‘Game of Thrones’ 4.03 Recap: “What Makes a Good King?”

In an episode focused on dealing with the fallout from last week’s bombshell, ‘Game of Thrones’ does not deliver any huge, shocking plot twists this week. However, one deviation from the source material has stirred up a controversy among fans.

First, we’ll deal with the plot stuff.

Joffrey is dead. Tyrion has been arrested and will face trial. Although Margaery married Joffrey before he died, that marriage was not consummated. As such, she is not the queen. (I guess this rules her out as a suspect in the murder. It would not be in her interest to kill Joffrey like this if she couldn’t gain from it.) Instead, Cersei’s younger son Tommen is next in line for ascension and will inherit the throne. The boy seems young and naïve, but does not appear to be evil like his brother. So that’s an improvement all around. Grandfather Tywin wastes little time in schooling the new king on the importance of following the advice of his counselors (namely himself, of course). The malleable Tommen becoming king actually seems to work out pretty nicely for Tywin.

Tyrion’s trial will be presided over by three judges: his father Tywin (not a good sign), Margaery’s father Mace Tyrell (who will probably side with Tywin for the good of their families’ alliance), and the wild card of Dornish prince Oberyn Martell. If anything, I expected Oberyn to be a suspect in the murder. Instead, Tywin personally approaches him about being a judge in the trial and even serving in the new king’s Small Council. He makes no bones about this being a purely political maneuver. The Lannisters need the Martells on their side for the coming war(s). Because Oberyn doesn’t have much interest in politics or being a counselor to the king, in exchange Tywin promises to bring him justice for the murder of his sister by The Mountain (which Tywin claims he had no part in, but undoubtedly really did order).

Sansa is smuggled out of King’s Landing by the royal fool Dontos, who brings her to a waiting ship where she’s met by… Littlefinger! It appears that Dontos has been working for Baelish, who planned the girl’s rescue. The scene also suggests (though I’m not sure if it’s really confirmed at this point) that Baelish orchestrated Joffrey’s murder and that Dontos delivered the poison. In gratitude for his service, Baelish promptly has Dontos killed. The guy was a drunk, after all. He was bound to blab his mouth at some point. Baelish couldn’t have that happen.

Up north, the Wildlings and their unpleasant cannibal friends raid and slaughter a village. They leave one survivor, a small boy, and send him running to Castle Black with a message about what happened. The Night’s Watch leaders recognize this as a trap and refuse to be drawn out where they can be picked off. As this happens, a pair of rangers return from the other side of the Wall to report that the mutineers from Season 2 are still camped at Craster’s Keep. Jon Snow immediately announces that they need to go there and kill the mutineers as quickly as possible. When questioned how that’s a good idea, Snow explains that he told Mance Rayder that the Knight’s Watch has 10,000 men at Castle Black. The mutineers know that there’s really only 100. If Rayder gets to them first, he’ll torture the truth out of them. Once he realizes how poorly defended the Wall really is, Rayder will just stroll right through. The belief that he faces stronger opposition is the only thing slowing him down.

The episode title, ‘Breaker of Chains’, comes from the Daenerys storyline. The Mother of Dragons and her army approach the fortified city of Meereen. The city sends out a champion warrior to challenge a champion from Daenerys’ side. Her flirty-flirty almost-boyfriend Daario volunteers and pulls a totally badass move to defeat and humiliate his opponent. (In case it’s not clear, this is the same Daario Naharis from last season. The role has been recast with a hunkier actor, presumably to make a more convincing love interest.) Daenerys delivers a stirring speech in front of the city walls – not to the city leaders, but to its slaves, promising to free them if they turn against their masters. She then has catapults fling barrels over the wall that are filled with the broken chains of the slaves she’s freed before. Honestly, I don’t feel that this storyline accomplishes much that we haven’t already seen before, other than to give Daenerys more screen time and remind viewers that we’re still supposed to care about her.

The Controversy

Cersei is convinced that Tyrion murdered her son, and begs Jaime to kill him for her. In a particularly unpleasant scene, Jaime gets fed up with his sister not reciprocating his love, and rapes her right beside the body of their dead child. This has enraged some fans of the book series, where the scene plays out differently and Cersei consents to the sex. Having him rape Cersei now is seen as a character-changing dark turn for Jaime, who seemed to be on the road to some sort of personal redemption.

Author George R.R. Martin has attempted to deflect some of the criticism by explaining that the context of the scene is completely different in the book and the TV show. At the same time, he also distanced himself from it by claiming that he wasn’t consulted, and pushed the responsibility onto the show-runners.

Speaking as someone who has not read the books, I’m not personally bothered by the alteration. Yes, it’s very dark, but we already knew that Jaime has a lot of darkness in him. Although certainly charming and generally guided by his own sense of honor (however he chooses to define it), he’s not exactly a “good” person and has done many awful things. Lest we forget, we were first introduced to Jaime tossing a young, defenseless child off a castle wall to his presumed death because the boy witnessed him having sex with his own sister. Yes, he’s gone through a lot and changed a good deal since then, but ultimately he’s still a conflicted character driven by complex motivations. Allowing him a straightforward redemption would almost seem too easy. This scene is a reminder that we as viewers are meant to have mixed feelings about liking him.

Are you more troubled by this scene than I am?


  1. I’m with you Josh, not only am I not upset as many others seem to be, I’m in the (minority) camp that’s not even sure it was a rape. Jamie only has one working hand, and Cersei wasn’t exactly screaming and trying to beat him off. If anything, it seemed like she thought the time/place was inappropriate and not the action.

    Of course, try saying that on a mainstream blog and you come off as the “guy who approves rape.” 🙁

  2. I didn’t have any problems with the deviation. Jaime can be impulsive and Cersei likes to toy with his emotions. It wasn’t rape. She kissed back and half-heartedly tried to stop him.
    The only deviation I am curious about is with The Hound. I’m interested in seeing where they are going with it.

  3. Considering his arc and his past attitudes about rape, I found it pretty dumb and a bit lazy. Yes he’s always been conflicted, but much like his father and brother, he still has his own code he follows rigidly and this was a jarring departure from that, especially given his arc in the book and emerging arc in the show.

    We’re at a time in our culture where a lot of viewers are (rightfully) being more critical of using rape as a simple plot device. Does this scene meet that criteria and deserve such ire? I’m not sure, really, I’m a bit conflicted on it. I’ll try to hold out on too much judgment until we see where the show is taken. What might disturb me more, is the insistence by some (especially if it’s from those in charge of the show itself) saying it wasn’t rape. That’s far more troubling to me than using rape as a simple plot device in a frivolous manner.

  4. Timcharger

    It’s not rape, in the sense that the GoT world isn’t our modern world. Yes,
    it would be rape in our modern, western world (and sadly not rape in many
    parts of our current world). This would be a time where if Robert the King
    husband wanted to f*ck Cersei his wife, whenever he wanted to, she can’t
    say no. And for practical purposes, Cersei and Jaime ARE husband and
    wife (not officially, but they are mother and father of 3 children already).
    This GoT world where a husband being accused of rape by his wife… is
    considered silly.

  5. Timcharger

    And why is this controversial? There’s plenty, plenty of shock rape in GoT
    already, so why does this matter? Cersei is a hated character, so no
    sympathy there. Though Jaime is gaining some fans, but if any fan thinks
    Jaime is a good guy, you haven’t been paying attention.

  6. Timcharger

    The timing and the location is the shock value. But with Cersei’s
    passionate plea for revenge to the father of her children by kissing him,
    and Jaime being overwhelm with lust, that’s more like: not here, not now.
    She’s not really saying: no.

  7. Timcharger

    And the writing of this is very symmetrical. Jaime (a man) gets what he wants
    from Cersei in the church with her dead son beside her. And earlier, Tywin
    (a man) gets what he wants from Cersei in the church with her dead son
    beside her. It can be seen that Tywin “rapes” away her other son, Tommen.
    Cersei also told Tywin “no” to talking to Tommen. Cersei “loses” to 2 men
    in the exact same location.

  8. I loved Tywin’s scene with the the Dornish prince Oberyn Martell. In just a few sentences, he managed to recap the entire three seasons of episodes 😀

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