Cripples, bastards and broken things don't last long in Westeros — especially the bastards, as seen on Sunday night's "Game of Thrones" season premiere. In what's easily one of the more disturbing scenes in recent television history, the "Thrones" premiere closed with a montage of wicked boy king Joffrey's armored dogs going around King's Landing slaughtering all of late Robert Baratheon's bastard children, a move presumably made to strengthen Joff's claim to the Iron Throne.
It was a powerful scene, one that sent a decisive message to the viewer: If Ned Stark's beheading didn't convince you that the Seven Kingdoms are a deadly, dangerous place to live in, then the merciless killing of illegitimate babies and toddlers should do the trick. Consider the message received, if not universally appreciated.
"I had a bit of a problem with the killing of the bastards, particularly the baby in the whore house at the end of the episode," RollingStone.com and BoiledLeather.com writer Sean T. Collins said of the bastard slaying during this week's inaugural "Watching the Thrones," MTV News' new weekly "Game of Thrones" recap series. "That's an event you learn about in passing conversation in the books; it happens offscreen. To see it onscreen ... that's the kind of thing that's taboo almost for a reason."
Newsarama.com editor Lucas Siegel disagreed with Collins, asserting that such feelings of discomfort are the precise emotions you're supposed to feel after watching the bastard slaying. "It's such a brutal hit," he said. "It knocked me down."
Most viewers were likely reeling along with Siegel and Collins upon seeing the horrific murders in action, but was the scene too horrific, even for a show like "Thrones"? Wired.com contributor and frequent "Thrones" devourer David Barr Kirtley doesn't think so.
"I didn't think it was too far over the line," he said. "The actual murder of the infant happens off-camera, and in any event, I just don't think the idea of soldiers slaughtering children is all that shocking. That even happens in 'Willow' (a PG-rated movie), and most of us probably grow up hearing Bible stories about it. I think that any viewers who kept watching after learning about Craster's incestuous relationship with his daughters and granddaughters probably aren't going to be too scandalized by the slaying of a few bastard boys."
Whether or not viewers felt scandalized after the premiere, Elio García of Westeros.org believes the death of the bastards nonetheless sends a decisive message about the nature of Westeros: "It's an incredibly harrowing way to end the episode, a slaughter of the innocent that's a particularly gross manifestation of one person's power over others. Left off-page in the novel, bringing it forward — and then adding more bodies to the count — was a definite approach to dramatizing and underscoring the brutality that exists in Westeros. It's not as civilized as viewers may first have thought."
What did you think of the killing of the bastards? Too far or par for the course? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter @roundhoward!