Is Game of Thrones still Game of Thrones?

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Spoiler Alert if you haven’t seen this week’s episode of Game of Thrones.

The usual corners of the TV recap-osphere on the internet are abuzz this week, discussing Game of Throne’s controversial decision to have the seemingly reformed Kingslayer, Jamie Lannister, rape his sister and sometimes lover, Cersei.  But it wasn’t the rape itself that was creating such an uproar. And let’s face it, after 3-plus seasons of Game of Thrones, if you still aren’t expecting to see the absolute worst parts of humanity on display, I’ve got a box with Reek’s man parts to sell you.

The main cause for this backlash is the fact that this scene deviates so far from the book. Whereas the sex scene in George R.R. Martin’s novel is clearly consensual, there is no doubt that in the show, Jamie rapes his sister. And as much as director Alex Graves will say in interviews that it “becomes consensual by the end,” the way the scene was shot and the way the actors played their roles gave made it clear that it was a rape. All of which begs the question: Is it really a bad thing that the TV show is starting to deviate far from Martin’s text? Co-creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have already taken more than a few liberties with the text. Daenerys is 13 years old in the novel, but is a full grown woman in the show (a fact that we are made abundantly aware of in the premiere). And certain characters roles have grown and shrunk in direct correlation to the skill of the actors that portray them. Tywin Lannister is a key part of the novels, but his character played more of a supporting role in the text. But in the hands of the incomparable Charles Dance, Tywin ranks among the most compelling characters on the television show.

As a reader of the Song of Fire and Ice novels, I can understand the frustration of fans who feel as if Benioff and Weiss are somehow ruining Martin’s story. As if they were granted stewardship of this revered text, and decided to turn it into confetti.  And to be honest, I was not thrilled watching a character that I hated, but grew to respect and even admire over the course of five novels (and three TV seasons) burn up all that goodwill on the floor of King’s Landing’s Holy Sept. But I also believe that Weiss and Benioff have earned at least some leeway in telling Martin’s epic story from their own unique perspective. And if that means that the television show becomes a bit further removed from the novels they are based on, well, that’s the price we pay for getting the opportunity to see some of the most complex and compelling characters in fantasy novels come to life on television. Be honest, if you read (or reread) the books, don’t you always imagine the pitch perfect Peter Dinklage whenever Tyrion’s name appears on the page. And doesn’t it actually make more sense for Daenerys to be an adult, given that she somehow manages to charm thousands of people to follow her into battle upon battle?

So yes, perhaps Weiss and Benioff have made their job harder, putting Jamie back in the villain corner, just as he had finally earned back some audience sympathy. But maybe, that was their goal all along. And although it may not be clear yet why they decided to go in this direction, I’m willing to give the two creators the benefit of the doubt. Of course, if they should decide to kill off Tyrion next week, all bets are off.

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