A Review of The Walking Dead, Vol. 27 – Negan Rises, Lucille Falls

TITLE: The Walking Dead, Vol. 27: The Whisperer War
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
COLLECTS: The Walking Dead #157#162
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $14.99
RELEASED:
March 1, 2017

***WARNING: Minor spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The biggest thing I took away from The Whisperer War? That the Saviors were a tough act to follow.

That’s not to say they aren’t interesting in their own way. It’s hard to not be interested in a group that wears zombie flesh and rejects the idea of civilization. But the Whisperers are to The Walking Dead what Bane was to Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. On his own merits, Bane was pretty damn evil in The Dark Knight Rises. But the Joker left such an impression on you in The Dark Knight that anyone else paled in comparison. Like the Joker, Negan made a very violent, vile, and personal impact on our heroes. But he was also uniquely charming. That’s why in many ways he’s become the star of the book.

More than two years after their war with the Saviors, Rick Grimes and our network of survivors are once again prepared to fight. But this time the enemy is very different, and the heroes have far more resources. But the Whisperers have something at their disposal  that could destroy everything Rick and the survivors have built: An army of the dead.

The most interesting aspect of this series since the time jump in issue #127 has been Negan’s quest for redemption. But we aren’t exactly sure if that’s his true motivation, or if he’s playing some kind of long game. Either way, we’ve gotten to see him from a few different perspectives. First as a prisoner, then an unlikely confidant for Rick, now a sort of comrade-in-arms.

Negan’s famous baseball bat, Lucille, is unexpectedly shattered in this book. It’s actually sad, in a silly sort of way. More endearing is the burial and eulogy he gives it in issue #162. As many of us know, it’s not really about a damn baseball bat. But seeing his personification of it come full circle is a neat little window into his heart.

On the subject of matters of the heart, Maggie has a great character moment. One of the newer characters, Dante, has been crushing on her for quite awhile. In this book he puts his cards on the table, but Maggie says she’ll only ever love Glenn. When he presses her on being alone for the rest of her life, she simply says: “I’m happy when I think of him. I’m not asking you to understand. I don’t care if it doesn’t make sense to you.” I love that. It’s unconventional, and it’s a great moment for fans who miss that relationship.

Artistically, the strongest issue is #162. Penciller Charlie Adlard, inker Stefano Gaudiano, and gray tone artist Cliff Rathburn give us a gorgeous two-page spread of the largest herd of walkers we’ve ever seen (shown right). But I also love the faint smile Adlard draws on Negan when he apologizes to Lucille for naming “a stupid f***ing baseball bat after you.” He also gives Rick a tremendous terrified look when he realizes the big hoard is coming.

The fire sequence in Issue #161 is also particularly strong. After an attack by the Whisperers, the Hilltop is burning. We see Carl nearly die after rushing back into a burning building. And for pure badassery, it’s tough to top Lydia kicking a zombie as the flames roar behind them.

The Walking Dead also shifts to a 16-panel grid for this volume (shown right), giving the book a much more dense feel at times. If you’re not used to seeing this layout, it can take some time to get used to. I once heard Gene Ha say it’s best to read a comic book twice, once for the story, and a second time just to absorb the art. That’s certainly the case here. I can’t imagine how much extra work this creates for Adlard, Gaudiano, and Rathburn. The books don’t suffer for the change, though. That’a a testament to the talent at work here.

I don’t know whether Negan is playing the long game. Be we know one person who is: Robert Kirkman. The Whisperer War is clearly a smaller piece of a larger puzzle he and this crew have been assembling since issue #127. Thus far it’s not quite as thrilling as what’s come before. But you can’t always judge an image until you can see the whole thing.

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A Review of The Walking Dead #163 – The Value of Context

The Walking Dead #163TITLE: The Walking Dead #163
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $0.25
RELEASED: February 1, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

With its 25-cent price tag, The Walking Dead #163 is theoretically a jumping-on point for new readers. Given what a global phenomenon it’s become, it’s almost hard to imagine The Walking Dead needing new readers. But if you’re someone who strictly reads the trades, only picks it up here and there, or are indeed among the uninitiated, the Undead Express has stopped and opened its doors for you.

In the spirit of new readers, the plot is pretty straightforward: A bunch of zombies are headed toward Alexandria. As in, thousands upon thousands of zombies. Literally the biggest hoard we’ve ever seen in the pages of TWD. Andrea takes a group on horseback to try and divert some of the hoard away. But Rick, Negan, and the people of Alexandria cannot escape the inevitable. Alexandria is about to be flooded by an ocean of the dead.

the-walking-dead #162, two-page spreadWe learned about this giant hoard last month in The Walking Dead #162. The revelation came with one of the best spreads penciller Charlie Adlard has ever done (shown right). With aid from inker Stefano Gaudiano, and gray tone artist Cliff Rathburn, he gives us an image of a seemingly endless sea of walkers. And of course, you have that one looking out at the reader, which gives it a tremendous punch.

We don’t have an image like that in this issue. One that demonstrates the immense magnitude of the threat our heroes are facing. We see big groups of zombies, and we see the ginormous hoard from a distance. But there’s nothing like this, where we can really see  how massive and all-encompassing the threat is.

I’m not greedy enough to expect Adlard and the artistic team to produce a two-page spread of this quality in back-to-back issues. However, issue #163 is not only the most widely printed in the book’s history (as editor Sean Mackiewicz notes in the letters section), but comes at an almost irresistible price. So if I have the choice of putting that spread in this issue or the one immediately before it, I’m putting it here. For readers who didn’t pick up issue #162 it would offer valuable context, along with a great taste of Adlard’s brilliance.

the-walking-dead #163, 2017, Charlie AdlardIf there was ever an issue to up that zombie gore factor, it’s this one. What we get on that front is decent. There’s lots of crushing and squishing going on. Zombies being cut apart as they’re pushed through Alexandria’s front gate (shown left), bodies being impaled on spikes, zombies walking over each other, etc. It’s good stuff, but without that context of just how big the threat is, it’s lacking something. That extra fear isn’t there.

Rick’s relationship with Negan has been one of the focal points of the series in the last few years. What does Negan have to do to earn his trust? Can he earn his trust? Can he ever be forgiven or redeemed? In this issue, he gets to flat out ask Rick about that after saving his life. This comes moments after Rick calls the other survivors to follow Negan’s lead in going on the defensive against the walkers. What kind of personal hostilities would Rick open up with Maggie if he forgave the man who killed her husband? As it stands, things aren’t exactly peachy between Alexandria and the Hilltop.

Michonne has a tremendous character moment here. After trying in vain to divert some of the zombies away from the main group, she jumps off her horse and simply starts cutting them down one at a time. She and Jesus then opt to take turns. Every little bit helps, and based on the solicitations for upcoming issues, Rick and his crew are going to need all the help they can get. Not just from zombies, but from those they thought were their allies. Allegiances are about to change.

I’m curious to see how many new readers jump in with this issue. They didn’t necessarily structure it to be noob-friendly. It was essentially business as usual. But when it comes to The Walking Dead, business is booming. So it wouldn’t surprise me to see them sink their teeth into a few new readers.

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Is Goldberg in Trouble? Plus, Ponderings From WWE Smackdown Live

Bill GoldbergBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This week’s segment on Raw with Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar brought back some interesting memories. Not of either of them, but of Bill Goldberg.

Goldberg was a superstar, make no mistake about it. He was a larger than life superhero. But so was Hulk Hogan. So is John Cena. So is Roman Reigns. As we’ve seen with all those men, sometimes wrestling fans get tired of the superhero shtick. Older fans in particular want someone more complex, someone with more gray area to them. As such, cheers can turn into boos.

Goldberg was no stranger to boos. WCW even tried an ill conceived Goldberg heel turn. But it simply was what it was. Some fans liked Goldberg, others didn’t.

These memories might have been lost to many of us as we basked in the honeymoon period of Goldberg’s return. But as we saw on Raw, the honeymoon may be over. They chanted for Brock despite Heyman’s obvious attempts to get them to chant for Goldberg. Eventually, we actually heard chants of “Goldberg sucks!” Reportedly, Vince McMahon became angry backstage and pulled the plug on the segment.

Granted, it was in Brock’s home state of Minnesota. In hindsight, it wasn’t the best place to try getting the crowd to chant his opponent’s name. But what happens when they put Goldberg out there in front of the famously opinionated Toronto crowd at Survivor Series? Remember, this was the crowd that famously turned on the Rock at Wrestlemania XVIII. It’s also the home country of Bret Hart, whose career Goldberg unintentionally ended with a brutal kick to the head.

Bill Goldberg vs. Brock LesnarHeel or babyface, Goldberg is a draw. What happened Monday doesn’t change that. But WWE needs to be ready for whatever these crowds decide to do in the weeks leading up to Survivor Series. Fans may have bought a lot of Goldberg DVDs in recent years, but that might not translate to an adoring audience…

Ponderings From Smackdown Live:

Bray Wyatt def. Kane in a no disqualification match, when Randy Orton abruptly hit the RKO on Kane. If they were going to go to the trouble of making this a no DQ match, they could have actually made it seem like the reigns were off a little. Outside of the interference by Orton and Luke Harper, what exactly made this match more dangerous than your average one-on-one match?

Later in the show, Orton simply said: “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” He took the world’s longest pregnant pause before he said it, but he got it out eventually.

Of course, Daniel Bryan used this same logic a few years ago when he joined the Wyatt Family. He got a hell of a moment out of it on Raw when he finally turned on Bray inside a steel cage. A normal person wouldn’t be stupid enough to fall for this again….

But because these are WWE writers penning this, we’re probably getting a week or two of Randy Orton in the Wyatt Family.

Alexa Bliss, Becky Lynch, WWE Smackdown, October 25, 2016Alexa Bliss interrupts Becky Lynch’s return to Smackdown after an injury. There’s so much talk about the “four horsewomen” of NXT. But in terms of charisma, Alexa Bliss is up there. She’s obviously reciting written dialogue, but she’s so natural with it. It’s tough to believe she’s only been wrestling for about four years.

Pleased to see Becky back. When she couldn’t wrestle at No Mercy, I think we all had flashbacks to Sasha Banks having to drop the Raw Women’s Title. It should be fun to see her defend the belt in front of that Scotland crowd in two weeks.

The Hype Bros def. The Ascension, will represent Smackdown at Survivor SeriesSo this Survivor Series match with the tag teams will be 10-on-10, with five teams being represented in each match. So in order to win, do all 10 members of a team have to be eliminated? Or are both members of a team eliminated when one is pinned?

Either way, the Hype Bros qualify as expected. Much like Karl Anderson in a singles match, when the Ascension was announced, the outcome was never in question. These poor guys never get to win.

Nikki Bella def. Natalya to become the captain of the Smackdown women’s team at Survivor Series. Natalya is hereby left out of the match. Carmella ambushes Nikki afterward. Of course Nikki Bella is the captain. Why wouldn’t she be? I assume they’re waiting to announce the addition of the women’s champion until after the Becky/Alexa match in Scotland.

Nikki Bella, Natalya, WWE Smackdown, October 25, 2016With Nikki’s use of a modified STF to end this match, they continue to build up her relationship with John Cena. I imagine that’ll be part of a larger story down the road. It’s inevitable that one of Cena’s opponents will use Nikki to get to him.

Heath Slater & Rhyno def. The Spirit Squad to retain the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Adding Slater and Rhyno to the mix is a decent way to pad the program with Miz and Ziggler for another month. But after Survivor Series it has to end. These guys need new dance partners. Unfortunately, the only heel challenger that immediately comes to mind for Ziggler is Baron Corbin. That program was done to death earlier this year.

AJ Styles def. Dean Ambrose by disqualification. After they showed a replay of Ambrose doing a big dive to the outside, JBL said: “We need Rick Grimes out here.” Not only did that reference not land, but I can almost guarantee you he’s never seen The Walking Dead, and had no idea what he was saying. Bad form, sir. More accurately, bad form to whoever told him to say it.

Something about Mauro Renallo calling a Fujiwara arm bar made me smile. I can’t remember a WWE announcer saying that since Taz. Inevitably, one of the reasons Mauro gets compared to Jim Ross so much is because, like JR, he calls the moves. That’s the difference between being a wrestling announcer and a sports entertainment announcer.

James Ellsworth, AJ Styles, WWE Smackdown, October 25, 2016Ambrose and Styles always have good matches, and I’d been looking forward to seeing what they’d pull out of the hat here. As it turned out, one of their big tricks was James Ellsworth getting overzealous and attacking Styles, costing Ambrose the match. I liked this. It casts Ellsworth as not only a hopeless underdog, but a misfit and a screw up. He played it up even more on Talking Smack, looking like the saddest, most ashamed guy you’ll ever see. You’re not going to go to Madison Square Garden with James Ellsworth. But as a character, this guy is good. He’s an unconventional asset they can use to tell really interesting stories.

Also, No Chin Music is a hilarious name for a finish.

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A Review of The Walking Dead #156 – True Psychopathy

The Walking Dead #156, 2016, Charlie AdlardTITLE: The Walking Dead #156
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: July 7, 2016

***WARNING: Major spoilers lay ahead for The Walking Dead #156.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

When reading The Walking Dead, I always try to keep in mind something Robert Kirkman wrote in the letters column for issue #100:“A good indication that we’re not going to do something is if hundreds of people predict it. If it’s obvious, we’ve probably already decided not to do it…because it’s obvious.”

So with all signs pointing to a Negan/Alpha romance, we probably should have realized a swerve was coming. And it’s every bit as bloody and graphic as you’d expect from Negan.

After spending about two years as a prisoner in Alexandria, Negan has escaped and joined The Whisperers. But he needs to prove himself, mainly to their leader Alpha. As we come to learn, Negan’s way of life doesn’t necessarily mesh with his new cohorts. As a result, near the end of the issue he abruptly kills Alpha, and then beheads the corpse. We close with the line, “Wait until Rick gets a look at you…”

Alpha, TWD 156This is the issue where the emotionless and merciless Alpha finally breaks. So much of this series has been focused on what the apocalypse turns people into. But we’ve never gone the other way. In the our final scene, Negan destroys the psychological barrier she’s built around herself. Despite her status as a villain, it’s heartbreaking. Especially when she talks about missing her daughter Lydia, who we’ve come to know. Then, of course, Negan robs her of the chance to ever see Lydia again. Thus her story becomes even more tragic.

Negan is such a fun character that it can be difficult not to like the guy. Until he does something awful, and you’re kicking yourself for not remembering just who he is. Issue #156 is a textbook example. He saves a young woman from being raped, and then seems to show Alpha his own unique version of compassion. But we’re reminded that he is a psychopath in the truest sense of the word. He talks about losing his ability to feel a full range of emotions after the death of someone close to him (presumably his wife). This explains why he has such a difficult time when other people get emotional around him. We see it here with Alpha, and the scene with Carl from issue #106 comes to mind.

Negan and Alpha, TWD #156The line about Rick is obviously curious. The way Rick has come to him for guidance lately, my guess is Negan tries to use the murder of Alpha as a get-out-of-jail card. Now, as a free man who happens to have the leader’s ear, he’ll have a huge amount of influence, and perhaps the ability to chart a new course.

The praise for Charlie Adlard’s work almost goes without saying at this point. The scene where Alpha breaks down is fantastic. Strictly from a visual standpoint, we can see the cracks start to appear in her hardened demeanor until she finally loses control. The final page also lands really well. But my favorite moment in the issue can be seen above. Negan doesn’t know how to handle Alpha breaking down, and Adlard simply has his eyes dart to his right. He’s so obviously uncomfortable that it inevitably becomes funny. Of course, then he cuts her throat. Kind of a buzz killer.

So whose side is Negan really on? Is he about to take command of The Whisperers? Or will he show his loyalty to Rick? The only thing we can be sure of is that in the end, Negan will be on his own side. I’d be surprised if a reunion with Lucille isn’t far off.

Images from readcomics.net.

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A Review of The Walking Dead #150 – A New War For a New Era

The Walking Dead #150 (2016), Charlie AdlardTITLE: The Walking Dead #100
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: January 13, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers for The Walking Dead #150 lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The Walking Dead #150 was a let-down for yours truly. But I’m not sure I have any right to  it a let-down.

In this milestone issue, Rick continues to ponder the community’s next move after the Whisperers killed so many of their people. But after he is attacked by two of his own people, Rick announces that his community will not stand by and be helpless. The time has come to form a military. The world of The Walking Dead may never be the same.

I’ve made it sound more epic than the issue actually is. But this seems like a story we’re meant to look back on later and say: “That’s where they started in that direction.”

The Walking Dead #150, Charlie Adlard, Rick and EugeneI came into this issue thinking about the book’s previous landmark issues. In The Walking Dead #100, Negan made his debut and promptly bashed Glenn’s head in with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. In issue #125, Rick had a big confrontation with Negan that ultimately led to his victory over the sadistic potty-mouth. The Walking Dead #150, a bloody fight notwithstanding, doesn’t give us anything like that. There aren’t any of the book’s trademark heart-wrenching moments or daring escapes. There isn’t a major triumph for anyone. This isn’t a bad thing, per se. But it does leave you saying: “That’s it?”

The notion of Rick being some kind of military leader indicates he’s going down a path once walked by the likes of The Governor and Negan. As we see in this issue, Rick has more compassion than either of them. But how exactly does one run an virtuous, humane military in a world where virtues and humanity are often lost to carnage and brutality? What does a post-apocalyptic military even look like? How does it work? It seems these are the questions we’ll be examining going forward. The concept is intriguing to be certain, particularly with Negan in the wings.

The Walking Dead #149, Charlie Adlard, NeganWe don’t see much of Negan (shown right in issue #149) here, but he’s cast very well in this devil-on-your-shoulder type role. The scenes in previous issues where he’s talking to Rick from his cage bring The Silence of the Lambs to mind. There’s a moment in this issue where Rick is talking to Eugene about artillery, and he says: “The Whisperers won’t know what f***cking hit them.” This subtle nod to Negan’s influence on Rick hints at one of the dangers he’ll face going forward. How does he keep his community from crossing too many lines, and becoming a new version of the Saviors?

As for the fight scene, it definitely fills the gore quotient. Rick sinks his teeth into his attacker’s neck, showing us he hasn’t lost any of the savagery that helped him survive in the old days. That’s where all the blood we see on the cover comes from, and Rick uses it to help rally the community behind him.

The Walking Dead #150, Charlie Adlard, Rick Grimes chantOn that subject, near the end of the issue many of the community members actually chant Rick’s name (shown right). This is one of the rare Walking Dead moments I would classify as lame.

Charlie Adlard is Charlie Adlard. At times it feels like that’s the only way to describe the art in this series. The man has made himself into a legend. He’s been with these characters so long, and has been so consistent with his work that he brings a familiarity to every issue. Every movement or expression from Rick or one of his cohorts feels natural, because no one knows them like Adlard. That’s one of the reasons these characters feel so real.

The Walking Dead #150 isn’t a thrilling read, but Kirkman and Adlard are continuing to lay groundwork for thrills to come. That might not make for overly compelling content now, but given what’s come before, I’d wager the future still looks bright for The Walking Dead.

Images from author’s collection.

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A Review of Fear the Walking Dead, S1E1 – Anticipation and Frustration

Fear The Walking Dead, S1E1, GloriaBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The premiere of Fear the Walking Dead has some problems. But they’re problems that, in hindsight, you’d expect to have in the pilot of a Walking Dead prequel. Namely, the audience’s anticipation for zombie gore, and the frustration of having to wait so long for a human/zombie confrontation. They give us a very brief one in the opening scene, but then we don’t see another for almost the entirety of the episode.

But let’s pick things apart here, and take the good with the bad…

In the opening scene, Nick Clark, a college drop out and a drug addict, discovers a friend of his has become a zombie. This was a fairly strong opener, especially with the music. I’m a little bit worried that the strongly synthesized stuff will get old after awhile, though.

Fear the Walking Dead, premiere, AMCFear the Walking Dead stars a dysfunctional soon-to-be blended family. There’s a decent amount of cookie-cutter horror flick stuff in here. The bratty and troubled teenagers, the high school setting and authority figures, the dysfunctional family. I hate to make comparisons here, but I’ll argue The Walking Dead didn’t have this many horror tropes when it started. It started quite a few, but it didn’t contain a great many already-established ones. Whether that tarnishes this episode is up for interpretation, I suppose.

The opener notwithstanding, the show begins to hint at the larger outbreak about 20 minutes into the episode. Naturally, this episode set up the characters, the setting, etc. But considering we’re so used to The Walking Dead, and how that world works, it’s frustrating to see things begin at such a slow pace. After all, we already know much of what’s going to happen. It’s understandable, and I don’t fault the show for it. But there’s an undeniable “Get to the zombies!” urge in this episode.

Cliff, Nick’s soon-to-be stepfather, explores the church where he saw the zombie. He later returns with Madison, his fiance and Nick’s mother. This church brought back memories of Father Gabriel’s chapel. I highly doubt there’s any connection. But the whole church/zombies connection is cool.

Elizabeth Rodriguez, Fear the Walking DeadElizabeth Rodriguez portrays Liza, Cliff’s ex-wife, and mother to his son Chris. I didn’t realize Rodriguez also plays Daya’s mom on Orange is the New Black. Between these two gigs, she’s got a pretty sweet thing going for her.

Before giving him a bedpan to use, a nurse tells a restrained Nick “I take my dog out when I want to, not the other way around.” That was a really dumb line. A nurse would never say that to a patient in any capacity. Not one that has any bedside manner, anyway.

Panic begins to set in an at about the one hour mark, as a footage of a zombie attack emerges. I liked the way technology was used here. A simple viral video spreads panic. I’d rather not have waited an hour for it happen, but we got some nice suspense here.

Nick’s drug dealer Calvin attempts to shoot him. Nick winds up turning the gun on him and taking his life. Later, the body has disappeared from the murder scene. The episode closes when Cliff and Madison come across a zombified Calvin. Great way to end the episode. We knew Calvin a little bit, and to see him as a zombie set the stage very well. With luck, we won’t have to wait so long to actually see the monsters in future episodes. Those last two lines, followed by the shot of the city, were great.

“What the hell is happening?”
“I have no idea.”

Fear the Walking Dead, premiere, image 4Image 1 from abcnews.go.com. Image 2 from amc.com. Image 3 from ew.com. Image 4 from screenrant.com.

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That Game of Thrones Scene, Rape as a Plot Device, and Presentation

Game of Thrones, Sansa, RamsayBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Yeah, so a girl got raped on Game of Thrones this week.

Oh, you’ve heard?

In Sunday’s “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” Sansa Stark is forced to marry the cruel and sadistic Ramsay Bolton. Subsequently, in an extremely uncomfortable and to many offensive scene, he rapes the virginal Sansa as his servant “Reek” looks on weeping. (It’s worth noting that Reek was castrated by Ramsay last season, in yet another intense, cringeworthy scene.)

This rape scene has resulted in an outcry from viewers disgusted with its graphic nature. Perhaps the outrage was best put into words by Missourri Senator and GoT fan Claire McCaskill, who tweeted that she was done with the series, calling the scene gratuitous, disgusting, and unacceptable. Naturally, there’s been a lot of talk about rape culture in America, and the show’s depiction of over-the-top sex and violence against women.

Sophie Turner, Sansa Stark, Game of ThronesThere’s also the other extreme to consider. Whenever something like this happens to a female character in a popular TV show or movie, a lot of fans get extremely defensive. If you’ve never perused the comments section on a website or a blog, I wouldn’t suggest starting now…

The scene has been defended by episode writer and show producer Bryan Cogman, as well as Sophie Turner, the actress who plays Sansa. Cogman noted Sansa made a brave choice in marrying Ramsay in an effort to return to her homeland, and the character will ultimately have to deal with this terrible incident in future episodes. Turner, oddly enough, told Entertainment Weekly that when she first read the scene, “I kinda loved it.”

For the record, while I do watch Game of Thrones regularly and am caught up on everything, I don’t consider myself an avid fan. I respect the show for the depth that certain characters have, and the pure magnificence of the world it’s brought to life on screen. But at times the violence, especially that of a sexual nature, is a turn off. You can argue that’s the tone George R.R. Martin set in his books, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with staying true to your source material (Though the show has deviated from Martin’s books somewhat.). But when you’re doing a television show, it all becomes much more real. So there’s a delicate balance to be struck in terms of just how much sex and violence you actually show, at the risk of grossing out your audience.

Ramsay Bolton, Game of ThronesAt the risk of angering many an avid GoT fan, I agree that from a presentation standpoint, this rape scene was too far. I’ve never been a victim of sexual abuse. But it definitely comes off as insensitive to viewers who may have been victims, let alone viewers who simply don’t find that kind of thing entertaining. And don’t call me the P.C. Police, because I’m not that guy. But sometimes there is a line you don’t cross, and they crossed it here.

Perhaps things wouldn’t look so bad if GoT doesn’t have such a spotty track record with its treatment of female characters. Female nudity is often a component of the show, as are sex scenes. And of course, we’ve seen female characters killed. But sexual violence against women is the driving issue here.

Over the course of the series, we’ve seen three major instances of rape or sexual assault against major female characters…

– The aforementioned scene with Ramsay and Sansa.
– The season 1 scene with Daenerys and Khal Drogo, where he strips her, and he forces himself on her as she’s in tears.
– The season 4 scene between Jaime and Cersei Lannister, where he forces himself on her next to the corpse of their son born through incest. (Ick.)

Jaime Lannister, Cersei, rapeThere’s also the infamous “Red Wedding” sequence from season 3, in which a pregnant woman is stabbed in the belly. That’s an image I’ve never been able to remove from my mind…

You can argue that there’s no shortage of violence against men on this show, and that we have indeed seen a man castrated. But it’s not the same, is it? I’d argue this stuff falls under the Women in Refrigerators category, i.e. women being raped or sexually attacked, as a frequent plot device.

Should rape be off limits in the world of entertainment? No. I’d argue nothing should. After all, this is just pretend. But if you’re going to show something tragic that has happened to real people, then when it comes to the presentation you need to have a certain respect for the people that might be in your audience. You certainly don’t want to go back to that same well time and time again, as Game of Thrones has.

I’ve seen certain arguments that the sexual component to this show is very much reflective of what things were like in the middle ages, and that it’s important for the show to represent that.

Game of Thrones, dragonI can only assume they also felt it was important to represent the dragons, white walkers, and magic. Because, you know, they were all the rage during the middle ages…

No matter how much people want to play up the more realistic aspects of Game of Thrones, the bottom line is that it’s a fantasy show. What we saw on television Sunday night came from the minds of various writers, producers, a director, etc. They created this fantasy, and they have the power to change it. So with that in mind, I ask these two simple questions…

1. How necessary was it in the context of the story for Sansa Stark to be raped?

2. If the rape was necessary, did it have to be portrayed in the gratuitous manner that it was? The ripping of the clothes, her crying, Reek watching and crying, etc.

Regardless, it seems the people have spoken. If Game of Thrones wants to stay in the public’s good graces, the showrunners will likely have to keep things less…rapey.

Images 1 and 2 from zap2it.com. Image 3 from vcpost.com. Image 4 from thewrap.com. Image 5 from movieviral.com.

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