The reaction to Ed Sheeran's appearance on Game Of Thrones has been mixed, to say the least. The online vitriol has been so severe that the English pop-warbler was forced to quit Twitter, possibly never to return.
This is unjust. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Sheeran's cameo. Here are all the reasons why.
For those who missed the controversy, Ed Sheeran - the singer-songwriter behind such chart-topping hits as Shape of You and Thinking Out Loud - popped up in this week's episode of Game Of Thrones. The showrunners elected to cast him as a Lannister soldier... who just happens to enjoy campfire sing-songs.
Here's the offending scene:
And here are some reactions from Twitter:
Ed Sheeran's appearance in Game of Thrones was absolutely terrible like there was no need for him to make a cameo
— my name is george. (@george_mckillop) July 18, 2017
I'm forced to listen to ed sheeran songs 67 times a day bc it's the only shit on the radio & now my #Gameofthrones isn't even a safe place.
— Stassi Schroeder (@stassi) July 17, 2017
If Arya kills Ed Sheeran this will be the best Game of Thrones ever
— Sam Adams (@SamuelAAdams) July 17, 2017
Ed Sheeran appearing on game of thrones but not being brutally disemboweled was very disappointing
— Brandy Jensen (@BrandyLJensen) July 17, 2017
things i cant forgive GoT for, ranked
5. killing margery
4. killing oberon
3. red wedding
2. ramsey rape
1. ed sheeran
— Casey Johnston (@caseyjohnston) July 17, 2017
Maybe we can get Trump to quit Twitter by casting him in Game Of Thrones too. It worked on Ed Sheeran.
— James Keaton (@Mrfurious32821) July 18, 2017
"oMFG IS THAT ED SHEERAN" pic.twitter.com/nQgFZG3Esh
— ㅤً (@targrynz) July 17, 2017
We understand why people were pissed about this. On a surface level, it looks like a shameless cash grab on all sides, with the show's producers scoring free publicity and Sheeran getting to showcase his pipes to a new market.
However - and I realise this is going to take some convincing - the cameo fit perfectly into the world of Westeros and did not feel gratuitous in any way. Here are all the reasons you need to leave Ed Sheeran alone.
He looks like a Lannister!
With his fair complexion, lean stature and blue eyes, Sheeran looks every bit the likely Lannisport lad. He's also appropriately British and ordinary: we're not talking about some improbably cut pretty boy with an American accent here. This was not a case of woeful miscasting, at least as far as appearance is concerned.
He was singing a song from the books
In the now infamous scene, Arya approaches a Lannister camp just as one of the soldiers (Sheeran) finishes singing a song. "It's new," he tells her, which sounds like a gross wink to the audience. In reality, he's singing a song from the books about the ill-fated relationship between Shae and Tyrion Lannister. Here are the lyrics as they appear in A Clash Of Kings:
He rode through the streets of the city,
down from his hill on high,
O'er the wynds and the steps and the cobbles,
he rode to a woman's sigh.
For she was his secret treasure,
she was his shame and his bliss.
And a chain and a keep are nothing,
compared to a woman's kiss
For hands of gold are always cold, but a woman's hands are warm...
This is a nice little Easter egg for readers. The refrain is especially poignant when you consider Tyrion stangled Shae to death with a chain of golden hands.
The cameo was appropriately brief
If you had never heard of Ed Sheeran, you wouldn't have noticed anything weird about the scene he "starred" in. There were no extended singing scenes or lingering closeups to draw attention to the stunt casting. (In fact, one of the other Lannister soldiers received significantly more lines and screen time.) Apart from having a recognisable face, nothing about Sheeran's inclusion felt gratuitous.
Maisie digs Ed
Maisie Williams, who plays Arya on the show, is a confirmed mega-fan of Ed Sheeran. Apparently, this led directly to his casting so that the producers could surprise Williams on set. This doesn't excuse the decision, but at least there's a warm 'n' fuzzy reason behind it.
It's not the first time singers have starred in the show
Game Of Thrones has an established history of casting real-world musicians as inhabitants of Westeros. Other examples include Animal Circus's Joel Fry, Coldplay's Will Champion, Ian And The Blockheads' Wilko Johnson, Fontane's Michiel Huisman, Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody, Mastodon and Sigur Rós. Granted, none of these artists are as recognisable as Sheeran, but at this point it's become something of a tradition.
The scene was actually important
This is the key to my argument. One of the main gripes people have about Sheeran's scene is that it was pointless and could have easily been removed entirely. This simply isn't true. The scene was crucial to the larger plot for a couple of reasons.
First, it allowed Arya to experience kindness at the hands of normal, everyday Lannisters. This will surely play into her character's arc which has been treading down a very dark path lately. Second, it provided Arya with information about Cersei's ascension to the Iron Throne, prompting her to reverse course and travel south to assassinate her. While Sheeran himself might not have been necessary, the scene as a whole was essential.
Game Of Thrones has proven too popular for its own good, with Foxtel Now going into meltdown under the weight of thousands of customers connecting at the same time. A similar phenomenon occurred in the US and Latin America. (Presumably, those evil pirates got to watch the show just fine. Tch.)
Lifehacker's weekly Streaming column looks at how technology is keeping us entertained.