* This story contains spoilers
The latest episode of Game of Thrones has seen more fallout than the infamous red wedding, attracting headlines like "Rape of Thrones" and suggestions that the series has completely jumped the shark.
The episode saw Jaime rape Cersei on an altar as her dead son Joffrey lay feet away, a scene depicted in George R. R. Martin's novels but in a markedly different fashion - in the book it is consensual.
After the episode aired, Martin was asked about the differences in the scene on LiveJournal, responding:
"I think the 'butterfly effect' that I have spoken of so often was at work here. In the novels, Jaime is not present at Joffrey's death, and indeed, Cersei has been fearful that he is dead himself, that she has lost both the son and the father/ lover/ brother. And then suddenly Jaime is there before her.
Maimed and changed, but Jaime nonetheless. Though the time and place is wildly inappropriate and Cersei is fearful of discovery, she is as hungry for him as he is for her.
"The whole dynamic is different in the show, where Jaime has been back for weeks at the least, maybe longer, and he and Cersei have been in each others company on numerous occasions, often quarreling. The setting is the same, but neither character is in the same place as in the books, which may be why Dan and David played the sept out differently. But that's just my surmise; we never discussed this scene, to the best of my recollection.
"Also, I was writing the scene from Jaime's POV, so the reader is inside his head, hearing his thoughts. On the TV show, the camera is necessarily external. You don't know what anyone is thinking or feeling, just what they are saying and doing.
"If the show had retained some of Cersei's dialogue from the books, it might have left a somewhat different impression - but that dialogue was very much shaped by the circumstances of the books, delivered by a woman who is seeing her lover again for the first time after a long while apart during which she feared he was dead. I am not sure it would have worked with the new timeline.
"That's really all I can say on this issue. The scene was always intended to be disturbing... but I do regret if it has disturbed people for the wrong reasons."
• Thoughts on Thrones: When good guys go bad
The episode's director, Alex Graves, also waded in, giving The Hollywood Reporter a Joffrey-centric defence of the scene:
"I'm never that excited about going to film forced sex. But the whole thing for me was about dead Joffrey lying there, watching the whole thing. (Showrunners) David (Benioff) and Dan (Weiss) loved that, and I was like, I wanted to make sure I had Jack in there as much as I could. Of course Lena and Nickola laughed every time I would say, 'You grab her by the hair, and Jack is right there,' or "'You come around this way and Jack is right there'.
"He is their first born. He is their sin. He is their lust, and their love - their everything. If he's gone, what's going to happen?"
Graves earlier spoke to Hitfix, about how the encounter starts as Jaime forcing himself on Cersi before turning into something else: "Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle".
Fans turned to social media to make their feelings clear after the show aired:
Bye @ Game of Thrones feeling it needs to add rape scenes that weren't in the books and that add nothing to the narrative besides regression— ?Rebecca? (@AccioHorcrux) April 21, 2014
the creators of game of thrones has amazing source material, yet they choose to ignore it and add in unnecessary rape scenes? disgusted— amber (@amberseay) April 21, 2014
game of thrones needs to stop with the gratuitous rape scenes that weren't in the books. disgusting ploy to get cheap thrills— Nirmal (@overdriveDJ) April 21, 2014
Amid the cries of misogyny, now all that remains is for show creators Benioff and Weiss to speak out.
Here's the scene as it was described in A Song of Ice and Fire:
She kissed him. A light kiss, the merest brush of her lips on his, but he could feel her tremble as he slid his arms around her. " I am not whole without you."
There was no tenderness in the kiss he returned to her, only hunger. Her mouth opened for his tongue. "No," she said weakly when his lips moved down her neck, "not here. The septons..."
"The Others can take the septons." He kissed her again, kissed her silent, kissed her until she moaned. Then he knocked the candles aside and lifted her up onto the Mother's altar, pushing up her skirts and the silken shift beneath. She pounded on his chest with feeble fists, murmuring about the risk, the danger, about their father, about the septons, about the wrath of gods. He never heard her. He undid his breeches and climbed up and pushed her bare white legs apart. One hand slid up her thigh and underneath her smallclothes. When he tore them away, he saw that her moon's blood was on her, but it made no difference.
"Hurry," she was whispering now, "quickly, quickly, now, do it now, do me now. Jaime Jaime Jaime." Her hands helped guide him. " Yes," Cersei said as he thrust, "my brother, sweet brother, yes, like that, yes, I have you, you're home now, you're home now, you'r e home." She kissed his ear and stroked his short bristly hair. Jaime lost himself in her flesh. He could feel Cersei's heart beating in time with his own, and the wetness of blood and seed where they were joined.