This episode is going to be sticking with me for a long time, but not exactly in a good way. I guess I can’t expect this show to be perfect 100% of the time, but I feel like most of Sundays episode was a serious misstep for a show that is usually so spot on. The show and the book series it’s based on are naturally violent and I’m usually able to move beyond my discomfort with most situations. I understand that it’s just part of the story and the world building required to convey that story. But last night was the first time that the violence went so far that I felt like I’d been wronged by the show. I am, of course, referencing Ros’s death.
Now Ros wasn’t in the books so her death, and particularly the method of her death, came as quite a shock. While the book series itself is quite casual about killing off characters, her death was fully in the hands of the show runners and cannot be blamed on the books. Ros seemed to be there purely to show how evil Joffrey and Littlefinger were. And you know what? We got it. They’re despicable. I really did not need to see Ros suspended from her wrist filled with arrows to understand that. We could have just as easily been told that or implied that or, hell, just assume that they’re evil based on all their previously terrible deeds. Instead we were shown an image that will be burned into my brain for who knows how long. Based on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook reactions I am not the only one that’s been triggered by the imagery.
Some feel that the criticism over Ros’s death is unjustified. After all, this series is violent. We had Ramsay flaying Theon in the very same episode, Jaime’s hand cut off two episodes ago, and people being skewered with swords and arrows in just about every episode since the pilot. The problem is that Ros is always a victim of sexualized violence and abuse. Over and over and over again. In fact, it seems that was the entire point of her character. Last season featured another scene between Joffrey and Ros where the newly crowned King forced her to brutally beat another prostitute purely for his own pleasure. He aimed an arrow at her as he commanded her, forcing Ros to either beat this other girl or be killed. Looking back this was an awfully disturbing bit of foreshadowing, but I didn’t think they’d ever actually pull that trigger. I figured that imagery was enough to get the point across. I have to fast forward through that scene on every rewatch, but at the time that scene made sense to me. I still found it disturbing, but it helped set the tone for Joffrey’s reign as King. And it did that. The tone was set.
The rampant nudity in Little Fingers brothel doesn’t even really bother me much. I watch HBO frequently and I’m pretty unfazed by it. I also understand that in a Medieval fantasy setting there will be some level of sexism present based purely on the fact that women are not as highly valued in men in a feudal society. It sucks, but I’m prepared for it. And honestly, I’ve been consistently impressed with how many positively portrayed female characters this show has despite its setting (Daenerys, Arya, Asha/Yara, Brienne, and the Tyrell’s, just to name a few). Littlefingers brothel, however, is definitely a place of extreme sexism even within the context of the show. The girls are used and abused, beaten and forced to work through extreme emotional duress, then sold to even more despicable people when they’re profitability begins to decline. This point has been hammered home since the beginning, but I guess the writers felt they needed to push it just a little further than they’d already been pushing it for three seasons. I personally see no other reason to make that decision other than pure shock value.
Ah… shock value. We may have hit the nail on the head here. This is HBO after all. Don’t get me wrong. I love HBO. Half of my favorite shows have been from this channel (Carnivale, Six Feet Under, Treme, and Boardwalk Empire, for example). They love pushing limits and making people talk. And if their goal was to push that limit and create some buzz, well, it worked I guess. I’m not going to stop watching HBO. They are far too quality to abandon because of one thing on one show that happened to get under my skin. And I’m not going to stop watching Game of Thrones because, well, I’m basically obsessed with it okay? But oh man, I’m definitely pissed off at both of them after last night. The only way they’re going to be able to make this up to me is by (highlight for book spoilers) letting Shae live. Can’t have two prostitutes dying in arrow related incidents can we? Give me this one thing, HBO. Give this to me and we might be square. Maybe. And more Daenerys. Always more Daenerys. Please and thank you.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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