Television Tuesday :: love comes in at the eyes [an analysis of that Dany/Doreah scene]

12 Mar

I recently started a couple of my friends on Game of Thrones (because I am a rotten enabler and because I am a fictional masochist).  During the second episode, when Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Doreah (Roxanne McKee) are talking privately after the other maids have exited, Dany listens to Doreah talking about her time in the pleasure house and then asks, “Will you teach me?”  One of my friends then asked, “Teach her what??”

One of my people: “A lot of things.”

Another (looking sympathetically at me): “It’s really very sweet, though!”

Me (after finishing my cocktail, and practically whimpering): “It’s so beaaauuutiful.”

I have come to terms with the fact that while I am just as emotionally invested in other fictional relationships, none have the power to reduce me to a pathetic mess like Dany and Doreah do.  Because of this, I present a step-by-step analysis of the very well-known practice sex scene.  This is everything I wanted to say to my friends, this is the reasons I find it such an important scene and not just girlie titillation.


(There’s a video of the whole thing.  And I beg you, don’t read the comments.)

(The scene opens on Doreah’s face entering the frame.)

Doreah: No, Khaleesi.

(She reaches down; Dany’s head is turned to the side, her eyes averted shyly, and Doreah makes to lift her chin, force her gaze upward.)

Dany, newly and rather unwillingly married, is a novice in the ways of love.  She is young and still rather naive; she’s spent her life bounced from place to place, never having a true home or a constant connection save her (total asshole of a) brother, Viserys (Harry Lloyd).  Her marriage to Drogo (Jason Momoa) was one of convenience and political alliance, purportedly guaranteeing her brother an army to take back his father’s kingdoms with; the start of it was rocky, the sex has so far been more a conquering than a union and not something she consented to.  Up until this point in her life, she has related to others (men, we don’t see her relating to women before these scenes) by demurring to them, being treated as if she is there for them to do as they please with.

Doreah: You must look in his eyes always.

(Not moving her hand from Dany’s face, no.)

Doreah: Love comes in at the eyes.

Doreah, formerly of a Lysene pleasure house, knows these things.  In the scene preceding this one, she was telling Dany about her training in the house, how she learned from a young age to enchant and please: though she would not likely have fallen in love with those who paid for her company, she is trained to understand the ways of love.  She is doing what Dany asked, teaching her these things to use in her marriage.

(Doreah withdraws her hand from Dany’s body, then reaches her other to join with Dany’s.)

Doreah: It is said that Irygenia (sp?) of Lys could finish a man with nothing but her eyes.

(Close-up on their fingers twining together.)

Already this is more intimacy than Dany has known in her marriage, more tenderness than she has been shown to receive in the rest of her life: Drogo’s sexuality, as Doreah will later discuss, is animalistic and disregarding of what his partner would want.  He undressed her coldly, he took her without looking at her face.  There was no kissing, no true touching.  It’s no wonder Dany looks so wide-eyed about this: she is unused to such soft touches, such touches with no intent but to be good to her.  (Because by teaching her and showing her these things, that is what Doreah is doing.)

Dany: Finish a man?

(Doreah looks at her, raises her eyebrows.  Dany is not a child, Dany will understand this if she thinks about it for a moment.)

Dany (after a breath, looking down and smiling awkwardly): Oh.

Even in this moment, clearly reiterating that Doreah is the experienced one and Dany the inexperienced one, it is lighthearted: awkward though it is, this is the first real smile we see from Dany (there’s a smirk of sorts during their earlier conversation, but it’s blink-and-you-miss-it).  There was no place for silliness in her life with her brother and their hosts, there has not been a place for it in her life with Drogo thus far.  But here with Doreah, she is allowed to make mistakes, to not know things, to feel silly about it.  And for her part, Doreah does not make it more of a deal than it needs to be: there’s that smirk, those arched eyebrows, that “come on, you can do it,” but it is not patronizing.  She lets Dany figure it out for herself.

Doreah: Kings traveled across the world for a night with Irygenia.

(As she shifts her hold on Dany’s hands.)

Doreah: Magisters sold their palaces.

(As Dany watches in wonder.)

Khals burned their enemies just to have her for a few hours.  They say a thousand men proposed to her and she refused them all.

(As she gets closer to Dany, leaning so their torsos press together, holding both of Dany’s hands firmly-but-gently.  Dany, for her part, is still wide-eyed.)

Daenerys (still staring up with astonishment written on her features): Well, she sounds like an interesting woman.

(She is smiling again, though there is a nervousness in her eyes and in the short breath she takes.)

Doreah is worldly.  Doreah knows things about people, she knows beautiful, romantic stories.  This tale could be something from a book, likely one that Dany would not have read in her heretofore sheltered life, and Doreah is glad to share.  She is interested in teaching Dany these things, about this woman who held such power over men (likely another thing Dany would not have known much about).  And Dany is in awe, plain and simple.  Whether this is because she has never experienced something like this in terms of (at the moment/for interpretation pseudo-)romantic connection, because she has not heard stories like this, because she is enchanted by Doreah’s careful movements and the way she speaks, well.  The way she goes from awe to surprise to pleasant surprise to something that’s just silly and happy again suggests that it’s likely a combination of all three.  We haven’t seen Dany truly smile before this scene, and we haven’t seen her in a truly positive scene at all, but this is positive indeed.  She is learning not just of love, but of the value she holds.

(And then, a faltering.)

Dany (blinking rapidly, awkwardly and fearfully): I – I don’t think that Drogo will like it with me on top.

Doreah (nudging her a bit): You will make him like it, Khaleesi.

(A quick jump out so we see their bodies, Dany still lying on her back, Doreah straddling her hips and leaning over her with a smile.)

Just as Dany begins to feel something like happiness, her instincts tell tell her to stop it.  Because she has lived her life under the control of others, she is used to second-guessing herself (what with Viserys’ douchey “you don’t want to wake the dragon” act and all) and amending her behavior to suit them.  But Doreah is having none of that.  Dany is the khaleesi, Dany is allowed to take control of herself and should do so.  (It’s notable that Doreah is just as much of an outsider in Dothraki culture as Dany is: someone of the culture would likely have different advice about how Dany should perform her wifely duties, but Doreah is not interested in seeing Dany perform.  She is interested in seeing Dany do what will make her happy.)

Doreah: Men want what they’ve never had, and the Dothraki take slaves like a hound takes a bitch.

(A beat.)

Doreah (very intently): Are you a slave, Khaleesi?

(Dany can’t meet her eyes, but she shakes her head quickly, lips parting as if to answer but no sound coming out.)

Because despite the fact that Dany comes from a royal lineage, despite the fact that she has married into the elite of the khalasar, she is used to being treated as a slave of sorts.  And here is Doreah (who is, you know, technically a slave herself) asking her to realize that no, she is not.  She has value, she has power.

(Doreah moves back to sitting, takes Dany’s hands and places them on her hips gently.)

(And then begins to move those hips, resting her hands on Dany’s legs and circling slowly, smiling.)

Doreah: Then don’t make love like a slave.

(She raises her eyebrows again, just briefly, and stares down at Dany intently.)

Bless, Doreah.  That eyebrow raise is something between “this is the point I’m making,” “you can do this,” and “yes, this is somewhat suggestive but not just for suggestiveness’ sake,” and that perfectly captures what is going on here: Dany can do this, Dany has all of the tools she needs and now she just needs to fight.  (Uhm.  Yeah.)  I don’t believe in love at first sight in the strictest sense, but I do believe that Dany is feeling something she has never felt before in these moments and I do believe that Doreah has to some degree cared for Dany from the start.  Teaching Dany these things was why she was bought, but it also means that they form a bond very, very quickly.  And like I’ve said, Dany hasn’t really had proper bonds (because while she has Jorah [Iain Glen], the dynamic there is not really of an intimate sort).  And Doreah probably hasn’t had many either, all things considered, but she pretty much immediately falls into the role of the khaleesi’s favorite.  She is here to help Dany, but there is a sincerity in her gestures and in her eyes.

Also, this is very possibly the first time Dany has thought of it as “making love.”  It’s duty with Drogo, or it has been thus far: it’s something that must be done.  It is not making love.  It is not meeting eyes and connecting.  Also also, Dany establishes herself later on as one who does not approve of the practice of “taking slaves” in this way, and she establishes herself as one who grants slaves their freedom once she has/takes the power to do so.  This is her learning that she has/can take power.

(Doreah continues to move for a moment in silence, almost daring Dany to move along with, and Dany stares up at her with a sort of faith, an agreement to try.)

(And then Dany takes a breath, sits up quick, braces herself with one hand and wraps the other around Doreah’s waist.  Doreah immediately lets one of her hands fly to Dany’s shoulders as Dany switches their positions, laying Doreah down on the furs.

Doreah beams proudly up at Dany.)

Doreah: Very good, Khaleesi.

Doreah: Out there, he is the mighty Khal.

(As Dany brings their faces closer together.)

Doreah: But in this tent, he belongs to you.

(Doreah reaches a hand up to push Dany’s hair back tenderly.)

(And all at once, Dany retreats, sitting back on Doreah’s hips nervously.  Doreah’s hand still rests on Dany’s.)

Dany: I – don’t think that this is the Dothraki way.

(Doreah sits up quickly, staring into Dany’s eyes.)

Doreah: If he wanted the Dothraki way —

(She pushes Dany’s hair back again, hand lingering on Dany’s cheek.)

Doreah (tenderly as can be, oh my gosh): — why did he marry you?

(And Dany just stares back, eyes still wide, expression full of awe and awareness as Doreah lets her hand drop.)

Yes, Dany has moments of backsliding and worry in this scene.  Everyone does when they’re learning new things, particularly about themselves and the roles they can play in the world.  But nonetheless, she has learned.  You see the learning on her face, in her eyes.  She is still wide-eyed at the scene’s end, but there is none of the naivete and fear found earlier in the scene.  Here, in this moment, she trusts Doreah: she trusts what Doreah is telling her, she trusts that she is capable, she trusts that she has things to offer that are unique to her.  She is still a little in awe of the older girl, which is completely reasonable, but they are not strangers anymore.  They are already close: despite the fact that Doreah is a slave and Dany is Khaleesi, Dany is relating to Doreah as a person, as a friend, as at least some degree of something more, and Doreah is relating to Dany as if she is a person too (with respect, but without groveling).  Despite the fact that Doreah is a slave and Dany is Khaleesi, Dany is admiring Doreah and looking up to her like nobody’s business.

It is my humble opinion that Doreah has felt protective of Dany from meeting her, because it is her duty and quickly because she believes in her; Doreah is very quickly affectionate toward Dany, and at least prior to HBO meddling, I am of the mind that Doreah is a fairly good judge of character when she is allowed to be.  Dany is looking in Doreah’s eyes and seeing someone strong and knowing, and she is also seeing herself through Doreah’s eyes, she trusts Doreah’s opinion and can begin to see herself as someone who can also be strong and knowing.  She is not just learning how to make the khal happy, she is learning how to make herself happy, and clearly being with Doreah has made her happy (because of what she has learned, because of the connection that they have most definitely formed and that they are both aware of, because Doreah, like Irygenia, is an interesting woman, because even if it’s just in a momentary puppy love way [which it’s not, or not exclusively] she is smitten with this beautiful and capable woman in front of her). Maybe for the first time in her life (certainly for one of the first times) Dany believes in herself.

And that is how a daughter of the Lysene pleasure houses taught Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen to take things with fire and blood.

–your fangirl heroine.

One Response to “Television Tuesday :: love comes in at the eyes [an analysis of that Dany/Doreah scene]”

  1. Mandy June 2014 at 11:34 pm #

    This is a beautiful article. Well written & just splendid.

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