First there was the Red Wedding. And now there’s…the Purple Wedding? Perhaps the good people of Westeros should reconsider their interest in matrimony.
Let’s bitch it out…Ding dong the king is dead! We’re less than a quarter of the way into the new season and already Game Of Thrones is racking up the bodies. Without too much exaggeration, this one may be one of the most shocking yet. Yes, folks, the first truly despicable character on the series has died and there is no one more deserving of a truly awful death than King Joffrey (Jackie Gleeson).
‘The Lion And The Rose’ goes to great lengths to demonstrate just how much Joffrey deserves to die. The entire wedding sequence that dominates the episode is a hit parade of people who have reason to want the king dead: Oberyn (Pedro Pascal) who’s out for revenge; Ser Dontos, the disgraced knight who is now a fool; Sansa (Sophie Turner) whose family Joffrey has killed; and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) whom Joffrey routinely singles out for abuse. Hell, even Margaery (Natalie Dormer) was probably contemplating sticking that new Valyrian steel into her new husband after he makes a farce of their wedding celebration with a cadre of imps who re-enact the war of the five kings. As suggested by the looks of horror on the faces of all but the most simple-minded (and Lena Headey’s Cersei, for whom Joffrey can do no wrong), this looked like the most awkward wedding ever!
Despite the ridiculously large number of motives, it’s still a genuine shock to see the vengeful boy prince suddenly collapse and turn an unattractive shade of eggplant, blood leaking from all of his orifices. Naturally he fingers Tyrion as the culprit with his dying breath (vindictive little shit that he is), likely sentencing Tyrion to a shit-show of trouble. Regardless of the true identity of the killer, the circumstances of Joffrey’s death are a stand-out moment and should have repercussions for the remainder of the season.
As Alan Sepinwall suggests, the first half of this episode fits into the standard routine, catching us up on the activities of the remaining characters we didn’t see in last week’s premiere. The fact that the latter half of the episode focuses solely on the wedding, and packs in as many Game Of Thrones characters as it can into a single location, is kind of a marvel. My favourite encounter is the sass-a-thon bitchfest that is Oberyn meeting Cersei and Tywin (Charles Dance) as they trade barbs about the virtues of bastards, being high born and their mutual bloody past. (Side Note: I was never a huge Oberyn fan in the novels, but Pedro Pascal is certainly making the character as memorable and cheer-worthy as many of the other characters we’ve grown to know and love). Of course, seeing Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) try to cheer up Tyrion is pretty decent, too.
While I was certainly surprised that this major event has played out so early in the season, the implications for everyone moving forward is huge. Many of the comments at the wedding stress how happy everyone is that the kingdom is finally at peace. By the time the imps put on their show (inaccurately recreating the events of the last three seasons), it feels like a turning-point: all of that death and suffering is now a thing of jest. With Joffrey’s death, however, the peace has proven to be temporary and now the whole of Westeros is apt to be plunged back into chaos and war.
Still, it’s hard not to chalk this one up as a win for the good guys. For all of the characters we’ve loved and lost on Game Of Thrones, it’s a bit of a relief to even out the playing field by getting rid of one of the ones we love to hate. Good riddance, King Joffrey – I hope Ros is waiting for you on the other side with a red hot poker!
- I know the most common refrain about the show is how quickly it is outpacing George R.R. Martin’s novels. All it takes is two seconds with Bran to realize that there is a much more significant problem on the rise: just consider how much older Isaac Hempstead Wright looks. I’m not discounting the argument that Martin should probably stop writing episodes (like tonight’s!) and get back to writing his two remaining novels, but the rapid growth of the child actors appears to me to be a bigger problem in the short term.
- The montage that Bran sees when he touches the God’s Wood is captivating, but dense. I had difficulty making out much of it aside from our friend – the three-eyed crow – and the fact that an old-sounding man is calling the group ever further North.
- Hey everyone, remember Ramsey Snow (Iwan Rheon), the torturer of Theon – now Reek (Alfie Allen)? Yeah…I thought I’d repressed that, too. Admittedly seeing Ramsey trying to appease his father, Lord Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) and convince him that he hasn’t tortured the value out of their captor is kind of interesting. Anything that moves this storyline in a new direction and away from flaying is fine by me.
- Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Melisandre (Carice van Houten) and Stannis (Stephen Dillane) whose scenes feel like they’re on repeat from last season. Blah blah blah “Lord of Light” blah blah blah…the opening preview took care to remind us of the shocking moment this woman birthed a smoke baby for crying out loud! Can’t these characters be given something to do already?! It’s been far too long since anyone at Dragonstone had a juicy storyline.
- Finally, the first we see of Varys (Conleth Hill) this season finds him pleading with Tyrion to send both Shae (Sibel Kekilli) and Sansa away. By the end of the hour, Sibel is on a boat across the Narrow Sea to Pentos and Ser Dontos is trying to convince Sansa to come with him if she values her life. Seems like the Spider’s information and sway is as powerful as ever.
- Jerome Flynn’s Bronn (to Tyrion after he sends Shae away): “Go drink until it feels like the right thing.”
What are your thoughts on the episode? Shocked at Joffrey’s untimely death? Who do you think did it? Were you pleased to see Bran, Theon and Stannis again? Did the amount of time dedicated to the wedding shock you? Sound off below, but please remember the NO SPOILER policy. Anything that hasn’t happened on screen already is off-limits!
Game Of Thrones airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO