HBO made many additions and changes for its adaption of Martin’s great novels. The most disputed, the most despised and loathed, however, is the introduction of the red-headed whore, Ros, as a recurring character. Her sexposition scenes have attracted many criticisms, and the screen time she gets seems rather as a waste of time by many, time that would be well spent on other characters. I find these allegations unfair on the one hand, since Esme Bianco is playing her role really well, but also very shortsighted from a narrator’s perspective. The scenes with Ros provide some valuable insights we wouldn’t otherwise get, and I don’t mean the size of her breasts. Let’s have a look at her scenes in season 1 to understand that.
The first highlighted scene she shares with Theon Greyjoy, who has a short chat with her after the deed. The scene has an importance for the character building of Theon Greyjoy, essential to understand his later betrayal at the end of season 2. Even when he is with a paid whore, he has to suffer insults due to his status as a ward – nothing easy to bear. He gets chided like a child by Ros, who clearly knows that Greyjoy doesn’t have anything to do to her, reducing him to his status and reproaching him. Her second scene is with Theon again, a nice detail about him desperately wanting to see her cunt once again and perhaps being a bit in love with her in his own way, but the scene on the turnip cart serves an entirely different purpose: it forebodes the dreading war and makes clear that it’s not a children’s game of Swords&Sorcery heroics when kings clash in Westeros, but that it has dire consequences for the smallfolk involved. This perspective is not one we see often, lacking any lowborn POV characters, and all the more important. Why not use Ros for this?
We meet her again in King’s Landing, in the famous sexposition scene with Littlefinger in his brothel. This scene has been much criticized, and deserves most of the critique. It really is rather long and irritating. That being said, it also allows for Littlefinger to give away some of his inner self and show how a whore actually works. The latter might not interest all members of the audience, but I found it to be a nice detail. Now, it might be said that it’s “not Littlefinger” to give away that much, especially to a whore, but the small man definitely likes to brag. It’s in his character, like lying is, too. It can be argued, however, that this scene wasn’t necessary in this form. The best Ros scene up to date is, however, in the last episode, when she shows us the true Pycelle, a welcome and successful addition to the books, to say the least. It would have been really clumsy to just show Pycelle do his workout, so the combination with Ros, combined with some exposition background about kings and an opportunity to see how Pycelle’s ruse works is great. With what other character could this scene have been done? With none. So, Ros scores points here.
What we have seen in season 2 doesn’t fail to deliver, neither. At first, she (now matron of the whorehouse, as it seems) gives us an entry for the child murder at the hands of Janos Slynt (again, after a perhaps superfluous sexposition scene), a face to relate to when Slynt stabs little Barra. In the second episode, she is, visibly shaken by the experience, threatened by Littlefinger. This scene again gives us insight in the character of Petyr Baelish. One should never forget that in the books, no POV ever has access to the “private” Littlefinger until Sansa in AFFC, and even she gets a crafted image most of the time. But I find it entirely believable that Littlefinger would be a sadistic asshole when he can afford it. And he definitely can do that here, playing out his power after suffering the threats from Cersei.
|Yeah, Theon, you're pretty much a bitch.|
|And not only with the audience.|
|The series would never divulge into sexposition.|
But there is also a way more important reason for her continuing existence than just opening a narrative window in scenes we otherwise might get only in a contrived form. Ros is in many ways a representation of the smallfolk and what they suffer at the hands of lords and kings, and her being a whore makes this especially powerful since she’s not only a woman, but also a woman of a despised trade (but with the access that’s so valuable from a narrative point of view). All her scenes could have, arguably, been done with other members of the smallfolk that we see only passing by (and suffering and dying), much like it is in the books. But that way we would miss what might prove as really important: a character arc. Ros does not only suffer from various noble’s abuse, she also needs to cope with it somehow – a process we could never watch with random victims – and might eventually retaliate (and likely fail), concluding the arc. That’s so more satisfying than just watching strangers.
So, to come to a conclusion, Ros does serve a useful role in the show, and one I wouldn’t like to miss. While it’s true that HBO sometimes features naked breasts and sex very heavily, that’s not the fault of the Ros character or of the writers entirely. Ros is a whore, so naturally sex will fall into her department. It’s like complaining about all them swords whenever knight characters appear on screen. It sometimes seems to me that HBO wants that sex in as their trademark. Ros’ scenes would work without that much naked flesh, too, however, and for me that’s the main reason to conclude that she is a useful addition to the show. Esme Bianco does a terrific job in the role. I bow my head.
|Tyrion, experiencing the plight of the smallfolk.|