Game of Thrones

HBO's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' TV Show


Headey, Coster-Waldau on Sept Scene

More than a week has passed since “Breaker of Chains” aired to some controversy, all thanks to the sept scene between siblings Cersei and Jaime, a dark moment between them made grotesque by the presence of their dead son’s body in the scene. Outrage was exceptional on many sides as a general opinion formed that what was depicted was a rape scene with Jaime forcing his sister. Matters were thrown into some confusion by certain remarks from director Alex Graves and actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, compounded by a very brief remark from executive producer David Benioff in the Inside the Episode featurette which were construed by some as being contradictory.

This week, however, a pair of new interviews with the actors involved in the scene sheds some further light on what they had intended to achieve. Speaking with Sweden’s Expressen newspaper, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau expanded (Google Translate version) on his earlier remarks, speaking forthrightly but with a clear acknowledgment that what viewers took from it was in many cases different from what he, Lena Headey, the director, and the executive producers had intended. Two brief excerpts:

“I spoke with director Alex Graves, with the writers and of course with Lena (Headey, who plays Cersei). It’s a very complex scene, there are many who see it as a brutal rape, but that was obviously never intended. I understand that one can see it as that, but for us it was much more complex, and I think if you’ve seen the whole series and followed these characters and see that so much happens in the scene, it’s more than just a guy who is horny and wants to have sex, which is not what we are trying to show.”
Of course we think it is more than just a rape, and if you watch the rest of the season there is a payoff to this scene. Everything is about their relationship, and their relationship has been extremely complicated.”

At the same time, Lena Headey has been interviewed by GoldDerby and the topic came up there as well:

In the course of the above interview, she makes some of the following remarks (transcript from The Mary Sue):

“Yes, so, you know, we spent a long time rehearsing it with Alex [Graves], the director, and myself and Nik and Jack [Gleeson] and you know, of course it’s a very complicated moment for many reasons and what I will say about it is, from my stance as an actor who’s had this character for three years, four years, who knows her intimatelyâ`¦you know you’re standing, as a woman in absolute grief, in pain that she’s never felt before. And you know, she’s staring at the body of her dead son who’s been her sanity and her purpose and she’s joined by her brother who’s also her lover so, you know, we’ve also got bigger problems going on than the ones everyone’s talking about]. And it becomes very messy. And there’s lust and desperation and you know, a need to feel something other than this searing, empty loss. And so that’s where I came from when we were filming. There was this need and it wasn’t right and yet it felt great and yet it wasn’t right and it played out the way it did. And I was really happy with it. I thought it was um, my intention was there and I think people’s reactions are right and opinions are varying.”
I came from this place of grieving and a need to feel connected and alive and you know, this is the only other person, probably the only person she has ever trusted in the world. And she’s shunned Jaime and he’s never stopped loving her and in that moment she’s embracing and she’s rejecting of him in the same breath and you know, if I had not have said “not now, not here,” you know, if there were silence I don’t know how people would have reacted, you know what I mean? But it’s tricky, man, because we could go into this for a long time, I could get personal, we couldâ`¦you know what I mean? It’s a real fucker of a situation. And I also think, you know, without being too much of a twat about it, we’re talking about a show with dragons, incest, babies taken by zombies, you knowâ`¦

So, taken all together, I think we have from the actors and the director a clear notion that this is a dark moment between the two, but one that fits within a continuum of interactions for the pair, that it’s a situation that neither character reads as a rape but rather as an act of mutual despair and lust. Outsiders not part of that relationship can and should take what they want from it, but as far as the characters are concerned, surely their interpretations are the only ones that matter.

That leaves Benioff’s brief remark as a seeming outlier, but even that could be construed as being in line with what everyone else is saying: yes, Jaime used force in starting the encounter, but as we see from Headey and Coster-Waldau, this ultimately facilitated a consensual relationship between the two. And it’s worth noting that in the novels, Jaime initiating encounters, sometimes forcefully, is very much presented as a normal situation for the two. There are many reasons why this might be the case without it indicating that the relationship is physically abusive. The fact that it is transgressive, and necessarily furtive, might in itself indicate that by being driven into the shadows, the pair have become used to quickly snatched moments, seizing the opportunity (and one another) with little communication other than an innate sense of one another’s desires and needs. It’s a dangerous kind of relationship, certainly, when consent is assumed rather than explicit, but it may be what’s “normal” for the incestuous couple