Game of Boners: For the Benefit of the Family


Welcome to Game of Boners, your weekly tally of all the nudity that appears on everyone’s favorite fantasy fuck fest, Game of Thrones. Every Monday, we will recap each boob, buttock and sex act that appears on camera, along with some other fun facts from the episode that may or may not have anything to do with sex whatsoever. Keep a box of tissues on hand because Winter is definitely coming.

How’s everyone feeling? The dust has settled, the last of the Stark blood has been sopped up from Walder Frey’s floor and master and pet have finally been reunited — by literally sewing Grey Wind’s head onto Robb’s body. Have we collected ourselves? Are we ready to start playing the Game of Thrones again or do we need a little more time to lick our wounds? (Bad choice of metaphor — sorry, Grey Wind.)

I for one am feeling a whole less “WHAT THE FUCK” about everything. Yes, the Red Wedding was a total bloodbath and it was hard to see Robb and Catelyn go. Truthfully, the Starks have always sort of bugged me. Their concept of honor was so rigid that, in a world as cut throat and cruel as the one George RR Martin has set up for us, it seemed destined to lead them, well, pretty much exactly where it led them. That said, I liked their presence in Westeros. I liked that there was at least one group of people that you could count on to do the right (albeit foolish) thing. But after taking the week to think about it, I get why they had to go. The series/television show is about the game, not the characters and — sad is it may be — Robb got outplayed.

One more thing before moving on to the season finale. Hardcore Song of Ice and Fire fans — why do some of you have to be such major dicks?*

We get it. You’ve read the books and knew what was coming, but come on! You know it’s okay to be sad when a character you like dies, right? You know that feeling upset by the Red Wedding scene or thinking that maybe it was a bit much is a normal reaction for someone to have after watching a scene where a pregnant woman gets repeatedly stabbed in the stomach? Yes, like I said before, the story isn’t as much about the characters as it is about the actual Game of Thrones (by the way, when is the Iron Throne finally going to hook up with Diane? This will they/won’t they is killing me!), but that doesn’t mean that the characters are worthless. George RR Martin wouldn’t have put that much effort into crafting POV storylines for them if they were entirely disposable so the fact that people are upset by the characters’ deaths is a testament to GRRM’s talents, not a detraction from them. Besides, you’ve had up to 13 years to deal with this information. We’ve only had a few moments.

I guess what I’m trying to say is be nice (to each other, not to me — I can take it and, after this rant, I’m sure I’m about to). GRRM is delighted by viewers’ reactions to the Red Wedding, so take and cue from the mortal god you’ve chosen to worship and put aside your outrage. It’s about the game. We know. We’re just reacting as Martin wants us to.

Now let’s talk about the season three finale.

The episode was titled “Mhysa,” which, as Dany found out after liberating the slaves of Yunkai (more on that later), is the Ghiscari word for “mother.” It’s an interesting choice for a title seeing as the episode was really more about family in general — what it means to be a good father, good mother, good son or good daughter. And it wasn’t just on a blood level — nearly every plot line this week was about how to be a good caretaker…or how not to be.

Catelyn, apart from her treatment of Jon Snow, was the quintessential good mother figure. She loved her children more than anything only to lose (as far as she knew) every single one of them. When they were gone, her life stopped having meaning and, with one last agonizing cry (seriously, can we please take a moment to recognize what serious acting chops Michelle Fairley demonstrated two episodes ago? Give the woman an Emmy!), she was ready to die. Of course, four of her children remain, but that doesn’t mean her sacrifice was in vain. All of the Starks (even Rickon and Sansa) are growing into pretty amazing people.

The same can’t be said for Cersei, Game of Thrones’ other key matriarch. Say all you want about what a terrible person she is, but you cannot say that she doesn’t live and breathe for her children. She said so herself in a beautiful exchange between her and Tyrion:

Tyrion: You have children. How happy would you say you are?
Cersei: Not very, but, if it weren’t for my children, I’d have thrown myself from the highest window in the Red Keep. They’re the reason I’m alive.
Tyrion: Even Joffrey?
Cersei: Even Joffrey. He was all I had once. Before Myrcella was born. I used to spend hours looking at him. His wisps of hair, his tiny little hands and feet. He was such a jolly little fellow. You always hear the terrible ones were terrible babies. ‘We should have known, even then we should have known.’ It’s nonsense. Whenever he was with me, he was happy. And no one can take that away from me — not even Joffrey.

Obviously, something went wrong. Cersei’s love, however strong, wasn’t enough to make Joffrey a good person and, despite his hubris, Cersei’s love is almost all Joffrey has in this world. No one apart from her — not his council, his wife-to-be or his own family — has respect or loyalty for him. All he has is the power of the Lannister name and his mother’s affections keeping him afloat. And if the “let the grownups do their jobs”/dismissive attitude of Tywin is any indication — Joffrey might not even be able to maintain whatever sense of power he’s been fooled into feeling.

But let’s move from the mothers to the fathers. While technically married, Tyrion and Sansa have easily fallen into a father/daughter relationship with Sansa telling him stories of pranks and Tyrion risking treason charges to see her protected. Compare that to the hostile relationship that he has with his own father Tywin who, this episode, told him that he would have drowned Tyrion as a newborn if it hadn’t have gone against his duty as a Lannister. Cruel and terrible as that is, it says something about what being a caretaker means to Tywin — it means doing whatever it takes for his family to thrive no matter how much it pains him personally.

That’s more than can be said for Balon Greyjoy who now sacrifices his son Theon’s well-being for the second time in the boy’s life. Luckily, the first time Theon ended up with the Starks — the annoyingly honorable ones — who attempted to care for him as if he were one of their own. The second time, he wasn’t nearly so lucky, having come into the custody of — the unnamed torturer has an identity! — Ramsay Snow, the bastard son of Roose Bolton. (This makes sense — Theon on the rack looks almost exactly like the Bolton’s gruesome crest.) Balon Greyjoy, even after receiving the horrifying gift of his son’s mutilated penis, couldn’t care less. Theon’s life, for whatever sad reason, has always been disposable to him and unlike Tywin, he sees no greater honor in protecting his own. The same cannot be said for Theon’s sister Yara — a legitimate badass who loads a ship full of the best warriors of the Iron Islands and sets sail to come to Theon’s rescue.

Yara, Arya and Brienne (who was given waaaay to little time this episode, by the way) should form a club or maybe even ban together and finish this game of thrones once and for all. Interestingly, all three stand out for the way they subvert the norm of femininity, none of them would be described as maternal and yet they’re three of the most active caretakers in the show. Yara is willing to set sail and fight for a brother she barely knows, Brienne delivers Jaime all the way to King’s Landing — both out of a love for him and because she gave her word to Catelyn — and Arya, more capable than ever, kills her first man as retribution for the death of her mother and brother.

Speaking of Arya, her relationship with the Hound has become increasingly interesting. Once a villain, Sandor Clegane has taken her under his heavily armed wing despite the fact that, with the death of her family and no chance of a reward, there’s really nothing in it for him. Somehow, gruff as he may be, he’s grown to care for her and, though Arya hardens by the minute (because she has to), they’ve become a team. A week ago, he made her pretend to be his daughter as a way of disguise. The need for disguise is over now, but somehow the bond is still there. The pair certainly aren’t a typical family — they’re not even related by blood, but they both have a lot to learn from each other.

Then there’s Sam Tarly and Davos Seaworth, two other men united only by a noble paternal instinct and their willingness to extend that loving care beyond their own bloodlines. Davos does this by bonding with the imprisoned Gendry and risking a second round of treason charges by helping him escape. Before Gendry is quieted away in a rowboat, the two talk about their childhoods where, decades apart, they both grew up dirt poor in Flea Bottom. Davos, as we know, is not a knight by birth. What we didn’t know is that he’s a reluctant knight at that — he only accepted the title to better the life of his son (who died following him into the Battle of Blackwater so see how that turned out). Perhaps this is what gives him a conscience and strong code of ethics that’s quite unfamiliar to the world of Game of Thrones.

Now to that pesky, frustrating Sam. He and Gilly finally make it back to the wall and the relative safety of the Night’s Watch. Upon their arrival, Gilly rewards his devotion to her and her child’s safety by naming her baby after him. He’s then rewarded by the maester as well — by being put to use (yes, Sam is actually being useful!) writing letters of warning re: the White Walkers to send south. Well, let me tell you, the whole having-a-baby-named-after-him thing coupled with his good penmanship makes ol’ Sam pretty big for his britches all of a sudden. Yeah, that’s all it takes for him to actually start acting like a capable human being — a miracle we actually get to witness when Jon Snow shows up wounded from the several arrows a heartbroken Ygritte shot through his body. Suddenly — rather than cowering like he usually does — Sam’s all “Grab him! Take him inside! That way!” like he’s been giving direction and bossing people his whole life.

Fatherhood and motherhood, giving people purposes left and right.

Now let’s talk about the Khaleesi. I haven’t written about her much this season because, truthfully, she hasn’t really done much (whipping out her perfect Valerian and burning up the slave trader at Astapor is the one big exception). Is it just me or is she really boring? Don’t get me wrong. I want to like her. I really do, but it seems like she never acts on anything, but rather has followers go out and act for her. I’m not saying she has to strap on armor and fight. There are plenty of people on the show who are interesting and not warriors, but they need to give her something else. She’s gathering devotees by the thousands and yet it never seems like she’s really earned it (though her ideology is certainly a powerful tool). Also, I can’t even express how uncomfortable her last scene (the last scene of the season) made me feel. This show has always had issues with race and unfortunately, by having hundreds of faceless brown people lifting up a young, white blonde woman and calling her “mother,” showrunners are far from correcting them. It was Greyworm (and friends) who liberated the city. Can’t he get some love?

I want to close by talking about the story of the Rat Cook that Bran shared with his own patchwork family (composed of the Reeds and Hodor) while taking cover in the supposedly haunted Nightfort at the Wall. As legend has it, the Rat Cook was an infamous member of the Night’s Watch who held such a deep grudge against the king that, upon the king’s visit to the Nightfort, the Rat Cook murdered the king’s son, baked him into a pie (Seems an awful waste/I mean, with the price of meat/What it is/When you get it/If you get it!) and then fed the pie to king himself. The gods then punished the Rat Cook for his nightmarish actions by cursing him into a rat that’s now doomed to eat its own young and nothing else for eternity.

“It wasn’t for murder the gods cursed the rat cook,” Bran tells his audience. “Or for serving the King’s son in a pie. He killed a guest beneath his roof. That’s something the gods can’t forgive.”

Earlier in the episode Tywin, discussing the the murder of the Starks, says to Tyrion, “Explain to me why it’s more noble to kill 10,000 men in battle than a dozen at dinner.”

If the legend of the Rat Cook is any indication, the gods have pretty strong opinions on that. Safe to say, the future of the Lannisters, the Boltons and the Freys will not be without trouble — but will they have to eat their young?

*Disclaimer: Not all hardcore Song of Ice and Fire fans are dicks. The majority of them are not dicks. But — come on, y’all — some of you can be total dicks.

Nudity Stats:

Apart from a shirtless Theon, there was no nudity at all this episode. What a surprise — for a season finale, you’d think they’d want to go out with a (or several) bang(s).

Edited to add: It was fun recapping this season with all you Jezzies out there! See you for Season 4?

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