Monday, June 20, 2016

Game of Thrones Rewatch 1.5: "The Wolf and the Lion"

Read the previous entry in this series here.
Read the next entry in this series here.

1.5 “The Wolf and the Lion”
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Brian Kirk

Episode 1.5, “The Wolf and the Lion,” puts me halfway through season one, which seems like a good time to do some reflection. And the thing I’ve been reflecting on the most is the show’s use of “sexposition,” or shoving “boring” but necessary information into dialogue happening between characters engaged in some sort of sex act or at least nude or semi-nude. Now, the existence of sex scenes isn’t a huge surprise, given that it’s HBO and I don’t think HBO knows how not to have gratuitous nudity. Game of Thrones is (so far) a lot tamer than, say True Blood in that respect. What bothers me most about it is that Benioff and Weiss seem to think that audiences are too stupid? Or easily bored? To sit through exposition scenes that are necessary for understanding the fundamental issues of the show. So in order to make sure they keep the audience’s attention, they make sure there’s boobs on screen at all times. So far, there’s been exactly one sexposition scene that didn’t include boobs, and that was between Loras and Renly (more on that later). It’s also worth noting that every sexposition scene so far has been written by Benioff and Weiss; granted, four of the five episodes I’ve written about so far were written by Benioff and Weiss, but the scene in “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things” between Viserys and Doreah was theirs and added in—Bryan Cogman didn’t write that scene.

The other thing worth noting is that none of the sexposition scenes include actual consensual sex. They’ve all included prostitutes and slaves, or Daenerys. While the prostitute/slave scenes may appear consensual—there’s no actual violent rape going on, at least—there’s all sorts of issues with slavery, sex work, and consent that aren’t even touched on. Only in the Viserys/Doreah scene is it even hinted at, and then it’s not really dealt with. Then we have the scene in episode one where we learn who Daenerys and Viserys are—while Viserys strips Dany naked and fondles her breast, and the camera makes sure we see said fondling close up. I can think of only one scene in the first four episodes that falls into any kind of consent, and that’s when Dany tells Drogo she’s sure she’s pregnant with a boy. And I’m not even sure that really qualifies as “sexposition,” since it’s a) super short; b) not about a character’s backstory, the history of Westeros, or any other sort of necessary-yet-boring stuff; and c) all the bits are covered.

In “The Wolf and the Lion,” there are two such scenes, one between Theon and Ros, and one between Loras and Renly. In the first, Theon has snuck Ros into Winterfell, directly defying the rules of the keep. It’s interesting that while Theon is clearly enjoying himself, Ros looks bored out of her mind, and her pleasure noises are obviously fake. Theon doesn’t notice, though, because he’s pretty self-confident when it comes to women. The rest of the scene, during which we learn more about the Greyjoy Rebellion and Theon being a hostage, is shot from a static angle, with Ros’ breasts front and center. The audience is treated to a brief full-frontal shot of Theon, but during the rest of the scene, he’s strategically covered by shadows or the back of Ros’ chair. The consent issue comes up very briefly when Theon reminds Ros that anyone can “own” her for enough money, but it’s not dealt with in any depth. Rather, it seems like an almost throwaway line meant to show what a (frankly) turd Theon is, which is reinforced a bit later when he grabs her by the hair and yanks her head back to help make his point. So this whole scene, with its focus on Ros’ breasts, a reminder that Ros’ consent is technically coerced, and Theon physically abusing Ros, is all in service to reinforcing things we already knew—Theon is a jerk, Theon regularly hires prostitutes in general and Ros in particular, and Theon is a hostage, not a guest. (This isn’t the last time Ros’ body is used to showcase how terrible a male character is.)

The scene between Loras and Renly, at least, is fully consensual. Renly isn’t so sure about this whole shaving-all-his-body-hair thing, but the sex part, at least, is on the up-and-up. So to speak. The disturbing issue with this scene is how stereotypically “gay” Benioff and Weiss have made Loras and Renly. In the books, Renly loves tournaments and hunting just as much as Robert. In the show, the sight of blood makes him want to faint and/or throw up. Show-Renly is delicate. Book-Renly takes care with his appearance and is a bit of a clotheshorse, but he’s not delicate. He’s also much more confident than this Renly; Loras spends the whole scene working to convince him that he should be king. It’s a weird time to be doing that, since Robert is still alive and well and has three children that so far nobody has pegged as bastards. So what Loras is suggesting is outright treason—in the event of Robert’s untimely death, he wants Renly to seize the throne out from under four other people in line ahead of him. When Renly broaches the subject to Ned in the books, it’s at least while Robert’s on his deathbed and Renly wants to back Ned’s claim to Lord Protector, not replace Joffrey on the throne. Not until after Ned’s death does Renly marry Margaery and claim the throne. Sure, this scene sets up Renly’s decision to declare himself king later, but the way it’s approached—not hey, you’d make a better king than Robert, just saying, but hey, let’s discuss outright treason and get you prepared to see lots of blood in the upcoming war that has no reason to start unless we start it—is definitely odd.

The entire episode also kind of has a thing with defining Loras as “the gay one.” He appears in exactly two scenes in this episode: the sexposition one and the tournament, during which Petyr makes a sly comment to Renly about “having” his “friend,” moments after Loras appears on screen for the first time. On the one hand, I kind of appreciate that the show wasn’t particularly shy about their relationship, since Martin drops hints throughout the books (very loud ones if you know what you’re looking for) and the show isn’t restricted to the points of view of Martin’s main characters, so we can see private moments between the men. Representation is good! But this early portrayal of these two characters makes me a little nervous for how they’ll handle the issue of homosexuality throughout the rest of the series. There’s not a lot of respect here, and more than a little stereotyping.

That’s a lot of time to spend on two whole scenes out of the entire episode, but I feel like talking about these long-running issues is just as important as picking individual episodes to little pieces.

Most of this episode is putting pieces in place for the massive reveals and shocks that will happen over the next couple of episodes. It’s also very confined to King’s Landing; the only other place we see is the Eyrie. Jon, the Wall, Daenerys, and the Dothraki don’t show up at all. Ned’s slowly figuring out the secret that Jon Arryn died for, and Cat is beginning to realize that maybe she doesn’t have all the answers. Tyrion’s logic—why in the world would he give an assassin his own dagger to kill Bran?—is beginning to make sense, and Lysa’s accusation that the Lannisters killed Jon Arryn is beginning to weaken now that Cat is faced with what a hot mess Lysa has become (not to mention Robin, who we will discuss in more depth later). There’s also a really great scene between Robert and Cersei that establishes the foundations of their relationship and why the animosity between them runs so deep. In a series where everyone is always hiding their true motivations and talking out of both sides of their mouths (see the scene between Petyr and Varys, which is also brilliant), it’s refreshing to have two people sit down and be completely honest with each other for a change.

Also in this episode is the showdown we knew was coming—Jaime vs. Ned. That’s been foreshadowed since the first episode. They’re pretty evenly matched until a Lannister guardsman decides to help Jaime out by stabbing Ned through the back of the leg with a spear. Jaime’s clearly irritated about it, too; he was having fun playing who’s-the-better-swordsman with Ned. Unfortunately, the brawl preceding the duel includes the death of Ned’s right-hand guardsman, Jory, who had just promised Arya that he wouldn’t let anyone kill Ned. Uh-oh.

RIP: Jory, Gregor Clegane’s horse

Next week: Robert continues to be irresponsible. Drogo has enough of Viserys. Tyrion refuses to fly.

All images from


  1. Another fine piece from you, Shiloh, and I look forward to more.

    A question occurs: Do you think the Loras/Renly dynamic a refiguring of Edward II and Gaveston?

    1. That's entirely possible--in the books. Martin drew inspiration from all sorts of places, people, and periods. In the show? Honestly, I don't think they're historically savvy enough for that. The show is the definition of neomedieval--everything "historical" they have comes directly from Martin.