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Game of Thrones: Cersei’s walk of shame, like so much sexual abuse, will haunt her forever

Cersei's having a rough go of it these days.
HBO

Every week throughout season six, a handful of Vox's writers will discuss the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Before you dig in, check out our recap of Sunday's episode, as well the archive of our entire discussion to date. This week, we'll be hearing from culture editor Todd VanDerWerff, executive editor Matt Yglesias, identities writer Emily Crockett, foreign policy writer Zack Beauchamp, and politics writer Andrew Prokop. Come back throughout the week for more entries.

Emily Crockett: One little thing that struck me about "Oathbreaker" was the way Cersei is still struggling with the fallout of her sexual humiliation at the hands of the Sparrows. We'd seen her soften a bit as season six began, with grief at losing Myrcella, love for Tommen, and determination to "fuck prophecy" and take on the world at her brother Jaime's side.

So much for that. As we saw last week, Cersei has been sending her 7-foot, probably zombie sidekick the Mountain to literally bash the skulls of anybody who dares to laugh at her humiliation. Now she's trying to do the same thing to her political rivals, but it's not going well for her at all.

The small council openly and unanimously defies Cersei, walking out when she insists on asserting her power. They do this in spite of the fact that Cersei's main rival, Margaery Tyrell, is in prison and not around to back them up, and while that incredibly menacing 7-foot probable zombie is standing right there.

It's really tough to imagine anything like this happening prior to Cersei's walk of shame. The High Septon can wax poetic about the redemptive power of motherly love all he likes, but the experience has left Cersei utterly powerless. She might as well be, well ... no one.

Arya Stark, in contrast, has become more powerful than ever thanks to her anonymity. She commits to being No One and earns her sight back, along with Jaqen H'ghar's approval.

But before No One does that, she opens up about how Arya Stark had left the Hound to die after taking him off her kill list. The Hound, who tried to goad Arya into killing him by saying he should have raped her sister Sansa when he had the chance. The Hound, who protected Arya, yet made her live with the constant implicit threat that he would harm her.

When a girl becomes No One, she also becomes degendered — which may be the only way a girl can avoid sexual violence and humiliation in the brutal Game of Thrones universe, where the threat of rape is always in the background even when it's not literally being shown in the background onscreen.

Elsewhere in "Oathbreaker," Gilly is a welcome sight in a sweet scene with seasick Sam on their way to Oldtown Sam's hometown with the baby. But wherever they land, I hope it will be a place where Sam won't have to constantly protect Gilly from rape, as he becomes a father to the child who came into the world via rape and incest.

And we haven't yet seen Lyanna Stark in Bran's flashbacks, but we have a pretty good idea of what must be coming: her brother Ned swearing to protect her honor and her infant son's life by besmirching his own, and claiming Jon Snow as his bastard. Ned has honor to burn — even when, as we learn in Bran's flashback, he hasn't always really earned it.

Oaths are made and broken in the world of Game of Thrones, but the constant promise to its women is that they will always, no matter what, be responding to the shame, the threat, the fallout of sexual violence and male dominance.

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