George R.R. Martin addressed the controversial rape scene in last week’s episode of Game of Thrones — spoilers, of course, ahead — explaining how the relationship between the recently reunited siblings/lovers Jaime and Cersei Lannister had a completely different dynamic in the show than in his Song of Ice and Fire series.
In the scene, Jaime, fed up with Cersei’s refusal of their previous relationship, sexually assaults her in the room where their dead son, the murdered King Joffrey, is being kept. The moment, understandably, upset plenty of fans of the show and books, for which Martin apologized: “The scene was always intended to be disturbing,” he wrote, “but I do regret if it has disturbed people for the wrong reasons.”
Still, Martin carefully addressed why the scene played out the way it did, describing the circumstances leading up to that moment in his novel and in Game of Thrones, for which he has creative input, though it is ultimately helmed by Dan Weiss and David Benioff. In the book, Martin explained, Jaime is not only absent when Joffrey is killed, but Cersei believes her brother to be dead as well; their tryst upon his return is “wildly inappropriate and Cersei is fearful of discovery,” Martin wrote, but “she is hungry for him as he is for her.”
“The whole dynamic is different in the show,” Martin continued, as Jaime has not only been home for quite some time, but has spent much of it fighting with Cersei. “The setting is the same, but neither character is in the same place as in the books, which may be why Dan & David played the sept out differently. But that’s just my surmise; we never discussed this scene, to the best of my recollection.”
Martin also acknowledged the difficulty of showing such an intense scene like that on screen, where “the camera is necessarily external” and the viewer knows what the characters are saying and doing, but not necessarily what they’re thinking and feeling. Had they kept some of Cersei’s dialogue from the book, the scene might have left a different impression on viewers, Martin offered, but again noted that such lines would have been delivered by a slightly different version of the character, under slightly different circumstances and may not have fit into the context of Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones director Alex Graves came under fire by some viewers for telling HitFix that the scene “becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle.”