Now That the ‘Game of Thrones’ Penis Has Been Freed, What Does It Mean?

Out-of-left-field nudity is most arbitrary on HBO series to date … or is it?

Last Updated: September 24, 2018 @ 12:40 PM

The fanfare (and jeers) surrounding the closeup of real male genitalia on this week’s “Game of Thrones” episode has died down, but an important question remains unanswered: Was the penis — and the wart on it, for that matter — really necessary?

The scene takes place after Arya watches a stage play that mocks her father’s beheading and the many other tragedies her family has endured. It evokes the Shakespearean concept of a play within a play, a storytelling device used famously in “The Taming of the Shrew.”

After the performance, Arya goes backstage to spy on a female performer whom she’s been assigned to kill. That’s when “GoT” audiences are treated to a tight shot of King Joffrey’s impersonator as he examines his exposed junk and complains of warts. (Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the first time a penis has appeared on the show.)

The seemingly random moment is something for which Emilia Clarke has publicly campaigned, with the “Game of Thrones” actress even chanting “Free the penis!” on a recent episode of “The Late Late Show.”

Many fans who have supported her effort to balance the scales of nudity on the show still weren’t satisfied, however, arguing the “GoT” audience needs to see a more prominent cast member’s, er, member. For instance, Jon Snow actor Kit Harington. (And there was perfect opportunity, too, on Episodes 1 and 2, when he was resurrected from the dead after lying prone on a table while completely undressed!)

Strengthening their argument, the backstage scene still featured a topless actress — the one who gave an unflattering depiction of Sansa Stark. The semi-nudity of both players was equally perplexing upon further examination.

While the show has offered flimsy excuses to flaunt women’s breasts onscreen, past nude scenes on “Game of Thrones” have depicted love scenes, brothels, a walk of shame, a sorceress’ power source, and, of course, Daenerys Targaryen’s mystical, fiery sovereignty. Even if the reason may seem weak in some cases, there has always been context and justification for nudity within the show’s framework.

The nudity in the backstage scene was, however, jarring, almost distracting from the more important story beat of Arya Stark’s reconnaissance mission.

However, the scene may have revealed a possible clue: Richard E. Grant (from “Downton Abbey”) plays an actor in the group, whose name is listed on IMDb as Izembaro. Seeing as Arya needs to return to kill her mark, it feels as though we’ll see Izembaro again (though, as of now, he’s only listed for the one episode).

It also showed Arya’s would be victim flirting with the little person who plays Tyrion Lannister in their stage satire.

But why the aside? Why do we need to learn so much about these people?

Like a Caravaggio painting, does the backstage scene hold symbols we will return to as the season progresses?

Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss aren’t known for false leads (like the ones that had “Lost” fans pulling their hair out during its run on ABC).

And seeing as the penis — for lack of better phrasing — stuck out like a sore thumb, we’ll have to keep watching to find out if meant anything, warts and all.

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