Tag Archives: Rape

Discourse of Thrones: Jaime, Cersei, and Confronting Rape

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Discourse of Thrones: Jaime, Cersei, and Confronting Rape

April 21st, 2014

When I wrote my review of “Breaker of Chains” on Sunday afternoon, I certainly knew that the scene between Jaime and Cersei at the Sept of Baelor would cause a conversation.

This is both because of the fact that it signals a departure from how the scene plays out in the books and the fact that it features a character that has become a more inherently likeable character in the series committing an absolutely vile, unforgivable act. On the whole, though, I thought the scene played in the same thematic territory as its literary progenitor, such that any conversation would be more about the impact on—rather than destruction of—the characters in question. I did not imagine the scenario we’ve arrived to, in which the scene is causing a considerable and often ugly debate (provided one makes the mistakes of reading the comments, perhaps even on this piece I’m in the process of writing).

Or, rather, it’s causing two debates.

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Mad Men – “The Summer Man”

“The Summer Man”

September 12th, 2010

“All he knows of the world is what you show him.”

There has always been a disconnect between Don Draper’s external persona and his internal struggle, but this season has largely broken down that expectation. Now, Don is incapable of hiding his sadness from the outside world, lacking the glossy exterior to trick those around him into believing that he is truly a happy man.

“The Summer Man” throws light on this reality by taking us inside Don Draper through what I believe will be a fairly divisive decision to have Don’s journal serve as narration for the episode. By all accounts, including his own, Don Draper is dedicated to changing his current path, but the real test is whether or not those around him believe this transformation – while I would share the reservations that some have regarding the narration, I would ultimately argue that it helps crystallize the episode’s key theme of the difference between self-perception and how Don and others are perceived by those around them.

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Sons of Anarchy – “Balm”

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“Balm”

November 10th, 2009

I don’t need to tell you that “Balm” was an exceptional hour plus of television: for about two weeks, critics have been waxing poetic about how this could be the show’s defining moment, and how this is the episode that raises Sons of Anarchy from the upper echelon of television drama to the upper upper echelon of television drama. The result is that Sepinwall, Fienberg, Ryan, Poniewozik and every other critic under the sun have already made their position extremely clear, to the point where I don’t really have much to add in terms of singing its praises.

However, that’s never particularly stopped me before, so I still want to talk about how great this episode is, or, more accurately, why this episode manages to be great despite some significant challenges. This is an episode which builds its tension around an action that before last week was almost entirely foreign to its audience (at least those with no deeper knowledge of MCs than what the show offers) and that creates an emotional climax you can see coming by the time the episode gets going, and yet manages to pull it off so brilliantly that it’s as if we as viewers have always known what “going Nomad” refers to and that we could never have expected the kind of emotion the episode’s final moments bring.

It’s an episode that turns the viewer into an active participant in the lives of each and every single character, to the point where we are sitting at the dinner table with the characters in that final scene and responding as they are to the news being delivered.

And that’s some damn fine television.

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The Good Wife – “Stripped”

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“Stripped”

September 29th, 2009

I’m on the record as suggesting that The Good Wife’s pilot was one of the most accomplished of the fall season, delivering a clever take on the legal procedural that emphasized but didn’t contrive a personal story for Alicia Florrick, part rusty trial attorney and part struggling wife of a shamed politician serving behind bars. The pilot was sharp in how it weaved the two worlds together, both her new job and her life balancing shame and anger, and the show has a pretty bangup cast.

As always, it’s interesting to see how a second episode reacts to the pilot, especially with a procedural where the “hook” of the show seems like something that might only exist in the first episode before being slowly phased out with time. However, with “Stripped,” it becomes clear that The Good Wife is not going to be a show that sees Alicia’s husband or his infidelity fade into the background, which is both good in the long term and perhaps somewhat awkward in the short term.

The core of the series, the integration between her personal life and her job, remains an interesting combination of workplace drama and Alicia’s personal struggle. However, the way that the episode brought her husband’s stripper past into the story was less graceful than it was in the pilot, forcing things into the open by conveniently introducing a stripped-based rape case into the proceedings. It’s not ineffective, per se, but it feels somewhat more forced than it was before, and feels almost like a second pilot as opposed to an example of what the show will do in the future…but a second good pilot.

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Sons of Anarchy – “Fix”

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“Fix”

September 22nd, 2009

In the world of Sons of Anarchy, everyone’s got a problem they’re trying to fix; heck, in every single show on television, people are looking for solutions to problems. Early on in its second season, it’s clear that the real conflict on this show is not within any single problem but rather the inability for various characters to see (either due to ignorance or due to being too traumatized by their situation) that there are two levels of problems. One is the growing threat of the League of American Nationalists against the Sons of Anarchy or, if you’re on the other side of the coin, the ongoing blight of SAMCRO on the town of Charming. However, there is also the internal struggle between Clay and Jax, not to mention Gemma’s own personal tragedy as well as personal struggles for Opie (Donna’s tragic death), Tig (who murdered Donna) and it seems like just about everyone else.

“Fix” represents the episode where three weeks of letting these secrets and struggles linger is catching up with just about everyone, and everyone wants a solution that will make everything better but has no idea how to really find it. The show continues to embrace an almost satirical sense of the genres it plays with, never quite delving wholly into melodrama, and the result is that the show remains a pleasure to watch even as it deals with serious subjects in an emotional fashion.

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Sons of Anarchy – “Small Tears”

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“Small Tears”

September 15, 2009

“Another magical day to be alive”

I, like I presume many others, presumed that this week’s episode title was about tiny drops of water falling from one’s eyes, alluding somewhat ironically to Gemma’s enormously emotional moment at the end of the season premiere. But in defying expectations, at least my own, the episode reveals that the real irony is not in falsely downplaying the emotional impact of the event, but rather the dichotomy between physical and emotional repercussions.

It is, in fact, a magical day to be alive, for everyone except for our heroine, Gemma. If there was ever any question about whether we are rooting for Gemma, “Small Tears” put it to rest: the entire fate of SAMCRO and the weight of this moment is placed on her shoulders, an unfair burden for anyone (even our less than ethical matriarch) to bear. We pity Gemma in some respects, and in others we respect her for refusing to allow pity to turn into anger at the Aryans, and more importantly to turn into revenge. It is no coincidence that the fallout from Gemma’s ordeal comes complete with a storyline about the danger of revenge killings, and the bloody mess that comes with it.

And if there’s anything that Sons of Anarchy wants to remind us of as the second season opens, it’s that nothing in the world of SAMCRO heals on its own.

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Season Premiere: Sons of Anarchy – “Albification”

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“Albification”

September 9th, 2009

On the surface, there is nothing horribly complex about Sons of Anarchy.

I think that’s its appeal, really – the show is about a group who calls themselves the Sons of Anarchy, and who operate as one would expect a motorcycle club to run. They smuggle guns into the country, they sell them in order to make a living, and they operate a front business in order to stay on the up and up (although, of course, no one is buying it). They face threats from rival gangs and law enforcement simultaneously, making their existence a complicated one, but one that people presume when dealing with a show that deals with a criminal organization.

What works about Sons of Anarchy is that this surface level isn’t thrown out the window in order to introduce dramatic elements, but rather subverted from the inside. The basic premise of the show meant that things started off a bit slow in its first season, playing off of the usual tension of having the audience cheer for the “bad guys” and being a bit too on the nose in terms of humanizing Jax (Charlie Hunnam), our “in” to the club, through his newly born, and ill, son. The components were all there, whether it’s Katey Sagal’s blistering portrayal of Gemma or Ron Pearlman’s wisened characterization of Clay, but the story felt too simple.

But then, the machine started to kick into full gear. Law Enforcement evolved from a witless sheriff in the club’s pocket to a psychotic stalker/FBI Agent (played to perfection by Jay Karnes) out to get Jax for stealing away Tara (Maggie Siff) and a manipulative and dangerous ATF presence in the form of Ally Walker. Simultaneously, we started to realize that for all the “anarchy” the Sons claim to perpetrate, what they’ve created instead is an enormously elaborate power structure which begets betrayal and paranoia, a structure that Jax spent much of the first season doubting and that Opie learned has dire consequences as the season progressed. We left the first season with no question that the status quo was not going to keep working, and that something would have to give.

And what I love about “Albification” is that we return to that exact same moment, and the show continues to play subtlely with the show’s premise rather than undermining it entirely. The introduction of a new threat is done with a smooth sense of purpose by Kurt Sutter, demonstrating that the momentum gained at the end of the second season isn’t going to be lost. Instead, the show feels like it has found an entirely new rhythm, one which is still willing to be funny, still able to make you love and hate characters at the same time, and most importantly still capable of shocking the viewer with its brutality.

In short, it’s a damn fine season premiere for a show I’m very much looking forward to spending time with this fall.

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