#GameOfThrones rarely reigns in the violence, but it was recently revealed that a dramatic death in season 5 was supposed to be a much grizzlier affair - giving fans a greater insight into how the showrunners choose when to depict graphic violence on the small screen. Sweet and innocent Myrcella Baratheon died in the arms of her estranged father-uncle Jaime, the victim of a Sand Snake's poison - but the little lion's death wasn't quite the gory spectacle audiences have become accustomed to from the show.
Actor Nell Tiger Free, who played Myrcella throughout season 5, spoke to MCM London recently about the original plans for her character's death:
“I don’t know if I should say this, but originally what happened is they gave me those mashed up bananas with like blood- fake blood, and my brains were supposed to be all over the ship and stuff. I was so excited. I don’t like gore but, like, I knew they were just like bananas, so I was okay with it.”
Her death was actually a gentle affair, coming directly after a heartfelt moment in which Jaime and Myrcella openly accepted each other as father and daughter. However, this is Game of Thrones, and no moment of genuine heart can go unbroken. Myrcella's nose began to bleed and she died quietly on her way back to King's Landing.
Myrcella's Death: A Glimpse Into The Game of Thrones Writer's Room
Myrcella was the second of Cersei's children to succumb to poison, following Joffrey's very public and very fitting end at his own wedding. Contrary to Nell Tiger Free, Irish actor Jack Gleeson was made to spasm, fit, and vomit as blood vessels burst in his purple face and eyes.
So, why such vastly different approaches to these death scenes? Well, Nell Tiger Free went on to explain why her death wasn't quite as graphic as her onscreen brother's, claiming that:
"They [the showrunners] wanted Myrcella's death to reflect her life, and wanted it to be sweet."
Knowing how the events would eventually conclude gives us great insight into the creative process behind Game of Thrones. Few characters are completely innocent in Westeros, but Myrcella did come across as one of the few decent individuals in the Seven Kingdoms. Unfortunately, the character was mired in a slightly meandering subplot and was somewhat robbed of any significant screen time. In fact, this would have meant that an elaborate, brain-splattering death scene would have been gratuitous, in comparison to the anticipated downfall of Joffrey Baratheon.
However, it's important to note that the show has been criticized for supposedly featuring gratuitous violence in the past. Myrcella's death came at the tail end of a season that saw poor Princess Shireen burned alive at the stake by her father - the other sweet and innocent character of the show.
The deaths of Shireen and Myrcella are reflective, yet starkly different: both deal with the death of a daughter while the father stands by. While Jaime desperately clung to his daughter's life, Stannis willingly sacrificed his daughter to the Lord of Light. Shireen's death was a controversial moment for the show, with many caught in two minds as to how to take this latest, typically Game of Thrones moment. It was an excellent depiction of the cost of fanaticism but, Shireen? Really?
It's not just the violence of death that's drawn significant criticism; sex often strays into violent territory, with a notorious scene from season 4 dramatically altering the perception of two central characters. Jaime's forceful sexual encounter with Cersei in the Sept of Baelor was defended by many fans who argued that the scene was consensual in the book, and had been misinterpreted. In the show, however, it certainly did not seem to be consensual.
This wasn't the first nor the last time rape was used as a plot device in the show, with many reacting even more strongly to the horrific rape of Sansa Stark at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. The Mary Sue officially ceased promoting and covering the show as a result of its continued relationship with sex and violence. Director Jeremy Podeswa defended the episode, claiming that:
"They did not want to be too overly influenced by that (criticism) but they did absorb and take it in and it did influence them in a way".
Sexual violence in the show was reportedly toned down in light of that controversy, and the recent news that Myrcella's death was reigned in for storytelling purposes hopefully shows that the showrunners aren't gratuitously aiming for controversial moments. In Myrcella's case, they showed their understanding of how violence serves the story.
In fact, one of the most powerful deaths in the entire saga came at the closing of season 6, when Tommen Baratheon finally decided that enough was enough. He took off his crown and stepped out of a window, silently falling to his death. It was masterfully executed, closing out the chapter of Cersei's children with a sense of unease. Myrcella's death might not have carried that same weight, but it left a lasting impression that wasn't simply one of shock or distaste. Had Nell Tiger Free been required to spew mashed up bananas across the room, it may not have served the story to the same effect - and it's great to discover that the creative team behind Game of Thrones are fully aware of that.
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Source: MCM London