It seems like every season of “Game of Thrones” has had at least one episode that has gone beyond the normal mix of brutal violence, gratuitous sex and medieval cruelty that has become part of the show’s brand. It’s those episodes that challenge fans to ask whether this might finally be the time that “Game of Thrones” has gone dangerously off the rails. Here’s a look back at 5 of those moments during the first seven seasons of “Game of Thrones.”
The “Red Wedding” has become so legendary among “Game of Thrones” fans that it has even entered the pop culture mainstream to refer to an event that’s so out of bounds and in such uncharted territory that it horrifies even long-time fans (similar to the way people once talked about “jumping the shark”). In this episode (officially called “The Rains of Castamere”), the Stark family is slaughtered as a result of a plot by Lord Walder Frey to exact revenge on the House of Stark for breaking a previous marriage pact.
But the way the action goes down in the “Red Wedding” is beyond belief. First of all, you’ve got the standard scenes of crossbows and long axes and overall violent mayhem. That by itself wouldn’t be cause for concern – but where this episode goes off the rails is with the murder of the pregnant Talisa Stark. It’s not just that she falls victim to the mayhem at the wedding – it’s that we are forced to watch as one of the men stabs her in her pregnant belly. Moreover, the camera lingers on the face of Catelyn Stark, the matriarch of the family, as she is forced to watch the slaughter of her son Robb Stark, her daughter-in-law, and unborn child.
Through the first three seasons of “Game of Thrones,” we’ve learned to accept the fact that the Lannister family is one twisted group of people. We’ve even learned to accept – if that’s even the word? – the fact that there is an incestuous brother-sister relationship between Jaime and Cersei. But in Season 4, the show’s producers seem to push things even further.
Jaime arrives the burial chamber for Joffrey, where he sees Cersei grieving over the loss of their (incestuously bred) son. He decides that moment would be a perfect moment to have another romantic coupling, and begins to force himself on Cersei, even going so far as to rip at her clothing. She pleads with him to stop, but of course, he can’t. He proceeds to rape her right on top of the tomb of their child.
This scene is already disturbing enough, but there’s an additional fact that made fans think that “Game of Thrones” had finally gone off the rails. That’s the fact that this scene was written completely differently in the book by George R.R. Martin – in the book, he writes the scene as a consensual sexual act between two adults. But in the episode, the directors film it as clearly an act of rape.
As early as Season 1, “Game of Thrones” challenged the boundaries of what could be shown on television. We already recognized Littlefinger as a cartoon-style villain capable of treachery and immoral activity. But the scene at the brothel was when we realized that HBO was going to push the envelope on how much nudity and sex would be shown in this series. For no reason at all, we’re often shown nude bodies and plenty of flesh, but this was over the top.
The scene with the prostitutes at the brothel went on for what seemed like an interminable amount of time. We see the nude prostitutes moaning and making love to each other. And then Littlefinger walks over and begins to instruct them on how to make love to a man. Then, he returns back to his business, and we see the nude, writhing prostitute engaging in lesbian sexual acts in the background, taking each other from behind. And the scene just goes on and on…
Of all the “Game of Thrones” characters born under a misfortunate sky, Sansa Stark stands out. What else can you say about a little girl who’s forced to watch the beheading of a family member and is engaged to a sadistic boy-king? But that was just the beginning. The scene that “Game of Thrones” fans are still talking about is the rape scene where Ramsay Bolton takes the 15-year-old girl from behind, rips her wedding gown and rapes her. The camera shows her sobbing and choking back tears, and then the camera fades to black.
That scene sent women up and in arms about the show. As one critic pointed out, Sansa Stark was raped for “absolutely no reason.” And worse, she was a 15-year-old minor! This was not about pushing forward the plot or developing her character. If anything, it was about showing the sadistic world of Westeros, but that’s about it. At that point, some women vowed never again to watch “Game of Thrones.”
The strange death and resurrection of Jon Snow, which took place in Season 6, was the type of hokey cliffhanger and “big reveal” that sillier soap operas typically dabbled in. The death of Jon Snow was the Season 5 cliffhanger – was he really dead? – and then HBO milked that for the whole time until Season 6. And then Season 6 had a long and elaborate scene featuring Melisandre at the death bed of Jon Snow, trying to bring him back to life, before he suddenly sits up, his eyes pop wide open and… he’s alive!
The scene even became the subject of a hilarious “Saturday Night Live” skit, in which Kate McKinnon takes a full 10 minutes to revive Jon Snow, constantly poking fun at the slow, melodramatic pace of the action. The scene is so funny because Jon Snow keeps coming back to life too early, and Kate McKinnon keeps telling him, “Not yet!”
Of course, there are many more scenes from “Game of Thrones” that made fans ask, “WTF?” But these are 5 times that the show really went too far, forcing fans to ask themselves whether “Game of Thrones” had finally gone off the rails.