The most problematic moment thus far, the one that made me mutter “Martin, WTF is your deal with women?!” like I did so often in the books, was Daenerys “wedding night.”
In the book, Viserys is an unsubtle monster, and because we’re privy to Daenerys first person inner monologue, we know that she is deeply afraid of him, that his sexual handling of her is decidedly not consensual (unlike the Lannisters who each give as good as they get), but also that she is constantly reminding herself “I Am the Blood of the Dragon” in order to be brave. The book also gives Dany and Drogo a bonding moment over her bride gift, a beautiful horse, a moment we were denied here. More importantly, we learn the Khal might be a decent guy because of how tender he is with Dany, and how much he devotes himself – with no common language – to obtain her consent before they have sex.
HBO saw fit to give us none of that. Emilia Clarke’s Dany is…this is weird, but she is as emotionally locked down as Mia Wasikowska’s Jane Eyre. Though my mom had to ask “Was she upset by that?” after Viserys strips her and she walks into the scalding bath, I think you can definitely read Danys fear, and submission out of terror rather than out of docility. You could also read it as naivete or blankness.
And when the Khal leads Dany to the sea, all the pacing he does around her seems menacing, not reassuring. There’s no companionable hair-unbraiding, no moment when Dany decides to participate, no tingling or tenderness. Khal tells her not to cry and then pushes her down and takes her while she cries anyway.
Martin actually crafted a love story where Dany grows from a frightened child into a warrior woman through her own agency, and so far that’s the only thing I’m angry HBO took away.
There is a world of difference between a terrified girl finding empowerment at the hands of a good warlord and a terrified rape victim falling in love with the man who rapes her. One happens (Ok, it’s not always a warlord). The other…only happens in prison camps, male-authored melodrama or movies produced by Angelina Jolie, so I can’t say it doesn’t happen. But I can say that it is uncommon, poisonous, and any love you develop concurrently with Stockholm Syndrome is probably not love.
[ETA: Please keep reading the rest of my recaps of the Game of Thrones series! My understanding and appreciation for the feminist overtones and the depictions of misogyny is an ever evolving process 🙂