This show can really make you wince. "The Viper and the Mountain", like all eighth-in-the-season episodes, made the water coolers buzz over the death of Oberyn Martel. The grisly, gooey death.
One has to admire the skill in the show runners in 1) Establishing Oberyn as a character people care about, despite appearing in a fraction of episodes the other characters have appeared in, and 2) Managing to horrify people, even though audiences should be desensitized to the blood and carnage. Funny enough, before the episode aired, I had dreamed about that eventual confrontation, and it was pretty gross in my dream. The show actually made it worse. I'm always of a mixed mind when it comes to depicting violence in media. On one hand, seeing people chopped to bits is not fun for me to watch. On the other, I'm watching a show about people stabbing and killing each other. It's almost irresponsible to depict a world of medieval warfare with "Prince Valiant" style bloodlessness. After all, real barbaric cultures would inflict unimaginably gruesome afflictions like "the blood eagle". You're supposed to wince at a lot of the damage being done. But one of the things that has always made me wince on the show, more than other, is the subject of castration.
In 2005 I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. This was actually something I was always legitimately scared of. I wrote essays on being scared of it. To actually have it happen seemed incredibly unfair. My greatest fear right now is to have that other shoe drop so to speak. So I think of all the characters I feel for the most, it's Greyworm and the Unsullied, and army of castrated slaves. (I feel very bad for Theon, but his experiences are perhaps too horrifyingly bizarre to relate to. Plus, while the retribution was disproportionate, Theon kind of got himself into the mess. The Unsullied were mutilated as children) It's something that makes me sad, and scared, every time I think about them. And in a lot ways, I have always been hoping they never went there in terms of how they deal with the opposite sex.
They went there.
Over the course of the season, the show has been hinting at something between Greyworm and Missandei, Daenarys's translator. She has been teaching him to speak whatever lingua franca the show trades in, (Most fantasy universes refer to it as "common") and they have been sharing intimate details and moments of warmth. This episode, in some kind of mass bathing, Greyworm caught sight of a naked Missandei. (And what a sight it was. I think Nathalie Emmanuel may be the most beautiful woman on the show.) This led to discussion on how exactly Greyworm works down there. It's actually a good question, as the actor doesn't seem to possess the kind of softness that usually comes with the body's inability to produce testosterone. Real-life patients of double-orchiectomies usually get testosterone supplements, and while I'm sure something comparable is possible in a fantasy world, it kind of defeats the purpose of castrated warriors. (Then again, a castrated warrior seems like kind of a self-defeating-of-purpose thing in the first place) The relationship between Missandei and Greyworm is an invention of the show, but an evocative one. As a result, even book readers like me have no idea where they could take it. (In the series, Missandei is actually hinted to be a more calculating figure) It was actually a shining example of humanity in an episode that could be bereft of it. It raises literal questions about how it would work, but also larger questions comparing and contrasting the nature between sexuality and non-sexual love.
I'm not someone who has the most experience with women. That's probably something a lot of you probably already assumed from knowing I write a weekly "Game of Thrones" blog. I certainly have an interest in women, but I tend to get absorbed with other things, and as somebody with Aspergers, I find the general rhythm of, shall we say, courting, to be confusing and arbitrary. (I suppose it bears mentioning that as someone on the spectrum, a lot of women I've been close with have served as tutors/ambassadors to the wider world) I'm kind of uncomfortable with raw sexuality. But I do find women beautiful and I've absolutely have been infatuated with them, even if it's sometimes been weirdly compartmentalized from my sexual desires. Being a testicular cancer survivor has also made it difficult at times for me. I have been told several times that women don't particularly find testicles very attractive, so they wouldn't miss them. But it's one think about that in the abstract. It compounds my nervousness around the opposite sex when I feel like I owe them an explanation on what happened to my genitals, but cannot think of a single inappropriate way to bring it up. (I've put those experiences in my comedy act, but as I can't reiterate enough, comedy is a terrible way to meet women.) As a result, my relationships with women are usually chaste and extremely apologetic. It's hardly the same thing, but I think it says something that the trials of a castrated, formerly-enslaved general of a dragon-army hit home a lot. Moreso than Jorah Mormont, whom the internet as dubbed "Ser Friendzone".
As a reader, I know what moments I'm excited to see, and which moments I'm dreading. I have a very different relationship with the show than people who have not yet read the books. However, there are some aspects where I'm on the same page (or lack thereof!) as, well, would you believe the readers' nickname for non-readers is "the Unsullied"?