Twincest and the Sunk Cost Fallacy

About last night.

Let’s deal with that part where Jaime is still tangled up in his sister.

First, a bit of oversharing: I usually drink while watching GoT. I like to drink red wine and tell myself I’m joining in with Tyrion, when really it’s just my hot mess ass getting hammered all alone with my iPad and Chromebook and spraying my drunken ranting on Twitter. Last night, though, I made sure to get super-extra wasted because I wanted to numb myself to the twincest snogging. So, sure, while streaming the episode I was feeling no pain and I may have missed some little things here and there. When we got to the twincest scene, though, I was actually kind of shocked at how much my worst fears did not come true.

All I could remember about the scene was Jaime saying “no” and “don’t.”

Then we may object and say he still got into bed with her, so he wasn’t really serious with that refusal. Without getting too far into the psychological complexities of sexual coercion, Cersei has a giant zombie on her side. What stuck with me after that first viewing was that Jaime said no, and Cersei plowed on regardless. She should have respected his refusal, and she did not. Abusive behavior is still abusive when a woman does it to a man.

I got up in the morning and watched the episode again. And now I see what people are upset about: the twincest is troubling. That said, I’m here to offer reassurance.

With a second look at the offending scene, I think it’s directed as deliberately ambiguous. Cock your head to the side and squint, and it seems like just another night of passion for the forbidden lovers. Look closer, though, and Jaime is quietly telling a different story.

First, there’s the kissing. He says no, he turns his head away from her, and she keeps at it until he complies. The scene looks more like a struggle than an act of intimacy. (This much is obnoxious: we got to see Nik’s beautiful naked butt and it had to be in THAT context.)

Then we see them waking up together and, okay, it’s all tender and sweet and they’re holding hands and he’s making those lovey eyes at her and someone hold my hair back while I barf. That’s one way to look at it. I took a closer look at his face in that waking-up moment, though, and I see ambivalence. He’s not feeling like, “Oh this woman is so amazing I’m so in love,” it’s more like, “What is she gonna do next?”

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Then comes the part where he says, “Don’t.” That’s something I didn’t register properly in the first viewing. He’s asking her not to get out of bed. That could be seen as, “no, don’t go, I want cuddles.” The context is that someone just knocked on the door and Cersei is getting up to answer. He’s asking her not to open the door while he’s in her bed. And he says so in as many words: he doesn’t want anyone to see them in an obviously post-coital state. Once again, Cersei just plows right over his refusal. “I’m Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and I’ll do what I want.” So there’s our answer: Cersei’s attitude is she has the power and she can do whatever, so she does. Jaime feels like he doesn’t have a choice in the matter and his actions don’t belong to him. The handmaid sees him naked in his sister’s bed, and he’s just sitting there all like, “Ah, fuck, it doesn’t matter what I do.”

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They show just enough of the twins’ sex life to show that Jaime isn’t interested anymore.

I think the most offensive thing in the episode is the part where Olenna’s talking about how Jaime loves Cersei so much, and she’ll be the end of him, and he starts talking about the “peaceful world” she’s building. Seven Hells, stop that. Jaime simply doesn’t want to discuss the relationship with Olenna, but when she says, “If she’s driven you this far, it’s gone beyond your control,” Jaime agrees. That, in my opinion, is what really describes Jaime’s position re: Cersei at this point. It’s the sunk cost fallacy. He feels like he’s already invested so much of himself in serving her, he has to keep doing it.

She has driven him this far, so it’s gone beyond his control.

Granted, it’s annoying that he’s still at that stage. He should’ve broken out of that mindset around the end Season 4. But his feeling like he doesn’t have a choice in the matter is not the same thing as saying “YES!” to his sister for the rest of the episode. I think D&D picked up on the dynamic of Cersei’s influence vs. Brienne’s influence and they’re using that as the primary driver of Jaime’s development. Around Brienne, he remembers that he has choices and he chooses to act like a good guy. Around Cersei, he forgets he has choices and goes along with his sister’s plans for world domination. Sure, it’s frustrating that they still haven’t let him walk away from her. It doesn’t mean he’s fallen in love with her all over again.

This episode gave us a major milestone in the twins’ relationship, in that they dealt with people who murdered their children. Cersei got to deal with Ellaria and Tyene, and her choice was meticulous sadism. It was on the heels of her power trip that she pulled Jaime into bed. Jaime dealt with Olenna. He didn’t know, at first, that she was the one who poisoned Joffrey, but still, that was designated as the scene where Jaime has power over someone who killed his child, and what does he do with that power? He has made sure to arrange a dignified, painless death for her. D&D even have him go into detail about all the disgusting things Cersei wanted to do to Olenna, but Jaime talked her out of it. He doesn’t want Olenna to suffer like Joffrey did. Even when he’s stuck in that sunk-cost-fallacy cycle, he still shows us how he’s not like Cersei. He can do better. He is doing better.