There’s a new behind-the-scenes book on Game of Thrones called Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon, which features Entertainment Weekly writer James Hibbert talking to, among others, author George R.R. Martin. Some of the bigger tidbits were revealed before its publication; for one thing, we learned about his least favorite scene in the show based on his books. (It’s almost certainly not what you think.) But as per IndieWire (by way of Insider) now we know Martin’s stance on one of the more divisive parts of the pilot — a scene that did not follow the one in the novel.
The scene in question was the wedding night between Daenerys and Khal Drogo. In the book, they make consensual love. In the show they do not. Instead Daenerys is assaulted — one of many such occasions over the show’s run.
“Why did the wedding scene change from the consensual seduction scene to the brutal rape of Emilia Clarke?” Martin asks Hibbert. “We never discussed it. It made it worse, not better.”
In the Game of Thrones novel, Khal recognizes Daenerys is nervous on their wedding night, and after gently wiping away her tears and even having her unbraid his hair, she gives permission for them to consummate the marriage. But on the show, Khal strips her clothes off, bends her over while she cries, and the scene cuts to the morning after, leaving a much to the imagination but not that much.
Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss did try to defend the switch. “Here’s a girl who is absolutely terrified of this barbarian warlord she’s being married off to, it’s the last thing in the world she wants, yet somehow by the end of this wedding night she seems to be in a completely joyful sexual relationship with him,” Benioff said. “It didn’t entirely work for us.”
Weiss also points out that subsequent encounters between Khal and Daenerys are in fact assaults. They didn’t like going back and forth between two very different characterizations. “In the second episode she has to go back to the less consensual, rougher relationship,” Weiss said. “In the book that works, but we just didn’t have that amount of time and access to the character’s mind. It turns too quickly. It was something the actors themselves felt wasn’t gelling.”
Since the Game of Thrones pilot nearly a decade ago, there’s been much more focus on depictions of sexual assault in movies and on television, which was done far more cavalierly back then. Even when it was on, the show was criticized for too often showing sexual attacks on women.