This post discusses plot points from the May 19 episode of Game of Thrones.
If last week’s Game of Thrones was a meditation on what makes for a good relationship between romantic and sexual partners, or between friends, this week’s episode narrows its focus to ask what makes a good friend. It’s a question that gets introduced in a conversation between Arya, who’s sulking that her attempt to run away has lead her into the custody of a man who’s on her kill list, but who she doesn’t quite have the courage to try to take out. “There’s no one worse than you, she tells the Hound as they ride towards a river so placid that it seems the war has never touched them. “You never knew my brother. He once killed a man for snoring,” the Hound tells Arya, before moving from the specific to the general. “There’s plenty worse than me. There’s men who like to beat little girls. Men who like to rape them. I saved your sister from some of them.”
“Second Sons” has many reminders that the men from that terrible day in King’s Landing aren’t alone, and the bloodlust that griped the crowd isn’t the only thing that can move men to downgrade consent. Mero, the commander of the Second Sons, the sellswords hired by the Yunkish slavers to keep Dany out of their city, immediately moves to try to make Dany feel powerless by sexualizing her. First, he tells Dany he’s sure that he had sex with her in Lys—and suggests that she’s a prostitute, not a leader of her own people. “Take your clothes off and come and sit on Mero’s lap and I may give you my Second Sons,” he tells her jovially, then asks to see her vagina as the measure of whether she’s worth switching sides to support. He sniffs at the genitals of Missendi, Dany’s translator, and warns both Dany and the younger woman that “The Second Sons share everything. Maybe after the battle, we’ll all share you. I’ll come looking for you when this is over.” Sex for someone like Mero isn’t just preferable when the woman doesn’t really have agency. It’s a way to deny women agency in the first place.
And Essos mercenaries aren’t the only people who downgrade the consent of the women they have sex with. “I’m a mistake,” Gendry reflects of his parentage on Dragonstone. “I’m only here because my father grabbed my mother instead of the next girl in the tavern.” And Robert Baratheon’s son in name if not by blood shows off his nasty streak again at Sansa Stark’s wedding to Tryion Lannister when Joffrey tells Sansa that his engagement to Margaery Tyrell hasn’t shifted his interest from Sansa, and makes clear that her marriage to Tyrion Lannister doesn’t bring her under protection meaningful enough to give Joffrey pause. “Congratulations, my Lady,” he tells her in a sickening tone. You’ve done it. You’ve married a Lannister. Soon you’ll have a Lannister baby. It’s a dream come true…It doens’t really matter which Lannister puts the baby into you. Maybe I’ll pay you a visit tonight after my uncle passes out. How’d you like that? You wouldn’t. That’s all right. Ser Meryn and Ser Boras will hold you down.”