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‘Game of Thrones’ Came So Close to Giving Queer Women a Chance This Week

A crappy battle got in the way of an excellent pairing in the second episode of season seven.

by Danielle Riendeau
Jul 25 2017, 2:40pm

All images courtesy of HBO

Big old spoiler warning for season seven, episode two: Stormborn ahead.

We have already established that I'm not watching Game of Thrones for intellectual stimulation. I mean, I don't even read the books for that purpose. No. I'm watching this show to see powerful women characters (and also Jon Snow, he's pretty cool) be badasses in the eponymous Game. I'm in it to watch Arya Stark murder her enemies, Daenerys hopefully become the rightful and just queen of the land, to delight in Cersei's outfits and excellent facial expressions.

I'm here to watch Brienne embarrass lesser swordsmen, Little lady Mormont school old dudes with her gutsy proclamations, Olenna Tyrell make master moves, and even follow Sansa's increasing political savvy.

And, goddamnit, I would also like to see Yara Grejoy get laid.

Still from episode trailer, courtesy HBO

In what is by far and away my favorite change from the books, where Asha (that's Yara's name in the books) seems pretty straight, in the show she is unapologetically queer, and maybe even a little bit of a womanizer. She has swagger! And in Stromborn, she gets close—oh, so close—to Sand Snake matriarch Ellaria Sand.

In the scene that made me almost forgive Game of Thrones for its many sins, Ellaria starts making moves on a very enthusiastic Yara, teasing Theon gently as her bodyguard. "What if there's a foreign invasion," she whispers, making, um, dramatic gestures on Yara's thigh. And Gemma Whelan's performance absolutely sells it. Her facial expression, this sly, almost shy little shrug and smile at her brother that says "hey dude, you understand, right? Maybe go put a sock on the doorknob?" absolutely, MADE this episode.

Then there's a big explosion and then there's a battle and GOD why did you tease me like that, show?

Look. I am no fool. I don't think the showrunners made this big tease to frustrate me—and any other queer women who were hoping against hope for a positive romantic encounter between two major lady characters. In all likelihood, it was more in place to titillate the straight guys who watch.

I'm very upset. Still from Season 7 trailer, courtesy HBO

But that's not to discount the desires of queer women who would like to see these two get it on. And something should be said of Yara's nowhere-near traditional-appearance: instead of a withering flower, she's all pirate (or all viking?) all the time: a swashbuckling, loud-mouthed, axe-wielding lady who, like Brienne, doesn't bend to rules of gender expectations either inside the universe of the show or the standards of what women are "supposed" look like on TV. She has appetites and doesn't slink around the screen to go after them.

Ellaria, for her part, has been criminally under-developed on the show, and the whole Sand Snakes plotline was… well, easily one of the weakest bits of the entire series. The character deserves better—she's smart as hell, a mover and shaker politically and, in the books at least, someone who is more interested in peace and just rule than in violence for violence's sake.

How about you? Have you ever been teased so rudely by a show? Or annoyed at the possibility of something awesome from a source you've stopped expecting so much from? Let's take it to the forums!