Not to spoil what’s gone down in the last few episodes of Game of Thrones, but the character of Shae did a… thing… recently that’s caused a lot of fan hate to be directed her way. In an interview with The Daily Beast actress Sibel Kekilli explained her character’s motivations and why haters need to step off Shae’s jock. OK, no, that last part is me.
Spoilers for what’s aired so far of season four are behind the jump.
What caused the blowback, of course, is Shae testifying against Tyrion. Not only did she straight-up lie and say he killed King Joffrey, but she framed her “confession” in such a way that made him a laughingstock. Why do it? First off, says Kekilli, “The Lannisters found her and there was only a choice between agreeing to testify against Tyrion or die.”
It’s been four episodes since Shae was supposedly packed away across the Narrow Sea following Tyrion’s cruel rejection of her, which we know (but she doesn’t) was his way to keep her away from his murderous family. (Whether or not he should’ve told her the truth, because Shae’s an adult who can make her own decisions… well, that’s something else to think on.) Who knows what happened to her in the intervening period? In “The Laws of Gods and Men” it sounded like she was reading her confession from a script. Tywin had his fingers all over that speech, and we know that Tywin’s more than willing to turn a blind eye to atrocities committed so that he can achieve his goals (see: The Red Wedding, Gregor Clegane’s treatment of Oberyn’s sister Elia and her children).
But why the cruel twist in Shae’s testimony? Put simply, she wanted to get back at him for being an unholy jackass:
“It was not easy at all for Shae to be there. She is hurt, she is angry, sad, and desperate. She never wanted to be in that kind of situation but Tyrion forced her somehow. He always had the opportunity to go away with her to a safe place and live quietly and peacefully. Yet he has never taken it… She was badly hurt and wanted revenge on him. She is a proud woman, she has always been fully loyal to Tyrion, and instead of maintaining her relationship he decided to go for power—and against love.”
She was just doing what characters in Game of Thrones do—playing the game, redressing wrongs done to her and hers. And if you say “OK, Tyrion was horrible to her, but isn’t condemning him to execution a bit extreme?,” I’ll remind you that he was going to be judged guilty from the start, and again, Shae had to say he planned Joffrey’s murder. Tyrion outright told Podrick earlier this season that “If they ask you to testify against me, and you don’t, you will be killed.” As for Shae twisting the knife, well: Tyrion “hurt [Shae] so much, it was like spitting right into her face,” explains Kekilli, “so Shae would never just go away as if nothing really happened. She is simply at the point where she wants to take revenge for his actions.”
Not the most noble thing, no, but hardly worse than the other horrible things characters (more often than not male characters, just sayin’) in this show have done. She’s a complex character, marginalized by those around her (including Tyrion, who… I wouldn’t say he doesn’t care that he hurts her by insisting their relationship be absolutely secret, but he definitely doesn’t care enough to change it), looking out for herself using the tools at her disposal.
Women of Westeros (and beyond) unite!