initiate the bedding sequence): “Then you’ll be fucking your own bride with a wooden cock.” Zing! Though saying this in front of the entire wedding court might have been overplaying your hand a bit, Tyrion
- Tyrion (drunkenly, when he and Sansa are alone): “Astoundingly long…neck. You have one”
*Please Note: This is a spoiler-free zone so please ensure that you’re not commenting on content from the books or anything you’ve read online about future episodes.
Game Of Thrones is taking Memorial weekend off, but will return with the always shocking/amazing/controversial ninth episode of the season on Sunday, June 2 at 9pm EST on HBO